Bread and Circuses

Had one of those conversations with another writer the other day. You know the ones. When they ask me about my writing goals and I tell them what I’m going to execute this year. The one where their eyes glaze over and fear begins to creep in.

Something about having already crossed one million words for 2019. Sixteen of the twenty novels I plan to write in the can, and today I’m 16,000 words in #17.

This is not a brag. It is a simple statement of fact. Steve Barnes calls me a publishing company, and he’s not wrong.

I write. Everything else comes second or later behind that. On days when I can’t write, like on a recent long drive to Lincoln City, OR from Seattle, I lost two days of words. You probably don’t grasp how irritated that made me.

It took away from my writing. For a DAMNED good reason, or I’d have never done it, but I’ve been behind on my internal goals for the last two weeks, and only now catching up.

Next year, I will set different goals. No idea what they were, but they’ll be just as crazy. And just as achievable.

“How do you do that?” the other writer asked, shocked and awed.

Mind you, this is someone who introduces himself as a writer, rather than one of those cafe dilettantes. You know the ones. Artistés (with a fwaaaaaa on the end).

How could I possibly sustain over 100,000 words written per month, when he might not have gotten that many this year? (Probably half that many this year, if I had to guess, but I don’t really care enough to find out.)

What was the secret handshake to success that made Pulp Speed Three sustainable?

He REALLY didn’t like my answer. (Hint: they never do.)

“Bread and Circuses,” I smiled at him.

It was a rude kind of smile.

I interact with him on social media from time to time. Listen as he argues with other folks about the minutiae of various shows that they all watch with the fervor of the newly-saved. A lot of shows.

“Bread and circuses?” he repeats, deeply confused now.

But he started it.

“Indeed,” I smile. “Huxley called it soma. There are other terms, but they all come down to the same thing.”

“Which is?”

“You are watching your shows and doing all these other things,” I remind him. “I’m writing. How many hours do you spend consuming media each week?”

“They say you have to read and watch,” he grows defensive. “Got to stay on top of things in order to write.”

“Well one, you aren’t writing,” I point out. “And two, I’m not writing to market, so I really don’t give a flying fuck about the latest trends in YA, post-apoc, dystopian Urban Fantasy. Nor about YA sparkly vampires before that. Or YA magic academies before that. I’m writing stories I want to read, because they aren’t those.”

“When was the last show you watched,” he asked, as the implications began to sink in.

That was a good question. I had to go look it up. (And I just did again, because I wanted to get the dates right.)

I never followed it in any great detail. It was on Sunday nights, and I tended to sit in bed while writing longhand, with the television on in the background to keep me company. I needed the company, because my first wife died of breast cancer in 2008 and I was living alone at that point.

The show was Legend of the Seeker. And it went off the air in early 2010. Stopped watching because I didn’t watch TV. Maybe played computer games some in those days, but single-player resource builders, and not first person shooters or MMORPGs.

The last professional sporting event I sat down and watched was the Superbowl before the local Seahawks won, so that would have been 47, I guess. 2014.

I don’t own a television. I watch the occasional movie on my laptop, especially when Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) and I snuggle up in bed, like we did for a recent LOTR three-night marathon.

But those things are rare.

I want to write. I don’t want to argue with fans about interpretations of some television show. Or have Korean gamers scream obscenities at me while shooting my gamerbody.

I got better things to do.

Number one on that list is writing. I spend a lot of my hours making shit up. And having fun. And enjoying myself.

So much of the modern world is game of bread and circuses designed to keep the masses from realizing how hollow and pointless their lives are. (Ask Henry Ford about his early support for the NFL, sometime.)

I’m not out there to burn the world down, but I’m also no rotting my brain watching television for however many hours each week. I used to work with a guy that got home from work each night, put dinner on the trays, and watch television for the next four hours.


Followed by about 8-12 hours of sporting events over the weekend, depending on the season.

Yeah, no.

I’m going to write.

Every hour I spend at the keyboard (with breaks thrown in) generates about 1,000 words. Four hours per day is 4,000 words, most of the time.

That’s 120,000 words per month, on average. Which is what I’m doing. I don’t have a day job, so the words happen first thing in the morning, and then I head into town to do stuff, which is what I’m going to do as soon as I publish this blog.

Got errands. Then later going to a friend’s for their birthday party. Still social, but if you spent just one hour per day writing, that would be 350,000 words done in a year. To put that in more interesting terms, that’s eight novels of at least 40,000 words length.

And that’s one hour per day, with two weeks off.

How bad to you really want to be a writer? And how much are you just enjoying bread and circuses?

2 thoughts on “Bread and Circuses

    1. Grover Larkins

      Good lesson for scientists too.

      Suggest you look into the show “Genius” about Einstein – work ethic he had was incredible also.

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