Read Write Play: Q4 2019

Last quarter I maintained a good mix of all three hobbies. My writing was the big focus, though, although you wouldn’t notice it from my blog activity. I’ll get to that.

On the play front, although I continue to progress on piano, the real story was that my wife and daughter started playing too. I’ll recall the end of 2019 as the time when the rest of my family became musical. It makes me happy.

And reading, yes, I read some books about trees.

Read

I read a novel about trees and a non-fiction book about trees that was mentioned in the novel. The novel is The Overstory by Richard Powers and I really liked it. It follows a half dozen people and very cleverly incorporates different species of trees into each of their stories. It’s written beautifully and parts of the story reminded me of my youthful environmental activism. Mostly, I learned a lot about trees and the people who study them.

In fact, on of the characters referenced a book, The Hidden Life of Trees, and since it sounded like a real book, I had to look it up. Indeed it was, and it was as described by the character, so I bought it. This one is essentially the diary of an arborist / naturalist / ecologist / forester type person who clearly loves and admires trees. The author, Peter Wohlleben, has convinced me that trees are sentient creatures, not unlike us, but live on a timeline that makes them seem inert.

Most trees live to be several hundred years old, so the stages of their lives last 3-4X longer than ours. The same applies to the growth and spread of forests. It all happens very slowly. The study of trees is the study of patience. I can see why the author had a zen-like aura about his work.

This quarter I expect to finish reading hardbacks of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and The Art of Profitability, both recommended by friends.

Finally, I’ve been reading The East Bay Times. I signed up for the delivery and man oh man, what a treat to have real paper. I feel like a middle-aged suburban dad every time I walk down the driveway in my pajamas, stretch, and pick up the paper. But whatever, I am one.

Write

I must have written about 30,000 words in Q4 2019. Most of that work went into the novel I’m writing.

It’s really exciting and has been a really fun project. I’m calling it The Jupiter Society. I’ve written it mainly in two sittings. The first was during my radioactive iodine seclusion. The second was a couple of days in early December, back at the Sonoma Fairmont Mission Inn, where I wrote The Parallel Entrepreneur. That first retreat, back in December 2017, I was able to write about 17,000 words. This time I beat that, clocking in about 18,000 over the same amount of time.

It’s hard to describe how good it feels to sit and write for two days straight. It’s such a treat, and I’m grateful my wife lets me do it (it was essentially her holiday gift to me) given the obligations I have at home. When I’m able to do nothing but write, I feel fulfilled, content, happy, and productive. I get some of that in my normal career and the entrepreneurial stuff I do that pays the bills, but there’s something different about writing. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Maybe it’s authenticity? I feel like I’m most myself when I write words, rather than emails and code, which is most of my professional writing.

I’ve discovered also that fiction writing is a lot different than non-fiction writing. There are so many more decisions to make when writing a novel. With non-fiction the boundaries are pretty clear. I’m working within the confines of the real world, describing things that actually happened or actually could happen.

With a novel, I’m completely making it up. Every little detail is new. I can “cheat” and base characters around people I know and use places I’m familiar with when describing scenes, but those are just foundations. The details get created on the fly. From an infinite palette of colors, I have to choose one. It can be daunting, but I get used to making the choice and moving on. This is what makes writing exhilarating.

I hope to finish my novel in Q1 2020. Then I’ll write to some publishers and see what happens.

Play

I’m playing, but I’m playing the same stuff I played all year. I’ve got “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” down now, and I can also play Piano Man pretty well. I’m still singing along as much as I can, getting more comfortable with the high F’s and G’s.

I’m playing a lot more Beatles music because my daughters demand it and it’s fun. Right now “Lady Madonna” is my go-to Beatles song. It’s fun to play both fast and slow, drawing out chorus line, “Friiiiday niiiight arrives without a suuuuitcase.” You could almost imagine Bing Crosby singing it.

As I put in my stated goals for the next decade, I want to be as comfortable on piano as I am on guitar. It’s already starting to happen and I’m very, very pleased about that. Every quarter I’m getting noticeably better at playing and singing.

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