I writing several talks this week. I didn’t used to write talks: I used to simply deliver them. Because of the health issues I have, though, I can’t guarantee that, on the day I give a talk or when the talk is recorded for later delivery (this latter is what happens this evening) I will be able to think effectively and to speak cogently. Most of the time, now, then, I write things down. So many people want to read it as a written word, too, that I often have a small audience (this month through Patreon) that wants to see what I say.
I have two pieces for finish today. One is an academic paper. My academic self is quite different to my fictional self when it comes to talks. The academic self is more intense and only sometimes includes bad jokes. The paper is about where the history comes from in Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver and is for a conference in Melbourne on Monday. I need to complete the overheads today and to do that, I need to know what I’m going to say, so it’s wise to finish the whole paper.
I have written almost all of the paper (and it’s already in the hands of someone who won’t be at the conference on Monday, but who needs to see it). All I need to do today with it is finicky finishing and the Powerpoint presentation. Academic work always contains much finicky finishing.
To do these last bits, I read the written word aloud, over and over. Each time I read a sentence, I listen to discover it makes sense in its place and whether words need switching or the sentence needs moving or if the whole thing has to be crossed out and replaced with something more sensible.
This is why most of my academic papers relate closely to my current research. I used to deliver more entertaining papers, but then I realised that the closeness of the editing for a good paper advances my thought on the research. Often it’s subtle advancement, but it’s always useful. My papers are less fun, but way more useful.
After the conference, I’ll take the paper and compare it to the chapter it relates to and the chapter will suddenly make a lot more sense. Editing today, then, means editing next week and the week after. This is a good thing.
What about the talk? The talk is for Octocon, which is in Ireland over the weekend. On my Monday morning I will technically be in Ireland having delivered the talk and in Melbourne, delivering the paper, mere hours apart. This is why my talk is being pre-recorded. I will have pictures for the Octocon talk, and these I still have to find and put in order. Mostly, though, with the talk, I need to make it make sense for people who have not read the books I’m talking about (by Tolkien, by Australian writer Leife Shallcross, by Irish writer Peadar Ó Guilín, and by Naomi Novik), who haven’t studied the subject I’m talking about and who want a bit of lyricism or humour to entice them to keep listening. The subject is how space and boundaries are important to fantasy fiction. Right now there’s too much lyricism. It’s easy to wax lyrical about forests and rivers and borderlands. However, I don’t want the words to ripple and flow and to create an abstract design: I need them to make sense. I have 800 words to add, then the rest of this talk lies in the edits. More reading aloud. More making things make sense to people who don’t live in my brain.
At 10 pm tonight, I have a long meeting with someone in Montreal. She will walk me through the tech side of Octocon, sort out all the tech issues related to the talk, record the talk and… my day will finish early tomorrow. Tomorrow I have 2 meetings (one for work, one for fun) and need to finish the first draft of another talk. I have five conventions/conferences this month, only one face to face. I’m short on time because all this is as well as my research. It’s work I love, but it’s not paid, also, so other things have to happen to keep me in food and electricity. This fortnight those other things are my research (for which I have funding) and Patreon.
Also, if anyone thinks that chronic illness and disability disappear in weeks like this… they do not. This week is a very exciting juggling act. Furthermore, most of this work is not paid. It’s just part of the life of a writer. Each of us have different things we do. Because I’m partly an academic (mostly unemployed, but not entirely) and partly a writer, much of my life is spent explaining awesomely interesting subjects, but without the support of an academic salary. It’s not always terribly easy.
Welcome to the life of many writers. Some of us are ducks, some of us are coots, some of us are swans, but we all paddle madly just out of sight in order to stay afloat. Many of us (me, for example) battle significant everyday issues as well. Every book of ours you buy, every Patreon you support or Ko.Fi you buy, makes the paddling a little less frantic.