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.

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.

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.
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.
Writer's block? One solution.
Slightly larger image at the link.
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)

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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


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!
How to sharpen wood carving tools.
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.
Videos of Traditional ways of making from South Korea.
Working from anywhere: a laptop lifestyle.
Quora and Medium posts to attract readers.
Podcasting to attract readers.
What is stopping you from writing?
What's holding you back?
A poisonous grudge with another writer.
Camp Nano is going on right now!
Live like Kings and Work like Artisans.
Beautiful Bookstore
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.
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.
Meditation as a means of studying the brain.
Ass-on-chair. "There is no trick to writing"
College course lectures saved. They should be available here in April.
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.
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
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.
Our Gutenberg moment. It's easier to publish and that means it's easier to publish crap.

Thursday, March 23, 2017


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
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
How writing fiction can get you out of poverty.
This may be me soon. Terror gives a +5 to motivation (=5.5)!
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.
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.

Jen Lee draws comics documenting her life here in South Korea. Here is an interview.
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.
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.
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.
R.L. Stine's Writing Program

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

Pixar Story Telling class - Did I offer this link before?
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.

Monday, March 13, 2017

TWIC: busy,diy coffin, music, motivation, maps

It seems like even easy posts like This Week In Creativiti are shrinking.  I normally start a new TWIC around the same day I post the finished one. Then I add to it all week.

Big news! I have a job! Last year we moved to a new city in South Korea and I took on various short contracts while looking for more full time work. I am fully employed again!

It is a new position and I need to plan new lessons and organize homework and such so posting here has been infrequent.

Indeed, it is now Sunday and TWIC normally goes up on Monday evening or Tuesday. I gotta find some stuff.
Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. The book doesn't come out for another six or seven weeks (May 2) but it looks interesting for a variety of reasons.
Theft. A history of music. The link goes to a site to buy the book or download a PDF free.
shortlist for Sony's world photography awards.
Unintended consequences  What would you want if you could any one thing, real or imaginary? How difficult would it be to keep it?
Tremendously wealthy and still working on Sundays. Why? The article is about ambition and motivation. Things I need.
Consider the journalist Ryan Avent, who recently wrote a piece titled Why do we work so hard? He confesses to an internal struggle about the pros and cons of his self-described workaholic life. But he ends up optimistic about his tradeoffs. For his grandparents, he says, work was a means to an end. “Work” was the thing you did during the week to make money in order to enjoy “life” on the weekends. For our grandparents, in a different economy, work was duller and more physically taxing. Today, for the educated among us, work can be intellectually invigorating as never before. It’s easier to love your work, as he says he loves journalism. When his parents worry about his job and its long hours, Avent observes the disconnect: They are asking him about his “work,” he says, but “I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.”

The Components of Happy Ambition: Tweaks to Prioritize Happiness As You Quest for Meaning
Become mindful of status triggers with mindfulness meditation
Set fewer goals. Love the craft itself: be process-driven, not goal-driven
Choose work and set goals where relative status is harder to compare or measure
The people around you shape the nature of your ambition, so pick your peer group carefully
Diversify your identity by operating a portfolio
Operate a dashboard, not a leaderboard. Play against yourself, not an opponent
Physically move and be a big fish in a small pond
Designing the graphics for Harry Potter movies. I am a 'get the function right and don't worry about the design' guy. I make some useful things but I seldom go the extra mile to work on the presentation.  My PPTs of lesson materials carry the details I want and I value simplicity but they could be better organized. One thing I know I should fix is consistency - A constant style in how I display information so students know where to look. On one slide I might have nouns in blue but on the next slide I have circled the nouns. Ah, enough about me. I like the depth of planning that went into basically all movies and this example shines.
A fantasy map generator. Kottke does a good job of summarizing how this generator works and why it is special. There are some small scale generators too play with but the completed work is posted to Twitter @unchartedatlas.

