Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TWIC: catching up, starlings, reviews, habits, 3rd person, words to use more,

I am behind in my Nanowrimo count. It is Friday the 25th here and I am 210 words behind. Today, I should do the standard 1,667 words plus 210. This isn't so bad. I was a full day behind going into Thursday and typed 2,700 words on that day to nearly catch up. Still, in the years previous, I was a day or two ahead at this point.
Now it is the morning of the Nov 29. I am 1000 words ahead and at this late point I don't expect to lose that lead.
Now it is the morning of Nov 30. I have 900 words to go. Expect a Nano recap in the next few days.
I don't know what  this has to do with creativity but it is a magical event that leaves me in awe:

Also not entirely within the domain of creativity, Google's AI translation tool is figuring things out on its own.

Amazon is now cracking down on 'incentivized reviews'.
Incentivized reviews are those where the vendor offers free or discounted products to reviewers, in exchange for recipients writing their “honest opinion” of the item in an Amazon review. However, data has shown that these reviewers tend to write more positive reviews overall, with products earning an average of 4.74 stars out of five, compared with an average rating of 4.36 for non-incentivized reviews.
Over time, these reviews proliferated on Amazon, and damaged consumers’ trust in the review system as a whole. And that can impact consumers’ purchase decisions.
Habits of  productive people.
An interesting pair up: Productive people don't overtalk their projects but they are passionate about their projects.

There points that were of interest to me: The know how to finish a draft, They work on more than one thing at once, and They leave off at a point where it will be easy to start again.
Writing in various forms of third person:

The link goes here, where there is a good discussion of the subject. I don't embed tweets often so I am not sure if there is an image above. Whether there is or not, the image is too small for my eyes.
Here is a piece of the image at full size (or click for full size):
I can only read the titles. Ah, nearly halfway down a long scroll is the full size set of image that i can read.
(This has been stream-of-consciousness blogging by S. Aplenty).
A Facebook post on the subject led to this search. The image I saw on Facebook came from here.
Here are cropped images from the Facebook post and from another that looked interesting in my search.

Again, both images have been cropped. I want to be a good internet citizen and I hope that I show enough for visitors to decide if they want to click through to see the rest. Also copyright...mumble, mumble...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

TWIC: Chopsticks, slow week

I start this roundup soon after the previous one gets posted. When I start it, I set the schedule the publishing day and time. This iteration, I found an interesting story -Korea and woodcarving - and prepared the post. Then nothing and I just checked - this post goes live tomorrow.  I guess it is an unusually short one.
I continue to get by with Nano. Last night, I was a hundred words ahead and I remain on schedule today. But last year, I was ahead by a day or two by this point. It will be down to the wire, I guess.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

TWIC:firewood, rpgs, shenzhen, Nano

Stacking firewood. At home in Canada, I had to mow the lawn. As a young adult, I put some effort into playing with how I did so. One thing I did was go to the two tree in the front yard and cut around them in steadily expanding circles. The direction of the cutting or the impression of the wheels lasted for a while so I made the lawn into a sort of artwork. I've always enjoyed chopping firewood; now I want to stack it, too.
World design in RPGs requires careful thought and planning. Gord Sellar demonstrates.
This article on Shenzhen only touches the surface of how and why that Chinese city is a hub of innovation. I don't consider myself an electronics or business creative, but I do find such people and places interesting.
Hopkins in Westworld: Via Kottke.

The disciplined imagination of futurists. I recently taught a high school class the usages of various future tense forms. I pointed out that the Surprises Aplenty of 2000 probably thought he would use big, clunky cameras and use expensive film forever. He definitely thought he'd live in Canada by now. I then asked the students to imagine 2026. I gave examples and some were mundane. I would own a house. I would have published a few books... I also wrote "I will record my dreams in HD". The students then tried their hands at logic and prediction.  I put more time into my planning for the class than they did in responding and this was only a short exercise so the most Sci-Fi response was 'visit the Moon'.
Anyway, Sci-Am has an article about futurists and their imagination.
Futurists are trained to imagine distant realities that to others seem implausible, or even impossible, today: technologies that don’t exist yet, dramatic changes to social norms or laws, detailed scenarios such as the strange pandemic most likely to infect us in the year 2031, or new forms of government that may unfold when space colonization becomes commonplace. Even if such possible futures can be interesting to consider, most lay people view them as little more than an intellectual curiosity. What is the practical purpose in contemplating a world thousands of tomorrows away, a world that may never actually come to pass, when there are so many pressing concerns right now?
At the link is a 50 minute video where the futurists discuss such issues. After NanoWrimo, I will watch it (ah, planning for the future).
Speaking of NaNoWriMo. I am one full day behind in my word count but should be able to catchup today (Nov 12). I want to get ahead, but we will see. LATER on Nov 12: I am now caught up.  I have been writing chronologically but had hit a slow spot. I jumped all the way to the end and am now working on the big set piece battle.

