The Lonely Encyclopedist

One of the few, the proud, the several centuries out of date

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The siren song

How does one work when very ill? I’m still pondering that conundrum. But I can report that I now hear, however faintly, the siren song of my work, calling me to rejoin it. I cast longing glances at my reference books and overflowing notebooks.

My brain is not yet able to handle the spatial geometry necessary for serious writing or for creating illustrations of that geometry. But at least I want to be able to, which is a clear step forward. To rekindle the spark, the desire to write, to assemble, to connect, appears to be essential to regaining my mental health, along with my physical health.muddyboots

I can’t yet read philosophy of any depth but I am at least reading a new biography of Spinoza and have left the fiction aside in favor of it. Another positive sign.

It’s a slow slog, no doubt about it, but at least I’m still putting one mud-caked boot in front of the other.



2014 is a washout

I’ve been sick since last December, one thing after another or so I thought. Now I know it was just the varying signs of one big thing, lymphoma. This is my third cancer diagnosis and I am prepared to fight and win like I did the last two times. This does get tedious though.

I’ve no intention of making this blog into a cancer journal. I despise those and won’t subject myself or my readers to that. But I do want to explore ideas about how one follows a dream when faced with serious obstacles. I’ll be having chemotherapy most of the rest of 2014, so how am I to write the encyclopedia?

Not having any ideas or answers yet, I’ll close this short post and write more when I have something more to say.



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Any Other Encyclopedists?

It’s a long time I’ve been away. More illnesses have sidetracked me yet again. No point in blogging about it, whining about it. You don’t want to hear about it any more than I want to write about it.

But while recuperating, I read a new encyclopedic work, 1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think, edited by Robert Arp. I also finally finished reading a large anthology of feminist writings I started years ago, Women Without Superstition: No Gods — No Masters, edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor. It took me so long to finish because the subject, oppression of women by religion, made me so furiously indignant I would have to put the book away for months at a time.

I also got to wondering if there were any other encyclopedists active these days. A search of Wikipedia gave disheartening results. Of the several dozen listed, a large percentage are long deceased. Of the few yet living, most are in their 70s and no longer producing or editing. I’m hoping that those active today aren’t famous enough yet to be included in Wikipedia.

When I chose my tagline, “the few, the proud, the several centuries out of date” it was mostly facetious. Now I think it was more accurate than I imagined.

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Drama, mine but not about me

I took a break this afternoon and revisited some 10-minute plays I am readying for contest submission. Never having done this before, I find it both refreshing and exhilarating. about

Fiction, apparently unlike so many other writers, is not something I get stressed over. The story appears in my head. I play it out on the tiny monitor that is the inside of my eyelids. If I like a particular part, I replay it several times and sometimes this changes the story, but not often. Then I go write it down.

I don’t try to get the wording just so. Mostly I want to get the bones down so I don’t forget anything. Then I add the muscles of sentences and paragraphs. Once the story is fleshed out, I let it sit for a while.

I do the same with encyclopedia writing. Get the bones down, add the flesh of more details in sentences and let it percolate on its own for a while. Trying to get the wording right straight out of the box is a recipe for frustration. Write first, edit later.

The popularity of 10-minute plays is growing quickly and it is a genre where one doesn’t have to be too concerned with plot pacing. For me it is the best way to tell dramatic stories of characters in conflict. If I produce enough of them, I’ll publish a collection which I think would be useful for theater majors. picky2

If the contest folks like my stuff, that would be ever so cool. But right now I’m having fun just doing the last bit of polishing and dreaming of how exciting it would be to see my tiny plays produced.

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There is pain and then there’s pain

I’m feeling better after the root canals. They weren’t as bad as I feared but were certainly no picnic in the park either. Thank goodness for my good dentist! He asked me to trust him and I did. We’ve known each other for nigh on 20 years, so when he said it would be all right, then I knew it would be all right.

Nevertheless, I’m ever so glad to have all that behind me and to have a solid explanation for why I felt so damn crummy for weeks. Months is more like it, actually. Until the toothache I had no clue what was wrong.

Now the antibiotics have done their work, the swelling is gone, the pain is gone and I am back at work. To paraphrase that great Motown classic,  I can see clearly now, the pain is gone, all of the bad feelings have disappeared.  (If you are too young to know this song, check it out here).

Just in one afternoon, I have made two important decisions about the encyclopedia (restricting it to shuttle tatting and determining what to include in the front matter) and designed my cover art.

Most self-publishing authors should not attempt the latter activity themselves. Covers deserve to have a professional work on them. Fortunately, I am a professional graphic designer, as well as writer, editor, etc. I’m happy with my results and I know enough to let it just sit for a while before going back to re-assess its quality.

Now I’m working to get my text Kindle-ready. For someone who can do HTML coding and loves cascading style sheets, this is a serious pain. You have to dumb-down everything to its simplest level. It is also painful from a designer’s viewpoint, because you can’t create a functional and pleasing page using your normal tools of the trade. Each section of a Kindle book is really just one long scrolling webpage, which Kindle fakes you into imagining is a book page.

But hey, pain-wise, I’ll take this any day over root canal.

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Root canal

I now know at least part of the reason I’ve been feeling so crummy lately. Long story short, I’m scheduled for not one but two, yup two, root canals early next week.

Until then, painkillers and antibiotics hold sway over my consciousness. The rest of the family will have to do the bulk of the holiday activities.

We celebrate Yule, the pagan bits of gifts, tree, feasting. We celebrate the love of family and friends. We celebrate the solstice as a promise of hope in the darkness. That’s just what I need right now.

I’ll be back to blogging in January.

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Climbing back in

It’s been three weeks since I wrote here. My health, both mental and physical, hasn’t been great. I’m writing now because I fear if I don’t write soon, I’ll give up on this and that will only make me feel worse.

I’m trying to figure out what’s gone wrong with me. Lack of sunshine? Lack of baseball? Lack of gumption?

To keep my brain going, which is the same as if I said “to keep breathing,” I read voraciously. Yesterday I picked up my copy of Jennifer Hecht’s Doubt: A History. It has 513 pages of well-written prose on a subject dear to both my heart and mind. I only read a bit at a time because I’m happily sidetracked by her references to primary sources of free thought and skepticism. I go searching for these before reading the next chapter. Then I add the titles to my other blog, The Free Thought Bibliography. If I can find an online full-text source and can justify the time (not easy), I go ahead and read them.

I have been in awe of this author and her accomplishment. Her research opens up new worlds for me, new thinkers, new ideas. Her book is a vast work, which she described in the acknowledgments merely as a “huge project.” It can’t have taken her 20 years to write because her back cover photo shows a woman I would consider young. An internet search tells me she is now in her late 40s but the book was published almost ten years ago. How did she do it?

Well, part of the answer is that she works as an academic, meaning she gets paid to teach and write about stuff. But she also has two children and a husband.

But, lo, what is this I see? She started an atheist blog two years ago and then didn’t keep up with it. Hurrah! The woman is human, after all. Why does that make me feel better? Can’t deny it does.

Was her subject any more vast than mine? Probably not, and her primary sources a lot less obscure than many of mine. She didn’t start her family until after Doubt was published. I’ve been parenting all through the last 20 years. She inhabits academia where her efforts are supported, acknowledged and rewarded. I don’t got none of that stuff.

Heck, maybe I’m not doing so bad after all.