Don't turn a project wiki into a fridge full of leftovers.
Steven Savage has a great post: Information Radiators, Refrigerators, And Hoses. A "radiator" in this context is "something (a chart, a graph) that’s easily visible and communicates information." E.g., a wall chart in an office that explains your rights under federal law.
Then there's this:
The opposite is something I’ve heard called the Information Refrigerator, which I’m now stealing for use in any damn conversation I can use. The Information Refrigerator is a source of information you have to rummage around to find anything. I’m pretty sure you’ve encountered these from work to softwere requiring you to dig around in charts. The Information Refrigerator is distinctly un-Agile. It’s also just annoying.
I've talked before about using a wiki to manage information about a creative project. Used well, it can be radiator. Used poorly, it's a fridge, one where you have plates of pudding skin and chicken slowly rotting into something that looks like cheese.
On Hugh Howey's wish list for a word processor.
Hugh Howey (of Wool fame, et al.) has outlined his feelings for an ideal word processor. It's an interesting read, both because of the number of people who want to beta-test such a thing or help him build it, and because of the way it's caused many writers to pipe up about their priorities. My own feeling is a minority opinion: I need good organizational tools that conform to my workflow, but my actual writing tools are not something I want to toss out and replace anew, as they work fine.
A year and change ago, I mostly quit social media. I don't think that's likely to change.
A year and change ago, I mostly quit commercial social media. I don't think that's likely to change.
Barring an attempt earlier this year to re-engage on my own terms — a mostly failed experiment — I've given up on Facebook and Twitter as things to use directly or interact with directly.
My reasons for all this remain simple:
1) Commercial social media — primarily Facebook and Twitter — gamify and monetize human interaction in ways that are profoundly toxic to people's psychic well-being.
2) None of this is going to get better on its own, because the people in charge of it have no incentive to improve it. We're better off just walking away from all of it.
Why you can't perfect something that was never created to begin with.
I've met a depressing number of people — enthusiastic creators of one kind or another, some young, some not — who share a common attribute. They are "working on" something.
They have not finished something. They have not released it and moved on to work on the next thing. They are just … working on this one thing, always and forever — prodding at it, toying with it, trying it out one way or another, but never completing it. Sometimes they never even actually start on it; they just talk about working on it.
Why 'Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance' made me hold my nose.
Not long ago I found out that Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance was available as an e-book from my library's Overdrive portal. I'd originally encountered it around the time I first entered college, and I'd broken out in such hives over it that years would have to go by before I could even be in the same room with anything that had the word "Zen" in the title. Eventually I learned how to tell the difference between actual Zen and the b.s. "Zen" that had become a pop-culture reference point, but a lot of people grok not this distinction, and I wonder how much this book is to blame for that.
In light of all that, a new line of reasoning asserted itself. If the book in fact had little or nothing to do with Zen proper, maybe I ought to re-read it and see what it did have to offer.
On Buddhism and fascism and pacifism.
Brad Warner released a video recently: "Is It OK To Punch Nazis?" His take is, to my mind, not even all that controversial. He doesn't think it's OK unless the Nazi in question punches first. Otherwise you end up recapitulating all the worst aspects of your opponent, because then it gets easy to contrive more and more situations where it's OK to punch someone.
I mostly agree. I also think there are plenty of other things one can do before throwing punches that are at least as effective as weapons against fascism. (It's apparently more effective to use humor and psychological jiu-jitsu anyway.) Part of the problem is that we tend to wait and wait until there's nothing left to do but throw punches at such people. But if you have literally no other choice, that's another story.
"You’re going to find your voice.... The problem is getting rid of it."
From a few years back:
When I talk to young composers, I tell them, I know that you’re all worried about finding your voice. Actually you’re going to find your voice. By the time you’re 30, you’ll find it. But that’s not the problem. The problem is getting rid of it. You have to find an engine for change. And that’s what collaborative work does. Whatever we do together will make us different.
... I was doing a theater piece for the Mabou Mines, it was some Beckett piece, and I wrote [Arthur Russell] a cello piece, and he liked the work and was playing it. And I came back about three months later, and I heard it and I said, “Arthur, that’s beautiful, but what happened to the piece?” And he said, “No, no, that is what you wrote,” and I said, “Arthur, it’s no longer what I wrote, it’s your piece now.” And he thought I was being upset, he apologized and I said, “No, no, no, I think we should put you down as the composer.” He had reached the point of transformation. The incremental changes had turned it into this other thing. I love the fact that he did that. And I love the fact that he didn’t know that he did it.
I read that and at first I wondered, what did Glass mean by "getting rid" of one's voice? I could tell it was the sort of statement that lent itself to any manner of willful misinterpretation.
Who's really worth pleasing when you're writing? (And why?)
Been away from the keys for a few days, not much time for blogging; also fighting off the last of a cold I picked up.
Not long ago, a friend of mine picked up Flight Of The Vajra, and I made the mistake of apologizing pre-emptively for the book. Not in the sense that I thought it was evil, but that it was flawed, and that the flaws in it had become all the more prominent to my own eyes since I'd finished it. But he loved the book anyway, and I realized once again I had made the mistake of trying to second-guess, and ameliorate, someone else's reactions to my own work.