Two things that alwasy happen during Nano are:
I always get entangled with the numbers and am busy writing down the number of words I've written, doing the subtraction to see what the most recent period had produced and sometimes it really takes away from the story. This time, it drove to stop nickel-and-diming my sentences and move to a part of the story I am excited about.

I also find myself needing to know a lot of minor details.  Let's see, there are the six tabs of this Nanowrimo entry plus one from the previous year, thee or four map taps and Wikipedia tabs for kings or emporers of England, Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. Also details on Chinese and Korean royalty and nobility. Two tabs about the Vatican, several on subjects relating to the Silk Road. Oh, and a calendar for the year 1831. I had recently closed tabs on names for Russian warships circa 1830 and Astrakhan, a Russian city between major Silk Road cities and Italy.
November 13: that strategy of jumping to a more interesting part is really working. I did my minimum and added a hundred words to the bank and I expect no difficulty in doing the same tomorrow.
I opened a new window to find some good Italian names. My story has characters from all over Europe and the Commonwealth, plus Eastern and western China and Burma (I don't think that is a Commonwealth country). If my story is any good, it will be described as an incredible display of ambition to fit so many divers elements into a rookie novel. More likely such reviews will detail the problems with such ambition.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

TWIC: keeping up, saving time, resting, rowling, banning, cycling, plotting, changing, burning

I fell behind in my Nanowrimo word count but today typed nearly three thousand words and am keeping up. In one hour, a new day begins and I need another sixteen hundred, sixty-seven words but for this hour, I am caught up! (written Nov 3)
As of November 6 evening, I was on track, with 10,020 words, twenty more than needed. I am struggling with this story. My word choices are just fillers right now; there are so many times where I think, "I know there's a better word. T--, th---, tr---, ar... Okay, later."
To cheer me up, here is some terrible writing by great writers.
Nov 8: I'm having a tough time working through the story and events my heroes are experiencing. The story for the bad guy is just pouring out my fingers. He is steadily becoming more interesting. And I feel bad for beating the hell out of him. Word count-wise, still on track as of mid-November 8.
time saving tips from a guy who spent thirteen years drawing a comic. Video. I hope to watch it but needed to record the URL here before I shut down the computer. The audio volume icon is missing from the task bar and I am hoping that restarting the computer will make it reappear.
Anyway, the video looks interesting.
A rested brain is more creative. An excerpt:
How have you come to define rest, and what are some of the biggest misconceptions about it?
What I mean by rest is engaging in restorative activity. It's not necessarily completely passive for one thing. We tend to think of rest as putting your feet up, and you've got the margarita and you're binge watching Orange Is the New Black. For people in my study, their idea of rest was more vigorous than our idea of exercise. These are people who go on long walks covering 15 or 20 miles in a day or climb mountains on vacation. For them, restful activities were often vigorous and mentally engaging, but they experienced them as restorative because they offered a complete break from their normal working lives.
What it was really like to write Harry Potter The excerpt contains a quote from Rowling, that I put in italics.
Even though Harry Potter strolled into Rowling’s head fully formed, she still spent several years mapping out the seven books, and then she spent another year writing the first one, Harry Potter and Sorcerer’s Stone. Rowling rewrote Chapter One so many times (upwards of fifteen discarded drafts) that her first attempts “bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book”—which was especially frustrating since Rowling was a single parent and her writing time was entirely contingent on her infant daughter, Jessica.
Whenever Jessica fell asleep in her [stroller], I would dash to the nearest café and write like mad. I wrote nearly every evening. Then I had to type the whole thing out myself. Sometimes I actually hated the book, even while I loved it.
Rowling also had to waste her already limited time on nuisances like re-typing an entire chapter because she changed a paragraph or, even worse, re-typing the entire manuscript because she hadn’t double-spaced it. 
There is more. Rowling had a lot of stress. Maybe the sort of stress that earning a million dollars deserves but still is not pleasant.
The value of challenged books.
...as the comments from readers demonstrate, these books help them negotiate the transition from childhood to adulthood, by introducing them to fictional characters dealing realistically with the complex and confusing world that young people confront. Some themes emerged from the responses:
● This book made me more empathetic, tolerant, and accepting, of myself and others. It helped me relate better to others and talk to them about things we never would have discussed otherwise.
● This book made me realize that I’m not the only one with problems; it helped me feel more normal and less alone.
Using a bike-desk at 30% Vmax improves or maintains efficiency. I have long been interested in a treadmill desk and discussed the subject with a coworker. He didn't feel he could type well enough to be worth it while running. I had suggested that the goal wasn't top speed running but simply to get more exercise than sitting. These results, on a bike desk, rather than treadmill, make it all seem reasonable. Too bad a good treadmill for this usage runs around $1500.

