First, and Then

When I was a nanny, I discovered the most useful phrase in the English language was “first… and then.” As in, “first we will eat breakfast, and then we will go outside.” Or, “first lie down and rest your eyes, and then we will have a dance party.” 

Now that I have escaped normal life completely for no readily apparent reason other than it occurred to me I was free (and a few other reasons explored in my next book)—and it was very silly of me to not act like it—I am playing the next level of the “First, and Then” game with myself. 

First, I will finish my next book. And then, I will figure out which project to prioritize next, and just start before I feel ready. 


Next Steps in Finishing Next Book

Next book is draftedToo Big to Surveil: Tech, World Peace, and Chocolate is 200 pages, or 90,000 words plus bibliography. It’s a melange of translational science (including stuff from my National Science Foundation-sponsored dissertation and postdoctoral research), investigative journalism (including stuff from my documentary film interviews and collaboration with McClatchy), travel memoir, and me making lists of things we could do to solve problems in an attempt to offer a constructive critique of the surveillance state instead of just saying what is wrong with the way things are.

I think it’s fair to say (as I did) that I prove the CIA lied to Congress and people died, but maybe I should get it published first and let people judge for themselves. That will be slightly harder if Amazon doesn’t give back my publishing rights. But I’ll figure something out. 

Immediate next steps, then, for finishing the next book, albeit imperfectly, include: 

– adding more references in the text where I know something but other people haven’t been reading PubMed abstracts for fun on the weekends for ten years, so probably I should cite more claims. 

– locating paper, printing hard copy of manuscript to pace around Amsterdam with talking to myself and rewriting. 

– considering getting someone to actually read the thing before I publish it. (But look. I released documents proving the CIA lied to Congress in 2012. Nobody noticed then. Who’s to say anyone’s gonna have time to read my book now, even if I could get it perfect?) 

– getting Amazon to let me publish again even though the IRS is telling them my tax info is wrong. (My tax info is right.) 

– consider putting the thing down for another year or so, since I started collecting some of the interviews in the book in 2009, defended the diss research in 2014, and it took a lot of distance in lots of ways to accidentally come back to it all to spew out a book manuscript in the first place. Maybe it would be better if I just shelved it. Again. 

– rewriting and pitching slices of the book to various contacts/editors who have expressed interest. Smaller publications, perhaps building audience and interest in the topics, perhaps occasionally making a bit of money. Perhaps being clearer on the heart of the thing. 

– laughing at myself because nothing is ever perfect but I have given this surveillance state silliness just about enough of my precious time. Life is too short. The book will never be perfect. Release the beast. This would free me to turn to the next question, of what is first-next… 


Possible Projects to Prioritize Next

More long walking in warmer places will be necessary to ascertain which of the most obvious contenders for next possible projects is next. 

1. Next book, Interviews with Dead People—researching, writing, backpacking Asia to learn and tell a story about the legacy of U.S. foreign military involvement, soft power, and shifting narrative. The point is the process and the adventure, not to make money per se… My poetry book probably hasn’t made $100. But I think the story needs to be told and it calls me, and there’s not actually anything stopping me from going to find and tell it, so why not? 

2. The apocryphal album—re-writing the best of a backlog of about 30 songs in Protools (software) using professional recording equipment I might have access to in Berlin (hardware). Really keep clearing out this backlog of creative-intellectual projects I haven’t finished and put out because they are not perfect. Really push myself to do things I want to do but am uncomfortable with, like public speaking and singing (even by myself, I still sometimes have trouble making noise). Really show up to my life to play, do it in a month, put it online for free, and move on. (Or eventually if something clicks in another way, I guess I don’t move on, I roll with it.)

3. Go east—talk to people about what is up with this global refugee crisis, see how I can help. 

4. Nest—I miss painting horribly, and haven’t been able to get comfortable and do my artist thing in that way since I blogged on my last blog that people lied to Congress, and the universe lost its shit. I want to hole up, make spinach and miso eggs for dinner, poison myself with oil paint fumes, and not speak for a week. 

5. Keep working on next poetry book. 

6. Go to NYC already to study political comedy with Scott Blakeman, who Jon Stewart studied with and whom I’ve been emailing with off and on for years. 

7. Ditto Chicago’s Second City (where Tina Fey and others trained) for writing and improv. The upshot of the U.S. is I can work for money without worrying about a visa, and might find a theater/writing home at one of these places. The downside is, I don’t like being harassed and threatened for my writing, and it seems like that was happening quite a bit back in Boston. So I don’t want to let fear make any of my decisions, but I’m afraid to come back to the U.S.

8. Go to Congress and fix stuff. I know it’s really silly since I don’t have millions of dollars or a social network to acquire them, among other reasons, but I think if we could stop drop-shipping firearms around the world as if to deescalate through escalation the conflicts that have generated the global refugee crisis someone really has to address now… Maybe we would have funds for other stuff that actually has a good evidence base for making people safer. But just because I think my research should spark a Congressional inquiry that could accomplish this kind of reform in the best case, doesn’t mean it can or will. 

9. Make plan to make money doing something in order to run out credit less quickly while plotting wild acts of painting and world peace. 

10. More chocolate.