The artist, drunk, talking about how awesome he is, at a bar

Heya,

I talked the other day about the Lonely Garret Writer, and I mentioned that there was another type of writer that I called the Gregarious Barfly Writer.

First, for the sake of continuity, some definitions (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online rather than Wikipedia this time, because Wikipedia was less helpful on this one).

Gregarious

a :  tending to associate with others of one’s kind :  social
b :  marked by or indicating a liking for companionship :  sociable
c :  of or relating to a social group
Basically, these are the kind of writers that are chatty and like people. They’re the ones who are good at networking, who are good at self-promotion and have no trouble tweeting. They can talk about their books, love talking about their books. And about running with bulls and fistfights and stuff. They’re the kind of people who think they look good in hats and read a lot of Hemingway.
And there’s anything wrong with any of that.

Barfly

:  a person who spends much time in bars

An explanation of the barfly thing—it’s an extension, a connection to the gregariousness of this kind of writer. It’s something that I’ve noticed from going to writer’s conferences. You don’t have an actual conversation with a writer at a panel or at a signing. You have a conversation with them at the bar afterwards.

You could argue, and rightly so, that drinking is hardly exclusive to the gregarious writers. I know that. LGWs can also be found congregating at the bar after an event (and possibly before an event, just to get some Dutch courage) just as much as GBWs can, but there’s a different tone to it.

Writer

: someone whose work is to write books, poems, stories, etc.

: someone who has written something

This other kind of artist, what it sometimes seems that social media wants all artists to be, is good at doing their work in public. They’re good at talking about themselves and their work. They can discuss their work in progress without angst, existential or otherwise. They have a philanthropic bent that goes along with their gregariousness. They like to write in coffee shops. They liked to be asked about what they’re writing in coffee shops. Usually.
They can post a chapter of their work online, get a tepid response, and take it in stride. They can rework, or put aside, what they’re working on based upon audience response. Their skin is thicker, or else they’re not as … enmeshed. Committed. I don’t know. I don’t understand them as well, not being one of them.
Not really.
I reiterate that I think that no writer, no artist, is completely LGW or GBW, and that there is often a great deal of crossover. I can and often do talk to anyone about anything. But when it comes to my writing, I’m a bit more hesitant, a bit more uncomfortable. I feel a bit more like I’m revealing fragile secrets, that I’m going to break my story by talking about it.
Maybe GBWs just understand instinctively that they can’t do that.
Anyway…
Symmetry!
Love,
B
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The benefits of regularity

Heya,

This is not going to be a post about incontinence.

At least, I don’t think it will be.

It probably won’t be.

I’ve talked before about forming habits. I’m not good at forming good ones, but I’m trying to change that.

It’s been difficult lately to form new habits because of the demands that school makes of me, but at the same time I know that to be a giant fucking cop-out. Life makes demands of you. It will demand, and take, as much of your time as you let it, so you’ve got to be as much of a dick as life is if you want to have any time at all.

Or if you want to form new habits.

The habits that I want to form aren’t really that new, they’re just habits that I gradually fell out of. I used to write every day. Recently I’ve gone through a bit of a phase where I barely write at all. I make a lot of notes about things to write, but when I sit down to actually work on things, I inevitably get distracted by the internet, or my dog, or (horror) an upcoming paper.

I think it ultimately comes down to priorities, and for a while there writing wasn’t as much of a priority as it’s been in the past. Which has, at times, made me feel unbelievably anxious. I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. Am I still a writer if I’m not writing? My feeling is no, but it matters enough to me to write that I feel vast quantities of existential angst about the thought of not doing it.

Here’s the thing about vast quantities of existential angst, though.

Existential angst is essentially useless.

Realizing that doesn’t meant that I’m not still going to have it from time to time, but I think it’s an important realization to have.

So how do you get started after you’ve been in a rut of not starting.

You just start.

I’ll repeat that, because it’s simple enough to seem like a trick.

