So many projects 2016
Living in one place for many years allows unfinished projects to proliferate. Every time you move, there's a chance that something gets completed or discarded, but otherwise they often linger on, awaiting that extra time to work on them which seems perpetually just around the corner.
I've been in my current home for over nine years. And I've been in my virtual homes for longer: thirteen years of hosting on Typepad for this blog and somewhere around as long for Apple laptops which permit me to easily migrate all my files to new machines when I upgrade.
My intention is to carry on longer still in this apartment and operating system (blog hosting is t.b.d.), so it's necessary to routinely evaluate what's built up around the place. That's where Discardia comes in.
I practice Discardia not only during it's four appearances a year, but also on a daily basis. Through repetition I've made it a routine habit to question why things are present in my home and workspace. Often the answer is appreciation, but sometimes it's frustration or disinterest. The latter two become upgrade projects or get discarded (to charity, trash, etc.) And, yes, sometimes the upgrade projects do linger too, but thanks to online ordering and other services (and, checking my privilege, the budget to take advantage of them) it has gotten a lot easier to solve a problem when it presents itself rather than just adding it to a to-do list.
Omnifocus is my tool for tracking all my projects (and complex habits like periodic big picture reviews of my life priorities). As with the physical items in my home and the files on my computer desktop, the projects and tasks I have created in Omnifocus are subject to the same questioning: "Why do I have this? What is it bringing to my life? Is it helping me be who I want to be?" and the same steady adjustment or pruning.
Some people find it overwhelming to have a lot of projects, but by being very clear with myself over which projects are active now and which are not, I avoid beating myself up over not doing it all. Time and energy are finite, and self-care is necessary if you're going to achieve things in the long haul, so I keep short the list of what needs action today. Scratching off the last thing on that list opens up the opportunity to respond to the moment and my mood—and not infrequently that relaxed next action turns out to cross off something on one of those inactive lists.
So what's active for me today?
Well, it's the start of the work week (since we were traveling yesterday) and that means laundry. Since we talked our landlord into putting a washer/dryer into our house, laundry days have become fairly pleasant. That rhythm of moving the loads along keeps me moving on the rest of my list as I can play the game of trying to finish things before the next buzzer. Even the time consuming part of folding laundry has been upgraded to a treat as that's when I watch fun stuff on my iPad. (Thanks again to my best friend Lance for cluing me in to the Acorn TV app and their collection of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries!)
I've got a writing client now, so most of those between-load work sessions and much longer stretches over the days to come will be spent researching and writing about the history of specific cocktails. Look forward to an announcement later in the week about this project.
The ongoing work of handling my late father's estate continues. Mercifully matters relating to the house are now in the hands of my realtor and her fix-up crew, so I'm no longer schlepping over to the east bay to clean. The focus now is a combination of bureaucracy—most of those hurdles already cleared—and sorting through the last 10 boxes of papers and memorabilia. I'm hopeful that by the end of the month our house will return to a less cluttered state. The chaos has already been reined in to just the room where my home office is located; soon I won't have banker's boxes looming on either side.
As the estate project comes under control, I'm catching up on everything that was dropped during Pop's medical crisis and my handling of his home when he went into the hospital and after he died. Bit by bit, I'm clearing messes, tackling minor to-do's, and consolidating project support items.
Alongside all this is the background hum of life: processing bills and statements, maintaining our home and small container garden, handling our publishing business Sanders & Gratz, prepping for the next D&D session I'll be gamemastering, and chipping away at my long-term projects (many of which involve bringing bits of my online creativity and other memorabilia into this blog at their appropriate past dates).
If time permits, I've got other writing I want to do: first, an election slate for this very important election, and, ongoing, more work on Bibulo.us and on my history book about servants in Elizabethan England.
