Tuesday, April 18, 2017

TWIC: Holy ... It's already Sunday, the danger of social media

It's already Sunday and I haven't prepared a This Week In Creativity yet!

This stroller looks satisfactory but also homemade. I am not complaining about the amateur design but rather impressed with the reasoning and logic behind all the design features. and also that I might be capable of building something similar if I needed to.


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Why haven't I been keeping up with events for my blog? I guess beautiful weather has something to do with it. At my surprisesaplenty blog I share some photos of a recent cycling trip in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea.
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Amateurs and Professionals.
I dream about being a professional writer. I really should buckle down and just write.
I used to write a few hours on a random Saturday every third week of the month. I never got better, and I couldn’t understand why. Then I started writing 500 words a day for as little as twenty to thirty minutes per day. Within a year, I had found my voice. 
Frequency trumps quantity. It’s better to work a little toward mastering your craft every day than a lot once in a while. John Grisham knew this, too: he wrote his first novel in small pieces, during the only free hour he had before work every morning. By the time he was done, three years later, he’d created a new genre: the legal thriller.
What if he’d decided it was too painful to get up to write at 5:00am every day? What if he’d given into the overwhelming feeling of writing a novel on top of 70-hour work weeks? What if you decide the same?
I like a lot about this article but I wonder what "the overwhelming feeling of writing a novel" is.
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The BBC tells us that idle moments are crucial for creativity. The article starts by noting that passengers on flights from some countries to the US cannot access electronic devices and how galling those 11 hours will be without being plugged in. Then,
“My most creative moments come when my brain is allowed to rest,” says Megan King, a graphic designer for the architecture and engineering firm exp Global Inc. As a designer, King is expected to come up with new, compelling ideas all the time. “Sometimes I’ll spend all day working on a project and I’ll feel that I never quite created something that I’m really happy with,” King says. “I’ll get a good night’s sleep and [the next day], get something done in 15 minutes that is more innovative.”
But “I’m addicted to my smartphone,” she says.
A few years ago, when I really got into running, I needed, desperately needed, some audio to distract me from the monotony of running. As I got more into it, I adjusted my playlists, even deliberately adding a few mp3 files of 5 minutes of silence.

The BBC article discusses being taking breaks from screen time but with my hand writing I don't care to use notebooks for more than organizing notes. I can fill a few pages with text in a pinch but there are often real problems with rereading them later -even for me, the author! Still, I think it is time for me to set some limits for social media. I like blogging and feel this is a sort of creative outlet or place to organize my thoughts. I need to put more time into actually writing blog posts rather than these TWICs, which are mostly cut-and-paste. And yet sometimes they are all the content I produce here.

My friends and family are scattered across the globe so if I stopped using Facebook some friends would wonder if the North Koreans had started to attack. Still, I can definitely cut down on time there.

Feedly will be the toughest thing to cut back on. It is the source for much of my TWIC material and a place where I choose what news I want to read.

I shouldn't leave this for later. I might change this plan but as of now, I will be on Facebook for ten minutes morning and evening and on Feedly for the same period (another ten minutes, not the same ten). Quora will get ten minutes every other day. On rainy days and weekends, I can spend more time on social media but only when I set a limit before starting.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

TWIC: ukulele music.plotting, ESL writing, cliches, canoes


Covers of his songs here.
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Writer's block? One solution.
Slightly larger image at the link.
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Planning your plot. And keeping track of it all as you go. I love the idea of using wall space like this:A manuscript of Henry Miller's outline of 'Tropic of Capricorn' (Image is shrunk -see full size at the link)


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Protect yourself from copyright infringement. one of three suggestions:
One of the oldest tricks for proving that a work belongs to you is to print off your writing and send it to yourself in a sealed envelope. This sounds weird but, legally, it functions the same way as a copyright. All mail is stamped with the date by a government employee. And if an envelope is properly sealed, it implies that its contents haven’t been tampered with. Therefore the contents contained within the envelope are recognized by the government as having been written on or before the stamped date.
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Plot twists: too light on foreshadowing and they don't make sense. Too much foreshadowing and they aren't twists anymore.
These understated, almost unimportant titbits are what make for a good plot twist, but you need to get the balance right. If you give the reader too few clues the twist will seem as though it’s come from nowhere, and your story will feel tacky and thrown together. If you give them too many clues as to the impending twist, it won’t be a twist at all, because of its predictability and lack of surprise. Therefore, a successful plot twist needs to be both something that comes from beyond the audience’s viewpoint, and yet, once the dust has settled, feels somewhat satisfyingly inevitable.
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What writers really do.
I carried that image around for the next 20-odd years, too scared to try something that seemed so profound, and then finally, in 2012, noticing that I wasn’t getting any younger, not wanting to be the guy whose own gravestone would read “Afraid to Embark on Scary Artistic Project He Desperately Longed to Attempt”, decided to take a run at it, in exploratory fashion, no commitments. My novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, is the result of that attempt, and now I find myself in the familiar writerly fix of trying to talk about that process as if I were in control of it.
We often discuss art this way: the artist had something he “wanted to express”, and then he just, you know … expressed it. We buy into some version of the intentional fallacy: the notion that art is about having a clear-cut intention and then confidently executing same.
The actual process, in my experience, is much more mysterious and more of a pain in the ass to discuss truthfully.
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I am learning how to write creative science fiction and fantasy. My own students are learning how to write in English. They also need to be creative. My friend Rob Whyte has a blog focused on ESL writing and here are a few posts that caught my eye.