Need to add whale song to your life? Here is a whale synthesizer. It sounds awfully like a theremin to me.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

TWIC: bees,dialog, azimov, card design, eatables,

I gotta eat more bees. Vital writing advice from Chuck Wendig.
10. Write 1,000 Words A Day. But don’t write them in order. That’s how you confuse the witches. You can put the words in order later when the witches are asleep in their tower.
11. Study Other Successful Writers. Other writers have done this well, so study what they do. Look at their sentence structure. Examine the rhythm of their storytelling. Chart the map of their many footsteps, ideally tracking them with RFID tags. Rifle through their trash like a raccoon. Steal their debit cards. Eat their food and their bank statements and the hair you find in their shower drains, all while miming their mannerisms in a mirror. Live under their floors or behind their walls. That way, you find the ideal time to strike — pop them with a tranq dart and once asleep, search their bodies for ancient sigils and secret messages tattooed there. Then lock them in a cage and steal their manuscripts for your own. Become them by performing The Rites. Or say fuck it and then go back to number four, where you bludgeon them and eat their brains.
12. Eat Bees. You gotta eat some bees, man. C’mon. Just fuckin’ eat ‘em already. We all do it. They’re full of protein. They also sting you as you eat them which activates your Imaginatory Gland, so eat a handful of bees and then you get jacked on cool thoughts and ideas. Eat the bees. Don’t be a baby about it.
13. Stop Eating Bees. All right, you’ve eaten too many bees. It’s weird. You got a problem. Go to a meeting. Bees are going extinct the fuck is wrong with you.
14. Don’t Ever Look At The News. Because like Fiona Apple said, “This world is bullshit.” It is. It’s all bullshit. It’ll just make you sad and then you won’t write, you’ll just sit around eating cheesecake and offering up stupid writing advice on the Internet. The news is dumb. The world is dumb. Retreat into your land of unicorns where it’s safe.
More writing tips blogs here.
I think my attempts at dialog are clunky. I want to add some humour and sarcasm but I also want them to sound natural. My own real life attempts at sarcasm and humour I must admit are also weird and unnatural. One of the discussions here is on that subject:

Crafting believable dialogue is tough. But here’s one piece of advice that will make it easier: Characters should say things we wish we had said. What does that mean? Remember Elmore Leonard? His dialogue is a great example of this notion. Leonard’s characters don’t speak like anybody in real life. And that’s very important indeed.
Good dialogue does not mimic natural speech. Regular chit-chat is boring and pedestrian. It’s filled with too many “Ums” and “Ahs” and overstocked with superfluous details, social niceties, and fluff.
An example. Say our protagonist (let’s call her Jane) is meeting another character (Bob, who is secretly in league with the main villain) for a drink at the local. Jane’s determined to confront Bob about his double dealing. Here’s what regular speech might sound like:

“Hi Bob. How’s it going? Um, I haven’t seen you in a while. You well?”
Bob looked up from his beer and said, “Oh, hi Jane. I wasn’t sure when you were coming, so I ordered a beer already. What can I get you?”
Jane thought for a while. “Um, I’ll just have a soda thanks. So… What have you been up to?”
“Not much. A little bit of this and a little bit of that, you know..” ...
And some of the less natural, better version:
Jane sat down and waved away the waiter.
Before Bob could say anything, she said, “So Bob, I ever tell you about my uncle Richard? No? Yeah, well he died last year. Upstate.”
“What do you mean, Jane? I don’t—“
“He spent most of his life in solitary, Bob. Terrible thing, solitary. Makes a man wish he’d made some different choices in his life. Like maybe not selling out his buddies to the highest bidder. My uncle, he got put away for treason, Bob. Treason.”
Describing what you see in Rorchach's ink blots seems like a creative enterprise. Here are some details on the blots.

Asimov on writing:
6. The Secret Sauce
A struggling writer friend of Asimov’s once asked him, “Where do you get your ideas?”
Asimov replied, “By thinking and thinking and thinking till I’m ready to kill myself. […] Did you ever think it was easy to get a good idea?”
Many of his nights were spent alone with his mind —
I couldn’t sleep last night so I lay awake thinking of an article to write and I’d think and think and cry at the sad parts. I had a wonderful night.
Nobody ever said having ideas was going to be easy.
If it were, it wouldn’t be worth doing.
To outsiders, thinking about design often seems a pretty but unnecessary option.Or at least, I often think of it that way and hope there is a group called 'outsiders' that consists of more than just me. The recent mix up at the Oscars shows why design concepts are important. Full size image and all three advantages to the new design at the link.

