Thursday, August 25, 2011

Centripetal Notions

Every weekday morning I wake-up, shave, kiss and tickle my wife and kids, and ride my bike to work.
I work at a tech firm. You know the type, the huge multi-national conglomerate whose major stockholders and board of directors have become so focused on the distance between the first and last digits of their net-worth that they have forgotten the importance of the people and the technologies that allowed them the digits in the first place. The firm, whose board of directors spends their twenty working days a year nattering away in a price-per-share soap-opera determining the fate of thousands of people’s careers, while hiding behind terms like 'complimentary investments' and 'uncomplimentary divestitures'.... oops, sorry... I promised myself I wouldn’t go there, so I’m stopping this train. If you crave more anti-establishment rant, please head over to Tim Riley’s place and view Jon Stewart’s hilarious yet poignant take on the subject.

So, anyway, I work at a tech firm. I have technical chops. And, like the typical engineer, I am a nerd, a geek, a freak, and a really good dancer. One of the buzz-phrases we often use around the office is “Cycles of Learning” or “COLs”. COLs are the packets of time required to solve a problem. Most often a problem at work involves turning some idiot savant’s crazy idea into a useful device and the ensuing discussion focuses on shortening or reducing the number of COLs required to make the idea a reality. The number and length of COLs required for a problem depend, quite naturally, on the complexity of the problem and the number of resources assigned. Rather than bore you with the nuances of how the number of inventions required to solve a problem can be used to strike a healthy resource allocation, I’ll again stop the train and just say this: Writing a novel is a really, really hard problem and therefore (in my case) requires multiple, time consuming learning cycles.

So far, I believe every learning cycle (or Syntropy re-write) has been absolutely necessary, but I am nearing a dilemma—when do I stop? You see, science is easy, or at least the end point is. You either meet your constraints or you don’t. You rarely hear an electrical engineer asking her cube mate if he wouldn’t mind re-watching a light toggle on and off on a new circuit she designed. “Did you like it that time? How did it make you feel? What if I switched it on and off really fast? How about slow? Does it turn you on? Do you care about the light? Does it make you want to keep watching? What if I just hinted at turning it on?” No. Under normal circumstances in the tech world, on-is-on, off-is-off and that-is-that.
"It may be perpetual motion, but it will take forever to test it."
A confounding piece of the puzzle for me is that my re-writes come slowly. During my six-month re-write sojourns I know that I continue to grow as a writer and therefore once finished, I am compelled to start over.
And there you have it; my cycle of learning has become a perpetual motion machine.
What does your done-state look like?

Munk's opening line,
"Jim, your increasing tendencies toward centripetal acceleration have forced us to let you go."
Munk's "Opening Line" is yours to keep, use it. Munk
(A punchline without a toon is a sorrowful thing. Can someone please draw me a picture for this one?)

And finally, music this week: (after last week's comments I will spare you more Donner Party and stay on theme with the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Perpetuum Mobile. Please listen, it just might make your day, and the next, and the next, and the next,...