The sort of ideas that come to me at 1am: a deeply detailed, historical, world census 2014
Drifting to sleep, maybe asleep and resurfacing to wakefulness my mind was flitting around from idea to idea, from memory to memory. What I remember and was left fully awake with was two things: Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now' stuck in my head and the notion that it ought to be possible to create a deeply detailed census of the entire world population at a point in the past, provided that point was recent enough to be reached by many genealogists, but not so recent that the world population was in the billions.
Now, the more recent a point, the more accurate the data and the greater the likelihood of living descendents, but also, the more daunting the project (due to the number of individuals described) and thus the less likely of enticing participants to join in the grand adventure.
As interested as I am personally in the year 1600, I know from my own genealogical and historical research that it is distant enough to be problematic. Jumping forward to 1750 would give an estimated world population of 700-825 million people. Or, by other estimates, of 629-961 million. That's a lot, but not an insane number of nodes. For example, using the former range, it's about the number of articles in Wikipedia in Chinese or in Portuguese.
1750 has also got the inspirational benefit of a big anniversary coming up within the probable lifetime of the participants or their children—300 years in 2050.
So, how to begin?
Infrastructure is vital. It must be incredibly robust and flexible. It must have profound internationalization support. It must allow for advancement and diversification separately of its data storage, software interfaces, and human interfaces.
Data will come in in many forms and must be clearly associated with its source, so that later conflicts on details can be weighed based on their respective supporting data.
Detail will vary wildly from broad guesses of total population in a country to general counts of categories of individuals (e.g., heads of household, taxpayers, members of the military) to detailed nodes about a specific person (both the famous and the genealogically derived).
Eventually, participants will no doubt be interested in assessing the relationships between individual nodes, thus it would be helpful to be able to retain data details (e.g., membership of an individual in a particular tracked category such as "the 12th regiment of Lord So-and-So's light horse", or "household at 123 Elm St, Anytown, New York, USA", or "inventory of the slave ship blah-de-blah", or "signatories of proclamation X".)
Such detail nodes will, of necessity, be much greater in number than the number of individuals alive because merger of them as applying to the same individual will be a more gradual and difficult process. This is a vital factor in infrastructure design.
It's used by some sources as a baseline year for the end of the pre-industrial era; rather nice as a stake in the ground for pushing back our knowledge of individual human participation.
The population of North America is only about 2 million, thus forcing U.S. participants to think about the world outside their borders (which I think is always a good thing). It also makes an enticing early goal for "near complete description", which is the best I'd expect we can hope for in any region.
Sweden begin taking a census in 1749, one of the very few countries doing so in the mid-18th century, and is thus a logical target for another "near complete description" goal. Conveniently, it's also a good country for online project participation with its highly tech-savvy population. The 1750 estimated populations of Sweden (which I'm presuming refers to its territory then, not its smaller borders now) 1.7 million or 1.78 million. (Pleasantly for me, it's also where I am pretty certain I have personal genealogical data for 1750. Been a while since I was working on my paternal grandmother's line, but I recall it going back that far and farther thanks to the good data there.)
Iceland is also promising for early population data and participation.
Now, what haven't I considered yet?
Thought which came to mind after I went back to bed:
Every part of this idea needs further definition, but particularly the area around what defines a counted individual. Chronological confirmation of someone with a citable source is a big part of it; that is, an individual for whom we have a specific record of them being born, dying, marrying, becoming a parent, or otherwise being specifically one of those alive at some point during the year 1750.
However, those records may actually be less evocative of human experience than the categoric description associated with what I'm calling, for lack of a better term, 'unmatched individual details', or 'unmadeets'. Whose story would you be most interested in, the confirmed individual "Mary Jane Smith born 1750, later the mother of Winifred Harding", or the unmadeet "one of 350 purchased slaves who rebelled on the ship King David at 5a.m. on May 8, 1750"? Which says more about what was going on in 1750?