Just start.

Do whatever you have to do so that you don’t take yourself and what your doing so seriously as to cripple yourself. Sort your head out. And just fucking start.

Because I firmly believe that half the effort in doing anything is beginning it. A friend of mine had a very simple writing goal that he set himself every day, and it was to just write one sentence. He inevitably wrote more than one sentence, usually a lot more, but the one sentence goal was non-threatening enough that he never felt like he couldn’t achieve it. His life was never so overwhelmingly busy that he couldn’t write a single sentence.

I’m prone to super-sized goals and letting myself get carried away. I think that’s part of the problem. I don’t just want to write a book. I want to write a series of books that interlink narratively with another series of short stories, all under the pseudonym of a character in a graphic novel which is itself the past of a video game.

I really need to calm the fuck down and just write my 1000 words, or my sentence, or my whatever. I need to just start, and start regularly.

Forward momentum is the secret to walking in heels. It’s the standing still that kills you, and I think that could be said to be true of lots of things in life. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stop to look around once in a while, I wouldn’t dare argue against the credo of the Bueller, but you’ll notice that he didn’t do a whole lot of stopping in that movie.

Just start today. Just start tomorrow. Just start the next day.

Just fucking start.

Love,

B

All of the thoughts

Heya,

Okay, I talked before about Runaway Lane and using prompts for it, and I got really excited today because I had an idea.

There’s a game I used to play when I was younger called Once Upon a Time. I still have it. It’s basically a card game where everyone is given 10 cards (the number of cards changes depending on how many people are playing) and the cards have different story elements on them. Some have characters, some have locations, some have events, you get the picture. The idea is to create a story using the cards in your hand, but the story can be redirected by the other players, who want to use up their cards and so will try to take over the story. There are a couple of ways that they can do this—if you pause too long, if you lay down cards without those cards being relevant to the story (ex. if you have a ladder, a cat, and a horseshoe in your hand, you can’t just say that your character has a ladder, a cat and a horseshoe to get rid of the cards), if you forget something that has already happened in the story. Any of those things happen, and they can swoop in and redirect the story.

So I was thinking that instead of using prompts, which can be prescriptive, every time I sit down to write, I’ll draw ten cards from my Once Upon a Time deck and try to use at least … I don’t know, half of them?

Or I could just sit down and think about it a little and try to make a rough outline from what I’ve already got.

I don’t know.

What do you think?

Love,

B

Crowdfunding, patronage and authorial voice

Heya,

Just a heads up—there will be no closure in this.

I’ve been thinking lately that crowd-funding is a bit like the old systems of patronage, where people gave money to artists to keep them afloat and keep them producing things and, sort of, how that effected the sort of things that were written and painted and otherwise created.

At the moment, grants can be seen as patronage. Rich people and corporations hiring artists to produce pieces for them is fairly commonplace. But the kind of patronage that I’m talking about, the kind of patronage that crowd-funding seems closest to for me, is the kind of patronage that Michelangelo had from the Medici family. The kind where there’s kind of a relationship between the artist and the patron.

But I feel like that kind of relationship is problematic. Because while Michelangelo was reliant on the Medici’s, the Medici’s were a handful of people that he was able to speak to face-to-face, and their good opinion could be cultivated or ignored as he chose. Crowd-funding is problematic because you are reliant on others but cannot really address their opinions, affections, and dissatisfactions. And it would be impossible to respond to all of the varied responses to a piece of writing or artwork if crowd-funders are patrons. On top of all of this, the nature of the artist as an independent creator has evolved to a point where the “sole creator in all their madness” is a state of being that some artists think they have a right to. There are some obvious arguments to counterbalance that but they don’t really have anything to do with patronage, and I’m trying not to stray to far from my main point here.