3. Emma Stone’s name is bigger than the title, “La La Land,” because she is the winner of this category. The winner should be the most emphasized thing on the card with all other information, like the film’s title, in a smaller or a less thick font...
Apparently, the announcers were given the wrong award envelope and that wasn't immediately clear. The 'after' image shows a different set of priorities - the name of the award ceremony is not nearly so important because everyone involved knows where they are.
A chart book from India has better art work than mine but looks similar to grids of images I have made for my ESL classes.
Meant to teach children good behavior, and to assist their reading skills, these inexpensive posters were plastered everywhere by local printers.
Here is my favorite image:

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

TWIC: Sci-am, prologues, nonsense, support, presentations

Sci Am has a lot of stuff relating to creativity but much of it is behind their paywall. The Science of Creativity has all the links.

Ink Spots and Fractal patterns.

I enjoy Sci Am's '100 years ago' posts. Repeats or summaries of articles written for the magazine that long ago. I think they have a "150 years ago' section as well. The current one describes new (in 1917) submarines.

Can you (I) be more rational?
Brent Weeks offers tips on how to write prologues.
As a writer, I think a prologue is a wonderful tool for a certain jobs, but it’s a heavy tool that should be handled with care, intention, and skill—or not handled at all. A prologue struts onto the stage of your book and grabs the microphone, saying, “I’m sorry, Taylor, Imma let you start, but first…” More seriously, it does tell a reader that what they’re about to read isn’t exactly part of the story proper. “I’m going to tell you a story, but first you need to know…” What is this, Great Expectations? “I’m going to tell you the story an orphan, but first, you need to know his entire family history….”
nonsense word generator. They look so real:

atinquitator, weapsts, recruidly, galawfulathers, skulatted, sketess,
humediveroully, polevianian, arbilitties, flassungs
Maybe I'm describing a lack of creativity, maybe I'm sharing my browsing habits on a forum that I designed for other reasons. Maybe someone wants to write a book with KKK characters and wants to learn a little about them. Anonymous (the hacker group) deliberately friended many Blue Lives Matter supporters to gain entrance to KKK. The tradecraft they use to attempt to maintain secrecy is interesting:
a Klansman asks "AYAK" ("Are you a Klansman") and listens for the response "AKIA" (A Klansman I am)
More at the Wikipedia page on KKK terminology.
Needed: A support group of creative friends.
Likewise, whatever criticism takes place during our CA [Creatives Anonymous[ meetings is meant to strengthen the work and its creator. The most important element of these meetings would be the anonymity. Not anonymity for the individual, but for the works being shared with the group – being shared in a smaller circler with the knowledge that it won’t be shared with the outside world…not yet, anyway. Instead of building a platform and showing something off to the whole world at the click of a mouse, many of us need to rebuild a safe place where we can display our work to a small group of trusted colleagues, get feedback, and refine…or abandon as needed.
Yet another subject I am trying to shoehorn into my blog's genre: presentation skills and tips.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

TWIC: Best question, fan fiction, lessons from pixar, maps and handwriting

Discussing Fan Fiction. Below are three points I pasted out of order:
There is a lot of explicit content in many FanFic sites, which makes it something to consider when introducing young writers (like mine) to the prospects of fan fiction. So, yeah, don’t start fanfic in your classroom with a tour of some of these sites. Just saying
  • FanFiction sites are composed of significantly more readers (ie, lurkers) than writers, which makes a certain kind of sense, I guess, although one wishes that more people were writing (that’s the writing teacher in me talking). What kinds of hurdles are there for new writers? What kinds of entry points are there? Is there as welcome wagon?
  • Finally, FanFic sites are built under the radar, purposefully (except for Harry Potter worlds, which is supported by Rowling and her publisher). If teachers teach fanfic, do we suck the fun out of it and ruin the very thing that makes fan fiction so wonderfully unique and important to communities of young people? (FanFic is mostly the domain of teens and younger adults). I grapple with this question on many occasions (ie, video game design).
Free lessons from Pixar!
There are lessons on rendering, shading, crowds, virtual cameras, and many other topics, but the most accessible for people of all ages/interests is probably the lessons on The Art of Storytelling, which were just posted earlier this week.
Maps: From literature in general. Of the Iliad characters' homes. From the latter (my old eyes could barely make out the numbers so I redid them in black - follow the link for the larger original):
The art and commerce of Minecraft.

