G’day from Port Fairy,
Welcome to the second issue of The Order of Chaos newsletter, where I’ll be discussing the philosophical issues that underpin my books and that I’m wrestling with myself.
First thing’s first… Broken Chariots is done!
I pulled a few really long days (I guess technically it was night when I called it quits), but it’s finally finished. At the moment, I’m caught between exhaustion and excitement for the next project. It varies from minute to minute.
The cover came back from the designer, and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turning out. I’m currently working with him to finalise the look. There’s only one little tweak he needs to make before I can share it with you. This is the designer I’ll be working with going forward, so fear not – we’re in good hands.
At present, if the paperback cover is done in time, I’m aiming for a May 15 launch date.
The issue this week is patience.
As I hinted at in the intro, I was getting pretty sick of Broken Chariots by the end. Now that I’m finished, I can look back on the book fondly, but I guess people remember a lot of terrible things fondly. Suffering has a way of making itself meaningful in retrospect.
In truth, it was my own fault. I initially decided not to produce a text-to-speech audiobook for Broken Chariots, then when I was over halfway through editing, I changed my mind. It meant I had to go back through the whole thing again and correct for pacing and pronunciation.
Anyway, you live and you learn. I won’t be making that mistake again. Looking back, the whole experience taught me a valuable lesson.
Always make an audiobook.
No, but seriously…
What feels good in the short term is seldom good in the long term, and what is good long term seldom feels good short term. I could have gone ahead and not worried about the audiobook, and Broken Chariots would have been finished a whole lot quicker.
But now, I have the audiobook.
I’ll always have it.
Until it makes financial sense for me to hire a voice actor to narrate an actual audiobook, I’ve got a pretty solid text-to-speech version to cater for people who prefer to read with their ears (like me).
Speaking of patience (and my complete lack thereof), it’s doubtful I’ll even give myself a day off before I get into the next book – that’s how excited I am.
But, as always, I have to weigh my options: a day off and starting the next book would both feel good short term. Which is better long term? I see burnout as a risk factor if I don’t take a day off. On the other hand, a new book could be here sooner rather than later…
In the words of my good pal Danny Archer, the greedy, racist arms dealer played by Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond: “You’re on a bit of a conundrum there, my friend.”
What else is new?
Broken Chariots officially brings me over a million published words. I’ve heard it said that you have to write a million words before you figure yourself out as a writer.
Weirdly enough, I do kind of feel that way. I feel like I’m finally hitting my stride, like I’ve discovered what I’m good at, what I want to do, and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t want. In a world of unlimited choices, freedom is paralysing. I’ve found that putting limitations on myself is incredibly useful. Shutting one door doesn’t mean opening a window. It just means you don’t have to worry about what’s behind that door now.
Also, I added all my screenplays to the Starter Library (except the two-and-a-half hour romantic comedy I wrote for an agent in LA back when I was trying to get into the film industry). This brings the total word count to something like 1.3 million words.
In other news…
I’ve been on a Nick Cave binge lately. I went from not really getting what the big deal about him was to adding pretty much every song he’s ever produced onto a Spotify playlist. What kicked it off was his Red Hand Files newsletter, in which he responds to fan questions with tenderness and staggering philosophical insight. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Reading the King James Bible, I’ve found myself skimming through a lot of Isaiah and Jeremiah. I skipped Psalms altogether. But Job hit me like a punch to the gut, and Ecclesiastes packs so much insight into so few words, my highlighter literally ran out of ink trying to mark all the best passages. You might even find a reference to it in Broken Chariots…
On a totally unrelated note, I’ve begun memorising poetry using the Anki spaced-repetition flashcard app. It’s a brilliant piece of software that tests you on your knowledge and if you remember a certain line, it won’t be shown again for a while. If you don’t get it right, it will test you again sooner, to really cement the memory. People use it to study languages, instruments, all kinds of things. I’m loving it so far, and have memorised Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley, about the impermanence of even the greatest things, and Birdsong, written anonymously in 1941 (but which came to my attention via Rabbi David Wolpe), a beautiful poem about nature, sadness, memory and meaning.
Next up is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.
I’m also learning Spanish again (on Duolingo, Memrise and Fluent Forever, in case you’re interested). I started it a few years ago, then stopped, then picked up Dutch last year, then stopped. I enjoy the process, but I realised I needed a concrete reason to keep at it.
Now, I’ve found one.
In a year or two, when I’ve had enough of travelling around Australia (and hopefully when this pandemic is over), I’m tossing up heading over to South America and continuing my adventures there. I’ve always wanted to go, and I’ll be able to get by on not a lot of money (and continue writing every day), much as I’m doing now.
Anyway, it’s just an idea. But so too, once, was travelling around in a caravan writing full-time.
Both of these represent an effort to expand my hobbies a little bit. So much of my time is centred on writing, I wanted to try and stretch myself. You might say that poetry and languages aren’t exactly a far-cry from writing, and I wouldn’t disagree with you.
But I think something I’ve realised about myself is that if there’s no purpose to something, it’s not sustainable for me. Life’s too short. There has to be a significant reason behind an action or I won’t do it. Naturally, this makes me terrible at relaxing (see above about my inability to have a day off). But memorising poetry and learning languages both feed into writing and travelling, so they’re useful as well as enjoyable (as is writing). I can feel my brain straining in a very humbling and satisfying way. It’s good to be a beginner at something again.
Port Fairy has been incredible, as you might be able to tell from these photos (this has been the hardest week yet for selecting photos; I think there were almost two hundred in all).
Some people are coming to visit me in the next few weeks, which I’m really excited about. My friend James and his family, who I’ve been camping with a bunch, are going to meet me in the Grampians National Park for a day of hiking. The following weekend, my mate Aaron is going to meet me in Portland for his birthday. It’ll be good interacting with actual humans again and not just my dog Ruben (even though he is my best bud).
Until next time…