There’s a problem is authorial voice. Imagine writing one single email to your mom, your sister, your best friend, and your boyfriend. What would the tone of that email be? What would the voice be? In patronage, if you know that your patrons want … I don’t know, they want your main character to fuck the hot guy, say, and you want to kill the hot guy, you might be influenced to not kill the hot guy, just because you knew enough about what your audience wanted from you that it interfered with your ability to tell the story. And sometimes the reader doesn’t really know what they want. For example, Game of Thrones.

This paragraph has spoilers, if you haven’t read or seen Game of Thrones (by the way, why the fuck haven’t you read/watched Game of Thrones? Get on that shit, dude!) so unfocus your eyes and scroll past. Eyes unfocused? NO, THEY CLEARLY ARE NOT, CAUSE YOU’RE READING THIS! You’re doing this to yourself, now. When I read Game of Thrones for the first time, and Ned died at the end, I nearly threw the book across the room. But I can’t see how that story would have sustained itself if he hadn’t died. I doubt I would have continued reading if he had. Or I might have, but I wouldn’t have felt the itchy junkie need to keep reading without his death. I would never have said that I wanted him to die. But he needed to die for the rest of the books to matter, or for them to be any good.

I’m not saying that external influence can’t be good or important or worthwhile, just that authors making use of crowd-funding and building platforms in this way need to know that it exists and that, when it’s immediate and linked to your fiscal survival, it can carry a weight that it can impact the story, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. Maybe that doesn’t make people as anxious (again, sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a bad way) as it makes me. I’m a Lonely Garret Writer (which I think will be a term that I use from now on, since I think I’ve used it a couple times now). If something is wrong I want it to be all my fault and if something is right I want it to be all my doing.

One of my professors thinks that crowd-funding is a flash-in-the-pan sort of thing. I don’t know. I feel like crowd-funding is just another facet of patronage, which has been around since time immemorial. As a species, we are continually deciding that we want art or stories or music enough that we’ll pay for it to be made. It’s interesting when compared to the continuous devaluation of the written word that we see in eBook pricing and the competitive efforts of print publishing to keep prices on par (cheaper paper, cheaper ink, shittier product that costs less money and has less added value and which, as a result, becomes less valuable in the social psyche). Maybe part of the crowd-funding successes lay in the fact that people are paying for what they want. Publishing is in the business of trying to charm the uninterested because, somewhere along the line, we convinced ourselves that everyone wants books. And they don’t. It’s a small, weird subsection of people that is interested in reading for pleasure. And those are the people that you have to be reaching out to. Those are the people who will pay more than 99 cents for something that they want, something that they like.

But you’ve got to get them to like you first. And I suppose that could be seen as another problem of crowd-funding—it’s still the culture of personality at work, at least to a certain extent. You have to sell yourself to sell your work for crowd-funding to really work for you.

Love,

B

P.S. An instance of quasi-patronage that I find endlessly entertaining is the George Harrison/Life of Brian patronage.

I’m definitely doing this wrong

Heya,

So remember, about a week ago, I talked to you about my idea for writing on WattPad?

Runaway Lane has gotten away from me a little bit. Appropriately enough. It has expanded somewhat and is now developing something that looks alarming like structure. Usually this would be a great situation, but right now it’s kind of … pissing me off. Because the plan with this had been to write small increments of a story that I didn’t have any plans for, every day. I’m talking … like, 200 words, max. I was thinking that I’d write them on my phone while I did went about my morning routine.

In case you’re interested, my morning routine: wake up at 6am, put on clothes I laid out the night before, unless inclement weather makes them ridiculous. Make tea and watch the news until 6:30, while also checking my email on my phone and dorking around on Tumblr. At 6:30, text Dusty “just finishing my tea,” finish my tea, then do my makeup. Pick up Dusty from her house or vice versa by 6:45, carpool. Get to school by 8am and work on whatever I forgot to do the night before while I wait for class to start.

So I’ve got about half an hour at home and an hour at school. More than enough time to write 200 words, even if I do it on my phone, or so was my plan.