Since I just mentioned one of my son's favorite games, let me also give a shoutout to Roblox. My son was naughty with a gift card and the service people at Roblox were able to cancel his purchases and refund me a lot of money. I don't know much about the game but the service people were outstanding.
Thanks Banny, Brooke and Ashley.
How Louie C.K, tells a joke. I sometimes look at magician routines when considering how to teach a class; I don't have the time to rehearse every single class I give the way a magician or a stand up comedian does but I do like to work out some of the positioning and preparation. And when I teach similar material to several classes and will likely teach the same thing next year, I also like to think about this kind of planning.
Handwriting, fancy and not (both images have been shrunk. Follow links for full sized images):
Library script was used to fill out card catalogs and was deliberately spare and clear.

It made me wonder what 'copperplate' was because I had heard the term but never thought about examples of it.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Improving your imagination

My answers at Quora
I hope I am not breaking a Quora rule but I received these two questions within hours of each other. Wait, I can check ... 23 minutes and 1 hour ago. They are similar in a way that allows me to use one to introduce the other. I am going to post my combined answer to both locations.
All I want to know is how can I make my mental images clearer , more colourfull and more dimensional . In general I want to know how can I improve my cognitive ability of visualization.
I will highly appreciate sharing your own ideas and experiences about this topic .
Google definition: imagination
the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.
"she'd never been blessed with a vivid imagination"
synonyms: creative power, fancy, vision
the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful.
"technology gives workers the chance to use their imagination"
synonyms: creativity, imaginativeness, creativeness;
the part of the mind that imagines things.
"a girl who existed only in my imagination"
There are a few ways to increase your imagination. I don't know much about drugs but alcohol and some others do reduce your inhibitions so your mind wanders more freely. Hemingway famous said, "Write drunk, edit sober". He also killed himself so he is not a role model in all things.
Another is finding variety in life. This could be anything from walking through a new part of town, taking a new course or starting anew hobby. Read a book in a genre you don't normally read. Listen to a different genre of music.
The last one I am offering is to force a connection between random things. As an English as a Second Language instructor, I often randomly choose four words from vocabulary lists for the students to use in a story. Or I use Rory's Story dice. I also ask my son to name a sport, a thing in the kitchen and something from school then make a story using those three ingredients.
Rory’s Story dice:
I've been writing about writing, but you can do this in other fields, too. A biology researcher might consider how a mouse might view the ecosystem to gain new imaginative insights.
Now to increase the quality of your imagination. This is the tough one. It gets clearer in the details as the person wants better visualization.
I am going to take this a little sideways and look at relaxation techniques that I learned from sports psychologists that involved visualization. I was taught to do various relaxation routines for my muscles and then visualize a calming place. I wasn't merely to describe it, but to add as much detail as I could. I chose a gentle hillside, under a tree, in the spring, warm and with a fresh breeze. In the distance I could see church steeples, grass and farmland and, .... Well, you make your own.
I think the audio files for guided visualizations here will help:
This site describes them a little: Using the Power of the Relaxation Response to Reduce Stress and Boost Mood One important point is that not everyone can visualize things:
Galton gave people some very detailed surveys, and found that some people did have mental imagery and others didn't. The ones who did had simply assumed everyone did, and the ones who didn't had simply assumed everyone didn't, to the point of coming up with absurd justifications for why they were lying or misunderstanding the question.
It may be that a search like this one can help increase your visual creativity

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

TWIC: money, maps, plots, covers, forests

Songwriters need a lot of people listening to their music before they are paid as much as their carriers.
Spotify just posted their financials and Paul Resnikoff at Digital Music News was quick to point out that the average Spotify employee salary is $168, 747.
Best case scenario, if a songwriter retains all publishing rights to their song then a songwriter would need 288,104,634.15 spins to earn the reported average salary of a Spotify employee.
I've long been a fan of maps. Especially of fantasy lands but the work to make intelligible maps of real places is an artform as well.  The CIA has released several decades of their maps.
keeping track of characters and subplots in your novel. How do you do it?
Book cover design. Below is a snippet of their infographic on the subject.

