Four Ways that Terraforming Could Save the Earth

Serious scientist mostly downplay the idea of terraforming another planet.

They have two reasons for this, but they seem to miss one important point. So I am going to tell you four ways that terraforming could benefit, or even save, the earth today.

But first, the two reasons that scientists downplay terraforming as a serious endeavor:

The timescale of terraforming is enormous. We can’t simply seed the entire surface of Mars with plants, come back in six weeks and find a livable planet. The best case for terraforming would be thousands of years. More likely it will take tens of thousands.

Looking beyond our solar system becomes a double edged sword. We might find planets out there that are ripe and ready for our kind of life, or at least closer to what we need then Mars or Venus. That could shorten the terraforming time considerably. But we have to get there and short of some sort of science fiction faster than light ship, it’s going to take thousands of years to make the voyage.

Meanwhile the problems that we face here on Earth are likely to come to a head within the next few years, or at most within the next couple of generations. Overpopulation, climate change and resource depletion are nearing the crisis point right now. So you can’t fix overpopulation by starting a colony on Mars because it will be thousands of years before Mars will be able to support the number of people you would need to send to make even a small dent in the world’s population.

The second problem with terraforming is the whole resource-to-benefits conundrum. Terraforming would require a huge outlay in resources with only distant benefits in return.

It goes like this, we’ve spotted oil on Titan (or at least hydrocarbons that are like oil). So why not go there and get it to renew our depleted fossil fuels?

The short answer is that it takes a massive amount of energy to build rockets and fly them deep into space to get there. And then another outlay in energy to fly the oil back to Earth. You end up spending more energy to get the oil than it provides.

The dynamic for dealing with overpopulation is even worse. Mars One is looking to send forty men and women to form a colony on Mars. Even if assume they have the technology and funding to go today, what is forty people to a population of more than seven billion? Not even a fraction of a percent.

The world adds an average of 250 new babies to the world’s population each minute. How many do we have to send to a new world to reverse that trend? What kind of infrastructure would we need before we could relieve overpopulation via space travel?

I could go on but the point remains. We can not fix the problems we face here on Earth by fleeing to a new planet. But there is still a strong case for actively pursuing terraforming.

How terraforming can benefit us right now

The point that most scientist and arm chair terraformers seem to miss is that the technological hurdles we face in terraforming dovetail with a lot of the problems we face on this planet. Developing the technology to terraform another planet may kill two birds with one stone, it will fix our problems here, too. Here are just four examples.

Climate Change

The average surface temperature of Mars is minus sixty degrees celsius. Venus runs a balmy 462 degrees celsius. To get a nice earth-like average of 16 degrees celsius would mean raising the temperature of Mars by some seventy six degrees. Or dropping Venus’s average temperature over 446 degrees.

Now maybe you can see why it takes thousands of years to terraform a planet. But lets say we start working on the technology today. What are the benefits for us right now?

The earth is warming. Even die hard climate change deniers accept this fact. (They argue that its not man made and is instead part of some natural cycle, but they don’t argue the basic math, we are getting warmer.) At the rate we are going our earth will be nearly 2 degrees warmer by 2050.

A) 2 degrees might not seem like much, but it will have major effects on climate and weather. Many of them we are already seeing.

B) compared to the 76 degree change we need to make Mars livable, it’s a drop in the bucket. So I propose our test run for terraforming another planet is to develop technology to lower our earth back 2 degrees to where it was.

We even have some of the technology we need. We can take carbon out of the atmosphere and bury it in the Earth in a process called carbon sequestration. Why aren’t investing heavily in this kind of research? It would get us out our current fix and lay the ground work for terraforming another planet at the same time.

Food

With our current technology it would take about six months to get to Mars. With the necessity of waiting for the planets to align, the round trip would take nearly two and half years. What are you going to eat that entire time? If we want to terraform the planet and that’s going to take thousands of years, what will the colonist eat? You can’t pack that many dried rations.

The answer is that we will need to create small, intensive hydroponics or something similar. Our space capsule must be able to produce a sustainable diet in a very small amount of space.

