Monday, September 26, 2016

Why do I write?

This question appeared on Quora recently:
Why do you write fiction?

My response was:
On the one hand, I have a simple answer ready: I write the stories I want to experience.
On the other hand, I can’t really answer why I, or people in general, write fiction.
I’m in an uncertain place employment-wise. Don’t worry about me; I don’t think I’m in a desperate place, but it has made me think about different levels of production. My background in ecology might have something to do with it.
I could look up the proper terms, but the first level of production involves making solid, important things. Food might be first on the list, followed by clothing and housing and so on. The first levels are all tangible. You can touch them; they are not abstract.
Middle levels might involve repair or medicine.
Eventually, you get to more abstract levels. Cynically, religion might fit here. Writing definitely does.
I don’t live in Canada now, but I am from there and I worry about the Canadian economy. Canada isn’t producing much of those lower level things right now. The thing is, you can’t eat books or movies or TV shows.
I want to remind any reader that I am trying to write books myself. I am not against fiction writing at all.
I just look at a question like, “Why do you write fiction?” and it makes me think I really should think more about growing crops or raising chickens or building those peddle-powered generators I have long been thinking about.
Writing fiction is not easy, but the act of doing so is comfortable in the sense that one is not outside and burning or freezing, or getting injured from a farming implement or soldering iron…
I hope that I am not writing fiction (and spending too much time here rather than actually writing fiction) because it is merely comfortable.
I hope that, not my current book, but some book of mine will have the value of Madeleine L'Engle’s or Ursula K. Le Guin’s or, in a very important but different way, George Orwell’s. 

See the link at the top for more answers.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

TWIC: Alaska, Grant Snider, Bill Waterson, Nano prep,

Should you write in a specific place and work like a professional (in an office) or vary your routine. K.M. Weiland recently traveled to Alaska and wrote outside and enjoyed both.
Something I’ve been reminded of this summer is the importance of new perspectives for writers. It can be so easy to get stuck in a routine, writing at our desks eight to ten hours of the day, walking the same route on our morning workouts, looking out the same window at the same time every day.
This is probably a third of her total post on the subject so I don't want to excerpt more. All I can say is, Wow, 8-10 hours!
Snider on Writing. As always, this is only a chunk of his drawing and it has been shrunk.

I bought two of his drawings for Christmas -one for my sister and one for me.  They were both sent to my sister and she liked them so much she kept both. I may have to the same one again!
Calvin and Hobbes: Art before Commerce (6:21 video)

David Lynch: ""Ideas are like fish. You don't make the fish, you catch the fish."" (2:34 Video)
How do you organize yourself to write a novel? Quora has some answers. Here is an exceprt from Christopher Knox:
The Draft
Me: "How is your novel coming?"
Her: "Not bad. I just started the second draft."
Stop right there. 
I'm about to ask this writer specifically what she means by this and, if she's like most writers I know, I'm going to have to inform her that she's mistaken. I suspect that she means that she's begun the process of doing massive edits to her manuscript, perhaps deleting scenes and rewriting them, polishing passages and going over her grammar and spelling. These activities are not part of the second draft of a novel.
 The second draft is where you throw your first draft in the garbage and start over from scratch.
One thing I will do is try to visit Dice Latte in Seoul for a Nanowrimo planning party.
I don't know anything about secret wood resin rings, but the process looks neat.
If I want to keep up with my wood work, I will need to sharpen my gouges.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Learning from failure

The deadline for entries in the Behind the Mask Superhero Anthology has passed. In good time, I started planning.I made this:

... and I thought about what stories might fit.  In the past, the few stories I have written that I like jumped out at me after I thought about them seriously for a while.

No idea jumped out at me and I did not hand in an entry.

There is one more thing I did in the stories that I have completed.  I started writing. Even without a good goal or plot in mind, I began writing about the setting, the character.  It was after doing so that the plot idea or twist or hook came to mind.  Most or all of the ideas in that mind map are about plot and they went nowhere.

Seven years ago, when I started this blog, I did so in part to see how creative ideas appear.  The idea that you should just write and see what happens is the key to NANOWRIMO and I have completed three Nanos.  I should know this.  Perhaps I know it, but I don't live it.
This reminds me of one of my favorite high school teachers, Mr Steep. He taught chemistry.  He spent an appropriate amount of time explaining serial dilution, pH and indicators.  He told us that grape juice would change colour at a specific pH but he didn't tell us what that pH was. Then he told us to find that number.

