Half-a-year

Today is basically half a year of my posting every day. It’s… unbelievable. I wasn’t sure that I’d make it this long keeping up with daily posts. You get in a groove.

Admittedly, some days are harder than others. Some days I’ve found no time to write, heading from one gig to another. Some days I’ve been able to queue up a week’s worth of posts in one sitting.

One or two days, I just got it in under the wire.

This is a bit of a milestone for me, and thank you for taking any time to read this at all. It’s my practice and testing area; an avenue for thoughtfulness and experimentation; and a crucible of trying to come up with the right word for the right situation. But it’s been one-hundred eighty-three days, and damned if I’m not looking forward to the next six months.

And saying that, it’s basically my stay in Alaska. The next six months of posts will all be from Alaska.

Huh… How about that?

Writing is easy…

“Writing is easy. Just put a sheet of paper in the typewriter and start bleeding.”

– Thomas Wolfe

This quote has come up a few times, one a variation credited to Hemingway, others to authors I’ve not known before. But the quote has been rolling around in my head for days.

I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and I felt a very intimate sense of who she was, how she suffered, and what the journey meant. She bled, literally on the trail, and figuratively on the page. She exposed who she was.

It’s my intention to do the same, but in the writing, I always feel a bit of a filter in place. Not so much a mask of how I want people to see me, but more a guardedness about letting anyone become too intimately aware of my existence. Some sort of desire to remain among the transient awareness of reality.

It’s partially to blame for the vagabonding spirit I suppose. Anywhere I go, I can just as suddenly depart. While I’ve made many friends along the way, and good ones, any of them will say that I’m a shit-communicator when it comes to keeping in touch. Family likewise feels I stay distant, and I do.

I’m hopeful my summer will reveal more about me than I understand at this point. Cautiously optimistic, as anywhere you go, there you. But among the work requirements and the exploration, I’ll be sitting down at the computer and trying my best to bleed.

Here’s to whatever may come.

One of the lists

There are many things I’m interested in. A bunch of them come across here on the blog. The vast majority of them in fact.

In trying to sort through the stuff I’ve accumulated, and my finances vs. my debts, and my time management obligations, and my work and gig schedule, and everything else that I do or plan to do – mostly it ends up in my pocket Moleskine at some point.

So what am I interested in? My list is partially in response to this article on building your own personal library.

I recall having a conversation with someone who at the time was helping me through a very rough patch of life. I was looking at a book, Akashic Records for Dummies, and of course, I didn’t need it. But I told her I’d planned on leaving a library of books after me. When I died. She said that any meaningful library left behind probably wouldn’t have a collection of For Dummies books. She tended to say smart things like that.

So here are my interests, more or less, of topics which may or may not appear on the blog, and which are listed here in no particular order:

  • Travel
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy
  • Esoteric Studies
  • Work (How to work better, smarter, and for more money)
  • Finance & Investing
  • History
  • Japan, and to a lesser degree other Asian countries (focus on history, philosophy, language, and culture)
  • Art (Theatre, Visual Arts, Other Performing Arts)
  • Arts Management
  • Self-Help
  • Fiction (Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Action, Literary)
  • Writing Studies
  • Videography and Photography
  • Memoirs, Biographies, and Autobiographies
  • Mythology

In looking at this, I realized how broad it all seemed. There are so many facets that can fit into each topic; some that overlap topics. I write this out now as I work on honing in onto what this blog will look like – especially over the next six months while I’m in Alaska.

Anyway, I’ll keep posting. And maybe someone will read it. And that’s about all anyone can do.

What writing matters?

“Articles fade after a week; people keep books.”
– Adam Grant

There’s a rich history work that is available, on every conceivable topic, and in many different forms. But what is it about Plato that holds up so universally, whereas some authors who wrote merely fifty years ago are all but forgotten? Or why do some books stay in a personal library for life?

What writing is it that matters? Where do we go to drink from the well that never runs dry?

My favorite authors include Seth Godin, Neil Gaiman, and recently John McPhee, Alan Watts, and Mark Adams. I struggled through Kerouac’s On the Road, but I greatly enjoy reading his poetry.

And of course, there are others. And I’ll keep buying books, reading what I can, and scribbling along on here and in my notebooks as I do. Will this writing matter in 100 years? Honestly, no. But someone’s writing will, and that means something.

Defend your schedule

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.”

— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

We all have a list of things that we want to accomplish. And probably a bigger list of things that require our attention. And, if we’re honest, an even longer list of items that others need from us.

When we make time, we take time from other items that could be consuming our attention. The economic principle of opportunity costs. What we are giving up.

Remember: The most successful people are generally those who eliminate the unnecessary from their lives.

How to decide what’s important

I’ve been asked many times, in many different ways, when will I find what I’m looking for? I’m asked this because I’ve jumped from job to job, picking up gigs along the way. I’ve traveled overseas and down south. I’ve acquired a couple of degrees (along with some debt), and I’m still looking at getting my Ph.D.

I have a half-dozen or so irons in the fire, so to speak. There’s a radio program I put together; some film & video work I still do; this blog; three gigs right now, which I’ll have reduced to one for the summer; and a couple of creative projects in the pipeline.

And I know it’s too much.

In one of the Weekly Roundups, I mentioned this blog post on working Smarter, Not Harder. I’ve taken some of the advice I gleaned from the posting, including trying to flesh out my goals. These are have proven enormously elusive to me, at least over the past four years.

I’ve seen what can happen when you have a singular focus and move methodically towards the goal. I’ve experienced it, and I know it works. Only when it happened, it wasn’t how I’d imagined it, and I now select goals with a bit more reluctance.

So as I take my time to list out my goals, for the short-term and the long-term, I think it’s important to (as I often say) be mindful and honest about what it is you’re searching for – what it is you want in life.

Once that’s done, the next step will be pulling the top three to focus on, which may yet be more of a challenge.

Wasted time

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.

Why I post daily

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.

We work, then we ship

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:

6a00d83451b31569e2017ee8407661970d-500wi.jpgOriginal 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.

Love the art in yourself

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.