Basic writing
New Lesson
This week students will complete a first draft for writing assignment #4. It’s a story about a boy who meets an alien space ship. The purpose of this assignment is to practice and improve good writing skills like idea, organisation, the first sentence, word choice, and conventions.
In particular, please pay attention to articles and verb tenses.
The exercise has a second purpose. I want students to learn and practice writing complex sentences.
Here is the picture prompt for this exercise.
This is the middle part of the lesson - follow the link for the preview and review and etc.
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My own ESL students in writing and speaking are generally vague.

  • SA: What did you do yesterday?
  • STU: I saw a movie.

It would be so easy for them to tell me the name but they naturally relax to the simplest information. Sometimes I worry about prying. If a student told me in class he went to an 'ero'[tic] movie, I would be pleased with the detail but concerned about TMI. It's a fine line.  Anyway, Rob also tackles weak details, in creative writing rather than personal events.
Focus student attention on pictures 3 and 4. They lack detail. This is where students need to add detail by asking questions. These questions might include:
  • What does the outside look like?
  • How big is the spaceship?
  • Why did the boy go inside?
  • What does the interior look like and smell like? 
  • Who or what is inside the UFO?
Here are panels 3 and 4 - the others, as always, are at the link.
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cliches in comics.
Via Bizarro, I learned of Bob Mankoff's discussion of cliches in comics. Further searching led me to this list that John Freeman made. I copied the whole list here, then deleted maybe 80%. If it interests you, you know what to do.  Added after saving and returning later -Wow! When I first placed them here, there were in a tidy list, not jumbled together.
Abominable Snowmen Airport security lines
Banana peels Beached whales Beds of nails Bedtime stories
Bowling pins versus bowling balls
Cannibals Cats versus mice Cavemen – and women Cave paintings Centaurs
Cinderella Clowns in a tiny car Cloudwatching and identifying Comedy and tragedy masks
Couples caught cheating in bed Couples on a house during a flood Crash-test dummies
Customs agents Damsels on railroad tracks Damsels and dragons
Eskimos Evolution Funeral-parlour viewings Firing squads Galley slaves Gallows The Garden of Eden Gates of Hell
Groom carrying his bride over the threshold Guillotine
Humpty Dumpty Husband behind newspaper at Breakfast Igloos In Out Boxes Invention of fire Invention of the wheel Ice Hole Fishing Jesus on Cross
Marriage counselors
Nudists Operating Theatre Patent Office Pinocchio Pirate’s Lineup Political Stump Speech Robots Rubik’s cube Sandcastles
Snails Snow WhitSong lyrics as captions 
This Side Up box Thinking Outside the Box Tombstones Traffic cop pulling over speeding motorist Trojan Horse
Turtle and Hare TV Weather Forecasts Two Guys in a Horse Costume Umpires
Woman trying on hat You-are-here map Zen Zeus throwing lightning bolts Zorro
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Via Kottke comes this video of a master woodworker building a dugout canoe.

The Birth Of A Dugout Canoe by Northmen from Northmen on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hokusai

I think that my appreciation of paintings is similar to that of music.  I tend to enjoy novelty more than objective classics.  In music this means I listen to a lot of Weird Al Yankovic, but also TMBG, Roy Zimmerman, and Jonathan Coulton.  I do like classical music but the one I listen to most, Leoš Janáček's - Sinfonietta I like most for the eldritch, unusual theme.

In paintings, I do like van Gogh's work - Starry Night graces my Kindle case - but works that better demonstrate my character are novelty ones. Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights is the best example.

Hokusai's paintings are among the best known in the world, and stand out as unconventional to western eyes.  Here are some of my favorites:



Actually, I don't care so much for this dragonfly image. I think I might be able to draw or paint a better dragonfly.





A website devoted to him.

