Noodles in a Fen

January 21st, 2014, 1pm

I don’t know what a ‘fen’ is, exactly — somewhere in the recesses of my memory there’s an image of a stork-like bird, perched on a clump of roots protruding from a bog or swamp — but if these noodles are any indication of what could be had in one, I want to be there.

The noodles are a simple ramen, but the bowl contains so much more. Peanuts. Greenery of at least four varieties. Shredded carrots. Red peppers (locally referred to as ‘paprikas’). Paper-thin shreds of tomato. Some kind of glorious sauce. And lording over it all, small but significant, like a child-king, sits a slice of lime. The lime ties it all together.

I reward myself with ‘noodles in a fen,’ from a small noodle shop with unreliable hours of operation, after a long stretch of work.

When your lifestyle includes little structure, it’s important to find joy in all that you do, lest you should fall into the pit-trap of ‘all-day hammock sitting’ adventures or ‘let’s just watch another Netflix video’ escapades.

I love the work I do: entrepreneurial brainstorming, designing things that will adorn books I love by authors I respect, and writing my own books; ceaselessly pouring words onto a page, allowing them to harden a bit, then chiseling away at the mass until I come up with something worth showing the world.

My most recent bowl of noodles were earned after about 36 hours spent rewriting three books in a science fiction series I’ve published over the past few years.

The third book of this series has been awaiting publication for quite some time, and I decided that, to honor its arrival into the world (and as a kind of apology to all the readers who have filled my inbox with concerned messages as to when the third book would be published), I would give the first two a quick polish, and release the third book and a three-book collection at the same time. It seemed a smart marketing move, until I dove in.

What I found was the same thing I find every time I read my old work:

On one hand, I was proud that the concepts and characters still held up, and that many of the predictions I’d made had already come to pass. As a speculative science fiction author, there’s nothing better than seeing something in the news and being able to shout (inwardly, because no one likes a braggart), “I totally predicted that! It was in that book I wrote that one time!” It’s also nice when you can surprise yourself, after not having read through a particularly intricate plot for a while. I always seem to remember my own books, after the fact, as having been way lame, so it’s nice when they turn out to be even a little better than horrible.

On the other hand, I felt the writing was atrocious. In the context of the publishing world, and the science fiction publishing world, especially, it wasn’t. It was at least above average, certainly. But compared to what I can do now? Was this the kind of sentence structure and voice I wanted to represent me? To promote, hoping people would enjoy it enough to pick up my other books?

Nay. Twas not.

And so, what was supposed to be a quick tidying up, leading to a flurry for formatting and packaging these books, turned into a multi-day race against tedium.

The first day I sat at home, looking up at the clock twelve hours after sitting down in front of my laptop and realized I wasn’t even halfway done. The crick in my neck sounded like two pyramid-sized stones sliding against one another, and I hadn’t eaten in…well, all day, it would seem.

The next day I did better. I decided to get out into the world, so I wouldn’t become one of those people I sometimes accidentally become, who sits inside all day, interacting with no one, so glued to the world inside my imagination and computer screen that I don’t realize I put on a flannel shirt but no pants.

I set up shop at a little coffee shop/bistro, in the basement along the main street of downtown Reykjavik. I know the people who work there, and because I redesigned the menus for a sushi restaurant they also own, they give me all the coffee I want for free (and cake!), which is at times a blessing and at times a curse.

The music set the tone for the day — bossa nova mixed with clubby pop mixed with soft, slow, lyrical numbers by groups like ‘The National’ — and the mix kept me tapping my toes and unaware of how much time was passing, and how quickly. I must have spent the entire day there, because I took me first sip of coffee early in the morning, and the next time I looked up from my screen, it was dark out and there were people at my table, offering me beer.

These were friends, but I knew I was too ‘in it’ to socialize. It’s difficult explaining to people who don’t have a passion — some kind of craft that is vital to their happiness and sense of fulfillment — how anything can be more important than beer, especially when that anything lives inside a computer; a device associated by many with drudgery and work, not happiness. I’m ashamed/proud to say I managed to convey that I was almost done with this thing I’d been working on forever, and that I’d maybe join them if I finished it before the place closed. They smiled and nodded and only looked a little hurt by my dismissal of their welcoming social embrace.

It wasn’t until the next day that I finished the overhaul.

I got up early and put the final touches on the final book in the series, rounded them all up and did some primary formatting work before handing it off to the guy who typically checks over such things to make sure I haven’t missed any vital or small-but-cool details.

It was then, and only then, that I treated myself to noodles in a fen. Because it was then, and only then, after my work was done, that I needed something to perk me up until the next work could be started.

Valerie, Paul, Adrian and Emanuel said thanks.

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Colin Wright

Author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler / I move to a new country every four months based on the votes of my readers / My work ( / My blog ( / My publishing company (

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