Then I received a copy of The Trickster’s Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity by Nick Bantock (of Griffin and Sabine fame). It’s a book of art exercises. One of the exercises involved filling in the ending of a sentence, and then writing the sentences that bracketed it. You were supposed to write as quickly as possible, whatever came into your mind. This is what I got:

1. The horse felt obliged to express itself by …

“It was a beautiful beast, but the alchemists insisted that the ether would make it even better, and Master acquiesced to their request without much pushing. The horse felt obliged to express itself by vomiting up the ether. The Master was displeased; each ether infusion was a great expense, whether the treatment took or not.”

2. She could not help herself, the date was waiting there for her …

“The Matchmaker tapped long, lacquered nails over the calendar, and murmured, “As you can see, there are really no dates available.”

She could not help herself, the date was waiting there for her, a single white square in the vast scribbling expanse of chosen wedding dates. She reached across the vast expanse of the Matchmaker’s desk and tapped the blank square. “What about this one?””

3. Elvira looked at her brother’s fast-growing collection of …

“Benedict looked up, eyes wild with panic before he realized who was there. Elvira looked at her brother’s fast-growing collection of stolen trinkets and grimaced. He was going to get all of them in so much trouble.”

Once I was through with the exercise, I thought, “Hey, maybe I’ll use these for Runaway Lane, that story that I haven’t started on WattPad.” And I liked that idea.

So now, I’m working with:

  • The story is about a leader on the run from the law. It starts in a world-spanning nation on a forest planet. The story climaxes with someone visiting a doctor.
  • Runaway Lane
  • YA
  • The above paragraphs
  • A strong desire to not name anyone in this story “Lane” because that would just be too on the nose for me

And then I had a little moment of existential angst as I remembered that I hadn’t done anything with that WattPad story yet.

That was my day.

How are you? What did you write with those starts of sentences?

Love,

B

P.S. It’s an interesting book, I recommend it. Get’s you out of your head a bit.

What’s awesome about fanfiction

Heya,

I mentioned this in my last post and a friend in my program did a presentation on fanfiction the other day, so I feel like now is the time, while I still have someone else’s brilliance and my thoughts on it rattling around in my head.

So, what is awesome about fanfiction, you might ask (especially if you’ve never written fanfiction)?

I should mention that I don’t write fanfiction. I attempted to write fanfiction a couple of times when I was younger and super into Harry Potter, but it always felt too much like playing with someone else’s toys. Oh, quick digression here: I have never liked playing with other people’s toys. It always felt weird to me, like there were rules that I didn’t know. And sometimes they had marks on them that I didn’t understand how they got there, what the backstory was, and it made me feel weird to make up a story about what had happened because they weren’t my toys.

Yup, there’s something weird about me. Do with it what you will.

Anyway, here are some of the things that are awesome about fanfiction

  1. It can be a great way to learn the ropes of storytelling. Yes, there are some terrible fanfics out there, but a lot of these people are just getting their feet wet. It may be the first thing they’ve ever written that wasn’t for school. So if you’re not a fanfiction reader and you brave the waters of fanfiction, be kind. They’re probably doing their best.
  2. For the most part, readers of fanfiction understand and accept that the writers are at the novice level. As a result, they are often very good at bolstering confidence.
  3. It shows an engagement with characters and stories that I can only applaud. I’m not going to claim that every piece of fanfiction is good, but every one is the work of a person who really liked something. And I like when people like things. As long as they don’t try to make me like the thing, too. I will watch Apocalypse, Now in my own damn time, and I’d appreciate it if you’d stop pushing me, okay?! … Sorry.
  4. When you write fanfiction, you don’t have to worry about finding your audience, finding your niche. You are in your niche already, and you know your audience well because you probably belonged to it before you started writing for it.
  5. There’s miraculous freedom in fanction, whether freedom from the constraints of genre, form and structure, social taboos. As long as you tag your shit, you can do whatever you want.
  6. It gives people who aren’t fluent in a language an opportunity to practice.
  7. Strong communities are grown in fanfiction.
  8. Some book series and TV shows have giant gaps between books/seasons, and sometimes you really just need some Sherlock Holmes right NOW.
  9. Everybody loves a remix. Well, no, not always, but remixes can be really cool. But maybe that’s just me.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but I think it’s enough. Not every list needs ten items.

