On fixing a casting issue in the new novel, by way of a previously unused character.
On reading Scorsese talk about Scorsese.
On how SF tries to imagine the future, and how that needs to be more than uplift or doomsaying.
The Genji Press Agenda for the coming year.
It's hard not to be foolishly romantic about certain things, like the workspaces or utensils of great artists.
Stuff I'm looking out for, anticipating, and recommending.
My good friend Steve Savage has his first novel out. Go grab it.
My work can only really be measured against my other work. Same with yours.
"Workshop" is the wrong word for the place where we come to mutually improve our writing.
I ask of a friend not that we be in absolute harmony, but only that our discord be its own delight.
How PCs become trash accumulators that rival any closet, garage, crawlspace, or basement.
Getting caught up, and some notes on criticism from days past.
I go through keyboards the way other people go through pencils.
"Do you enjoy doing it?" is, I think, only half the statement. The way I would put it is, "Would you do this anyway?"
Fun game to play: Pick a person, and imagine what kind of creative advice they would give you. Then compare that to the actual advice they give you.
There was, as you can guess, no NaNoWriMo challenge for me this year. But it wasn't always like that.
More from Steve on the whole vexed issue of doing what you think you want to do, not what you actually want to do.
This whole business of how we become the stories we tell ourselves is so easy to get wrong and in so many ways.
Anything you put out in the world under the pretense of entertainment is worth taking at least as seriously as someone else could. And some take it very seriously indeed.
Most of us simply don't care what we stuff in there. It's a moral failing.
But at least it now has a wiki.
Call me a workaholic if you really want to. I just call it keeping ahead of the curve.
The difference between a skeptic and a cynic is motives.
"moral action is also, inevitably, practical action, and immoral action is inevitably impractical..."
Compiling that list of influences the other day was like performing archival research on myself.
The stories, films, music, and other things that stuck with me.
There's this line about Zen practice that comes up a lot, that it doesn't "give" you anything.
“Every director has one film to make. He just keeps remaking it.”
No good story is ever too long and no bad story is ever too short, but that's still no reason to waste breath.
You can't tell people anything; sometimes you can't even show them, either.
Our Gray Goo Media problem.
On how we've outgrown outgrowing things.
On The Minnie Effect in fiction.
On a Zen concept vs a psychological one.
On the unneeded cruelties of the moment.
How Ray Bradbury saw a cellphone-addicted future. No, not in that book about book-burning.
"Specialization is for insects", revisited.
.I ran once again into an old issue: the way a story doesn't look remotely the same in the trenches as it does at the 30,000 foot level.
It doesn't mean the present moment is the only thing that exists, or that plans are foolish things.
On "volume equals value for money" in books.
Heard you missed us?
Steve has some notes on why authors (him included) come down with Impostor Syndrome.
Kevin Drum dropped an aphorism worth repeating: "When you write, pretend you’re writing for people you respect."
A world where we mandate weirdness is just as unproductive as a world where we mandate its removal.
"...there’s a chance if you’re inspired by an author or a creator, you won’t do it quite right."
I have long held a motto of my own that I think is an echo of what Steve is putting out here: Palettes, not hierarchies.
"Beginner's mind" is not something we can impose on others.
"The best way to write fiction is to read, watch, and listen to anything but fiction." I am not sure that it is the best way, but I think it is ultimately one of the most valuable.
When you start by trying to please others instead of yourself, you end up pleasing no one.
I'm on vacation this week and not posting much, but here's some Links Of Note that crossed my desk.
On de-romanticizing the writing process.
One of the things I always hated about myself was how I was, in theory, supposed to be this gigantic SF nerd, and as it turns out I really wasn't.
I don't see any of this ending well, but I'd rather be on whatever side of history valued verifiable truths over comfortable lies.
In praise of the Open Library project and the late John Holt.
What comes next for me after I shove my current book off my desk.
Once again: Whatever it is we're designing our world for, it isn't the human being.
What did Bertrand Russell mean when he said, "Do not feel absolutely certain of anything"?
On how social-reading network Wattpad is becoming a hub for discovering the next big thing.
It's the fate of most any creator to never know what their work means to other people, but only to themselves.
Steve has some notes on pathological fandom that are worth a read. A few things stood out.
Future Genji Press plans, laid bare! (Oh, and free stuff!)
On not caring what other people think of your work, while at the same time caring about your work.
"There is no reading experience in an idea, only in its execution."
There is no guarantee of victory; there isn't even a guarantee of continuation. But you miss all the shots you don't take.
Notes on a single point of failure.
I made a pledge to myself to keep you in the loop. So, here's the loop.
We didn't get into this mess all at once and we're not going to get out of it all at once, either.
Harlan Ellison, whom I wrote about just the other day, has exited the building.
A Kafka quote re-examined.
The folks at Birth. Movies. Death. are raffling off movie goods for a good cause (the Texas Civil Rights Project). The more you donate, the greater the odds you'll get the goods you want. Minimum raffle is $10.
"Revealed at Last! What Killed the Dinosaurs! And You Don’t Look so Terrific Yourself."