In the first minute of this Tales of the Unexpected episode, Roald Dahl describes the effort it took him to get it right.
The original story is quite short. But I am such a ridiculously slow writer it took me something like five months to get the thing finished which is more than 600 working hours. That probably sounds quite silly to you.
But in trying to work the plot out properly I took so many wrong turning and went up so many blind alleys that I nearly went crazy. Don't forget a short story writer is working in miniature and he can't afford to splash his paint all across the canvas. He has to be extremely precise. I find it quite difficult.
Indeed. This is one of my favorite stories by Dahl and it clearly had to be carefully plotted. I do think there is more humour in the written story
The project post-mortem as a (poor) mechanism for change and improvement.
A lot of effort has gone into detailing the processes for an optimal post-mortem. These outlines all tend to look the same. A typical workflow might entail a project and team survey followed by a team debrief that leads to actionable next steps for "next time." But the idea of the post-mortem is challenged by our cultural tendencies: It's not that we don't want to be better, but rather we don't think we need to be better--as a group, that is. As much as we may tout collaborative work and team relationships, we're primed for individual success.
It may be more useful to invite the team to critically evaluate the project before it begins and then assess these flags throughout the project. This exercise needs to go a step more than identifying risks to the project that get documented as assumptions in a statement of work, but should talk about why the project might fail within the organization--and open the door to all possibilities.
The article may include insights but seems to devolve into case studies that show one technique worked (or didn't) once but offers little statistically significant data.
Frank Herbert on writing
It comes as a shock to many in our print-oriented civilization to be told that language, the basic tool of the writer, is more oral than written. Contemplate those thousands of years of oral tradition before we ever ventured to carve symbols in clay and stone. We are most profoundly conditioned to language-as-speech. The written word is a latecomer.
Before you will believe the reality of a story, someone must stand up on that printed page and speak. His words must have the characteristics of speech. They must reach your ears through your eyes. Under the onslaught of non-print media (TV, film, radio, cassette players…) this is becoming ever more necessary. The oral tradition has never really been subjugated.
Man, certain dead people sure do publish a lot of books!
Sam Sykes on creative burnout and frustration. He went into detail, over the course of  16 posts. I enjoy his insights and don't want to offer too much here; go follow him. However, here are six of his tweets on the subject. Note that they are threaded chronologically with the newest on top.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Too much mystery or not enough?

...and other musings.
Below are excerpts from my Goodreads reviews of two books and a review of another that is more inside-baseball than I would prefer to post there.
Castleview by Gene Wolfe
This story reminds me of Castle Perilous where so much of the exciting stuff happened off-screen (or off-page). I found the style of switching POV with a cliffhanger every stinking time to get annoying pretty quickly.
The cover tells you it is an Arthurian epic set in Illinois but that is only mostly spelled out in the final chapter.
I think this story is supposed to be experienced as a dream or an LSD trip (as one character remarks), where things happen with no explanation, people change and random people appear and disappear often.
If you choose to read it, do so in as short a time as possible as there are a lot of characters and the POV changes frequently. It actually reminds me of my own Nanowrimo attempts in that there are too many incomplete ideas and what would only appear to the author, who has researched the subject specifically, to be an appropriate amount of mystery.

The library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
The one technical aspect of Hawkins' writing I was most impressed with was his control of mysteries. We start with the hero walking along the road covered in blood so we start with a lot that is unexplained. As a question is answered, another one appears. The book never crossed my frustration point but remained close to that level throughout. I had enough questions but not nearly so many I discarded the book in exhaustion.

