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Critical Hits

Black Sabbatical

by Dave Smith
Dec 31,2004


Black Sabbatical

Ahoy hoy, readers. I'm keeping this month's column short, but not because I have nothing to say. As a matter of fact, I have plenty to say, though I'm not, and haven't, been in the mood to discuss my recent past with much of anyone. Ergo, I'll keep it short and simple, and use a cheap, effective method that would resemble my notes from writing classes in college, had I ever taken any. Notes, that is, not classes, although I might as well not have taken any writing classes, given how incredibly lacking in actual writing they were. Anyhow, here goes.

-I was offered a contract for representation from a literary agent just before Thanksgiving. I turned it down as soon as I saw that the agency wanted $170 up front. Anyone hoping to find an agent or a publisher should know that either type of entity should not ask you for money in advance, no matter what their rationale, and that any agent or publisher who tells you they need dough in order to promote your work is probably a complete fucking fraud. Don't sign a contract, or make any sort of agreement, with anyone that claims to need initial funding. While I am admittedly no expert on the ins and outs of the publishing world, the general sentiment among professionals regarding pre-payment echoes the statement I made earlier about "complete fucking frauds." Even if the deal looks good, don't waste your money. Instead, go buy some records or books or cigarettes, take a girl out on a date, or purchase ammunition for your firearm of choice. No matter what, keep trying your hand at the writing thing. If you continually fail, at least you can console yourself that the world isn't ready to hear what you have to say. You may very well be right, and I mean that in all honesty, unless you're trying to find a publisher for your furry fan fiction or something.

-I have, unsurprisingly, done very little in the way of writing lately; on the other hand, I actually have a method to my lethargic madness. A couple ideas for my next novel have been bouncing around in my skull for a few months, and I'm trying to let them calcify before I commit them to a .doc file that won't be forgotten within a week. Yes, my intellectually impulsive self has been mulling over the concepts of "plot" and "theme" and so forth, and with any luck I'll reach some conclusions that satisfy my need to write something with a modicum of meaning.

-My authorial idleness has been present since I finished the first revision of Critical Hits approximately nine months ago. Only in the last two or three months, however, have I recognized that idleness is a useful tool in aiding my appreciation of life, literature, and everything in between. This mental hiatus has allowed me to be unperturbed by my lack of creative output, while reveling in the words and creations of others, such as the almighty H.P. Lovecraft, innumerable bands, Alan Moore, the long line of Jim Beam distillers, Comrade Dog, Andy Link, the guy who writes Questionable Content, und so weiter. Not worrying about whether or not I'll get any writing done is pretty damned cathartic, since all self-imposed demands have pretty much fallen by the wayside until that undeniable urge to type returns. While I admire prolific writers, I know I'll never be one of them, so I'm content to kick back with a Lone Star and a Lucky Strike, enjoy life, scribble notes in my Moleskine (plug, plug- they're great notebooks, as long as you don't tote 'em around in your ass pocket for too long), dig some records, and simply think about things.

That's about it, folks. Time for the epilogue, which, I'm sure, will make some of you sigh with relief.

This will be my last column for RPG.net. I've been writing them for a year now, despite realizing some time ago that nobody really gives a cotton-pickin' fuck about what I have to say. It's about time to extend my writerly vacation to this column, so that I won't have to deal with the half-assed guilt that materialized every month when I'm asked to turn in my column and fail to do so for at least a week after such a request has been made. I'm not cut out to offer advice to anyone, though I would like to think that I've inspired at least a couple chuckles and/or irritated forum postings. In this day and age, a guy who's more concerned with livin' life, even to the detriment to his literary prospects, can't really ask for much more.

For some time I've prescribed, minus the religious overtones, to the concept of "wu-wei," which, as I understand it, is a Taoist notion that roughly translates to "do nothing." Things will happen as they happen. All the effort, or no effort at all, will produce results of some kind. I don't know if I believe in fate, but I'll be damned if I don't think that simply going with the flow, so to speak, will cause things to work out sooner or later. Whether or not things will work out well, I can't say, but hell, c'est la vie. I dig life and all the bullshit that comes with it, and if my writing reflects that, I'm happy. Don't confuse takin' it easy with apathy, however; far from it. I guess I just don't see any point in fighting against the past, although learning from it is imperative, and the future's gonna unfold as it pleases, with or without my efforts.

So, folks, I'll leave you with some contact information, should you have anything you wish to pass in my direction. Whether or not I hear from you, I wish you all the best, and thanks for all the time you've invested in me over the past year. My last piece of advice, and the one I hold most dearly despite how trite it may sound, is to take it easy.

Dave Smith

dave at axismundisum dot com

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