And honestly, we need that now. Our current agricultural practices are just not sustainable. There are three problems with it, it takes a massive toll on the environment, it is very land intensive (meaning it takes up a lot of space) and it won’t be able to feed our growing population for much longer.

There are two sacred cows in agribusiness that make our system so unsustainable. The first is — cows. I am not going to argue for militant veganism, but our desire to eat large quantities of meat isn’t sustainable and won’t work in space.

The other huge sacred cow is oil and petrochemicals. From herbicides and pesticides, the gas we put into tractors to plant and harvest crop and the gas we use to ship produce all over the world, every aspect of agriculture is touched by petrochemicals. Without them our system would collapse.

Imagine a city that could feed itself, leaving the surrounding land to return to nature.

What we need is a way to grow the bulk of our food in a small contained area close to where it is needed. That is a must for terraforming but would have far reaching benefits for earth right now. Imagine a world where cities can produce their own food and large swaths of farmland can be returned to their natural state. Imagine having a room in your house that grows all your produce and you only have to shop occasionally for luxury items.

Energy

The economic argument against terraforming goes like this; it takes a tremendous amount of energy and resources to terraform another planet, so you must first solve the issue of energy scarcity. But once you’ve created cheap, sustainable energy, you no longer have the same incentive to go to another planet in search of resources.

So? Solve the issue of energy scarcity? Yes! That’s exactly what we need to do.

In order to fly to Mars and back we need to be able to create energy in abundance, through some cheap, infinitely renewable source. In order to break our addiction to fossil fuels, we need to find a cheap and infinitely renewable energy source.

What that will that look like? Solar, wind, nuclear or something we haven’t dreamed up yet, I don’t know. But clearly it’s the next step in technological evolution and we should all be invested in making it. Whether we do it because we are running out of oil, because we want to go to another planet, or some other reason is irrelevant.

Society

Terraforming projects take thousands of years. What kind of society will we have in a thousand years?

Right now it’s hard to get through a single political upheaval without it feeling like the end of the world. And this historian warns that humans tend to go through destructive periods regularly. Can we humans create a society that is both stable and dynamic enough to last a thousand years?

I believe the answer is yes, and it’s something we must absolutely strive for. Really the biggest obstacle to terraforming another planet isn’t scientific or technological. Our scientist know what to do and could do most of it with technology we already possess. It’s political and cultural.

Like the other problems we’ve discussed, the issues are surprisingly similar to what we must face in terraforming. How do we share scarce resources fairly? How do we live and cooperate in small spaces? How do we learn to work together on projects that we will never see the end result of?

In the end tackling these problems will soon become imperative. So what are we waiting for?

You know who is really good at terraforming? The Galactic Consortium. Check out my ongoing sci-fi serial about their arrival over the skies of Earth.


Get the first episode free:

Amazon

Everywhere Else

Or get the Omnibus of Season One:

Amazon

Everywhere Else


Or check out season two:

Amazon

Everywhere Else

Trivia Time: The Forgotten Crusades

When you think of the crusades, what comes to mind? European knights rushing to defend or conquer the Middle East most likely, Jerusalem, pilgrimages, deserts, etc.

What if I told you that not all the crusades went to the Middle East? There was not one, but three crusades in, of all places, Finland. They are mostly forgotten, a tiny footnote in history.

Who were these crusaders and how did they end up in Finland?

In the Twelfth and Thirteenth Century, southern Europe was increasingly a patchwork of kingdoms and nation states. But in Scandinavia there was still a huge stretch of land in the far north, and between the Kingdom of Sweden and Novgorod (present day Russia) that was no man’s land, a wild place of Sami reindeer herders and loggers.

Lapper og Reinsdyr

Image source: Wikicommons

Author

Eric the IX of Sweden wanted that land. So he got his bishop to petition the pope for the right to crusade to, ahem, “Christianize” those lands. I use quotes because despite the explicit purpose of the crusades, the Sami people wouldn’t be Christianized until the 18th century (some are not Christian to this day) and the Finnish Epic poem, the Kalevala records pagan mythos still being told in Finland in the 19th century. The first Swedish crusade was in 1150 and there were two more, in 1248 and 1293. The third crusade blended into the Swedish-Novgorod wars, which became a political struggle rather religious one.