The Furies of Calderon 
This story goes at a breakneck pace. I kept expecting the groups to reunite but they never did, no matter how close they occasionally came. I also expected Tavi to gain some enormous power but he never did. Clearly, he didn't follow any set trope.
One trope he did follow was the use of a magical device that controlled a person.  There are many stories with such a device and my own half-written novel contains one, too. The use of such a device takes a story into the Horror genre and it didn't fit my own desires for fantasy. In his story, it wasn't wrong but in my own story, the use of such a device upset me so much that I had my character released from it pretty quickly. Butcher, too, soon has his character escape from the effects of the device.
What does it say about me that I could imagine myself using it as a tool to control bit players or NPCs in the story? Don't use it on my favorites but on the extras, that's okay.
At the time I introduced the device, I was making the story up as I went along. The consequences of the device was as unknown to me as to the eventual reader and I didn't like it.
I have already begun to read the second book in Butcher's series. The first was thrilling but I am not sure I would read another book in the series except that my Kindle died and I don't have a lot of variety in my reading choices right now.
The second book starts with Tavi being again threatened by a bully. He is now at a school and I am as interested in reading how Butcher uses or avoids 'magic school' themes as I am in the story as a whole.
A lot of the issues I brought up here will be important when I work on the second draft of my stories. For the first draft, it is enough that I get the ideas down. Then I can work out how to share those ideas with the reader. My steampunk story is more like Butcher's Furies than the other two in that it describes a chase and battle scenes rather than mysteries to be solved. There is at least one of the latter and I like it but I don't feel the whole arrangement of the books is like that.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

informal survey of creativity

A few ESL instructors in South Korea (or mostly in SK) responded to a request to fill out a survey to share their opinions on creativity and students.  I was one of the respondents. The survey was done on Survey Monkey and respondents were found via Facebook so I offer no confidence that the results represent the opinions of any group larger than the 17 who were involved. Still, there may be something of interest. Here is my paraphrasing of the results

6% (1 in 17) thought that creativity cannot be taught. The rest thought "yes" or "maybe"
75% feel it is not related to discipline problems. Some thought it improves discipline. (creative teachers? creative students? Activities to encourage creativity?)
80+% feel creativity is important for the student's future.
90+%  feel it is important for humanity
90% feel the products of creativity are not always good or novel (I don't know something can be creative but not novel)
90% feel that outside forces can inhibit creativity - The person administering the survey was surprised by this result but,true or not, this is the standard position of ESL instructors in South Korea who see students crushed and shaped into multiple-choice-test taking machines.
1700 words for Nanowrimo yesterday. Now I should get off this blog and add to my story.

TWIC: the problem with happiness, fads, quora, 100 blocks,

From Quartz comes news of the value, or lack, of happiness in creative ventures:
Mark Davis, a psychologist at the University of North Texas Department of Management divides creativity into two phases; initial idea generation and subsequent problem-solving. His review of research onfeelings and creativity concluded that a positive mood is useful when first brainstorming, processing information, and coming up with as many ideas as possible—you don’t want to bring judgment into that, because it could stifle idea generation.

But rigor is the key to overcoming obstacles and completing tasks—andgood mood doesn’t improve problem-solving, which involves judgments that almost by necessity won’t feel good: critique and evaluation, experimentation and failure. The stress that arises from problems may be unpleasant but it also motivates us to complete tasks, Davis says. In other words, negative emotions are actually beneficial to the creative process.
That said, psychologists aren’t suggesting that you live in an emotional maelstrom for creativity’s sake. Emma Seppala, Science Director at the Stanford University Center for Compassion and Altruism and author ofThe Happiness Track explains, “High-intensity positive emotions can sometimes be just as taxing as high negative emotions. Creativity does not so much happen when we are stressed and highly emotional.”
Science Fiction comics are fad, says 1940 science fiction author.
Own your work and get paid for it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the economics of writing online. Making a comfortable living only by writing is tough and very few independents are able to do it. More successful are those who are able to get away from writing online by speaking at conferences, writing books, starting podcasts, selling merchandise...
On Quora, How Does Creativity Work? Only one answer so far, but it's a doozy.

Also on Quora,
people who are making a living with creativity. I definitely enjoyed the Geologic Podcast a few years ago but haven't listened to it for a while. One answer makes no sense to me, discussing using Amazon FBA as if it were a product in itself.
The best jobs for creativity (an excerpt):
There are various forms of these jobs
1 A job that has short hours and leaves you free most of the day
such as a barista
2 Part-time jobs that are done for two or three days a week, but make enough for you to live on. These are commonly called ‘Casual jobs’ and mean you live week-by-week
3 Seasonal jobs that are done for several weeks but allow you to earn enough live for several weeks on your earnings. Often done by students
How do writers research their books?
The respondents range from a ghost writer to a researcher to a fiction author so there is a good variety.
How Do I Write a Good Essay that I'm Not Interested In? This question seems to seek that core of creativity and the ability to fake sincerity.
To work on your productivity, look at the day as 100 ten  minute blocks.  One thousand minutes is sixteen hours, forty minutes so that is a full day. How much time will you spend playing online solitaire? Adding content to your blog? Travel each day? I am writing this in October but it will publish either Oct 31 or Nov 1, so how many minutes should I devote to Nanowrimo each day?

Maybe there's hope for me. Go from 'I can't draw' to "Art for sale'.