The trick to learning from failure is to not make it into a morality play.
The trick to learning from failure, I think, is to not make it into a morality play. This is something my friend Steven Savage had to grapple with recently, when his attempts to apply Agile methodology to his new writing project hit a roadbump. When he tried to pull together a plotline for the project, he ended up with something that felt patchy, stale, not entirely there, not entirely alive.
How to survive the modern digital cultural flood: have no sense of history.
It's a shame this blog this isn't being updated anymore, because you could easily lose a month of weekends reading the gems contained within. To wit:
... I was discussing the fact that on most areas of the internet, movie history is basically about 25 years long. This also applies to a lot of movie magazines, critical videos, and so on: you'll get people discussing movies in historical context, or making lists of the greatest movies or movie moments, but only from 1985 onward (if that). If an earlier movie shows up, it's almost a freak occurrence. ...
... the only way to get into old movies [today] is if you actively decide to learn about them, and you can't blame anyone for not wanting to sit through movie after movie as a learning experience.
... the feeling [I have] is not so much crankiness, let alone blame, as sadness at something inevitable and unavoidable: movie history, and perhaps all of pop-culture history, is going to contract. There has never been a greater amount popular culture history accessible, in the sense of being there for anyone who wants to see it. But it's been a long time since there has been less popular culture history accessible in the other sense, of being something that the average person can assimilate without a long, hard slog. I was going to say there has never been less interest in pop-culture history, but that's not true at all. Traditionally, people have been more interested in new books, plays, music. The idea of gathering to listen to a concert of old music, or building an entire repertoire of old plays, is fairly new. So maybe the current situation is simply the way it ought to be.
It's far harder to write a good short book than a good long one.
Paradox time: It's far harder to write a good short book than a good long one.
For my rule of thumb about why, I defer to Martin Scorsese, who once said that cinema was a matter of what was in the frame and what was out of it. Selectivity is what makes art, not inclusiveness. Stories are defined as much by what they leave out, where they pick up and leave off, and what they elect not to elaborate on, as they are by what they do contain.
For a not-too-long book that's also good (if I dare say so), check out my (new!) novel Welcome To The Fold, and showing your support for it by registering at Inkshares and adding the book to your "Follow" list! Failing that, you can always buy one of my existing books, available on Amazon Kindle and in dead-tree format.
More on the idea that entertainments can be engines of empathy.
Earlier I wrote about my skepticism in re how reading is purported to promote empathy. Not because I hate reading — I love it to wicked death — or because I think empathy is a bad idea, but because I dislike applying either romanticism or cynicism to discussions of human nature.
Does reading make us more empathic, or do more empathic people just make better readers?
No one is immune to mythologizing or self-mythologizing. The mythologies woven by artists about themselves and their trades are no more immune to being punctured or deflated than any other. Sometimes I think the only people who can let the (hot) air out of such things are other artists, because it's only from inside that a valid and accepted criticism of such things can be launched. Nobody would pay attention to a thing Stephen Hawking said about literature — or, at the very least, they wouldn't think he had as valid a point as, oh, Tibor Fischer.
This is my warmup to saying something that might well get me drummed out of the Creators' Union, but here goes.
On carving up one's time efficiently for creative work.
My friend Steven Savage is the most ruthlessly efficient person I've ever met. This is no denigration; I wish more people had his kind of man-month-isms. He is experimenting with how to apply Agile methods to his own life, a way to figure out what kinds of tasks can be accomplished efficiently in a given timeframe. For those of you who don't follow the latest and greatest in time-management trends, there's a lot more to it, but that's the basics.
One thing Steven blogged about recently was what time frame is suited to chopping up one's life. His base timeframe for things is monthly, because a lot of things in his life tend to recur with that period — professional meetups, for instance — which he can subdivide a little further into two-week blocks. That got me thinking about the timeframes for most of what I do, and how to slice them up.
Sometimes making things hard on yourself doesn't "build character"; it just makes things harder than they have to be.
That Nile Rodgers interview, man. So much to mine out.
In the old days, Rodgers said, "we have to overcome all of those [technical] problems that the equiment gave us, and the net benefit of overcoming all of those variables was an artistic statements in and of itself."
This is a slice of something from that interview I've chomped out before — the idea that, as Nile put it, "the old restrictions in technology forced us to do things right." There's a danger to romanticizing that idea — just because you've made things hard on yourself doesn't mean the experience automatically "builds character" or what have you — but there's a grain of truth there.