Solid historical information about the Swedish crusades is sketchy. Archaeological evidence is completely lacking for the first crusade and researchers aren’t sure where exactly the second crusaders ended up, Hame castle or Haikonen.

Legends of the Finnish and Sami people record the crusades in their land as being a precursor to western colonization elsewhere in the world. It was a time of oppression, genocides and hardship for those colonized. Despite being a progressive country in so many other ways, the Sami people still struggle with the Swedish government to this day, over autonomy and land rights.

Yoik and a very Cryptic Clue about Bear Naked Four

What is Yoik?

Yoik is Sami singing. Though maybe it’s easier to show than tell.

The Sami are an indigenous people from Northern Europe. The more familiar term Lapp, or Laplander is actually offensive. Lapp is Swedish for patch, a reference to the patched clothing of the poorer northern people. They are most commonly known for being the reindeer herders of the far north.

The Sami people have a long rich history and culture of their own. Their traditional homeland spans Norway, Sweden, Finland and parts of Russia. Some of these countries treat the Sami well, in other places they still struggle for their rights, particularly to maintain their traditional herding, hunting and fishing grounds.

Singing and drumming are vital parts of the Sami’s heritage and in recent years there has been a movement to revitalize the ancient tradition of yoik.

I’ve posted my soundtrack for previous Bear Naked books. As I start in on Bear Naked Four, yoik has joined the playlist, including Sofia Jannock’s White.

What does Sami singing have to do with the plot of Bear Naked? Remember from Bear Naked 2, Jay has agreed to train as a Noaidi, a pathfinder, which is a kind of Sami shaman or medicine man with Corey’s uncle. So while the wolves have their big council to deal with, Jay’s got a subplot of his own in this installment.

For now I will leave you with another example of yoik:

Sci-fi Music

I write to music most of the time. I’m always looking for good mood music, stuff that gets in the right space for a piece of writing. Sometimes I will create very specific soundtracks for specific books. Often there is a certain general match between genres of music and writing. For example, when I was working on a historical romance I was listening to a lot of folk music and celtic music.

But what about science fiction? Especially the kind of space oriented stuff I’ve been writing, like the Galactic Consortium. Finding music that fits that story can be a bigger challenge.

Then about a year ago I have the opportunity to hear this electronic violinist at a local coffee shop.

Huge shout to the Ritual Cafe for keeping local music alive!

ritualTo say Dixon’s violin is unworldly, is an understatement. The man plays by intuition and energy, often creating songs as he goes along rather than playing from a set list.

I bought one of his CDs that night and I have since downloaded others. It’s phenomenal mood music for writing sci-fi, I have discovered. So I would like to share his gift with my blog readers.

The Inter-stellar Whalesong on the Live at the Hilltop CD is my favorite, by the way.

 

If you enjoy this sample, his website can be found at:

http://www.dixonsviolin.com/

 

 

The Darkest Aspects of Fantasy are the Realistic Aspects

The trend towards dark, gritty fantasies has dominated fantasy writing for the last decade or so. The relatively light-hearted Harry Potter series grew darker and more somber as the books progressed. Game of Thrones came to dominate epic fantasy, filled with violent battles and characters that may be murdered in the blink of an eye. The YA market has seen dystopian novels like the Hunger Games pitting children against each other in a battle of survival.

There is another, less apparent theme that runs through all three of these series. Their brutality is grounded in actual history. Ironic as it is, the darkest aspect of each of these books is actually the most realistic.

Game of Thrones

George R. R. Martin has created many fantasy elements for his epic series, dragons, ice zombies, seasons that last many years, and even the land he describes. But the drawn out civil war that drives the story is inspired by, if not based on, historical events. The English Wars of the Roses contain many elements that Game of Thrones fans will recognize, including at least one battle that puts the series to shame for it’s pure brutality.