media I've enjoyed recently 2014
Advertising and Selling
- Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold (TEDtalks)
- Full Price Beats Penny Saved for Selling Some Items (60-second Science)
- Candidates Affect Viewer Reactions to Ads in Debates (60-second Science)
- Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion (TEDtalks)
- 100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Discovered (60-second Science)
- Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies (TEDtalks)
- Science Grad Students Who Teach Write Better Proposals (60-second Science)
- Doodles and Drawings Help Cement Concepts (60-second Science)
Food and Drink
- Student Researchers Find Secret Tea Ingredients (60-second Science)
- Molars Say Cooking Is Almost 2 Million Years Old (60-second Science)
- High-Pressure Food Treatment Can Kill Microbes And Up Nutrients (60-second Science)
Health and Growth
- Molly Stevens: A new way to grow bone (TEDtalks)
- Gamekeeper's Thumb Condition Outlives the Occupation (60-second Science)
- Test Tells Viral and Bacterial Infections Apart (60-second Science)
- Poultry Farms That Stop Antibiotics See Resistance Fall (60-second Science)
- Endurance Exercise Has Stem Cells Make Bone Over Fat (60-second Science)
- Carbon Nanotubes Impale Compulsive Cells (60-second Science)
- Online Gamers Help Solve Protein Structure (60-second Science)
- Health Data Could Spot Genocide Risk (60-second Science)
- City Cyclists Suck In Soot (60-second Science)
- Rapid PCR Could Bring Quick Diagnoses (60-second Science)
- Pathogen Genomics Has Become Dirt Cheap (60-second Science)
- Kid Scientists Show Medicines Can Be Mistaken For Candy (60-second Science)
- Fever Increases Numbers of Immune Cells (60-second Science)
Nature and Sexuality
- Mole's Extra Finger Is Wrist Bone-us (60-second Science)
- Full Moon May Signal Rise in Lion Attacks (60-second Science)
- Send Ants to College (60-second Science)
- Sea Lampreys Flee Death Smells (60-second Science)
- Toxoplasma Infected Rats Love Their Enemies (60-second Science)
- Modern Rivers Shaped By Trees (60-second Science)
- Upright and Hairless Make Better Long-Distance Hunters (60-second Science)
- Electrolyte Balancers Set Stage for Multicellularity (60-second Science)
- Flesh-Tearing Piranhas Communicate with Sound (60-second Science)
Politics and Philosophy
- Jody Williams: A realistic vision for world peace (TEDtalks)
- Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China (TEDtalks)
- El Nino Ups Conflict Odds (TEDtalks)
- Steven Pinker: Violence Is Lower Than Ever (60-second Science)
Technology and Physics
- Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender (TEDtalks)
- Medieval Armor: Was It Worth the Weight? (60-second Science)
- Traffic Cameras Save Millions in Canceled Crashes (60-second Science)
- Juno Mission Gets Goes for Launch (60-second Science)
- Channeled Chips Can Spot Substances (60-second Science)
- Smartphone System Saves Gas (60-second Science)
- Sound Sends Electron to Specific Location (60-second Science)
- Moon Not Made of Cheese, Physicist Explains (60-second Science)
Posted on February 21, 2014 at 01:38 PM in creativity, Food and Drink, health, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, school, sex, the big room with the blue ceiling, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
A link, via Clay Shirky, serves as a reminder to me to explore poetry more often 2013
Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles
It seems these poets have nothing
up their ample sleeves
they turn over so many cards so early,
telling us before the first line
whether it is wet or dry,
night or day, the season the man is standing in,
even how much he has had to drink.
Maybe it is autumn and he is looking at a sparrow.
Maybe it is snowing on a town with a beautiful name.
"Viewing Peonies at the Temple of Good Fortune
on a Cloudy Afternoon" is one of Sun Tung Po's.
"Dipping Water from the River and Simmering Tea"
is another one, or just
"On a Boat, Awake at Night."
And Lu Yu takes the simple rice cake with
"In a Boat on a Summer Evening
I Heard the Cry of a Waterbird.
It Was Very Sad and Seemed To Be Saying
My Woman Is Cruel—Moved, I Wrote This Poem."