So, what are your thoughts on fanfiction?

Love,

B

Launching a magazine!

Heya,

In January of this year, my masters cohort was split into three groups and told to “launch” a new magazine. It had to have both print and digital components, and it had to be financially viable after three years. Just so you know, the latter is virtually impossible. Publishing in general has razor slim margins, magazine publishing even more so. Our numbers were, of necessity, very optimistic.

Early on in this magazine project, one of my teammates and I started talking about the Maker movement and the culture of repurposing, and how we would be interested in creating a magazine that served that community, but with more of an arts and culture focus. We decided to call the magazine “Repurposed.” Though we couldn’t focus on it while we were working on the other “magazine” for our project, we did start a secret Pinterest board, a Dropbox folder, and shared folder in Google docs to throw our inspiration in.

The magazine project was a very interesting experience. Every week, industry specialists came in to discuss our magazine ideas with us and, even though our project piece didn’t correspond very closely with Repurposed, we were still able to draw some awesome feedback from the panelists that we met that impacted our decision-making going into this project.

The end of the magazine project marked the beginning of the tech project. We were able to split into smaller groups and work on tech specific projects, drawing from our experiences in the magazine project. My friend and I requested and received permission to build Repurposed. And so it began.

Repurposed will be an online magazine committed to discovering and showcasing art forms that create something beautiful out of existing materials; literature and art that addresses the spectre of waste culture through repurposing, be it physical gadgets or more thematic ephemera. We want this magazine to exist as a native of the digital medium, with an annual print issue that will use some of the digital content but also exist as an artifact of it’s own, with added print production value and some exclusive content.

We have just launched our Facebook page. We are still coding the website (but I’ll link you out to it anyway, because there will be something there soon, and Reclaim Hosting is a great service, especially for students). It’s quite the process, as we want it to operate responsively across screens and systems. We are also on Twitter and Tumblr. We will be putting up a call for submissions across our web platforms within the next day or two. Maybe I should have waited to tell you about it until then. I don’t know.

I’m really excited, guys!

Love,

B

Stop trying to do everything so fast

Heya,

I think it’s occurred to many of us that all of the things in our life that are intended to make things easier do anything but. Or, they make aspects of life easier but introduce their own problems. A friend of mine was saying that the problem with technology is that we get attached to this idea that new technologies can and will solve all of our problems. And while it’s true that they might solve specific problems, they also bring their own sets of problems.

I’m going to talk more about work here than science, but I do want to note that there are many examples of things being quickly created and rapidly adopted, only to be found to be vastly harmful. Like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which devour ozone and were for a long time the go-to compound used in refrigerators, aerosol cans, air conditioners. These have been phased out of current production, but efforts at regulating existing CFC levels have been largely … well, there hasn’t been much effort to regulate existing CFC levels.

Anyway…

I know, from watching old TV shows, that there was a time when it was considered rude to contact someone around dinnertime. Obviously a relic of a time when you were only really calling people in your time zone, or an immediately adjacent one. Now, time is compressed. People can and will call you, text you, email you, anytime of day and expect a response, as immediately as you can send one. Which is why I turned off “Send Read Notification” on my phone. So I don’t feel pressure to respond to something on someone else’s time. So that I can unplug, or at least pretend to myself that I have.