This video does a good job of explaining the connections:

Harry Potter

Does Voldemort’s obsession with muggle blood strike you as eerily familiar? It should be. J. K. Rowling based a lot of the Death Eaters rule on Hitler’s Germany. Voldemort’s hatred for muggle blood, especially his shame over his own, mirrors Hitler’s obsession with Jews. Even the way he uses an existing bigotry, building a mythology of Salazar Slytherin around the destruction of muggles, mirrors how the Nazi party played on existing racism and anti-semitism. The world of the later books, where Voldemort holds sway, gives us a haunting glimpse into the lives of resistance fighters in any repressive regime.

The Hunger Games

The idea of forcing provinces to send tributes to compete in a bloody battle royale might sound like the most preposterous fiction, but that’s exactly what ancient Rome did. And that’s where Susan Collins drew much of the inspiration for the Hunger Games. Even the purpose of the Hunger Games matches that of the ancient coliseum. Not only were they displays of wealth and power by the sovereign state, they were vital distractions for the masses.

Other examples

I could continue in this vein for some time without running out of examples. Tolkien denied that the Lord of the Rings, published in 1937, had any historical allegory. But many readers and critics can’t help but see the rising power in the east as being applicable to both Sauron and Nazi Germany. The analogy between the middle earth and the times in which the books were written is remarkable, whether he intended it or not.

Tolkien’s close friend C. S. Lewis, on the other hand, was free in admitting that the Narnia series were written in response to World War Two, and the parallels are significant there as well.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Authors are often influenced by the times in which they live and the experiences of the real world.

I think the bigger question we need to ponder is this, gritty fantasy shows us about ourselves. We create dragons, evil wizards, and mythical weapons, but they true horrors aren’t the things writers manufacture in their minds, but the reality of human nature itself.

Five Novels that Changed My Life

Every once in a while you’ll pick up a novel and it will completely change your life. Those moments are few and far between, but worth it. As you grow older, they become even rarer. It’s not that I am jaded or set in my ways, but many times I’ve read or heard the idea before.

Here is my list of novels that changed my life and why. Note, I am not saying these are necessarily the best novels ever. In fact two of these novels I no longer even like. (Tastes change, experiences change.) Sometimes a novel comes into your life at exactly the right moment to really affect you.

1. Little House on the Prairie

I know, it’s a pretty pedestrian book to be on a list of life changers, but there is a good reason it belongs at the top of my list.

I can’t remember how old I was when I read it, but I was in elementary school. I was supposed to write a book report, but like most kids that age, I put it off. I told my mom on Friday, “oh by the way I have a book report due on Monday.” I hadn’t so much as decided on a book.

She shoved Little House on the Prairie into my hands and forbade me from leaving the house until I had my report done. By the time the weekend was over I’d read the book, written my report and became a lover of books.

2. The Mists of Avalon


I bought the hardcover of the Mists of Avalon from one of the many book clubs when I was a teenager and it had first came out. I was looking for a good fantasy read, and it was that.

I was also soul searching. I had decided sometime in my teens that I was not a christian. It wasn’t that I had anything against the Lutheran church where I was raised or against religion in general. Nor did I, as many others have, become an atheist or agnostic. I simply wanted something more from religion, an intense personal experience of connection that I couldn’t find in christianity.

The Mists fueled my imagination. Pagan religions, not as a some ancient superstition, but as a deep spiritual path, mesmerized me. It would be several more years and another, nonfiction book, Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler before it became official. But the Mists of Avalon set me on the path to paganism.

3. SlaughterHouse Five


In high school I was a science fiction geek. Oh, I read fantasy, too. That was the extent of it. I strongly resisted the notion that any other genre might be worth a peek. I had a particular disdain for literature.

Some of this was just the age old bias between science fiction fans and literary fans. Literary writers and readers have looked down their noses at genre writers for years. Science fiction writers and readers have looked right back at literary writers with almost the same level of disdain.

It was also, in part, a failing of my education. Perhaps everybodies education suffers in this way. We want to teach great American writers in one semester, so we opt for a short story here, an excerpt there. We want to teach about themes in writing, so we look for the best book about war, or the best book about coming of age.