Art isn't profound just because it hurts.
I doubt that an artist of Picasso’s sort ever raises his or her account of humanity to a higher power simply by purging, or repressing, what had been dangerous or horrible in an earlier vision. There must be a way from monstrosity to tragedy. The one must be capable of being folded into the other, lending it aspects of the previous vision’s power.
Constant readers will be familiar by now with my notion of the Endurance Test Philosophy Of Art: If it doesn't scar you or make you want to puke, it isn't "real" art, because "real" art has IMPACT!!! Or something along those lines. It's twaddle, but it's the sort of twaddle that is easy to make a case for, easy to subscribe to, and easy to find plenty of allegedly valid examples of.
Our site's feeds got munged. Look within for answers.
Somewhere along the way one of our RSS feeds fell out of the bottom of the bucket. We originally had two — an RSS and an Atom feed — and I eventually consolidated on a single RSS feed, https://www.genjipress.com/rss.xml. But a lot of Feedly users, and perhaps other folks as well, were using the Atom feed. For the last couple of weeks they haven't been seeing squat. My bad.
If you're using some kind of feed reader, remove Genji Press entirely from it and re-add it using either Genjipress.com or the above-linked RSS feed.
You'll start to feel better almost immediately!
On the problems inherent in "living in the moment".
Some twenty or so years ago I was grousing to someone close to me about how lousy things were in my life at the time. In all honesty, they weren't that bad, but everyone always experiences problems in a personalized way; everyone's suffering is always only their own. I was suffering. Ergo, things sucked; Q.E.D.
My friend was trying to be empathic and positive, and he started talking about "living in the moment". I don't blame him for attempting to feed me what amounted to a Zen 102 mini-course, and my memory of his exact words are distant enough that I don't want to attempt to critique them. But I do remember my reply in perfect detail: "'Live in the moment'?" I scoffed. "What if the moment sucks?" (I feel all the more bad for my friend now; he was just trying to help.)
On not second-guessing audience responses to your work (again).
I think some things appeal to people – even with flawed models of behavior and world – due to audience participation.
My take: At that point it's not the work that holds the appeal anymore, but rather the community that has formed around it. (There's more to Steven's discussion but I'm chomping out this piece here specifically.)
This is one of those things that can get very tricky and very counterproductive if not approached right. I think the fact that communities of specific kinds of enthusiasm form around certain cultural products is a wonderful thing, but also not something you can engineer or anticipate.
Just because something's in your story doesn't mean that's what your story's about.
"Writing is never solid," writes Steven Savage in his follow-up take on the way the ideas you cling to in a story can just weigh you down, like so many rocks. His take is that you go where the story demands, not where the artifacts of your story are dictating you go.
This reminded me of how easy it is to confuse the elements or ingredients of a story with the actual themes or meaning of a story.
What storytelling can do that a straight rundown of facts can't.
My friend Steven Savage normally writes self-help, career-management, and creativity-wrangling books. (Go read his series on worldbuilding, it's really good.)
Recently, he's dived back into the fiction end of the pool, and one of the discussions we had around that process unearthed the insight that some kinds of analysis and insight are more readily accomplished through fiction than nonfiction. I agreed with that, and I have a few theories why.
Some thoughts on deadlines and how they affect productivity.
Steve has some thoughts on deadlines and how they affect productivity:
... Agile methods are about adaptability and doing things right – a lot of good productivity methods are the same way. The thing is if you focus on the deadline, you often forget about doing things right – and you stress yourself out.
... What’s the most important things to do and how do I do them effectively was more important than a given deadline in most cases.
Sure the deadline mattered, but unless the deadline was truly more important than doing it right, it wasn’t a worry.
... the focus on the deadline may make you miss doing things right. Consider this – if you focus on doing something well, won’t you get it done quicker, especially over time? Won’t it last longer? Won’t focusing on quality and work first, ironically, mean you’ve got a better chance of hitting the deadline (or at least being more on time later)?
Valuable advice no matter what kind of work it's being applied to, but I think it's twice as important when applied to work that is entirely your own, and happening entirely on your own schedule.
Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned is tentatively scheduled to be released at the beginning of next year. Emphasis on the tentatively. In truth, that's a best-of-all-worlds scenario; my suspicion is that it will slip somewhat. Some part of me feels bad for even placing a tentative timeframe on the release, because I hate to build up expectations and then tear them back down. Underpromise and overdeliver, and all that.
I also know that by putting a deadline out there, a deadline, even one that might slip a bit, keeps me honest. It reminds me that the work I start is only going to be finished by me. I can kick the can further down the road, and I really should if the deadlines I set prove unrealistic. But at least I have one to move ahead in the first place, if only for my own sake.
I like to write about other peoples' work, but I write my own work first.
One of the curious side effects of cleaning up a blog archive that goes back as far as mine does (2000 or so — seventeen years, that's aeons of internet time) is that you realize how wide-ranging some of your interests are. That and how you sometimes have to shelve those things to do justice to the other stuff you tell yourself matters more, like your own creative work.
Next up: revisions on my next novel, and rough plans for a future one.
Now that I've vacuumed most of the sawdust off the floor of the new iteration of this site, it's time to turn to discussing the other work pending and the new work as-yet-begun.