Interview with Charles P. Patterson

What are some of the works that most inspired you prior to becoming an author?
When I was about ten years old, my dad gave me his old copy of Isaac Asimov’s Understanding Physics: Volume II – which really turned me on to Isaac Asimov in general. I knew I was young and incompetent in many measures, which made it all the more fulfilling to read books on complex subjects that were described in a manner that a ten year old could understand (or at-least mostly understand). It lent a lot to Asimov as a writer, that he could connect with such a broad audience in that manner. I am fond of Isaac and Janet’s work in general. What captivated me was not that he wrote succinctly on any one subject, but that he wrote about everything that intrigued him personally. People typically know Isaac for his science-fact and science-fiction novels, while some know him for his writings on psychology, sociology, religion, Shakespeare, civilization, and etcetera. With over 500 published works, Isaac Asimov is as much an inspiration to aspiring authors (as a person), as his written words ever could be.

In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat taught me that things are seldom as they seem – and often, they are so much more. The idea of superposition should extend beyond physics to incorporate what we know (or think we know) about events in general. How easy is it to assume that a person is upset about one thing, or acting a way because of a certain occurrence, when the reality is quite different? In quantum physics, a single state is not realized until it is observed (the truth is known). We, likewise, should leave open to interpretation matters in general if we have not taken the time to ascertain the truth of the matter.

Then, there was the singular sentence in Sir Francis Bacon’s essay Of Friendship that pretty much defined friendship for me, “There is no such flatterer of a man, as is a man’s self; and there is no such remedy against flattery of a man’s self, as is the liberty of a friend.” Firstly, without the need of pointing out, we all require a bit of narcissism to survive in today’s society. As one of my favorite bosses once told me, “I’m not telling you to toot your own trumpet, but you have to toot your own trumpet to get ahead.” It was the second half of Bacon’s sentence that had a profound and lasting impact. A friend is not defined by the manner in which they agree with you, but in the manner of which they disagree with you – and yet continue to strive with you. As Bacon puts it, a friend has liberty. We grant them the freedom to disagree. Moreover, if a true friend has issue with the manner of a person, they are *obligated* (as a friend) to exercise their liberty for a person’s own-good. While this sentence shaped my views on friendship, I find that my views on what it means to be truly patriotic are not much different. I could write at-length of the things this sentence has taught me, but as a writer it taught me exactly how much meaning could be placed into a single sentence – if it is honestly written.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
A great majority of my downtime revolves around family. As a family, we enjoy: hiking, swimming, fossil hunting, visiting the local parks and library, and going to museums (when we get a chance to visit larger cities). Other than that, I tend to spend a good bit of time reading and working at various hobbies. Some of my favorite things include anything computer related, tinkering with electronics, fixing anything mechanical, and building things. As far as building goes, it does not matter whether it is playing Legos with the kids, working on a web page, or general construction – I just like building.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember bits and pieces of my first story. The main character was named JP based on my friend, Joshua, that I was writing it with and my middle name, Patrick. The idea came from a real place that I had found when visiting my grandmother in Austin, Texas one summer. A block or two down from her house was a wooded tree line – so like any thirteen year-old boy, I went exploring. There were a couple of paths that weaving the trees that were not traveled well enough to be dirt, and sometimes they would disappear all-together for stretches. After a short walk, the woods opened up at the bottom of rock bluffs with a creek flowing through the middle. It seemed like I had walked a long ways down the creek, but it was realistically probably only a few hundred yards.

The creek went on around the bend, but it was too narrowly bordered by rock bluffs to continue on without getting wet. There was however, an opportunity to climb up a sloped section of rock with patches of grass to the bluff tops before the bend. After getting to the top, I could see a small rock formation through the brush. In the rocks was a very small cave. I remember the mouth was only about five feet wide and about two-and-a-half feet tall (with a piece of rock sticking up through the ground that blocked a small section of the entrance). The cave was not very big at all – when you had walked all the way in, you could still see well enough to look around (after your eyes adjusted). There were ‘Danger’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs strewn on the ground and a large hole (about four feet around) that went down a very long ways. I could not see well enough to view the bottom, so I kept throwing rocks in the hole to see if I could hear them hit the bottom.