But as I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand that many of the truly great novels won’t fit into a one semester course on great American writers. The most representative book by a twentieth century American writer might not be the best book of that period.

Educators must make trade offs. They have limited time and a lot to cover. The Snows of Kilimanjaro is a short story and boom, Hemingway’s done. Never mind A Farewell to Arms or The Sun Also Rises. We don’t have time for novels.

The point being that in high school I was made to read a smattering of the great literary writers, but managed to miss almost all of the works that actually made them great. I read a bunch of representative stories and excerpts that completely failed to convince me that literature was worth my time.

Kurt Vonnegut changed that. Actually a cute guy named Wally changed that, but that’s a slightly more convoluted story. I met him my first semester and he loved literature. I cracked Slaughterhouse Five mostly because he loved it and I wanted another reason to talk to him.

Slaughterhouse Five taught me that literature was worth my time and that literature and science fiction weren’t so far apart.

I went on to read many phenomenal writers and they all affected my worldview, but Vonnegut gets credit for the most life changing experience because he was my entry into literature.

4. Stranger in a Strange Land


I read Stranger in a Strange Land for the first time in the early nineties, after moving to Des Moines, going to nursing school and getting into the local pagan community. The book opened my mind to a new way of looking at relationships, spirituality and what was possible. All at the same time that I was moving in an eclectic new community that embraced many of those same ideas.

Learning the martian language, in the book, gave people super powers. There is an incredible insight buried in that. Words have power. Without the linguistic tools to discuss certain issues or ideas, they remain impossible. Once we start to develop the words, the ideas can be discussed and they can grow.

I was not out about my gender identity for much of my early life. To say I was in the closet isn’t exactly true, nor can I say I was in denial. The closet implies that I knew, but didn’t want to say. Denial implies that I didn’t want to know. The truth is that I simply didn’t have the language to think the issue through. I knew I was not like any of the men I knew. I had more in common with most of the women I knew. But the term transgender was never used growing up. Gender was never clearly distinguished from physical sex, making it very hard for me to describe just how I was different from men or like women.

Stranger in a Strange Land gave me the idea that if I could discover the right words, I could figure this issue out. It began a long and winding process of self discovery. Sadly when I returned to the book years later, I discovered that none of the specific issues that I unraveled were actually in the book. But still, the notion of the notion was there. And that was enough.

5. Orlando


I stumbled across a tiny video rental store in Sherman Hills just a few blocks from my apartment. It was early nineties, about the same time I read Stranger in a Strange Land. On a whim I went home with the movie adaptation of Orlando, knowing nothing of the book or Virginia Woolf.

As I have said I was still beyond denial of my gender issues. I was in some vague I-have-these-feelings-I-can’t-put-into-words phase of dealing with my gender.

Imagine my surprise when midway through the novel the male protagonist wakes to find himself a female. My deepest dream, the fantasy I lived over and over without knowing what it meant, was suddenly displayed in front of me. Did others think these thoughts? Could there be words, notions that expressed them?

I had to find the book and read it. It’s since become a favorite of mine. I re-read it recently, post transition. Even now I am struck by Virginia Woolf’s insight into what it’s like to live in more than one gender. I laughed aloud when Orlando, seeing what it’s like on both sides of the gender fence has to fight the urge to run off and become a gypsy. How many times did I feel the same urge through my transition?

 

So there you have it, five novels that changed my life and why. What novels have changed your life? Why?

The Soundtrack for Bear Naked 3

A long time back now I posted about the music I was listening to while writing the first Bear Naked book. It proved a popular post so I repeated the post. For this weeks Bear Naked 3 teaser, I am reposting this, the soundtrack for Bear Naked 3: The Hunted.

I listen to music a lot when I write. Most of the time it’s simply to drown out distractions, what I am listening to isn’t that important. But music can also help set the mood, and I will find myself listening to the same albums and artist over and over through some novels, only to switch when I start a new project.

