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Focus: a State of the Eyk Address.

Michal Wallace’s recent post really took a two-by-four to my noggin. I’ve been worrying about a bunch of seemingly disconnected things, and when I read his analysis of his own problem, I saw the beginnings of a synthesis for all my scattered thoughts. Here follows my attempt at bringing them all into one place and introducing them to each other.

The brutal facts which need to be confronted:

  • I have too many projects.
  • I have more ideas than I can act upon.
  • I have too many distractions that keep me from acting effectively.
  • I don’t have enough income.

I need to narrow down and focus on one thing.

Using the framework that Michal cites, that thing should be at the intersection of these three questions:

  • what am I deeply passionate about?
  • what drives my economic engine?
  • what can I be the best in the world at?

What am I deeply passionate about?

I had a good long conversation about this with my friend Susan a few weeks ago, in which I verbalized much of what I’ve thought about over the last year. Funny how things seem more real when you say them out loud.

Basically, I’m passionate about Christ, people, and stories. Those are three distinct things, but they all sort of mush and meld together in my weak-boundaries mind. I’m going to try to focus on the last one here, but understand that the other two are implicit.

I want to tell stories. I also want to explore the possibilities of story-telling technologies. More specifically, I have several (that is, too many) projects that I’ve conceived of and/or pushed forward over the past year. These include (working titles only):

  • The Human Sphere: A world-building project as well as a novel (or three–my own attempt at the sf BDT) I have copious notes, disconnected scenes, and inspiration coming out my ears.

  • Adam and Eve at the End of Time: A fugue-like cycle of poems, based on an original, mythical account of our human great-grandparents (in collaboration w/ Eleanor). 1/2-3/4 complete.

  • Waste: A remix and re-visioning of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (which may feed on and inform the previous two projects, while sampling some third-party sources), adapting Jeff Noon’s Cobralingus process. In initial stages of research and planning.

  • Brahmin: A mythical, far-future sf/fantasy setting, in collaboration w/ Mike. Initial planning stages.

  • Lost Love: The screenplay of the Anti-Chick-Flick, in collaboration w/ Howery. Initial planning stages.

  • Free Sky: An experimental CRPG engine, emphasizing simulated social interaction and (constrained) freeform storytelling, and my own personal tribute to Firefly. ;) Some framework code written; stalled on graphics engine code.

  • Rime: A hypertext composition platform. Still in the conceptual stages–no code written yet.

  • OpenSphere: a starmapping and worldbuilding engine for sf stories. Still in conceptual stages, with some preliminary code written.

Those are my main areas of interest, or passion, right now–for those of you who have always wondered what I do with all my free time, add reading and people to the list, and you’ve got a concise summary of my typical week.

As I identified, this is too much, and I’m making no real progress on anything. I need to pick one or two (or three or four? or five or six?) of these and focus.

A brief comment on people and community: a number of those projects are collaborations, and they really excite me, not necessarily because of the content, but because they involve working with cool people. I don’t go much for the Romantic concept of the author-as-solitary-genius. Stories, by necessity, happen in community, and the best stories, fiction or not, arise out of community and relationship.

Anyway, next question.

What drives my economic engine?

Uh… the Print Shoppe? I love my job, I love my co-workers, and I love the low-pressure, quality-in-good-time atmosphere. But still, the best thing about the Printe Shoppe is the 148 hours of the week that I’m not at the Print Shoppe.

Yet, economic realities are coming back to bite me. My rent’s gone up, my car needs maintenance, and I’d like to fly home for Christmas. I didn’t need to take high school calculus to figure out that any two of those three are mutually exclusive with eating.

Every option I see for making money at something I love seems to require a huge up-front investment in time, and then of course there’s absolutely no guarantee of ROI on any of them. I have had some sporadic freelance work, and that’s gone a long way to keeping me in the black, but it’s nothing that I can count on yet.

Here’s my quandary: taking on another job requires time and energy that I can’t devote to something I really care about. But I’m not using my current surplus of time effectively. Would having less time available help me to value it better? Maybe. Worth trying, I suppose. And I do need to buy that plane ticket…

What can I be the best in the world at?

Oy. This just invites all kinds of hubris. Yet, once more into the breach, my friends:

I can be the best Christian sf author in the world (if I would just write that $&*! novel). Then again, I am setting my sights pretty low here…

I can push the boundaries of narrative technology, develop new ways of constructing stories, create new tools for creators. When you create something new, it is “best” by definition… :)

I can manage a small team of creative people whom I enjoy working with. I don’t know if you can claim “best in the world” status for that category, but if I could, I would. The 2003 Wheaton Tower Yearbook was the best yearbook ever made by any team of cool people that I’ve ever been a part of.

Summary

Focus! The time has come to buckle down and work. So, where do I start?

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