Wikipedia article on the man here.
BBC article here.  Their podcast In Our Time devoted 40 minutes to him. I think their episodes are only available as MP3s for a few weeks but it appears you can stream from their site for an extended period.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

TWIC: VPNs, carving, marketing, motivation,

I can't think of any way this relates to creativity but as an important public service, here is an article on how to secure your web browser and set up a VPN. Incredibly important!
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How to sharpen wood carving tools.
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Bizarre Japanese Nurse stock photos. Find information about them at that link. The photos can be found here. And #savedyouaclick: there are no tentacle porn or naked nurse photos. I, uh, didn't search for them...Well, I didn't specifically search for them.
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Videos of Traditional ways of making from South Korea.
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Working from anywhere: a laptop lifestyle.
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Quora and Medium posts to attract readers.
and
Podcasting to attract readers.
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What is stopping you from writing?
and
What's holding you back?
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A poisonous grudge with another writer.
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Camp Nano is going on right now!
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Live like Kings and Work like Artisans.
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Beautiful Bookstore
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Bored scribes told a story in the margins of their illuminated manuscripts in days of yore. Why so many snails? The answer is in that video but it leaves out the possibility of a warning against Uzumaki!


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

TWIC: More Sci Am, lectures, making stuff up, motivation

Dreaming and Daydreaming and more in March's issue - nothing free online though.
Update? At least one of the Daydreaming articles is available free online at their site.
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Being creatively dishonest is somehow more acceptable.
We are much harsher on people who rob banks than on people who achieve the same objective but through creative methods like those employed by Abagnale. This is important as it introduces a bias in the way we judge dishonesty and punish it, thus reducing the likelihood of seeing more of the same behavior in the future. But there is another reason why our research is potentially interesting: creative forms of unethical behavior are more likely to be imitated than other forms of unethical behavior because people admire the behavior’s creativity, we discovered. It seems that people view creativity as a positive, valuable trait that provides creative cheaters with a halo that makes their transgressions more palatable and more socially contagious.
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Meditation as a means of studying the brain.
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Ass-on-chair. "There is no trick to writing"
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College course lectures saved. They should be available here in April.
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Use a real-world setting or a made-up setting in your writing?
6 Advantages and Disadvantages of a Real-Life Setting
1. A Real-Life Setting Is Instantly Recognizable
2. A Real-Life Setting Offers Built-In Verisimilitude
3. A Real-Life Setting Requires Less Brainstorming4. Real-Life Settings Require More Research
...
2 Advantages and Disadvantages of a Made-Up Setting
1. A Made-Up Setting Frees You From the Burden of the Facts
2. A Made-Up Setting Demands Active Creativity
 Reader(s) familiar with this blog will know of my habit of removing all the details from the list above. To read them, follow the link.
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Jack Dorsey's Dos and Don'ts.
That Do list is as follows:
Stay present
Be vulnerable
Drink only lemon water and red wine
Six sets of 20 squats and push-ups every day
Run for 3 miles
Meditate on this list
Stand up straight
Spend 10 minutes with a heavy bag
Say hello to everyone
Get 7 hours of sleep
And the “Don’ts”:
Don’t avoid eye contact
Don’t be late
Don’t set expectations that you can’t meet
Don’t eat sugar 
Don’t drink hard liquor or beer during the weekday
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Forget the career ladder, organize your creative assets.
The strugglers live from project to project, gig to gig. Each new project feels like starting afresh, from scratch. Each new client needs to be pitched and sold from scratch. They are always too busy or too skint to do the work they really want to do. It’s exhausting and demoralising.
The ones who prosper take a longer term approach. As well as living day-to-day, they carve out time to create assets that will make everything easier, more enjoyable, and more profitable in the future. As time goes by, they have more and more assets, and the effects start to multiply – to the point where they achieve exponentially more with their efforts than they had ever thought possible.
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Our Gutenberg moment. It's easier to publish and that means it's easier to publish crap.
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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Motivation


So I got word of this course on Twitter, followed the link and blogged it here. Maybe tomorrow, if I feel like it, I'll actually sign up for the course. Motivation level 0.5
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Still looking for the magic pill or device that allows me to sit work on my own book rather than prepare for classes - which I am not doing either, seeing as I am adding content to my blog. Truth Telling by Sykes 94.7
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How writing fiction can get you out of poverty.
This may be me soon. Terror gives a +5 to motivation (=5.5)!
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Tracking a novel's progress to help you get to completion.
“I knew I needed help to avoid it being just a stack of paper that sat in my bedside drawer. I know too many people who have written half a novel,” he says.
A cool graphic or GIF showing the author's highs and lows. It also shows he took around a year and a half longer than he theoretically needed to. Terror eased by 3.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TWIC: maps, Agatha Christie, writing sex scenes, Jen Lee interviewed, Purpose, libraries,