There is no iron turnstile to push against here
as with headings like "Vortex on a String,"
"The Horn of Neurosis," or whatever.
No confusingly inscribed welcome mat to puzzle over.
Instead, "I Walk Out on a Summer Morning
to the Sound of Birds and a Waterfall"
is a beaded curtain brushing over my shoulders.
And "Ten Days of Spring Rain Have Kept Me Indoors"
is a servant who shows me into the room
where a poet with a thin beard
is sitting on a mat with a jug of wine
whispering something about clouds and cold wind,
about sickness and the loss of friends.
How easy he has made it for me to enter here,
to sit down in a corner,
cross my legs like his, and listen.
Source: Poetry (June 1999). [Via Poetryfoundation.org]
Announcing The Art of the Shim—a new book from Dinah! 2013
Hooray! My second book, The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level, is now out in hardcover and ebook.
Building this book has been a fun time and—due to an aggressive sub-one-year production schedule—a challenge, but the results are beautiful. Kelly Puleio's photography is even better than my high hopes and the production quality on this, the first offset printed title from Sanders & Gratz, is excellent. I'm very happy that the book has the sturdiness to serve its readers many years on their bar shelves.
Along the way I've been expanding my skills even further into the publisher realm. (Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff is print-on-demand in its paperback form, so inventory management and distribution is a new adventure.)
Some of the lessons have been painful. I've now learned the hard way that Amazon's record of a book can apparently get messed up if the release date is before Ingram has their copies on hand—or at least that's the only explanation I can find for Amazon suddenly switching the book's status to "Out of Print--Limited Availability" sometime between midday Saturday and midday Sunday last weekend. We're now on day four of no order button for the hardcover, which is enough to make anyone trying to launch a book tear their hair out.
Copies of the book are now in stock at Ingram's Oregon distribution center and lots more will be arriving at their Tennessee one today or tomorrow. Perhaps that will help kick the Amazon status back to normal (though I fear that if their techs don't identify and eliminate the bug, the problem would just come back the next time Ingram or their on hand count hits zero).
Next Tuesday (9/17) will be the New York launch at Pouring Ribbons bar and a week from Monday (9/23) will be the San Francisco celebration at The Booksmith bookstore. Looking forward to those events very much!
Even with bumps on the road, I'm having a great time as an author and a publisher!
Venues Amplify Vibes: Patterns for human-scale festivals 2013
I just published “Venues Amplify Vibes: Patterns for Human-Scale Festivals” on Medium.
[post archived here on MetaGrrrl.com as well, October 2015]
Venues Amplify Vibes
Patterns for Human-Scale Festivals
Excellent events inspire their attendees, but some spark more creativity, contemplation, and connection than others. One way to achieve that is simply to have a larger number of people from which something special can emerge. However, when the goal of the hosts is to increase the odds of each attendee experiencing great outcomes—when, ideally, everyone comes away energized and enhanced—then increasing scale is counter-productive.
I have had the pleasure over this past year of being a part of two exceptionally good gatherings: the inaugural occurrences of XOXO, in September 2012, and YxYY, in July 2013. Both launched waves of enthusiasm and seem positioned to be looked back on as having been a key influence in subsequent creative projects and partnerships. Comparisons, for example, of YxYY to the SxSW festival in 2000 have been mentioned by many people with fond recollection of the connections formed at that earlier event and appreciation for the influence those connections had on the development of the Web and online culture.
Participating in all three of these events was a privilege, and I mean that in its multiple senses. One of the risks of small-scale events is exclusion. One of the best way to avoid that, surely, is to let a thousand flowers bloom. In hope that it will help more organizers of small-scale festivals bring their events to successful fruition, here are a few observations about helpful underlying patterns.
