Do you ever think about what the things in your life represent? Last week, I broke my favourite screwdriver and cried for 30 minutes. Now obviously there was a great deal more to it than the loss of an old and trusted screwdriver. I won’t go into details except to say that it happened at completely the wrong moment, and my 5 year old daughter walked into the bedroom to find a broken old tool, sitting on the carpet… weeping over a busted screwdriver.
When I think about what things mean to me, it usually comes down to time. People, Projects, Objects… whatever or whoever you become attached to, time, more often than not, has played some part in it.
I have spent 4 years on my novel. Ridiculous, considering it only took me 10 weeks to write the blasted thing in the first place. But, between editing, re-writing, sending away to literary consultants, getting it back, editing again, re-writing it again, querying literary agents… etc… etc… I have become so sick of reading about the characters and their story, there are days when I just feel like hitting the delete key. I was planning to film Stephen King’s “Misery” for Empire Magazine’s “Done in 60 seconds” competition next year, and it would give me great pleasure to use my own book for the manuscript burning scene. Time has soured me on a story and characters that I initially loved, but it’s also responsible for my reluctance to let them go without a fight.
Short stories are much easier to let go of, but they are also harder to write, or at least harder to write well. Most novelists find it hard to write really great short stories, but regular followers of my blog will know that my natural inclination toward brevity is roughly equivalent to a Great White Shark’s natural inclination toward rooftop cocktail parties, and despite having done it dozens and dozens of times, over a period of almost 30 years, when it comes to writing short stories I still suck harder than Ben Affleck, playing a vacuum cleaner salesman in a Uwe Boll movie about Black Holes.
I am no less attached to my video projects either; partly because I recently figured out what trying to create decent online video content all on my own really entails: An aspiring writer must first learn to write; a sculptor must first learn to sculpt; a painter to paint; an actor to act, etc. Well… it turns out that an aspiring online video maker (particularly one who is a fan of science fiction), must learn to do all these jobs and more. You must be a writer (scripts), a photographer (filming), a painter (storyboards, concept art, matte-paintings), a sculptor (props, models, latex make-up), an actor (duh!), an audio technician, a lighting technician, an animator, a director, a caterer, an engineer… the list goes on.
Investment of time, particularly in your characters, is a writer’s habit I find hard to break – your readers may never know that your character was bullied at school, or lost a pet tortoise to syphilis, but you must! Now that I’m creating 3D environments for my characters in the computer, I am putting in way more detail than is strictly necessary. This is schematic of the inside of The Observer.
It is a small part of a control panel…
…on a wall you will barely be able to see…
…in what will probably be a poor quality animation, only 3 minutes long.
I then have to show the outside for about 3 seconds!
So I have to detail and finish this ridiculous bulb-like vessel before the next video can go on the channel. Then, the following episode will take place in the medical bay, which so far looks like this…
So there’s a long way to go, and this too has become a project I wish I’d never started. As I said to a friend the other day: My director bone is itching. Now… OK… perhaps that’s the kind of thing you
shouldn’t be saying to impressionable young ladies, but she’s tough, and all I meant was that I’m itching to start filming real people again, with a camera and everything. But, I have invested too much time in these little alien dudes to abandon them now.
As always, I have gone slightly off topic and a very long way round to make my point, which was… Oh yes… Time. A lot of the things we hold most dear are those that represent huge chunks of time (Yes… time does come in “chunks”. It also comes in boxes, bags, lots, loads, tons and, apparently, “Rabid Bits”), whether it’s a teddy you’ve had since you were a child, a car you’ve had since you first learned to drive, a house you’ve lived in for decades, or a project you’ve been working on for years. Of course, it is possible to take it too far, and when it comes to taking things too far… I’m a world leader! There’s a tin of soup in my cupboard that I won’t eat, simply because I’ve had it since my daughter first said “blrrrrffffffttt!!”. Now, there are probably several fairly legitimate reasons not to eat a tin of soup that you’ve kept in a cupboard for 5 years, but “because it’s moved house with me twice” is not one of them.