What and Why I Write

The next few decades are sure to be a wild ride. Big picture changes are happening faster than anyone can keep track, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. This is why I write speculative fiction.

Good or bad, the tech we create changes who we are as a species, forever. Five hundred years ago the printing press was a kick in the face to the status quo of Europe. But the kick happened in ultra-slow-mo compared to the pummeling social media gives civilization today.

With change comes conflict, and conflict is the fuel for stories that burn rubber down the road. As a writer and big picture thinker, it’s a good time to be alive.

Dystopia is boring. If our collective imagination really is our preview to the future, then we can do better than that. The characters in my stories challenge the status quo in new and productive ways, contributing a positive spark (or even a course correction) to the turbulent ride we’re on.

There’s conflict between nature and tech, a give and pull dynamic, without which nothing evolves. I wonder about our collective threshold for unnatural behavior in the pursuit of money. Will we choose soul-sucking comfort and security in an office cubicle under the glow of bright fluorescence, or will we do something more in tune with our DNA?

It’s my morning commute and I’m on the train, writing the old fashioned way, with pen and paper. I sit between a uniformed school girl and a salaryman, each of whom is tapping their smart phone like a frantic chimp scraping bark off a tree. Is this natural behavior? Who knows? I’m just another clever ape who works a day job under fluorescent lights.

For me, writing is the kind of obsession seen in the movie “Close Encounters,” when artists of the world are called to create something resembling Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, without knowing why. The main character of the movie starts with a mashed potato sculpture at dinner and ends with a ride on the mothership into outer space.

Writers like to describe writing as something they “must do,” usually said in the double negative, like “writing is something we cannot not do.” I can relate. There’s plenty of conflict between the muse and me.

For a long time I kept the muse locked in a box in the basement like the gimp in “Pulp Fiction,” because I presumed to have more important things to do. A few years ago the muse escaped. Understandably, he was very pissed off. Now I have no choice but to appease him. There’s no putting him back in the box.

Real life requires most of my waking hours, between a busy family life and a professional gig that pays the bills. With my remaining sliver of freedom I’d prefer to take it easy, or pay down my sleep debt. “I don’t think so.” says the muse. “The mothership is calling. Get in, loser. We’re going for a ride.”

Life would be perfect if only I could devote all my work hours to writing, and appease this bastard muse. Or would it? Without sufficient conflict, nothing ever evolves.