In my young mind, what I had seen was enough to spark the imagination. When we got back home, I told Josh about the hike, cave, signs, and the hole, and we began building a fictional story around it. I think we only got to about fourteen pages type written, and never did finish – but that is the first story I ever remember writing with the intentions of making a book.
What is your writing process?
Well, I have only really written training manuals and non-fiction work – but, I do like the process I have found and I am not sure that I would not use it for fiction too. I start by just listing what I think the chapter titles (or main topics) will be as bullet points in an outline (generally titling the document as an acronym of the work, like FOWv1). I go back through the outline, and begin adding topics and key points as bullets bellow each chapter heading. At this point, I am not writing anything that the end reader will ever see. Sometimes, the sentences are just fragments and stubs, incomplete thoughts, questions that I have no answer to, objections to myself and previous points, and the like. I just scroll back-and-forth between chapters, rambling thoughts that I want to remember when I do start writing. This is the part of a book that is never quite finished. I continue adding topics and points while I am writing and even after a work has been published (so that they may find their way into future editions).

When I begin feeling like the topics of each chapter are well formed, I go through and start building cases, episodes, scenarios, or streams of events that support each critical point to be made. These scenarios are simply writing prompts – still nothing has been written for consumption. Each prompt is usually just a couple sentences or a paragraph that give the who, what, when, where, and why of a topic illustration. I usually differentiate these prompt bullet points by beginning them with a word (like ‘Prompt:’ or ‘Scenario:’) in bold font and red text color. As I go through and write a finished illustration, I go back to the prompt and change the text color to blue or green (whatever is easier to see).

After all of the prompts are written (usually I create way more prompts than actually get used), I go back and write the chapter heads consisting of views and opinions that the prompts illustrate. This is where all of the topic points really come into play. I try to cover them in a more polished and easy to understand manner. At this point, the chapter headings and illustrations are all written, but they do not necessarily link together or have any flow from one to the next. I go back up to the top of the outline, and begin deleting non-consumer text, removing bullets from the consumer text, and writing the lead-in and lead-out portions of text [I save frequently updating the version number in case I lose perspective (FOWv2, v3, v4, …)].

When everything is finished, I read the book several times over making spelling, grammatical, and flow corrections. I say that I do this step last, since this is the only point at which I expressly dedicate time to the review process – but I touch on review throughout the entire process. If I do not write for a day or two, I have to read everything from start to finish reviewing before I begin writing again. Finally, I adjust formatting to meet guidelines and the book is ready for publishing.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I remember really reading on my own, was The Count of Monte Christo around the third grade. It was something like a Great Illustrated Classics version of the story. I am certain that I read books before that, but this one was different because it was not assigned reading. Shortly after, I read Around the World in 80 Days from the same series. I do not think that either book had a particularly large impact on me (although I will say that Around the World in 80 Days was more fun to read at that age).

On the other hand, I do believe that these books and others (like Journey to the Center of the Earth) opened the world up to recreational reading for me. I had never read a book for fun before, and it was always exciting when I got all of my class work done early so I could go to the reading corner and pick-up where I left off. If it was not for early childhood adventure books, I think that we would live in a far less literate world than we do. I think it is discovering the joy of reading that keeps people reading, not the requirement to read.
What inspired you to take on the subject of work?
Work represents a sizeable portion of the time that we have available to spend in life. It is surprising to me that we spend more time working than we do sleeping, yet we have more books exploring the reasons why we sleep and the meaning of dreams than we do about our conscious efforts. Taken together (the typical forty hours we spend at ‘work’ and the efforts of our remaining waking hours), work is the foremost intensive, exhausting, invigorating, provoking, and inspiring activity that we engage in. Why not attempt to understand the reasons why we work and the value that we find in it? Although, I must say, the idea did not come to me all on its own.

There were two factors that played into my desire to better understand the nature of work. The first came in a story my dad told when I was about fourteen years old. He was working as project manager for a software firm, a few years prior, when he posted a passage from Proverbs on the whiteboard in his office, “In all labor, there is profit.” He was telling me about the controversy that was sparked between his team, coworkers, and bosses as a result. The controversy was not because there was a biblical passage present in the workplace – but instead, (like the bunch of nerds that they were) they were debating the validity and nature of the statement. The debate went on for weeks before he finally removed it to post something new. His retelling, of the various viewpoints and opinions, set me on an early path in discovering the nature and value of work.

