07 January, 2020

New Year, New Start

In the year 2020....

Some sci-fi masterwork of yore probably began with these words, then delved into a fantastical far-flung future featuring rocket cars, condominiums on the moon, and food in capsule form. The reality of this date, we all recognize, is a whole lot messier, but here we are, living the dream, one full week into the future.

I've started jotting some decidedly un-science fictional ideas in a composition notebook that hadn't been getting any use. Another book project bubbling up from the creative depths — or wherever such ideas come from — surprised me this past weekend. At this early stage, I'm not altogether sure I know how to classify it. "Speculative fiction" seems too vague; "horror" isn't it at all; "fantasy" involves too much whimsy. My elevator pitch would begin, So it's David Lynch meets Franz Kafka....

Last year saw me finish my first novel, a ten-part collection of interwoven narratives about the survivors of a zombie apocalypse. (It has yet to be published. I can only do so much to push this process along.) Finishing that methodical work took a lot out of me. So much research! So many delays! I honestly wasn't sure when or if I'd write long-term fiction again. Now, unexpected but welcome, the Muse reappears. She looks different than when I last saw her. There's a wild look in her eyes, and I know that this one's going to be a much more frenzied, inspired affair than my last effort.

My sangha chose for our January theme "New Year, New Start." Like a mantra, we've been repeating it to each other at times when our adherence to Buddhism's precepts seems most strenuously tested. It's like advising our Buddhist brethren (and ourselves) to be mindful: "Hey, remember your practice." But it also serves as a source of inspiration. Every breath, every moment, every hour, every day is a rebirth. We are continually in this state of flux and therefore capable of an infinite range of changes.

According to Writing in Flow, one of the last books I read last season, falling into the deepest possible state of engagement with your writing project often demands that you perceive it as a challenge. Well, here's a fresh puzzle for my mind to work out — a weird new world for me to discover, with myself being remade in the process.

Beginning afresh can be intimidating. We humans are such creatures of habit. The familiar, the tried and true, the relatable — these comfort us but can also hinder our growth and leave us stagnant. I have the benefit of seeing the same gray concrete walls day in, day out. There's no way out. This sameness makes it essential for me to stretch my mind through the cracks, out into realms of thought and fancy to which reality sometimes pales in comparison.

This strange new book is going to be like nothing I've tried writing before. This year is going to be like none I've lived before. The two are connected, but there's more to it than just the imaginative journey I'm about to embark on. Other good things are happening. The world is constantly changing. We're constantly changing. Look around: we're already living a speculative-fiction future. This is amazing stuff.

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