On contempt for popular culture as an easy way out.
What, I'm still editing the latest novel?! Well, yeah.
The work should be about the making of the work.
Some bits gleaned from the latest round of editing on my book.
Maybe we need to speak of focus rather than limits.
Looking at two bits of reading and writing advice from Saul Bellow.
The overwhelming majority of what I'm genuinely curious about reading has been nonfiction. I hate that.
More on why motives matter for creative work.
Most of my unpublished blogging simply isn't fit for public consumption. Here's what most of it is.
You don’t ever write a story, you just write part of one.
The less the better, paradoxically.
"What do I do when I have too many ideas and can’t finish any?"
The editing and rewriting process for any of my books always exposes me to the same dilemmas.
A redux of the old question: what's so bad about being bored?
"The other, of course, involves orcs."
On the difference between thinking and worrying, and on worrying as a virtue signal.
The desire for something quick is not itself wrong.
On giving, getting, and using good feedback on your work.
"The very ordinariness of human life seemed a kind of original sin, the sin of not being extraordinary enough to recognize and resist evil."
On imperfection in creative work.
On confronting my uneasy feelings about self-promotion.
The next week and change I won't be around much.
On ramping up from an audience that can be counted on one hand.
A short briefing on happenings at Chez Genji as of May 2018.
Akira Kurosawa's Ran is currently running on Mubi. See it.
Don't take it personally when you're misinterpreted.
On the prevalence of righter-than-thou behaviors in fandom.
What if someone Did Something Bad with a creation of yours?
Not writer's block. Maybe we could call it conceiver's block?
Movies have more second lives than ever, but only because they barely have first ones.
Being generally incurious about life is bad enough; it's far worse when you're trying to create.
"No man demands what he desires; each man demands what he fancies he can get."
"A cliché is as much about the deployment and the mode of use as it is the item itself..."
Blogging never "died"; it's just become harder to see. But it's as crucial as ever.
With Facebook out of my life, it's all the easier to spot unproductive discourse of all kinds, because of what else it reminds me of.
Steven Savage's latest post is about "rethinking work", and it reminded me of an anecdote courtesy of Milton Glaser...
An influencer seems more interested in being well-known, being "influential", than in being motivated by a thirst for the truth.
The productivity virtues of keeping it simple, stupid.
Another road to creative improvement: thinking beyond your own view of your work.
Outside of the social media bubble, the void.
On the problems of a passive protagonist.
I missed commenting on this earlier:
Zen matters when it's practiced; it's getting people to practice that's the hard part.
Don't have heroes, just emulate behaviors.
"I'm an entertainer." -- Alan Watts. "I am not an entertainer." -- William S. Burroughs. Discuss.
"The world will be saved, if it can be, only by the unsubmissive."
"The negation of a [scientific] theory is not a new theory."
On media both social and antisocial.
I was going to say something about Jordan Peterson, but this article beat me to it.
On how Zen and Buddhism are not anti-intellectual, but non-intellectual. Big diff there.
Why this business of personal heroes may well be a bad idea.
How different a standard should we have for works aimed at younger audiences vs. those aimed at "all" audiences?
On Twitter as a case study in technical non-solutions to social problems.
What to do when you find yourself saying, "I didn't know I wanted this."
Why Steven Pinker's encomium to an improving world falls so flat.
To put things into perspective for yourself, lose "yourself" a little.
On how the conspiracy theory mindset stems from emotional torment.
In re Jarmusch's 'Paterson'.
On blogging while angry.
On what we do with the discovery that we're not things, but processes.
People aren't flowers, of the hothouse variety or otherwise, and neither are artists.
Don't write stories about "people waiting for their lives to begin."
Spoiler: It doesn't exist.
In re Parkland.
"...if we think of “done” as a point we navigate towards, tacking here and there, we can embrace change."
Boredom's not a burden anyone should bear.
On not over-documenting creative work.
On the desire to turn everything into a franchise.
On making something new from a whole lot of somethings old.
These past couple of days have been a cavalcade of non-stop technical and mechanical failure.
How the heck did I end up starting to create my own programming language?
When you look at something, you have to be willing to not pretend that it needs to be great in order to justify anything.
"Your image does not need curation, because all you are doing is broadcasting your desperation."
No prizes for guessing I'm talking about my next project.
Parting words, unfortunately.
We need to have more nuanced ways of taking what matters for us from a given creator and from their works.
No critic can ever "ruin" a work you like, unless you don't know what their job really is.
Works don't exist just to please audiences. But authors also don't exist just to please themselves.
Words from the wise.
If you shoot for ambiguity, some people are going to come away from your work bored or confused. Here's how to cope.
On very stable geniuses and the like.
"Are we so desperate to solve our art?"
When is it OK to quit reading a "boring" book?
If written fiction's becoming nothing but a prelude to adaptation, what's that mean for written fiction itself?
And still nothing on.
On why books need to be written to be books, not film pitches-to-be.
On getting back into the headspace for blogging.
But I think you'll find it was entirely justified.