I failed to find the number. Once he explained what he needed to do, it was obvious and he had given us all the background.  I understood serial dilutions and the logarithmic feature of pH and could do well on any paper test. It did not cross my mind to take 10 ml of strong acid and add 90 ml of water, take 10ml of that solution and add 90ml of water...until I had a range of solutions from pH 1 to 6  and then add some grape juice. Man it is so easy when I read what I should have done! I understood it the theory but not that I should put it into practice.

I hope I do now. I cannot wait for inspiration.  All those things I did to find inspiration are still valuable and I will do them. The mind-map, walking my dog while thinking about it, doing other activities and coming back to it... I do need to do that, but I also need to write. To move sideways in the story, to explore the person's life, his home, his job, his street, until some of those elements click and I have a story.
In possibly related news, Sci Am looks at where creativity comes from.

In animals, opportunity, not necessity is the mother of invention.  when animals are under high stress - facing starvation, for example - they retreat into conserving behaviors. They are less active and take fewer risks.  Animals that do not fear starvation or the like are more willing to take risks.

The article also looks at tool using crows and compares them to human children.  The children were not as creative - at least in the tests given.

The conclusion:
that innovation should benefit from diminishing, rather than increasing, costs of failure. Says Muthukrishna: “By reducing the risk, a social safety net may stimulate innovation.”

Sunday, September 18, 2016

TWIC: civilizations, maps, teaching, archived children's books, paradox

Guy Gaveriel Kay is a Canadian author who fist achieved success with his Fionavar fantasy series, an adult cross of Lion, Witch and Wardrobe with Middle Earth. I liked them as a young adult but I am uncertain if I would now. I am afraid to find out how my taste in books might have changed.
Here is a 17 minute interview with him where he discusses civilizations on the edge.
Here is a playlist of twenty videos on how to draw fantasy maps. The videos range from eight minutes to over an hour in length with most of them around fifteen minutes.
Nanowrimo has a series of 'plot doctoring' advice articles. The first one I became aware of is #9, building a strong plot.

The article explains these essential scenes in the image (which has been cropped. if you want to see the cut out three scenes in the bottom third, follow the link).
As an educator and would-be creative-ist, I have read much of what Sir Ken Robinson has to say.  This post is about outdoor education rather than his more typical public fair about creativity but I still like it and want to spread the word. Again, I have trouble connecting this with my blog's theme, but it is worth noting:
He lists five reasons why taking learning outdoors is a good idea:
Nature is a powerful resource.
Children can learn through practical hands-on activities.
You can tap into children's curiosity.
It is a social experience and children learn from working together.Learning outdoors is fun.
Another one for educators more than of a purely creative article: Ten tips to use Powerpoint better. Here is part of number seven:
What does it do?
This feature allows you to remove the background of images.
How does it work?
There is a lot of information about how background removal works. Try thistutorial from or this tutorial from
Select your image and go to the format ribbon.
Click on the remove background icon on the left-hand side of the ribbon.
Parts of the image will now be highlighted in purple.
Resize the shape of the box to the edge of the image.
Click on mark areas to keep and your cursor will turn into a pen. Click on image to create a point or draw a line for areas to keep.
Click on mark areas to remove and your cursor will turn into pen. Click on image to create a point or draw a line for areas to remove.
Click on keep changes and anything in purple will disappear.
Note: Click on reset image on the format ribbon in order to restore the background.
How can I use this as a teacher?
This feature is ideal for creating for collages, posters and general graphic design in PowerPoint.
6000 children's books are now archived at this site online.
I have thought of residencies for artists as ways to recreate the historic patronage system.  A wealthy person or group funds the work of an artist. Wikipedia tells me I have it mostly right:
Artist-in-residence programs and other residency opportunities exist to invite artists, academicians, curators, and all manner of creative people for a time and space away from their usual environment and obligations. They provide a time of reflection, research, presentation and/or production. They also allow an individual to explore his/her practice within another community; meeting new people, using new materials, experiencing life in a new location. Art residencies emphasize the importance of meaningful and multi-layered cultural exchange and immersion into another culture.
I bring this up because one writer is getting extra time to work on her project and has only one distraction, but it is a big one! From the Vancouver Sun:
Rebecca Moss is the British artist stranded on the Hanjin Geneva owned by the Hanjin shipping line that filed for receivership Wednesday. She was on board as part of the 23 Days at Sea Residency organized by Access Gallery in Vancouver.
The Hanjin Geneva is now somewhere off the coast of Japan near Tokyo. It cannot dock because ports around the world have barred Hanjin ships over concerns that include the payment of port and service fees.
How has the news about the bankruptcy changed any routine you might have had on the Hanjin Geneva?
Before the news, there was always a feeling that we were moving in a line toward a horizon, and there was a real sense of purpose. This was reflected in the way I approached my day — I had knowledge that I had a certain number of days left and I was trying to plan to execute my ideas accordingly.
However, now it feels more like we are a slowly drifting island, a feeling that I am sure will intensify when we actually drop anchor. I have found myself wandering more and feeling more in the present — taking each moment as it comes and not knowing when the end will be.
Via Boingboing
The idea of a residency still interests me. Here is a list of 26 such residencies from last year. I think all or most of those in the US. This list from Aerogrammestudio is more international.
Struggling to write does not mean you are not a writer.
Honestly, I’m nervous that I can’t live up to the promise “writer” seems to convey. Writing doesn’t come easily for me. There are times it flows, but sometimes it feels like trying to wade through sinking sand.
Like so many others, I fall into thinking that putting words on paper always comes effortlessly to a certain segment of people, who therefore deserve the title of “writer.” If you struggle to get your meaning across in the written form, the thinking goes, you must not really be a “writer.”
But if that were true, who among us would be worthy of the title? Sure, words come more easily to some people than others, but natural wordsmiths still have to work hard to master their craft. And even the most seasoned writer knows the feeling of agonizing over a sentence or deleting two-hours-worth of dull paragraphs in frustration.
At Quora is a thread with lists of places that will pay you to write.
The author of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is being sued because his work is not creative enough.
In the complaint, the publisher claims that Grahame-Smith’s latest manuscript was not original enough and pulls too much content from the original public domain work.
I enjoyed P&P&Z and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, but I can't say how original the former work is.  I am one of those philistines who hasn't read the original.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Incheon Animals: Papilio species