Limitation of event headcount helps avoid a sense of overwhelm. Make your event small enough that attendees can imagine it would be possible to meet everyone there, but don’t require them to do so. This mental ability to ‘get your arms around the group’ reduces attendees feeling isolated next to a faceless, massive crowd. The number 400 was chosen by both XOXO and YxYY and seems to work well for the count of core attendees. By the end of the event, many if not most faces should be at least familiar enough for eye contact and smiles—and all attendees should have enough shared connection from the event that it could be the opener to subsequent conversation.
Foster an event culture of casual inclusiveness, explicitly inviting conversation between attendees. Encourage people to come up and talk with each other. Picnic tables are a strong emergent sub-pattern here; they are friendly and, because they accommodate more people than the natural groupings that usually start a conversation, they invite new participants. Another important sub-pattern for this is name tags which emphasize the first name (and perhaps only include that, as with YxYY’s brilliant swimming-pool-compatible temporary tattoo name tags).
Give and reinforce permission to break down barriers of inflexible behavior. Move a step beyond informality to friendliness, even silliness, and make sure your venue shares this wit. Make instructions playful and let what few rules you absolutely have to have be as cheerful as possible. Wherever possible eliminate things that make attendees feel they are ‘doing it wrong’.
Create opportunities for attendees to engage differently with the event space and with each other. Have some activities and spaces which can accommodate everyone (e.g., XOXO’s presentations or YxYY’s prom), some which accommodate many (e.g., XOXO’s parties and tours or YxYY’s pools), and many which accommodate a few (e.g., tables, conversational seating, power strips, room at the edges for one-on-one talking). Ensure that different spaces have the opportunity to be different; allow for variation in noise level, lighting, temperature, etc. This kind of adaptability creates ‘ramps’ into challenging social interactions and it helps to foster connections between people who otherwise might not have talked. That person who on day one mustered the nerve to interact only one-on-one or in a very small group, can by the last day have built connections to support participation in the crowd—and the crowd will benefit from that new voice.
Keep your event footprint small enough that wandering between spaces isn’t discouraged. Just as joining conversations should be encouraged, so too allow easy movement out of one cluster or activity into others. The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, where YxYY was held, is an ideal example of being large enough for very different simultaneous activities (e.g., DJ’d music at the main pool while unscheduled talks took place in—yes, in—the smaller pool next to the Commune room, which was accommodating a Settlers of Cataan tournament and crafting tables, all of which were surrounded by smaller conversations and solo time on their edges).
This goes hand in hand with diversity and proximity; some activities, particularly conversations where intense connection and creativity is happening, benefit from pulling back from the main flow of the action. The ideal venue supports this while still encouraging participants to reconnect and share afterwards. Again, the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs had some ideal sub-patterns for this, one of my favorites of which was the rooms with private patios allowing partial retreat while still being exposed to the ambient sounds of the shared spaces. At XOXO, the coffee bar area developed some of this function for people mentally recharging; I noticed people occasionally sitting alone with laptops or books on the outside deck where the sound of the presentation space upstairs could drift down. A silent ‘chill room’, as at YxYY, offers explicit support for retreat and restoration, which can be vital for introverts at social events and which helps to keep those attendees able to bring their perspective to your festival.
All of this helps to make the event valuable and foster connection between its participants. To make it exceptional, though, it needs to tacitly inspire taking all these ideas and contacts further. Choose an event site that expands to the world around it. The high ceilings and tall windows of the XOXO presentation hall and YxYY’s openness to the sky and mountains of Palm Springs created a constant sense of unconstrained space and opportunity. It may sound silly, but make sure your attendees have room for their big thoughts to grow above them. This also means not over-scheduling; allow gaps around activities for ideas to stretch out, whether in conversations or solo thinking.
Along with that expansiveness, blur the edges. Don’t block conversations that extend beyond the event. Have a hashtag so that those not at the event can still get a sense of it and respond through Twitter, Flickr, and similar sharing sites. Link to blog posts by the participants. Celebrate your attendees’ inspiration. Encourage ongoing discussion about the event by continuing to share these reactions and event-sparked creations through the official festival channels even after the event is over.