8 fictional forests.
In Australia, First Nations people will tell you about ancient spirits dwelling in our forests whether tropical, temperate or dry. Proud Lebanese will tell you that their cedar forests were used for Solomon’s Temple and to build Noah’s ark. They may not know that those same cedar forests appeared in the Epic of Gilgamesh, circa 2100 BC. Those heroes fought off monsters and cut down the trees. In contrast, the characters of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion travel on treeships beyond the stars…
The surprising arithmetic of literature. Below is one of three charts and discussion on the charts.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Click Baitin': A game that changes the way you look at strategy!

In Clickbaitin', I look at click bait style titles and try to answer the question or guess what the link will offer. These answers and guesses are obviously parody - and fun to write. My stories are short as this is a sort of writing exercise and I do not intend to publish them commercially.

You'll never look at Tower Defence the same way again!

Another two villages attacked before dusk, thought Lord Harry, Earl of Mousehole. Twenty Viking ships sighted a mile offshore before visibility was lost. I have to agree with Camborne at council now.

He sighed, looking about his stone room. The stonework was rough and grey but the walls were thick and the furnishings warm enough that it didn't feel drafty. He enjoyed having casks of beer in the cellar.  That time was over. He probably wouldn't see this room again until it was cold. And God knew how cold it would have to be to convince the Vikings to stop. They might not be human.

It was spring in England and cold days were far off.  He called for his chief steward and when that worthy arrived he was sent to gather the men levied for the summer battles.

Harry dressed in surprisingly heavy clothes for the weather and went into another room where servants helped him with armour. He stopped them from collecting the heavy plate and instead went with lighter chainmail. Harry didn't care for swords and went instead for an ax and several spears and javelins.

His servants followed him carrying some of his gear as he went to the stables. Just as he had passed on the plate armour, he walked, not without regret, past his destrier and to his coursers. He prepared and mounted the horse he considered second in quality and his chief also prepared a horse and led remounts, including Harry's best, to be rode later.

Lord Harry and five other knights rode to meet Lord Camborne at Hayle with his war levy marching steadily behind. He would meet them again in Marazion.

That evening in Hayle, the tired group from Mousehole arrived. His aides prepared the tents while Lord Harry rode on to join the council.

Lords Camborne and Hayle were looking over the latter's ornate map while Ambros, his chief retainer quietly made suggestions. Harry listened as he approached.

"Hayle and Marazion", Harry smiled as his own reasoning was promoted, " are the key points for the west", Ambros said. "Also Gweek and Truro.  My Lord, your plan is sound but Camborne is not the best place to station troops."

Not appearing upset with being corrected, Lord Camborne saw Harry drawing near and said, "Repeat your reasoning for the towers and try to convince me that my troops should be far from my land."

Ambros looked as his own master, then waved his hand at the map, pointing to various coins.  Before Lord Mousehole, far from his retainers, leaned forward to study the locations, he twisted his back and looked carefully about.

The Vikings were the greatest danger for the people of Cornwall but that didn't mean they were the greatest danger for him personally. He hadn't had trouble with these men but he had with others who were coming. Ostentatiously, he adjusted his long-hafted ax and then signed that he was ready to listen.

"Our castles are invulnerable, if we are close enough to them and have time to gather our chattel and lock the gates", the slight man told him. Harry knew this, of course, and waited the man out.

"But if we are slow to get inside, or the Vikings approach in stealth, they can break in and slaughter us. We are safest if we stay close to our castles. But inside the castles, we cannot defend our land and the monsters burn our forests and crops and carry away all they can."

