Friday, September 29, 2006

Stoking the Furnace

During the Liang dynasty, Daruma Taishi sought to teach Chan Buddhism to the Shaolin monks in the Henan province of China. Owing to the sedentary nature of the scholastic life, the monks were unable to withstand the rigors of the ascetic practices which Taishi used to help focus the body, spirit, and mind along with his teaching. He overcame this by introducing exercises based on a system of fighting so that both body and spirit could be strengthened in tandem and a greater depth of religious understanding attained - for how could the mind, housed in a fragile body, otherwise be so controlled?

Or so the records on the history of karate would have us believe. There are some variations on the contributions of Taishi (also the Bodhidharma) to Shuri-ryu, recorded both by the Chinese and Japanese styles which have descended therefrom.

Regardless of the details I like this interpretation, as there is certainly truth to be had in it. Sleep has only been the first part in the equation of overcoming my long-present mental fog. As my rest has been improved and some other nervous (literally "of the nerves," not "anxious") agitation has been reigned in, my ability to focus has improved considerably, along with my exercise tolerance. When I perform that exercise, even in small portions, the benefit of the refined sleep is magnified.

I spent several years avoiding the triggers to my suffering, structuring my life as to be uncomplicated by it. In doing so I also robbed myself of the necessary stresses to maintain sufficient physical conditioning in a no-win situation: any attempt at vigor cost me dearly in the very near term (24-48 hours worth) as pain, extra fatigue, etc. Instead, I fell out of shape and had to live only with a reduced stamina.

Now I'm faced with my history of increasingly large pants and a daunting goal of working my way back up the chain to something I'm more comfortable with. Engaging metabolism while still retaining enough energy for the day (the intolerance is decreased, not removed) is a balance I'm still trying to find. I'm very grateful for the chance to try, though, and in keeping with my personal philosophies that means I must do, within reason, all I can to seize that opportunity.

Especially as I now have a child in school, and traces of every conceivable communicable disease will be wafting in the door behind her this winter, resulting in many a sleepless night for children and parents both.

Monday, September 18, 2006

More on Writing

I lacked the time this weekend to make significant headway on the story. I did get a few notes in here or there, and was able to rework some dialogue that wasn't sitting well with me (the feel evolved into something incongruent with knowledge already in the possession of the characters).

As usual, the new draft elements are very rough and reflect the specific frame-of-mind in which they were written - a context unintentionally projected into the voicing that has to be torn out and changed during editing into the larger scene. But the raw materials are there, so that's what really counts.

I did strike up a minor side project that was far more tolerant to frequent interruption, however, and added a new page to my site reflecting on the writing process, and the tools available to the combination of creative author and Linux geek:

The Writing Page

I've also retooled the color scheme. I don't know that it's as easy on the eyes, but it reflects a growing mood and preference that's being applied to more and more of my devices.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Riding the Rail

I deeply adore the written word (the topic of my last handful of entries here), and have been devouring it since it first began resolving to more than unintelligible patterns of ink on otherwise useful paper. My self-guided literary tour has wandered through landscapes both familiar and foreign, instructing me in the authors' visions of humanity and grand concourses of "what-if."

And for now, I can't touch a drop. I've had to let it alone, cold turkey. I may take an occasional whiff from some technical resource or retelling of current events, but the good, hard prose is off-limits.

If I ingest any of it now, I fear I'll begin unconsciously incorporating themes or elements into my own work: an unintentional homage, and perhaps dilution of the originality of my own material. Enough of it is in my system on a permanent basis that this is already a concern, with my only hope that I might be objective enough either during composition or review to recognize and tease out the hidden sources. Make them talk, and give them either due credit, or the boot.

Films aren't safe either. I once became so engrossed in the A&E mini-series production of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice that all my email for the following two days carried the tone and grammar of 18th century snobbery.

The last book I let myself (re)read was Frank Herbert's Dune. Even from nearly two months away I can still smell its influence on my brainstorming, though I'm confident my well-conditioned averse reaction to its presence ensures that the offending particles are screened out by the time I've struck the concept onto paper.

This self-editing is a worrisome process in its own right. The taint of another's creativity may not be independently original, representing instead additional facets to timeless memes and archetypes. The coincidence with my efforts may be just that simple of a relationship and therefore not meritorious of exclusion. Then again, I might not be able to tell the difference - and by my strict avoidance of commingled appearance end up etching an anti-novel, as much defined by its circumvention of something as would have been the case were I to abandon the censorship.

I live a good life that this topic occupies my mind enough to spend time displaying it here. Or, this could be a farcical charade and I'm lying to us both.

Assuming the former, I'm stuck in dry-country until the novel has enough support under its frame that I can resume my indulgence (in moderation) without compromising. Dedicated to the proposition of completing the work, unable to deviate. Fixed, as it were, to the unbending course of a rail to its end.