Obviously, my thoughts here owe a big thanks to A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. If you don’t own a copy of this mighty tome, I encourage you to get one and just keep it around, dipping into it randomly as well as gradually reading through it from the beginning. It is, like these festivals, a mind-expander. Unlike them, it can be engaged with slowly, over years, and will still reward whatever time you choose to give it.
I also thank the creators of Medium for building such an excellent space for human-scale conversation about a set of ideas.
Cool poem 2013
by Jena Strong
give me the drag queens, dolled up and delicious
the two moms bickering over the dishes
the orphans, adopted, the chosen, the trannies
the witches, the protestors, tattooed laughing grannies
the boys wearing tutus and all the shirtless
daughters of the revolution playing basketball
on the broken courts of lost fathers
the failures, the forgotten, the throwdown, the freak show
the hurts and the heartbreaks, the hassles and headaches
the beggar, the baron, the shelter, the clambake
trade in the cynical, the stubborn, the splintering showdown
because it's time to unite now, yes it's time to ignite now
it's time to pick up the phone to say, It's me and I love you
This appeared in the Goodreads newsletter as the winner of their May poetry contest. It's tidbits like this that keep me subscribed.
Looks like there are a couple of her books of poetry on Amazon, but at least one of them is available through her site (linked above) and she probably gets better compensation if you order through there.
The Week Behind 2013
It's been a good week, with much satisfaction arising from the current book project, The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level. All the amazing conversations of the week before and much digging in old cocktail books, thinking about principles of drink creation have been percolating in my head. This resulted on Tuesday in my finalizing the first draft of the Bibulo.us Cocktail Taxonomy and posting it for comment. Mostly Twitter chatter in reaction so far, but the process of articulating my principles for others has, as usual, clarified them and this structure is performing well as I continue to research old recipes and organize the book's recipe candidates.
This pleasant creative burbling all week was accompanied by a big experiential spike in the form of an amazing concert Sunday at the new SF Jazz Center in honor of Bobby Hutcherson. Wonderful sound and great performers! Such a joy to have this resource so close to our home.
Around those themes the week swirled along quite well with a nice mix of home life and time out on the town and up in Napa county for Joe's work.
Proud: I have been keeping up my exercise routine! Between the Fitbit, the treadmill desk, and Zombies, Run! I am able to make myself put in the effort and seeing my strength and endurance grow as a result. Very pleasing!
Completed: I think I can now say I've achieved mastery on maintaining a beautiful, uncluttered living space with minimal effort. Still projects to be completed and undulation in tidiness from day to day, but in general the place is within ten minutes of "company-ready" pretty much all the time. The fortnightly visit from the maid who does my most-hated chores (vacuuming and scrubbing porcelain) has helped tremendously in letting me put my energy into things that pay off without driving me nuts.
Learned: Twitter may not seem like it eats much time to quickly check now and then, but it is a huge time-suck if not constrained. Trying out a Pomodoro method timer to help keep me on track and not ducking into email/Twitter/etc every 10 or 15 minutes. Getting better at managing this will help me not only with completing the current to-do's but also with staying focused on work as my social media activity grows when the book comes out.
Inspired: The barfolk I've been talking to as I research the book have been just marvelous; generous, enthusiastic, customer-focused. Really looking forward to working with them a lot this year.
H.C.'s Girls Brunch 2012
[I got my nails painted.]
XOXO: MAGGIE VAIL AND JESSE VON DOOM - CASH MUSIC 2012
One detail I'd add to that first paragraph was the point about the fingerprints and tape lines all revealing the process of making their posters and zines, and thereby encouraging others to make their own. Ability to find an edge to get a grip on that shows how even just one part of something was done creates an opportunity and encouragement to dig deeper. That theme—go ahead and get under the hood and see if you can understand how this works and put it back together or make your own—was also strongly present in Josh Reich's talk.