It’s interesting that, where before work-life boundaries were at least in part supported by society, now it’s something you have to work out for yourself. You see articles about “work-life balance.” I’m interested in working in marketing and publicity, and I fully expect there to be a sharp learning curve. I expect to have issues setting boundaries, especially when I’m starting out, because I know myself well enough to know that, in my desire to please people, I might be more accepting of work-creep. I’ll answer emails at two in the morning and step away from dinner to answer phone calls. Because that’s life, right? Especially in certain businesses. You’re never off the clock, even if you’re not at “the office.” If you’re ever at the office, maybe you don’t have an office. You’re always on call. There will always be someone who is pissed off if you don’t respond immediately to some bullshit that you could just as easily have sorted out in the morning, when you were well-rested and on your game. And maybe if you’d waited until the morning, you wouldn’t have called them an asshole over the phone, but you’ll never know now, will you?

Wow, sorry for that tangent.

More on compressed time, and time in general.

We’re constantly trying to squeeze more of everything into less time. Usually work gets privileged over other things. It’s not always that we’re expected to spend a lot of time at work (though 9-5 jobs usually still want you to be in the office for those eight hours, they just want you working outside of them, too. And not charging for it), but that work is expected to consume a lot of our time. Which is to be expected, I suppose. But I wonder what we’re giving up for it. I get up at about 6am most days, usually skip breakfast or just drink one of those meal replacements, and end up eating at noon. Or I run out when I get hungry enough and grab something reasonably inexpensive that won’t make too much noise when I eat it at the back of the class. The first actual meal (with all the food groups in it and actual sitting-down-to-eat-ness) I have in the course of a day is dinner. I’m not complaining about this, I actually don’t think about it much, but it is what it is. To have three square meals a day would take more time and energy than I’m willing to give. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

For reasons of time compression, I kind of love the train. I’m on the train for about two hours a day. It’s when I read. My mobility is (ironically) limited, it’s not a social situation where I’m expected to engage with the people around me, so it’s the perfect time for me to engage with time-consuming, valuable things that I have trouble dedicating time to when the world keeps knocking on my door. Reception is spotty in places, so I don’t always get my text messages or emails until I’m at my car. And I don’t text and drive, because it pisses me off to no end when I see other people do it, so there’s another half hour or so of relative freedom.

On a related note, I also have the Freedom app. And I wonder if things like that are the way of the future. If we’re gradually realizing that having things more quickly doesn’t necessarily make us more effective or productive people, and we’re going to see more and more applications that are slow or provide impediments to connectivity by their very design.

Anyway, the point of this whole ramble is that I think we have to stop trying to do everything so fast. That if we spend more time and energy on things, we’ll be prouder of what we produce. I’m happy to wait for something worth waiting for.

Love,

B

What do you do and other terrible questions

Heya,

I hate that one of the go-to socializing questions is “what do you do?” Maybe because I’ve never had a great answer to it, and usually end up lying out of boredom. Because what you do matters way less than what you feel about what you do. It’s an introductory question that should immediately be followed by something more interesting, like “what do you like about what you do” or “what do you want to do?”

Sometimes I feel a really strong urge to say something ridiculous. Like, “Meth.”

The problem with “what do you do?” is that it asks without really asking. It’s the same problem I have with people saying “how are you?” They want you to say fine. They’re expecting you to say fine. They’re not even really listening to your answer. Chances are they’re just waiting for to finishing talking so that they can tell you how they are.

I’m such a cynic…

In a similar vein, “what did you do today?” is also an awful question, especially when someone asks you about it right as you’re walking through the doors from a mediocre day. A good day for me is one where I got a lot of writing done. But someone asks you what you did that day and you said that you wrote, they’re apt to ask if you did anything else. Also, sometime nothing really out-of-the-ordinary happened. Nothing funny or dramatic or anything at all. If there was a good story from the day, I’ll tell it to you.

I’m contemplating just giving people plot. “What did you do today?” “Oh, I went to a carnival, was kidnapped by a cult, fought my way out, and killed man. And all that before lunch!”

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” This one is annoying because I’m twenty-three years old. Also, I never wanted to be anything when I grew up. I always wanted to be something right now. I don’t believe in delayed gratification.

All that being said, let’s answer the terrible, networking questions.