Different sites offer the same genus but various species names.
Papillio maacki. And here.
Papillio elwesi
-----How embarrassing. I had originally posted this with the species names capitalized. Now fixed.

A Carefully Constructed Sentence

I am a Canadian, living in South Korea, but I watch the US presidential  race with, ah, amusement? Horror?.. When I get irate, I remind myself I cannot vote for either party, or anyone else, and try to return to amusement.

The following discussion centers on quack Mehmet Oz and specifically on a sentence describing him in the New York Times. The article is about Donald Trump, but, for this post (and generally for this blog), I am not interested in him.

What does it mean to criticized or 'sometimes speak[s] in ...hyperbole"?  It means:
Lying about weight loss claims.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, led the panel that on Tuesday looked at false advertising for weight loss products. Subcommittee members took issue with assertions that Oz has made on his show about products that don't have a lot of scientific evidence to back them up, such as green coffee beans.
The article notes he did the same thing with Garcinia cambogia.

His Wikipedia page shows his lack of integrity in various ways.

Science Based Medicine notes he has found '16 miracles':
After all, everything is a “miracle” to Oz (He’s found 16 so far).

That New York Times writer has a gift for spin.

Via Boingboing.

Monday, September 12, 2016

TWIC: start, steampunk,Chandler on SF, comics, life of Surprises

Making it small in Hollywood. Mike Birbiglia is being a little modest.  His six tips look good.  Here are excerpts from  two (this is from the New York Times so I cannot copy and paste even small segments):
1) Don't wait. ...Don't talk about it anymore. Maybe don't even finish this essay.
2) Fail. ...The bedrock of all good pieces of writing is 10 bad drafts.
Via Kottke.
Oamaru, New Zealand is the steampunk capital of the world!
For the uninitiated, the term steampunk was coined in the 1980s and is based on imagining inventions the Victorians might have created for the modern world. The movement was kickstarted by science fiction novels and has branched out to incorporate art and fashion while spawning a well-established aesthetic, typified by embellished hats and goggles.
Image found here (here shrunk, as always)

Raymond Chandler on Science Fiction (and Google!)

I want to read the rest of that story.
I saw a comic on a friend's Facebook page. The panel showed a spoiled student with his feet on his desk during the pledge of allegiance. I shrank the image and added another panel.
The artist, Steve Breen apparently drew that panel nearly six years ago.  I want to properly attribute his artwork and so I found his webpage.  Strangely enough yesterday's panel took the opposing viewpoint. It suggested that Kaepernick's choice to stand or not during the pledge or the anthem was what made the US great.  Good for Breen on becoming more progressive.
In writing the above, I wasn't sure of my comics terminology.  Wikipedia and readwritethink had me covered. From the latter:
Readwritethink is geared toward students while Wikipedia is more in depth.
I have more than one blog.  I keep this one fairly tightly focused on creativity but I have other interests. I seldom post on my SurprisesAplenty blog but just did and if you have any interest in this humble blogger as a human being, you can read about it.