This is the 101st day of my 92-day challenge. Back at the end of July, to celebrate my finally getting an independent host for WarrenBluhm.com, I committed to writing a blog post every day in August, September, and October, or 92 consecutive days. I don’t believe I’ve ever managed that.
Turns out it’s as easy as deciding to do it. It’s like working for a radio station that puts out nine newscasts a day, or for a daily newspaper: You put out nine newscasts every day, or one newspaper. You don’t have a choice. You made the commitment, you do it.
The difference is that the newscasts and the newspapers were a commitment to other people. For better or worse, over the years I’ve been much better at keeping those external commitments than promises I made to myself.
Several times over the years I’ve written about such commitments and made big announcements — my Kaiju trilogy, my pookha detective stories, even my superhero stories — and fallen through before the projects were completed.
So this time, I decided to just do it. I made no announcements like “This is now a daily blog.” I just started blogging every day. And what do you know.
I’m a little nervous that now I’ve given the game away, I’ll stop shipping a post every day. But I’m trying not to dwell on that fear; after all, I’m the proud author of Refuse to be Afraid.
This is the flip side of telling everyone I was going to do something and not doing it: I didn’t tell a soul until I could tell everyone, “Look what I did.” I like this feeling better.
And I feel a lot more confident that you’ll believe me when I finish by saying: See you tomorrow.
(A conversation in a world after the devices stopped working.)
The Printer grinned an ironic grin.
“See, now, there’s the whole point. The printed forum was a place where the community gathered, and people wrote their piece, and views were exchanged with a common respect,” he said, recalling the times before the times before theirs. “As it all sped up and the words grew more careless and it all began to blink and beep, the impulse replaced the carefully crafted phrase, the flash of anger ruled over the considered thought, and the respect vanished. We didn’t just disagree; we treated the other person as an idiot or downright evil.
“When you take the time to think out your thinking and spread it over paper with ink, the thoughts come out more clearly — more, well, thoughtfully — the way you meant them in your heart, not just a knee-jerk blast of emotion and venom.”
The youth smirked. “You cherish these papers so much because you own the printing press and censor what gets printed. In the old times, when the electronics worked, everyone could be heard.”
“Everyone censors themselves first of all,” The Printer said. “You decide what you want to say and then you say it. Sometimes in the heat of a moment you say something and regret it a moment later. When we substituted electronics for precious paper, we created a forum more like real life, with fewer filters, which can be a good thing and sometimes not. In a mob everyone can be heard but no one can be heard. When you only have one page to reach other minds and hearts, you work that much harder to say what you mean clearly and economically and persuasively. I do ask clarity from those who want me to print their words. Am I a censor? Only if you think a censor is someone who wants each perspective presented in as bright and clear a light as possible, because I do reject incoherence.”
“So you admit you deny your precious space to those who can’t put their ideas into words clearly enough, in your judgment?” the youth asked triumphantly.
The Printer’s mouth became a thin smile. “There is always the other choice: You may write your ideas in words that can be understood by all, and I will print them, or you can walk the streets shouting incomprehensible babble. I suggest that my way will take your ideas farther.”
“Choose to have the right attitude, and you choose success,” Scott Alexander wrote the other day. It’s an oft-repeated thought: You can’t control what happens sometimes, but you always can control how you react.
Not that it’s easy — what happens can be infuriating or heartbreaking or unintentionally funny, and your first impulse may be to lash out or burst into tears or laugh out loud in, say, a funeral parlor — but you can (and often should) control that impulse.
I was reading along and came upon that phrase again: “Do not be afraid to sometimes think outside the box.”
It reminded me I was going to write a book called There Is No Box, once upon a time. Because the whole idea of thinking outside the box is to push out the sides of an imaginary box and wait a minute it’s imaginary isn’t it? Ipso facto ergo e pluribus unum, There Is No Box.
I restrung the 12-string guitar on Sunday. First I took the nine old strings off and wiped the dust from my old friend, who had been hanging on the wall for a long time.
Something had made me wait. I looked up at her more than once in all this time, and I would take her six-stringed companion down for a few minutes now and then, but the 12-string Ensenada hung up there, the new pack of strings tucked behind the old, waiting.
I was astonished when I figured out exactly how long she had waited.
Is that enough, muse? Am I finished writing for this morning? Say it ain’t so; say I can keep writing as long as I wish, say I can sing all day. Say I can stay in this chair and shape words and music and life into being and immerse myself in uncanny universes and special moments.
Out there is unknown something-or-other, out there is — but hang on, out there is out there, filled with other universes with stories to tell, people for whom something-or-other is not unknown and understand how to overcome it. And if I get up from the chair and walk among them, they can teach me or show me or — oh, my stars and garters, a whole world awaits behind these four walls and what am I waiting for?
Just a few more moments of writing and an answer came out through my fingers. Thank you, muse; thank you, universe. I don’t always have this much time to seek answers.
“You always have the time,” the universe said quietly — not snapping impatiently, just firmly murmuring. “You simply give the time to another purpose. You can always take it back. Go ahead — take your time.”
Take — my — time? Time is mine to take?
“Come on. You remember. You’ve even written it down more than once and shared the thought with the world more than once.”
I know. It just surprises me and delights me every time. Time is mine to take, and I shall take my time and do what I’ve always known must be done to fulfill my destiny.
“Good. Good. But now there’s a cat crawling over your stuff and purring to remind you she would like to eat sometime this year.”