Harry frowned at this bald description of their weakness and Ambros went on, "Our castles are not close enough to support each other and we move slower than the ships do." He pointed at a coin near St Buryan. A tower here, tall and simple, would allow us to observe Vikings rounding Lands End and send enough troops to defend our lands if they land anywhere west of Penzance or Pendeen."

"A tower?" asked Harry.  "I don't particularly want another fortification next to mine."

Ambros smiled. "No. A wooden tower, as tall as we can build it. Tall but vulnerable. All we want it for is to see over the trees and across the water."

"I get it but you want towers for see the ships and groups of men, mobile and ready to race those ships from harbour to harbour. The problem I see is the Vikings will see our men marching along shore."

Ambrose smiled again but it was Camborne who asked, "You have a better idea?"

"I do", Harry spoke slowly, carefully. "Between Penzance and Marazion is an ocean-side road, easily observed by ships. But if we built a hedge right at the cliff's edge, our men could travel unobserved."

"And if it were at the cliffs edge, no one could travel on the other side of it to threaten their fellow Lords", Hayle said.

A hedge takes time but we can start it now, transplant local hedgerows and have a good one ready in a few weeks", Harry said, the idea coming together as he spoke.

That summer, Vikings destroyed five villages on the peninsula. That was seven fewer than in previous years. The Northerners also lost thirty ships and many men. By September, they were threatening other lands, easier ones.

The next Spring, Harry, Lord Mousehole, lead his levy along the hedge, on the inland side but at dawn, next to the hedge and in full shadow.  The guards at Marazion were completely unprepared when his forces rushed the open gate and Daffyd, Lord Marazion, lost the fine chargers he had stolen from Mousehole fourteen months previous.

Harry had built the hedge to be deliberately a few degrees out of alignment with Stonehenge. When the sun lined up exactly with the rows of capped stones, it gave meters of shade for an avenging force to take advantage of.

Towers don't have to be fortifications and hedges can hide movement from more than just ships. These ideas had changed the way he thought about strategy.

I have now opened a browser tab for a map of England and several for horse breeds, looking for appropriate ones for my story. This site tells me I want coursers not destriers.
And now Wikipedia pages on Viking and Anglo-saxon arms and on military service.

TWIC: home decoration vocab, bad writing, photo editing software, ventriloquism, mills, animation

All the best words! For describing furniture and home decoration. This image has been cropped so if you want the explanatory text, follow the link.

This might be my writing. What bad writing looks like.
Use of “The X” instead of Character Name: Here, Ron is described as “the teenager”. This sounds awkward because we’re in Harry’s viewpoint, and Harry presumably thinks of Ron as “Ron”. The author is trying to avoid repeating “Ron” too often – but character names are one of the few things you can and should repeat; don’t keep stretching for odd variations. I often see “the man” or “the woman” used in this way, and (assuming the viewpoint character knows the person’s name), it invariably feels clunky.
DxO photo editing software, two versions out of date, offered for free.
DxO Labs did the same thing in 2015, when they upgraded to the version 10, so they gave away free license codes for version 8. They are again two versions ahead the ones they’re giving away. Sure, version 11 is the latest one, but I suppose 9 could still do the trick. Also, it’s completely free, and if you haven’t used this software before, it could be a great opportunity to try it out. The version 11 costs €129 (around $139) for Essential and €199 (around $215) for Prime edition. So, the first time users could probably settle for the free 9 version, at least for a start.
There is a video of DxO version 9's features on Vimeo.

A working title for the second book in my steam punk trilogy -I must admit it is presumptuous for me to describe it this way as not one book has been completed - was 'The Secret Societies Society'. This Boingboing article about secret societies in books obviously interests me.
Also from Boingboing, an interesting article about ventriloquism. I like the way the images shift form the technical to the simple. The latter:
Perhaps this might not be so creative now, but 1000 years ago? Wow! 1000 year old windmills in Iran. Maybe it is just neat stuff, rather than conventionally creative but I like it and this is my blog!

The drawings needed to animate skipping. The first challenge is that every third step is omitted and 32 frames are needed to show one cycle.
Then you need to work in where the arms, shoulders and etc are in each motion.

Well, that's the challenge for people who are comfortable drawing even stick figures. I have a few other challenges to work through.