It might be time to make this a cartography blog. I've certainly offered a number of map generators, and design tools. Here's another.
So a few weeks ago, I discovered that you can use Google Maps to draw on existing cities and make custom maps of your fictional locations. Needless to say, I was EXTREMELY EXCITED. Being an author practically guarantees you will struggle with real life details like travel distance at some point in your book. If you're writing about a real city, the bar is even higher. Even if you're writing about your own city, a map can be a life saver just for keeping everything straight in your head.
For years now, I've had to draw those maps by hand, and let me just say: a cartographer I am not. Enter Google Maps. Let's say you're writing a story set in London. Going to Google Maps to look up a street map is obvious, but Google has given us tools to take that even further, allowing authors to draw new boundaries, set landmarks, and make notes right on a custom map that you can save! And best of all, it's free!! (Well, okay, there is a paid version that has more features, but for our purposes, the free version works perfectly well).
All that said, the Google Maps customization interface isn't exactly user friendly. Most people don't even know it exists (I found it by accident). This a crime! Something this useful should be known by all! Lots of people on Twitter agreed with me. So, by popular request, here is my guide to using Google Maps for world building.
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Agatha Christie's secrets.
1. Christie introduced ROMANCE into the murder mystery.


2. Christie was very good at hiding the identity of the murderer. And she usually did this cleverly and fairly.



Today I’m only going to concentrate on (2), above. (If you would like to read more about including romance in a story, see: The Structure of a Romance Story.)

How to Make Readers Think the Murderer Couldn't Have Done It.


There’s no other way to say it: Agatha Christie deceived her readers! And we loved it. How did she do this?

7 Ways to Disguise a Murderer:


1. Agatha Christie made readers think the murderer was a victim
. (Peril at End House.)


Examples: Peril at End House, The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor, And Then There Were None.
In PERIL AT END HOUSE Nick—the eventual murderer—convinces Poirot that someone is trying to kill her. She is subtle and drops clues she knows the great detective (who loves clues!) will pick up on.
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Jen Lee draws comics documenting her life here in South Korea. Here is an interview.
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Rob Beshizza shows us his writing space.
I'm one of those people who has trouble writing at length on my main machine, because of all the distractions it offers. Email and messaging and social networking: they all combine to form the "ludic loop" that Mark recently blogged about.
I've tried various things over the years to help keep me focused, from simple full-screen word processors such as WriteRoom and FocusWriter to gadgets like the Alphasmart and Freewrite. But apps are a tab away from fun, and glorified typewriters tend to expose their limitations in odd and frustrating ways.
Full-sized image at the link.

GRR Martin does something similar. He uses an old word processor that does 'all the things he needs and none of the things he doesn't'. Autoplay video and GRRM interview here. Specifically, he uses Wordstar.
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What is the purpose of creativity? This is a question at Quora that I answered. I think Velikovsky's answers is excellent and contains links to interesting articles on creativity and evolution. His blog is here.
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Gaiman on reading and libraries
I was in China in 2007, at the first party-approved science fiction and fantasy convention in Chinese history. And at one point I took a top official aside and asked him Why? SF had been disapproved of for a long time. What had changed?
It’s simple, he told me. The Chinese were brilliant at making things if other people brought them the plans. But they did not innovate and they did not invent. They did not imagine. So they sent a delegation to the US, to Apple, to Microsoft, to Google, and they asked the people there who were inventing the future about themselves. And they found that all of them had read science fiction when they were boys or girls.
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R.L. Stine's Writing Program

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Songwriting at Literature suggestions An ESL instructor colleague asked for suggestions for a Songwriting as Literature course. Here are some of the suggestions
Bob Dylan - Nobel Prize winner
The Road Goes on Forever - Robert Earl Keen
Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay"
Rappers, sorted by the size of their vocabulary
 The Logical Song - Supertramp
Simon and Garfunkel
They Might Be Giants
Wesley Willis
American Pie
American Songwriter.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds - Murder Ballads

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Pixar Story Telling class - Did I offer this link before?
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Starting writing late in life. The writer started writing novels at age 47 and says that's old. I guess at 49, I am in trouble.
So what about those thirty years I wasted in self-doubt?
I don’t think they were wasted, actually. In fact, I’d argue that the best thing a writer can do is delay publishing for as long as possible.
This isn’t an attractive argument; it’s not sexy. Nobody’s going to make any Top Thirty Under Thirty lists that way. And dammit, writing is difficult. It takes so much hard work and dedication. How long can a person go on working with nothing to show for it?
As long as you can.
Those thirty years didn’t just make me a writer. They made me a good writer. That paralyzing self-doubt morphed into a keen sense for quality in my own work. When I write something that stinks, I can usually smell it. I’ve been reading for more than forty years, so I have thousands of great books and stories banked for information and inspiration. And best of all, I have a lifetime’s worth of unplumbed material to draw on—I’ve seen the world in all its glory and ugliness.
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