The second inspiration came from my personal working experiences. I like my occupations the same way I like my friends: from diverse backgrounds and uniquely opinionated in their mantras. While it would be easy to say that the diversity of occupations I have held was due to my quest of finding answers to the questions of work, it is more likely that intellectual polyamory got the best of me. In either case, the diversity of workplaces, geographic locales, and friends made along the way taught me that no two people work for exactly the same reasons (on the surface), and that each person places a different effort and value on their work. If we are ever to really have anything in common at-all within our species, it should be that there are common influences that motivate and inhibit us in the 95% of waking hours where that we work. It was a cause to find one answer that unites our limitless interpretations of work’s reason and value, and (perhaps) helps each person more effectively reach their end goals.
It is not really conventional to have a disclaimer at the beginning of a non-fiction work. Why did you find it necessary to include an upfront disclaimer with The Futility of Work?
The Futility of Work encompasses a variety sentiments, methods of being, and manners in the illustrative stories that it presents. In my time, I have been fortunate to know a large number of remarkable individuals, some unremarkable people, and I have made many friends (some of which I have not seen in ages). Rather than to use real people, circumstances and places, I found it more prudent to draw upon human nature and the things that I have witnessed to create fictitious characters, settings and events. These illustrations were formulated to exemplify the specific qualities being discussed – while still remaining quite human in nature, and relatable to the audience. After all, my purpose is not to build up the people and places of my past with pride, nor to tear them down with disgrace – but to get across the greater message of our human attributes that influence our methods and means of work.

I am reminded of a hitchhiker that I picked up about ten years ago named John (I believe his name actually was John). I only set out to get him twenty or thirty miles down the road, but ended up carrying him 140 miles across state-lines – just because he was that interesting to talk to (although, I did nearly pull over to let him out at one-point). About midway in our travel, John looked me square in the eye, tapped on the rear-view mirror, and said, “When you look in the mirror, what do you see?” I was unsure of whether he was messing with me or not, so I rambled back some random nonsense to see how he would respond. He said, “When I look in the mirror, I see fifteen different people – and I do not always remember who I can trust and who I can’t.” If it had not been for the fact that the highway was packed with traffic at that point, I might well have swerved over to let him out. Traffic being what it was, we carried on and that was to only thing John ever said about the matter.

It was not until a few years later that I fully grasped what John was trying to tell me. We all have people that we are becoming, and we all have people that we are leaving behind. With these people come and go a variety of mindsets, beliefs, and methods of being. In the same manner that we romance the past, we can relapse into lessons learned – or we can remember the past, and advance forward to becoming someone new. Given, that this is a part of our human nature in learning, I saw no reason to bolster or drag-down real human beings or institutions. Instead, I relied on the influences that we hold in common to create relatable content. My concern in doing so was to eliminate the natural instinct of those I have known in trying to ‘figure out’ who the characters really are. Sorry, there are no rumors sold here.
In The Futility of Work – Volume I: Motivators, you make reference to a second and third volume. When can we expect to see these volumes, and what are your plans for them?
I have attempted to place my writing on a four month release schedule. The Futility of Work – Volume I: Motivators was released on July 20th, of 2014. I expect to publish The Futility of Work – Volume II: Inhibitors in January of 2015, and the Futility of Work – Volume III: Special Cases and Rewards in May of 2015. Naturally, if things progress more quickly than that, each volume will be released as soon as it is completed.

Volume II: Inhibitors is not so different from Volume I, in that it is an exploration of fundamental forces affecting our work. While Volume I expanded upon the universal motivators that inspire all humankind to work, Volume II takes a look at the universal inhibitors that prevent all of humankind from working. It delves into topics like pain, weariness, laziness, and fear – exposing the underlying roots of our inhibitions. Even though everyone would prefer that things stay on a high-note forever, all of our motivation means nothing unless we can understand and overcome our inhibitions.

In Volume III, two diverse matters are covered. First, it will look at some non-universal motivators like love, compassion and the attainment of wealth in the same manner that Volume I covered universal motivators like respect, knowledge, and our sense of accomplishment. Secondly, Volume III will address for the first time our notions of reward. It will shake-down our beliefs in work and reward, to see where real value lay.

I have contemplated subjects that exist outside of the scope of the first, second, and third volume (and have found great merit in expressing them) – but for now, my focus is primarily on the first three volumes.
Published 2014-07-25.
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Books by This Author

The Futility of Work - Volume I: Motivators
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 19,240. Language: English. Published: July 20, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Philosophy » American philosophy, Nonfiction » Self-improvement » Personal Growth / Success
(5.00 from 1 review)
The defining characteristic of humanity has long been our work, but the question as to why we labor so has never fully been answered. Today, The Futility of Work takes a long-hard look at this question and more. Volume I delves into the inner psyche as to the universal forces that motivate us all into action.