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December 2009 marks five years that I’ve been writing End Times, the foundering ship which I am riding all the way to the ocean floor. I began writing the first entries in December 2004, and publishing them online in real-time format on January 1, 2005. The real-time format lasted for about three months before inevitably slipping away from me, and now I’m staring at my stranded characters across an ever-widening fissure of time.
I posted a new entry a few minutes ago, and given my track record, we all know it’s the last one I’ll be posting in 2009. This was an entry for October 10. The first entry I published in 2009 was for October 1. Some days have more than one entry, so that’s a total of fifteen, which is still abysmally low.
The reason I don’t post nearly as frequently as I used to is, shock horror, because I don’t enjoy writing End Times anymore. When I started it (in high school!) I had no idea where it would lead. A few other people were writing apocalyptic journals online and I thought it looked like a bit of a lark, so I figured I’d write one myself until I got bored with it. It proved to be quite popular, with – at its peak – maybe twenty or thirty regular readers. That made me feel good, and encouraged me, and I kept going.
Somewhere along the way I began to gradually lose interest in it. I have no idea where in the five-year saga that happened. The result was that I posted less frequently and that there was (in my opinion) a noticeable decline in the quality of writing. As a result less people read it, which meant I had less incentive to write it, and with that the negative feedback loop was up and running. And now we come to the close of a year in which I posted, on average, once every 24 days – a span far too long to keep all but the most devoted reader’s attention. Even assuming I were to post more frequently, and only have an entry for every couple of days of storyline time, that would mean an optimistic finish date of late 2012.
I do have an outline for the rest of the story. I know how the rest of October plays out, I know what will happen in November and December, and I know how it’s going to finish. The only thing preventing all this from happening is my deep loathing of actually sitting down and doing it.
Here’s the kicker: I don’t really have much of a desire to write anything these days. There was a time when I felt obligated to write End Times before anything else, so that it was holding me back from other projects; there was a time when I had abandoned that notion and worked quite often on other projects; and now there is a time when I have dozens of ideas for novels and short stories floating around in my head, and this enormous barnacle-encrusted leviathan sitting unfinished on Livejournal, and yet I devote less than a couple of hours every few weeks to working on any of them at all.
That worries me. Writing is pretty much the only thing I’m good at. Why don’t I want to do it?
The best explanation I can offer is that perhaps, in my early twenties, I’m in the period most writers spend actually exploring the world. Explaining it and telling stories about it comes later – though no doubt they spend these years constantly writing anyway, even if none of it comes to fruition.
I do write, though – I write a lot of book reviews, and when I go abroad I keep travelogues. Who says I have to write fiction? Apart from the fact that I want to be a fiction writer.
That’s the thing, really. I’ve become one of those writers for whom the actual writing is an unfortunate and unpleasant step on the way to the accomplishment of having written.
I didn’t always used to feel like that. I used to love it. I used to get excited when I was writing End Times, when I was pounding through a particularly action-packed entry and the words were flowing like water. Now… nothing. The most recent entry is quite eventful. But I felt nothing writing it.
Am I over the whole idea of swashbuckling boy’s adventure stories? Do I want to write something more mature?
I don’t think I can. If I’m really lucky, I might have it in me to be another Stephen King. But I will never be another David Mitchell or Michael Chabon.
I’m starting to ramble and it’s getting late, so I’ll finish with the same topic I started: I have been writing End Times for five years now. While I may compare it to a stinking albatross hanging around my neck, I do not regret it. It has been an interesting experiment, an absolutely epic work of fiction, and regardless of its dubious quality as a piece of literature I will feel quite accomplished when I finally finish it. And I do still intend to finish it, even if nobody wants to read it and I don’t want to write it, because I am an exceptionally stubborn person. I am a person who read the entirety of Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series, who watched an entire season of 24 in a single sitting, who spent months longer than he had to working at a hellish kindergarden in South Korea. Partly because I feel that I owe it to the few remaining readers, and partly because I have come too fucking far to give up on it now, I WILL FINISH THAT DAMNED NOVEL OR DIE TRYING.
For any End Times readers who check this place more often than they do End Times itself (which wouldn’t be too surprising, given the imbalance), I’ve started updating again, and will try to do so more frequently in the future.
Despite the fact that I now deeply dislike the zombie horror genre, what with having been chained to a neverending piece of it for three and a half years, I nevertheless have an association with it and am dutifully compelled to inform you, the reader, of new developments in the field. Or I just waste a lot of time on Flash games. Whatever.
The point is that the entertaining time-killer The Last Stand now has a sequel, the Last Stand 2, in which you continue the adventures of a scruffy, bearded survivalist in a nation overrun with the living dead. While the first game gave you the simple objective of staying alive for 20 days, the second game requires you to reach an evacuation point within forty days. And so you head off across the quintessential American State, through farms and towns and cities, spending your days recruiting fellow survivors and gathering supplies, and spending your nights defending hastily constructed barricades from hordes of slavering monsters. There are a number of improvements on the last game; you can now search specific buildings, set traps like landmines or gas cylinders, and distribute your spare weapons amongst your fellow survivors.
