I keep seeing and hearing that writers write because they can’t not. This is something only a writer would say and only a writer would understand. And is, by the way, a truly terrible sentence. It’s also something I feel. But does it mean I’m a writer? The fact that I can’t stop? Is that even a good thing? Sounds a bit like a crack addiction.
These days I find myself doubting myself. I keep getting rejection after rejection, and very few of these come from people who have actually read what I’ve written. It just “doesn’t feel right” for them. Or “doesn’t fit their list.” Or my personal favorite, isn’t something they, “feel passionate enough about to give the energy it deserves.” Naturally it “isn’t a judgment of the quality of the work” and they “wish me luck getting it placed.” Yes, I’m getting that creeping doubt that any of this effort is going to go anywhere.
At the same time, business opportunities keep popping up in my professional life. Teaming arrangements with companies from out of the blue. People wanting navigation and guidance engineers for a new missile program. Highly qualified people wanting to work with me. Should I just stop writing and pour myself into a field where I’m highly competent but for which I’ve little passion? There sure is a lot of money to be made building missiles and rockets for the government.
It’s just when I’m feeling this way that confirmation comes that yes, I am a writer and I need to stick with it. And it wasn’t so much the note I got from a mother this week that her 13 year-old son loved Viridis and is hoping to see my next book soon. And this is from a kid who prefers to play video games rather than read. Or from the other mother that her son wants to meet his favorite writer. No, I’ve heard that too often. Not that I don’t appreciate it, I do, but the fact that people like my work isn’t enough to get it published. It takes an editor or agent who likes my work. I get that. No, this was from a different, deeper, and more philosophical quarter.
At work right now I’m developing an algorithm that will place orbital assets (satellites) in a given position at a given time. It requires a knowledge of astrodynamics, satellites, time standards, and other engineery stuff. I had initially wanted to use Julian Day for the time standard. I’d used it before but it had been a while so looked it up on Wikipedia and slogged through it. Julian Day is the number of days since January 1, 4713 BC at noon, Greenwich Mean Time. That was a Monday in case you were wondering. But the numbers are large and cumbersome and I don’t like dealing with decimal days so I kept scrolling down and ran across UNIX Time. I’d used that before too and like it better so I clicked on the link.
UNIX Time, I was reminded by the wiki is the number of seconds since January 1, 1970. Yeah, the numbers are big but it’s a better time standard and beloved of geeks the world over. They even had a big party when UNIX Time hit 1000000000 o’clock. That’s one billion seconds since January 1, 1970, which happened on September 9, 2001 at 01:46:40 UTC. What?! You missed the party?! So did I. Like I said, geeks.
So I’m slogging through these time standards on Wikipedia and hit that section we all know and love, UNIX Time in Literature, and lo and behold, UNIX Time does actually appear in a book! A Deepness In the Sky written by Vernor Vinge and published in 1999. It sounds interesting. So I click on that link. Suddenly I’m completely absorbed in the description and am wondering how I can incorporate these ideas into my own work.
Yes, I’m a geek. A rocket scientist. But I’m a writer too and it was nice to be reminded of that. Thank you UNIX Time. I would celebrate with you at 3141592653 o’clock but I don’t think I’ll still be around.