June Newsletter: Waving Back

I’m waving through a window, oh
Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?

-Ben Platt, “Waving Through a Window” from “Dear Evan Hansen”

So there I was, like, five minutes ago, curled up in the chair I’m still sitting in now, crying. It was a good kind of crying. Like the air coming in through the window I’ve just opened. It smells like rain on the spruce tree behind our house. A hundred million tiny pores, exchanging gasses.

Whew. I don’t usually write quite so much in the moment. Half an hour ago, I was wondering how to ground the abstract and cerebral topic I was planning to write about today. “So there I was, talking on Zoom”? “So there I was, thinking how this friend had a solution to this other friend’s problem”?

“So, there was a social network diagram”? Shudder.

But then I put on some music and spotify played the song I’ve most recently favorited: Ben Platt’s “Waving Through a Window.” I suppose I was procrastinating – I listened to the words, thinking about the fear of failure and how although the song is about someone on the outside looking in, now we’re all trapped inside looking out.

Then he’s like, “When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around
Do you ever really crash, or even make a sound?” That’s what started me crying.

It is terrifying to let other people see you. It’s tempting to wall yourself off. But a failure in front of everyone is better than a success alone. Like the tree in that koan, we need observers. But I’m getting too abstract again.

Let me talk about my friends. I talked to two people last night who I hadn’t seen since January, and of course we were comparing Lockdown stories. I told them I’m actually more social now than I was before the Lockdown, and they were like, “what?”

But it’s true. I’ve reconnected with friends from college who I haven’t talked to in over a decade, and I’m making new connections with colleagues and mentors who are coaching me in writing and teaching. These are kind of the same conversations I was having last year, but last year those conversations usually happened in a white-walled office or a noisy restaurant. There was a certain distance between me and the other person, even though we were breathing the same air.

Now, I’m giving my classes in a T-shirt, sitting on a bed as my mullet evolves ever greater.* I’m talking to my writing mentor in and Pavlina comes in, telling her friend about this new menstruation-based productivity schedule she’s using.  We’re comforting a friend in Hong Kong when our daughter comes in and demands to show off the princess picture she’s just drawn.

Pavlina and I talk with our students, employees, clients, and family, our life coaches and business gurus and fellow writers, and we notice the same themes coming up. I have nothing to do all day – why aren’t I more productive? How can I keep my job? How can I pay my employees? How can I find something more worthwhile to do with my life? I’m so angry over what I saw on Facebook! I’m having trouble sleeping. Is it safe to go to the beach?

Those are human moments, and they open the door for real help. I don’t lose respect for someone who lets me see their problems – I show them my own. And solutions have begun to appear. “Get up and take a break from your task before you’re done with it.” “I know someone who needs what you have to give.” “Experiment every day.” “Enforce your boundaries.” “You’re not alone.”

That’s why, although I’m trapped in my apartment, I feel more connected to other people now than I have for a long time. We’re all in this together. We always have been.

So I’m going to try something new. I signed up for calendly, which lets people schedule meetings without a lot of email back-and-forth. If you want to talk with me for half an hour, click here.

A Balkan morning
A breeze and distant goat bells
Swallows kiss the pool

Guh, what else is going on? Interchange is still with my editor, Groom of the Tyrannosaur Queen is live on webnovel.com, and you can read it there in tiny chunks if you’re so inclined. Protector #4 is out, and getting some very nice reviews. What I did in June was work on the sequel 😉 That and Centuries Unlimited which is inching closer to not being incomprehensible grayish paste.

And I wrote a short story on the subject of doing good in the world. What you might call “aspirational fiction.” I won’t put it on Facebook, but here’s a link so you can read it.

In other news…

Sam Hughes finished his Antimemetics story on SCP. It’s great stuff. Very horrible horror, and it slides close to the bone. But it has a happy ending. Welcome to the antimemetics division, no this is not your first day.

Providence by Max Barry – oh the ennui of inter-species war! You got this whole enormous space-battle-ship that’s so advanced it only needs four crew members. And it doesn’t need them very much. I enjoyed it. It took me interesting places in the conversations about automation, as well as propaganda.

Dead Man’s Chest by Kerry Fisher – Miss Fisher meets some louche surrealists. Also, buried treasure, me hearties.

Devolution by Max Brooks – An excellent set-up. Residents of a ecological model community versus a troupe of sasquatches. It didn’t quite give me the denouement I was hoping for, but I loved the Bosnian grandma. I’d read a whole book just about Mostar being patient with fools.

Beyond Strange Lands by Simon Talyor Taylor – a sort of old-fashioned radio drama about paranormal investigators. I would have liked more meat (what are minmis? what is a níðhöggr?) and honestly I wasn’t sure what was happening sometimes.

I’ve been watching the anime Swiss Family Robinson, which is…well it sure is something. They’re like “well the other people on our ship probably died.” But the girls like it. And it features a thylacine attack!

Community appeared on Netflix, and that’s been fun to catch up on. The show gets its act back together in season 3. I’m kind of worried about Dan Harmon though. He seems sad.

Aside from Waving Through a Window, I’ve been listening to Don’t Leave Me by regina Spektor and Blackbird in Mi’kmak by Emma Stevens. Thanks, Dad, for sending me that link.

*It’s hard to do the back when you cut your own hair.

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