After looking at Vonnegut’s rules for writing fiction more closely in my last post, I thought I’d take the first one to consider today.
Information used to be difficult to come by. Before written languages, oral tradition was the only way to communicate ideas and stories. Written forms of communication allowed for external storage of ideas, and facilitated the dissemination of those ideas,
Now we live in a world where instantaneous transmission of ideas is common. What I wonder is whether there are ideas that aren’t worth sharing. That “waste people’s time”, so to speak.
Vonnegut, I believe, was saying that a writer should choose words carefully and craft a satisfactory story. Not so much worry about wasting time as just being expeditious in the writing.
But as to stories or writing wasting time, I doubt that you can waste someone else’s time by putting your ideas out there, provided that they are original ideas. It’s an extension of communication, and your audience will find you.
Or they won’t. Maybe no one reads what you’ve put out there. And no one’s time is wasted. But you’ve put it out there.
Consider Van Gogh, who for his entire life lived in poverty and relative obscurity, as well as some notable infamy. Had he felt that his paintings were a waste of time for others to see, he might have given painting altogether.
We just don’t know how our work will be received, and we can’t self-impose our own limitations. Doing so would be wasting our time.
This was an easy decision to make, but slightly more challenging to put into practice. Some days I easily write four or five posts to queue up. Other days it’s challenging to put a sentence down.
The prompt was Seth Godin’s interview with Tim Ferris on The Tim Ferriss Show (ep. 138). “The first thing I would say is everyone should blog, even if it’s not under their own name, every single day. If you are in public making predictions and noticing things, your life gets better. Because you will find a discipline that can’t help but benefit you. If you want to do it in a diary, that’s fine. But the problem with diaries is because they’re private, you can start hiding. In public, in this blog, there it is. Six weeks ago you said this; 12 weeks ago you said that. Are you able, every day, to say one thing that’s new that you’re willing to stand behind? I think that’s just a huge, wonderful practice.”
I like looking at the world – its working philosophies; the creative industries; environmental concerns and conservation efforts; books and publishing; and many other things that come into my attention. If I’m lucky, I have an original thought about them.
At the very least I have something to say about what’s happening, or maybe I just to shine a light on it.
And the world needs perspectives – of all shades – to be shared.
The week that passed was a long one, I’m not going to lie. There was a fourteen-hour car ride to Florida, and that was a bit exhausting. Everything before that wasn’t as restful as I would have liked either. Nonetheless, hear are some things that I spent some time with this week.
What I’m reading: Tip of the Iceberg by Mark Adams. Just cozying up to this book as the weather is getting cold. Thinking about this past summer in Alaska, and what the future may hold.
What I’m listening to: Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9. Also known as the New World Symphony, this makes me feel like it’s Thanksgiving. I enjoy this recording from the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra.
What I’m spending time on: Dog training.
My 60 lb. boxer is nearly seven years old, partially blind and deaf from an invitro stroke, and ultra-hyper. Breaking him of some bad habits will take a good deal of time, but I’m certain that he and I are up to the challenge.
Other things of interest:
- Knives Out, written and directed by Rian Johnson. Wow, I loved this movie. I thought it was well-written, well-directed, and well-acted. With names like Jamie Lee Curtis, Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, and Christopher Plummer, it was an excellent ensemble movie. The premise – wealthy suspense novelist dead by apparent suicide following birthday party with suspicious family members – may seem trope, but it leaves you guessing until the end.
- Where to buy books online from a website that isn’t Amazon. From Anya Zhukova, here are seven recommendations that include B&N and BAM. I also like AbeBooks and Easton Press for more obscure or special edition volumes. And I go to eBay as well. As I was linking Tip of the Iceberg, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to recommend Amazon for every book I like. So I went with GoodReads, though it is owned by Amazon. Its positives include that it links to retailers other than Amazon, and is enhanced by its users and readers.
- Why can’t every workweek be four days? I mean, seriously?
- Nat Geo story on the death of the male white rhino, and the species’ coming extinction… An extinction brought about by man’s overhunting of the animal.
“Watching a creature die—one who is the last of its kind—is something I hope never to experience again. It felt like watching our own demise.” – Ami Vitale
This blog is shipping. It’s a continuous reminder to me to get the work done. I’m at a point where I can now write every morning. I write here, and I write in my other media (at this time a novel, which I started during NaNoWriMo, but which has been a holdover).
Work completed isn’t much until we get it out. Really, it isn’t completed until you put it out. And it’s scary to put it out. There are times when I’d rather not see the finished product.