The entire Bear Naked series has a folksy feel to it for me. Not surprisingly, Turn of the Wheel by Tempest remains at the top of my play list as I wrote The Hunted. Tempest is a celtic rock band with a very unique sound. It fits the feel of the neo-pagans in Bear Naked, Uncle Darren and his whole family.

Bear Naked 3 finds Uncle Darren missing somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Amanda and her pack have to find him. It’s Skinwalker territory and these Native American cousins to the werewolves aren’t always on the best terms. The Skinwalker’s relation with other tribes is complicated by Native American history and they are suspicious of outsiders like the Leidulfs.

One of my favorite Native American artists, Robbie Robertson climbs to the number two spot on my playlist for Bear Naked 3. Music for the Native Americans by Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble is the album that plays the most while I write.

Coyote Grace has an incredibly folksy feel and they continue to be among my most listened to artists, especially Boxes and Bags. I can almost imagine my characters listening along as they hike through the mountains.

I used to refer to the Irish band Clannad as “the most famous band no one’s heard of.” Irish music buffs know the name, but outside that group you will mostly get blank stares. But their music is everywhere. From movies like Harry’s Game and Last of the Mohicans to TV shows and commercials, everyone has heard their music. Listening to their greatest hits you’ll see why. Their music is powerfully evocative.

I have an eclectic collection of music with over a hundred albums on my laptop and two or three times that on my CD shelf, slowly accumulated over the years. It ranges for Bjork to the Best of Bollywood, with a fair amount of classic rock, pop and folk music. My listening tastes change with my mood and I could list a lot more albums, but these are the ones that seem most connected to Bear Naked 3.

Fellow writers, do your listening habits change with your writing? Are their particular songs that seem to go with certain novels?

Readers, do you like hearing about the music I am listening to? Does it add to or take away from the reading experience?

Turning Cliches on their head

Cliches.

We all know they’re bad. We know we shouldn’t use them. But cliches are there for a reason. They aren’t just a part of literature, they are a part of life. They are expectations. They are things we assume will happen.
I like to challenge cliches. Not just avoid them, but completely turn them on their head and then fish in their pockets for loose change.
The first novel I wrote started out that way. It went through a half dozen attempts at writing before I became a good enough writer to write it and a dozen or more major rewrites before it eventually became Children of a New Earth.
The seed, the kernel of the novel, lay in the post-apocalyptic stories of my youth in the eighties. Mad Max and it’s many spin offs had a simple cliche notion, that once society collapsed it humanity would quickly devolve into punk rock barbarians and para military organizations.
Why? Why does every writer assume this?

Every 80’s apocalypse assumed that para-military groups would take over.

I see two underlying assumptions that drive this cliche. The first is the idea that humanity is basically evil, that we restrain these impulses because of society. Without societies control people would become vicious and cruel. The second assumption is that evil is inherently stronger than good. That good people are hampered by what they won’t do. Evil may lose in the end, but only be heroic actions of a few.
These are easy assumptions to buy into. Look at any place on the globe where law and order aren’t routinely imposed and you can find the worst in humanity, on display for all to see. It’s easy to see power when it’s being wielded in weapons and dished out in cruelty.
I wanted to explore an alternative world view in my first novel. I wanted to pose the question, what if society collapsed and people said, “hey, that was pretty stupid. Let’s not do that again.”
The novel changed many times over as it was written and rewritten. The finished novel focuses more on the survivors, especially the next generation and the survivalist enclave of Freedom Ranch. But the original kernel is still there in the stories told by other survivors, in the Quiet Earth Society, the Ten Thousand Warriors for Peace and the Cult of the Iron Mother. These groups fought back against martial law and the growing power of paramilitary groups. Even though they were low tech and peaceful (though not to the point of being pacifists), they won.
They won because there are two paths to power and their opponents only understood one of them. There is destructive power and constructive power. You can invest in weapons to destroy your enemy. You can use fear to control your followers. This is the destructive path to power. Or you can have the knowledge to make things. You can reach out and build connection with your followers. This is the constructive path to power.
In the words of a former Quiet Earth Society member and minor character, “The early military dictators were a stupid lot. They fought over politics. We went straight for the food supply. Once the countryside was on our side, it was over. They just didn’t know it until winter hit.”
Did I succeed in proving my point? I will have to leave that for the reader to decide. But it is an entertaining story and it shows how turning a cliche around can lead to a new novel idea.