For Flash timewasters, these games are unusually atmospheric and well-presented. I certainly recommend them if you have a looming deadline you want to ignore.
I recently heard that James Joyce used every single word in the English language when he was writing Ulysses. Hoping that the sheer, four hundred thousand word bulk of my own sprawling saga might make this statistically possible, I did a quick check with Ctr+F. In the event that I found my epic novel did indeed contain most words in the English language, I would of course be on par with one of the great writers of the 20th century. Because trivial achievements like “every single word” are all that matters.
Of the 28 base words listed on the first page of my dictionary, I had used 12 in End Times: a, aback, abandon, abate, abduct, ability, abject, able, abnormal, aboard, aborigine, abort.
Still, I have a good three months left…
Somebody who spends as much time slouching in the glow of a computer screen as I do needs a good solid, chair. I’ve been lacking in that for some time.
I believe we lost the back some time in 2006. What remains is basically just a stool, a shrivelled and decrepit stump of its former self.
Fortunately, a new Ikea the size of Bill Gates’ mansion recently opened teetering on the brink of my local freeway, so I stopped there on the way home from university and invested seventy-five dollars in a new chair. If the old chair was a leprous, croaking beggar huddling in a damp alleyway, the new chair would be equivalent to the dashing and handsome king of the Holy Land, reclining atop a pile of gold and dressed in extravagent finery.
On the downside it doesn’t recline back too much, and the armrests juuuust don’t fit underneath the bottom of the desk. Overall analysis: Satisfaction, tinged with mild dismay.
On the topic of uploading photos, last night I shaved off the scrappy beard I’ve been growing throughout January and February after eventually deciding it did indeed look like shit, as approximately 40% of people had been telling me. The kicker was a photo Rach took of me asleep and slack-jawed in the bus on the way home from a weekend camping, which revealed how awful it can truly look, and which I will not be posting. Naturally, of course, I took before and after shots.
Man, do I look weird now.
Oh, yeah – I know I haven’t updated End Times lately, but I’ve been super busy with personal life stuff, university assignments, and writing fascinating blog entries about buying furniture from Ikea. I’ll try to do one ASAP. In the meantime, here’s a picture of my best friend wearing the box the new chair came in on his head.
PHOTOGRAPHY DUMP COMPLETE
I was re-reading parts of End Times and noticed this glaring problem with the entry on April 17:
I want to end this ordeal. So does Aaron, Geoff, Jonas Barclay, Paul Campbell and Scott Edwards (the guards who were on the roof last night when Len took off; apparently they’re brothers).
Really, Mitch? Brothers with different surnames? Do tell.
I’ve updated End Times. I will continue to do so at least once a week for the rest of summer, until I start uni again in March. It’ll be just like the glory days of 2005!
I might even be able to make it all the way through September (in story time). That would be nice.
Chris: oi dude is end times still goin or is it dead in the water
Me: what? of course it’s still going. why?
Chris: well you never update
its a corpse that is just rotting away
Me: i update every few weeks
i have a lot of things to do dude
Chris: LIKE WHAT
Me: plus i’m not always in the mood to write
Chris: GO GET CHINESE BOUGHT FOR YOU
Me: if i force myself to write i end up writing crap
Chris: YOU CUNT
so have you been forcing yourself to write every entry?
Maybe I’ll elaborate a little further.
I’m halfway through a 3-year degree in Communications & Cultural Studies at Curtin University, purely because when I graduated high school I was still trying to fend off the real world, much like a man in a small cave with a stick, listening to the lions growling outside. I have no expectation of a job at the end of my course, but that’s all comfortably in the future. Oh, and I’ll also owe the government something like $10,000 by the end of my course, which I essentially consider a free loan because without a good job how am I going to pay it back, suckers?
Instead of securing my financial situation (I challenge you to come up with a more boring phrase), I hope to go backpacking with my friend Chris, using the money we’ve scraped together. Chris currently leads by several grand. Starting sometime in early 2009, we don’t plan to return to Australia until our funds run out. Ireland, the USA, Nepal, Egypt, China, Russia, Japan, Tanzania, Brazil, Peru and several others all have darts in them on my mental world map.
What happens when we come back? I don’t know. The idea of a career is pleasantly faraway in the future for me. My one and only talent in this world is writing, in any form. Barring poetry, because y’know, that’s for girls. The pipe dream is to become a successful novelist and spend my time sleeping on a pile of money, having sex with Miss Universe, and jetting back and forth between LA and New York and Sydney and London on my private jet (which will be extravagantly luxurious).
In the meantime, I’m a poor-ass university student living on $13.00 an hour from the local supermarket, procrastinating endlessly about assignments, and writing a cheesy post-apocalyptic online novel that’s marginally improved itself in my eyes by transforming into an epic swashbuckling adventure. What better way to squander the precious little time we all have before death?