What do you do?

I’m pursuing a masters in publishing right now, and then I hope to go into marketing/publicity while I continue to chip away at my own projects. I also metabolize food, breath oxygen, walk on my two feet, and do meth. (Disclaimer: I do not do meth)

What did you do today?

I woke up at about 8:30 on a camping mattress laid out on the floor of my friend’s apartment. Her boyfriend was getting ready to go to work. In my half-conscious, half-dreaming state, I became convinced that if I didn’t wish him a good day at work he would have a terrible one, so I said, “Have a good day at work” and then dozed off-and-on for then next half hour before becoming convinced that my friend had left with him and I was alone in her apartment. I finally became anxious enough about this to check, and she was still asleep. I read a chapter or two of a book called The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer that she had sitting out for school or something. At about ten we got on the train. She went to work, I went to the bus loop at the mall. I missed the bus, ordered and ate a Subway sandwich in fifteen minutes, got on the next bus. Walked home from the bus stop, carrying the empty pop can that I’d gotten with my sandwich and drank on the bus, because I couldn’t find any recycling bins, and I felt horrible anxiety when I thought about throwing it in a garbage can. I threw it in the recycling at home, played with my dog a little, then played Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns for about four hours. I started downloading the trial version of Adobe Creative Cloud. I ate some leftover pasta. Drank some tea. Checked the download. Continued downloading Adobe Creative Cloud. Added some videos to my lynda.com playlists, so that I’d actually know how to use Creative Cloud. I had a shower. I started writing this blog post.

Super fucking fascinating, no?

How are you?

Fine.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I don’t want to be anything when I grow up. I want to be things right now.

How bout you guys?

Love,

B

Everything is overwhelming until it very abruptly isn’t

Heya,

I’ve been doing some research into game design, and there’s an aspect of it that I think is really interesting in what it says about learning on the whole.

A friend of mine took a class on video game design during her undergrad, and she let me look at her notes, so I’m afraid I can’t reference a specific book on this, but the notes talk about the process of acquiring skills in games. You want people to feel challenged but not impossibly challenged. There needs to be a gradual upward curve in difficulty which, when it starts to plateau, is followed by the introduction of another skill. You don’t want to throw all of the skills at the gamer at once, it would be overwhelming, but you don’t want things to be so easy that they stop feeling challenged. You need to find that sweet spot, where things are difficult but not impossible, challenging but not overwhelming.

This makes a lot of sense to me with learning in general. Personally, I’ve always felt that I learned best and remembered most when I just jumped in with both feet. For example, right now I’m learning how to format eBooks using XML (which, if you don’t know anything about InDesign or XML, is really not as scary as it sounds). My tuition fees pay for access to lynda.com (which is a great site that offers a lot of tutorials from industry professionals in a variety of subjects, but I’m sure very expensive if I weren’t in school), and I’ve developed some playlists that I’m very excited to dig into more extensively. And I’ve only got about nine months to get through all of them, so I really should jump in with both feet.

In Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, there was a bit that talked about how happiness is not a state that can be achieved like a trophy and then set on your mantle. Happiness can be found in the struggle, and in growth. It can be found in the process of surmounting a challenge more in the actual completion of the task you set yourself.

We just finished a big project in school and for about a day after it was over I felt like a giant weight had lifted off my shoulders. Then I felt antsy, like I was forgetting to do something, then bored. I’d gotten used to the demands on my time but, more than that, I liked the demands on my time. I like having challenges, things to figure out, things to do.

Last semester, I was in a play during the month of October (The Crucible, in case you were interested). I had … four or five performances a week, which really ate into the time I had to dedicate to my schoolwork, but the whole time the play was running, I felt like I was firing on all cylinders. I was forced to budget my time more carefully, because I didn’t have much of it. And I feel like I have to structure my different projects like that, in a series of peaks and plateaus of skill-acquisition and application. Always growing, always learning.

Love,

B