Children of a New Earth can be purchased here.

Children of a New Earth can be purchased here.

 

How Do You Write So Much?

How do you write so much and stay so thin?

That’s the question I wish people would ask me, but they never do. It might help if I was actually staying so thin, but writing is not exactly calorie burning and I am at the age where my natural metabolism is no longer fighting that particular battle on my behalf. But that is a completely different sort of blog post, so let’s just move on.

How do you write so much?

And also, an update on pulp speed writing.

I write a lot and I get a lot of writing done. Other writers often tell me that I am prolific and objectively I agree. Subjectively, I am a prolific storyteller. If I could make my fingers work as fast as my brain, or somehow abbreviate the planning, writing and editing to simply telling the story, I could be a lot more prolific. So I don’t always see myself as prolific.

Since I get asked it a lot, how do I write so much? How can you get your writing speed up? For me it’s a simple three step process.

  1. Build your creativity.
  2. Build your writing muscle.
  3. Write, a lot.

1. Building your creativity.

Creativity is often seen as one of those traits that you either have or don’t, but that is a half truth at best. Yes, I was always a creative even as a child. Or, that’s what the nicer teachers said. The others said things like a lazy day dreamer who would rather stare out the window than do work, but I guess everyone is entitled to an opinion.

Probably the best book on creativity is Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Art of Writing. If you haven’t read it, I would strongly suggest it.

Bradbury compares creativity to the dust motes that float across your eye. We quickly learn to see through the motes, so much so that we are unaware that they are there. That is until someone mentions them. Even then, there is a trick to seeing them. You have to unfocus your eyes, become aware of them drifting across your vision.

Creativity is like that. It’s everywhere around us. But in order to focus on day to day life, we have to see through it. We have to shove inspiration into some back corner of our minds and focus on work, family, chores. Soon we can’t even see it.

To build our creativity, we simply have to unlearn. We have to stop shoving inspiration aside and unfocus our vision to see it again. We have to take the time to look for it. Ask ourselves questions, let our minds take us where they will.

Once you learn the trick, story ideas are everywhere. Every ‘what if’ question is a potential story. Every time you wonder what someone is thinking, or how they came to be caught up in some event, that’s a story idea.

You start to question everything. Why did that happen? What if it happened differently? Why did they make that choice. How would a different person have responded to that situation?

It is this tendency to question everything that makes writers and other artists so dangerous, so often censored in politically repressive regimes. But it’s also the root of a million new stories.

2. Build your writing muscle.

Writing is work. Non-writers and beginning writers share this myth that it’s easy to write. If you have inspiration, that is, you sit down and the words just flow out onto the page. In truth it takes a huge mental effort to put a story down on paper.

And that work is exhausting, at least at first. Slowly you get better at it, just like exercising a muscle.

Just like exercise, you will have good days and bad days. There will be days when you jump out of bed and say, “I want to go for a run today.” Other days you will have to drag your weary ass out, saying, “if I want to be a runner, I need to run today, no matter what.”

Writing is like that. If you only write when you have the inspiration, you will never be a real writer. Only the writers who learn to make a habit of it build the writing muscle.

Those days when you drag yourself to the keyboard, you might not get much done. You might wonder if it’s really worth it, or if you should just wait until you have the inspiration. Persist. You might not be achieving much in word counts, but you are achieving something more important, you are building your writing muscle. Eventually the day will come when you can sit down to your keyboard with a cup of coffee, put some music on and jam out the words for three straight hours. Which brings us to step three:

3. Write, A Lot.

Once you’ve discovered the secret to creativity and built up your writing muscle you are ready to become a prolific writer. There’s no great secret to putting these two thing together, it just takes time.