I do some work in improvisational acting, and that’s instantaneous shipping. That’s getting up, creating a scene (doing the work) and performing it in front of an audience (shipping), all in one moment. Terrifying!
But doing that, it’s helping me here. It’s helping me everywhere. Because in improv, as in any other work, it’s okay to fail. Maybe one project lands flat. Flatter than flat. Just put it in the dungheap and move on.
Seth Godin has a graph of shipping that looks like this:
Original post here.
This is specifically for the publication of a book. But it applies to any artistic medium. The Y-axis is the joy you feel for the project, and the X-axis shows time passing with each milestone. I think data point 6 is even lower than what’s shown because fear can take hold. That resistance.
But it’s so important to ship. To accept that fear. That fear is a gift. It’s your body telling you that what you’re doing may very well be important. So don’t stop now. Accept the gift, and get your idea out there.
Let’s say you are stuck. You’ve found yourself in a rut that you can’t seem to get out of. Maybe it’s work; maybe it’s a relationship; maybe it’s everything. What do you do?
Like all good programs, the first step is admitting the problem. And you’ve done that now. You have a problem – it’s a rut.
The next step gets harder. Part of solving it is being mindful throughout your day.
The other part is taking an honest inventory of your life. Notice where your attention is pulled. Do you have trouble performing certain tasks as opposed to others? What are you phoning in? What doesn’t really interest you?
If you say it’s your entire job, then maybe it’s time to find something else. But most people tend to enjoy certain aspects of their work, if not the entire situation. Find ways to rekindle that interest.
The same can be true of relationships. Some of the interactions may not be working, but there are probably parts that you still really enjoy. Be honest with yourself.
When we get in a rut, we can put blinders on. We try to ignore where the problem actually is, and focus on the fact that we’re just not feeling particularly happy with our situation. But we have to be honest.
Take a good, hard look. And then evaluate.
I’ve spent the last week with the words of playwrights, actors, poets, philosophers, and directors. An eclectic mix, to say the least. What I’ve gathered in my journey is a collection of thoughts on acting, theatre, and art.
Constantin Stanislavski said to love the art in yourself, not your self in the art. For me, I think he’s warning against getting too big for your breeches. And that can happen anywhere, in any occupation.
When you get to feeling like you’re the best thing since sliced bread, even if you happen to be the best thing since sliced bread, something is wrong. Humility goes a long way in keeping you working. In keeping you producing. It’s when you start to lost that humility that you think anything you do is above reproach.
As the Chinese proverb says, the higher up, the greater the fall.
It’s easy to be distracted. To fall off the bandwagon. Because pursuit is hard work.
It’s hard to maintain laser focus. To devote precious time to a specific activity.
We can’t be sure it’ll pan out. Sometimes we jump ship before reaching the goal, just because it’s difficult.
But imagine what finishing would look like. That’s what successful people do. They see it through to fruition.
Yes, sometimes they too will fail. Hard. Public, epic fails that make everyone cringe.
But not completing the pursuit is the only sure way to not succeed. Yes, you may not fail. You just won’t be…
In fact, the true successes are those who have doggedly pursued their interest in spite of failure.
You do what you do until you can’t do it anymore, and then you do something else.
It’s that simple. I’ve switched jobs often over the past few years, and am considering doing it again. Because it’s all about doing that which you can do, until you can’t.
Took a few extra days (false start) after my trip. There was a lot going on, and some things I’ve been thinking about.
For instance, why posting every day is a silly strategy. Now I’m not necessarily using this blog to drive traffic or strum up business, but the thought did occur to me – what am I writing for?
The answer I came up with is I write because I have to. So if no one reads it, or doesn’t follow the latest post, it’s not really a big deal. When I started writing, it was about being accountable. Going to the daily (until the Alaska trip) postings, that was about accountability and productivity.
Getting back into the swing of being productive hasn’t been easy. I realize that everything I say in defense of not writing daily becomes just an excuse. That I could find time to sit and post. I could make time.
The truth is, though, sometimes you need to step back. It’s impossible to just keep moving along, everyday. In The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Always do your best… Your best is going to change from moment to moment, it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self judgment, self- abuse, and regret.”
So I can start each morning stating I will do my best.
I can end each night asking Have I done my best?
And that’s all anyone can ever really do.
It’s exhausting to be constantly “on”. In extreme cases, I can think of comedians who privately battle depression, but while in public maintain their irreverent persona to the joy of others.
It can be similar in business affairs, in keeping up with the Jones’s, or even in maintaining a functioning household. If there’s no time for full relaxation or decompression, then you’re just “on”, and eventually you’ll burn out.