[Looks like I did nothing on my personal Facebook account between mid-May 2010 and this post, but it's always hard to tell if Facebook is actually showing you all the posts it's got—even when you're looking back in your own timeline. Which is total bullshit of them, and thus a good argument for it being true that I took years off.]
So now you know how it goes... 2012
Today's happy place: Watching Arlo's theme song again after all these years "A, a, a is for Arlo…" Hello!
keep on running, horse 2012
RT @mulegirl: Muybridge would be keen on GIFs.
Moebius tribute in Clarion Alley 2012
making my finishing stamp 2012
Party hat of awesomeness...
Didn't have a stamp pad, though, so I tested it using soy sauce.
What an excellent piece of art:
Jennifer Rubell's Nutcracker at Frieze New York
...your right to... 2012
RT @danielpunkass: A perfectly melded appreciation of Maurice Sendak and Adam Yauch, from @dansinker. Too short, must read: http://sinker.tumblr.com/post/22693690710/where-the-wild-things-were
….and at that moment, my perception of magic changed forever. 2012
A highly enjoyable memory of a great trick & a new appreciation shared by @revdancatt
¡On-Demand Mariachi Fiestas! 2012
Ya fly the Space Shuttle over NYC and ya see what happens? 2012
RT @arielwaldman: I don't have words for the latest space meme. I present you SHUTTLING:
Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust 2012
Pleased to see @ARLpolicy working for fair use & libraries. I'm an author, but I know @AuthorsGuild is failing my long-term interests here.
How I wrote and self-published my book, Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff 2012
After finding lots of good advice from other people online as I went through my process, I want to share my lessons in the hopes that they will help other authors realize their dream.
The major sections of the life-cycle of a book require different tools. I find I may be in multiple sections at the same time as I work on different projects.
Collecting ideas & keeping notes: Scrivener and OmniFocus are my best tools here. Make it as easy as possible to capture your ideas as you have them and arrange them for later writing work.
Writing: Scrivener. Don't think about formatting right now; write now.
Editing: Hire a professional editor it will improve your work 100%. More about this below.
Formatting: Scrivener for ebooks and, if you have the skills, InDesign for print. Do side by side comparisons of ebook and print proof to find any lost text, run-together paragraphs, or other issues.
Publishing: Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), iTunes Connect, PubIt, and Createspace. Note that in the data entry in these systems "Editor" does not equal "edited by"; its for anthologies and things like that. General warning: Management interfaces may lag by days behind the book going live on the site; search for it by title, author, ISBN if you don't have its exact URL in advance.
Promotion: Twitter, Facebook, Moo business cards with book cover. Say thank you to the people you quote, cite, or who otherwise helped you get the book's ideas pulled together—it's the right thing to do and it may just turn into a great, influential review. Promo is a marathon—like dragging an unconscious 400lb man around a track, as Kevin Smokler put it—but you get through it with lots of quick bursts.
This post is currently just a first draft to get out to the world some of these lessons and links. Lots more to write and I'll be happy to answer questions. For the moment, here are an assortment of tips and observations.
- The advantage of finding the tools that work for you is you don't have to dick around so long finding the right tools—and you won't be able to use that as an excuse to delay the real work of writing.
- Establish a morning writing routine. Making progress early in the day fuels productivity throughout the day.
- Decide why this work is worth it. What new idea or feeling do you want to create in your reader? Consider saying less but saying it better. What will be different about you when you complete this work? You'll be a better writer, but is there something else that this project is going to teach you?
- Get smart feedback early to help you define the project. It's all too easy to try to take on too many books in one. Literary agent Ted Weinstein read an early version of my book proposal and told me it sounded like three or four interesting books. "Get it down to one or two only," he said. That process of tightening the focus was a great leap forward.
- Lay it all out. When you've got an outline and some fleshed out sections—particularly if you are integrating older writings—print the whole thing out, cut it into its component parts, and physically move everything around until it flows better. Seeing and improving the book's structure is easier and faster as a physical task.
- Write. Write write write.