As Dean Wesley Smith states repeatedly in his blog, every writer writes at a certain pace. For some it’s faster or slower. But beyond that the only real secret to writing more is to write more often or longer. Many others writers have said this, Chuck Wendig says it a lot, with frequent profanity laced in for effect. Natalie Goldberg says it in Writing Down the Bones. Writers write. If you want to be a writer, sit your butt down and write.

There is only one point that I disagree with it all these people, I think sometimes we introduce the ‘write more’ rule too quickly. If you are still a beginner, getting stuck on story ideas, pick up Zen and the Art of Writing. Spend some time learning to unfocus the day to day mind and let the creativity in. If you’ve never written, focus on making it a regular practice before you attempt long sessions. Get up every morning, open your computer and write for five minutes, then ten minutes. Eventually it won’t seem like enough, not enough to get all the stories clamoring in your head to get out. Then start writing more and more.

Which brings us to an overdue update on my year of writing dangerously.

The short version is I gave up on it. The longer version is that I decided I didn’t need it right now.

I am not a professional writer, but I pretend to be one. I am a nurse, in my other life. I work night shifts and I’ve got an unusual schedule. I work more than part time, but less than full time. I work one week, more or less without any days off. Then I have close to a week off. It works for me. I have one week where I am a nurse and fit writing in when I can. And I have one week where I am a writer.

On those ‘writer’ days, I write. Three thousand words a day isn’t really that bad when all you have to do all day is write. I usually can jam that out in one mammoth session of three hours or so. On non writer days it’s another matter. Three thousand is tough to squeeze in around other stuff. I would fall behind on those days, so far that I wasn’t able to catch up easily on my days off.

There was more to it, though. I am producing new works, lots of them. I have a novel I am doing on Wattpad. It’s written at least in rough form and I am editing and posting as I go along. I have a multi-part science fiction serial that is in the editing stages.

I also have the four books I intend to publish this year finished. I have a couple of manuscripts in the queue for next year and one in the works. I have the remaining Bear Naked books in planning stages.

What am I going to do with all these manuscripts? Eventually I hope to publish them all. But I can only publish so many. It takes time to self edit things, money to have my editor go over them again, time and money to make covers. I am not ready to up my publishing schedule yet. So why I am in such a hurry to produce books?

My goal for this year is to publish four new books. In the future, I don’t know. If I am making enough to pay for production cost, I should increase that to five or six. If I am making enough from writing that I can cut back on work even more, I can devote that much more time to writing. Maybe I will approach Dean Wesley Smith’s pulp speed someday, or maybe I won’t. Right now though, it’s not important.

 

Hipster Potter

A short somewhat random parody.

  1. Hipster Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Editor’s note: Some readers might ask, “why the original U. K. title, the Philosopher’s Stone and not the American Sorcerer’s Stone?” [Hipster editor shakes his head and walks away.]

“Harry,” Hagrid said, “you’re a wizard.”

“Actually I prefer Thaumaturge.”

 

In Ollivander’s shop the pile of wands was growing and growing. Ollivander’s expression grew curious. None of the wands seemed to fit Hipster Potter’s personal style. He would snap his wrist to each one, but all he got were the occasional sparks.

“An interesting case,” Ollivander muttered. “Perhaps…yes, perhaps.”

He came back with a wand unlike any other. It was sleek, smooth, not a bump or imperfection in the wood finish.”

“what is it?” Hipster Potter whispered.

“It’s the latest thing,” Ollivander told him. “the iWand.”

Hipster Potter knew instantly he had found his wand.

Coming soon:

  1. Hipster Potter and the Obscure Chamber only He Knows About.

 

  1. Hipster Potter and the Prisoner of an unfair legal system that failed to do due diligence in investigating Peter Pettigrew’s death.

 

  1. Hipster Potter and the artisanal hand crafted goblet that, of course, doesn’t contain anything a goblet normally would.

 

  1. Hipster Potter and the Non-mainstream Order of the Benu Bird (which the later Phoenix legends were based on).

 

  1. Hipster Potter and the Half-Blood princesymbol(not that we buy the racist concept of blood anyway.)

7. Hipster Potter and the childhood legend you’ve probably never read. (I’ve got an original edition.)