STUFF I THINK ABOUT FROM TIME TO TIME
IS WHAT I READ OF ANY USE—OR AM I JUST STUDYING FOR FUN?
I spend a formidable amount of time researching matters that interest me—and sometimes feel quite guilty about it. Shouldn’t I be writing instead? Am I researching the right things? What’s the point of all this work?
I don’t think too much about the last concern. Given that we end up dead just about everything we do might be considered pointless. On the other hand there is always “meanwhile”—a word I’m particularly fond of (as I think I remarked previously). Life is really about “meanwhile”—which is fine by me.
In fact my research is relatively disciplined though I certainly don’t confine it to the specifics required for a single book. Instead, I like to keep well informed about whole sectors from which I draw detail as and when required—and, of course, sometimes zero in on detail and focus only on that. I hold to the view that knowing the context in some depth increases a writer’s confidence and influences the writing even if much that the writer knows is not used directly. It enhances both authority and credibility.
My main areas of interest are:
- Military matters—and the U.S. Army in particular. This interest has its roots in my being a war baby and then reading adventure stories—starting when I was about 9. That means I have been studying the military, one way or another, for 61 years. Ye gods! That’s a rather sobering thought. I have also spent time with units, lived with terrorism within easy commuting distance, had the dubious privilege of being under fire, been nearly killed on more than a few occasions, and had more fun in the field than I probably deserve (and been injured). Do I know enough? Hell, no—but I know a lot. I also hold soldiers in high regard. I just wish the end result wasn’t breaking things and killing people. But, I suppress my qualms and write about this stuff because it fascinates me—and although war is a manifestation of man at his worst, it can also bring out the best in people. I am particularly interested in how to fight smarter—and thus in special forces and irregular warfare. But, if you read my books, you will know that already.
- How countries work—or don’t. In the past I have tended to say that I study the economy (which is true) but actually what I am really trying to do is find out what are the elements which make some countries work, and be successful, while other nations remain mired in poverty, or are just plain stuck. This interest has its roots in my growing up in a very dysfunctional and poverty-stricken Ireland where unemployment hovered around 20 percent—and which seemed to be permanently doomed to be an economic failure. A relatively small group of us thought otherwise, and lobbied hard in the early Eighties to change the system (the task looked impossible) and, amazingly we did (though I paid a high price). That success—albeit in a tiny country—has persuaded me that systems can be changed (regardless of the odds) so now my focus is the U.S. Can its decline be reversed? Absolutely—though it might help if more people knew that we are in such trouble. But, I remain an optimist, and don’t accept the much used argument that the U.S. is too big to govern. I also have a Masters in Economics which gives me a useful base of knowledge. This area has been an interest since I was 16 so I have been at it for 54 years. Wow!
- Creativity, Technology, and Innovation. The way my mind works, I can scarcely look at anything without wondering how to improve it, so I am forever attracted by human creativity and ingenuity—particularly where it solves some fundamental problem like housing. Here, I suffer from the fact that I am not technical. On the other hand, I am now widely read enough to be able to make sense of most things—even if only in a non-technical way. Normally, I am content enough if I can master the gist of things. I leave detailed scientific expertise to the experts.
- Computers, Software, and Personal Productivity. Here, I am hampered by the fact that not only do I have no natural talent for this area, but also also I have never received any formal training in any aspect. Nonetheless, I see this field as a giant lever for my mind (and a compensation for its inadequacies) and devote serious time to it in the hopes of being more productive. Despite having had more failures and disasters than I really care to think about (the early days of Windows were truly horrendous) I do seem finally to be getting somewhere. Given that I have had a computer full time since 1986, I should damn well hope so! I experimented with computers as early as 1981 and even had a Next at one stage. All in all, it has been quite a saga—some 33 years if I start in ‘81. Frankly, by this stage, I though a rock solid operating system would have emerged—but, if it has, no one has told me about it—and Windows 8.1 certainly isn’t it. Still, for all the headaches, I owe a great deal to computers and their associated software—and certainly couldn’t cover the ground I do without both them and the internet. On that basis, I feel a singularly lucky man.
On the face of military matters and the economy seem to be entirely unrelated, but I hold to the view that not only are they connected, but that military costs should receive a great deal more attention than they do. For instance, where the U.S. is concerned, we have evolved the most costly way of war yet devised in human history, yet it is highly questionable whether it is the most effective.
Be that as it may, recent developments seem to indicate that I haven’t been wasting my time and that all my research will be relevant—and will be put to productive use in some multimedia form. My conscience is assuaged. It appears I haven’t been wasting my time.
Note that I said multimedia. Interesting!
VOR words 1050