- Set the first draft aside, ideally for at least three months, and go work on something completely different for a while.
- With fresh eyes, re-read and identify where the flow isn't leading your reader to get your message, where the writing is weak, where the text is over-stuffed with unneeded padding. Refine and tune and prune. This is when you'll have enough distance to work intelligently on overall themes. Read it again and polish it more.
- Push the cocksucking boulder up the motherfucking hill. Finish writing it all. Do what editing you can do of something you're so close to, but just get the package complete.
- Bring in new eyes. Now is the time for beta readers. Half a dozen at least, better yet a dozen. Not all of them will get back to you with comments. Don't argue with the feedback. Listen, nod, thank them. Watch for patterns. Fix what seems broken. Expand confusing points. Adjust the voice of your writing to maintain the desired mood.
- Hire a professional. Get a seriously good editor. Pay well. This will be expensive. It will double the quality of your book. (Professional editing was about 60% of my cost for producing Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff since I did my own formatting into ebook and print.) A good editor can mean an increase of a half or whole star in your average ratings and that can make a dramatic difference in your sales.
- Make it look great. Get it into ebook and print format, whether you do it yourself or hire someone, and test the ebook on as many devices and applications as possible. Authors have more ability to influence the reading experience these days, so eliminate annoyances for your readers wherever you can.
- Follow up on the details. For instance, after my book was available in physical form through Createspace, I talked to them to doublecheck that the Expanded Distribution Network listing through Ingram Distributors—a key factor in a customer being able to walk into almost any bookstore in the U.S. and be able to order my book—was proceeding correctly and to re-confirm the (irritatingly slow) timeline.
- Spread the word. Let your core supporters know as soon as the book is ready. I announced to my Discardia followers on Twitter and Facebook as soon as the ebooks were available and again when the print version could be ordered through my Createspace store and Amazon. Those early sales and handful of reviews and ratings kept my spirits up as I worked through other promotion preparation while waiting for the listing with Ingram to go live.
- Thank those who helped you. Let everyone you quoted, cited, or referred to in your book know that it's out and they're in it. This can generate more publicity and sometimes requests for reading copies from other authors who may promote your work to their network.
Ask questions in the comments and I will expand this post!
Dear Robert, I'm sorry... 2012
... for how, at the party at your mansion in my dream this morning, I accidentally clicked the wrong place in that real estate app on your Kindle (you know, the one with the handle like an old hand mirror) and put in a bid from you on that house.
Doing what you love 2012
I'm working my way through the remaining stack of books relating to productivity and happiness which I accumulated during the writing of Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff. Some are new to me, a few are significant works I wanted to re-read, and a good percentage are other books by authors who wrote something I liked a great deal. I flipped through all of them at least a little during the writing process, but now I'm giving them more attention before swapping them away. It's one of these last ones that I'm reading today: Live the Life you Love by Barbara Sher.
In Lesson Five she asks you to think about what you loved doing during your childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. I thought immediately of playing with plastic animals and Fisher-Price Adventure People and the long, involved stories I would make up for them. Turning my mind to adolescence I picture being a dungeonmaster, both running games and, perhaps even more enjoyed, sitting at the desk in my room, listening to music, designing dungeons and the stories behind them. As an undergraduate there was more gaming, but also in theater arts, anthropology, archaeology, and history classes, the process of increasing my understanding of how someone related to their world.
Really, it's a bit surprising it's taken as long as it has for me to start writing novels. :)
Media I've enjoyed lately 2011
Wow. Lots to catch up on since the last time I posted on podcast episodes I really enjoyed. Not to worry, though, most of them are from 60-Second Science.
Science and Technology
Creativity and Learning
Jenny clicked it when she saw,
Smiling at the screen she glanced on;
Time, you thief, who like to paw
Sweets into your list, put that on!
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad,
Say of health & wealth I'm cheated,
Say I'm growing old, but add –
(with thanks and apologies to Leigh Hunt)