The Desert of Editing

I am in the process of finishing a paper I have been working on for quite a while. I have come to the conclusion that, even though I don't like editing, it is worth it.

When I sit down to write, I feel a sense of wonder that I do not get when editing. When I sit down to edit, it is a slow drudge through the desert of thorns, broken bones, and molten rock.  

Yet, I know when I reach the end of the desert, my writing will be so much better. I will arrive at the shores of a crisp clear ocean of joy, splendor, and ice cream with a finished piece of writing that is worth reading. 

When you create, what is your desert? 

Creative Spaces

Creative spaces are a very personal thing. It is where worlds are created and the abstract becomes something tangible. It can be the kitchen table or an entire room devoted to your craft. Here are a few things I prefer for my creative space:

• A large desk 
This gives me space to spread out papers and still have room for my keyboard and mouse.

• A book shelf
I enjoy having books at my fingertips and bookshelves are one of the most aesthetically pleasing ways to do this.

• Blank paper
I always go back and forth on whether to have lined paper or completely blank. I have found that I much prefer the blank. I like to draw and work organically and feel limited when I use lined paper.

• A Nerf gun
This is mainly to deter any interruptions and cats. 

• A computer
Writing and video editing requires me to use a desktop for most of my work. I currently work with four monitors.

• Sharp pointy objects
I have always liked knives and swords. My wife and I took a German longsword class and we both enjoyed it immensely. 

What does your creative space look like? What items do you find necessary?

The Art of Storytelling in D&D

I love a good story. Several of my friends are especially talented in telling stories. Last night, I had the privilege of joining them in playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time in my life. 

It was explained to me that it is better to think of D&D, not as a game, but as a structure to create a story. The "Dungeon Master" sets the stage and plot, then the characters (us) add the details to the story. Dice are then used to decided how well those characters can use their abilities as the story plays out. It is an interactive story with chance that makes the whole experience more real and less random.

There were five of us last night, one Dungeon Master and four Characters. After I had created a character, we went on a journey to help a small town that was having an issue with their crops. An Orc attacked us at camp, but luckily we were able to survive. One of us got a good scar out of it and my character obtained a nice dagger. It was a great night.

With all the stereotypes in our culture about D&D, I never would have thought I would enjoy it as much as I did. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story. 

Have you every played D&D? What was your experience?

Study Vacation Week 1

I push back from my desk toppling slowly, ever so slowly to the floor. The soft carpet catching me in its warm semi-soft embrace. Post-it notes flittering slowly down around me as exhaustion overwhelms my tired mind. I awaken to an animal nudging my face and breathing its rancid breath as a natural smelling salt to awaken me from my study induced coma. I push my notes and highlighters aside that scatter the floor.

"Coffee!" I cry from a dry throat as I pull myself to my feet. My limbs crack and creak as I pull myself through the thick air towards the kitchen, stumbling only two or three times over my words and my feet.

The hot liquid pours golden brown into my cup and I take my first sip. As the sweet liquid touches the ready embrace of my tongue, time slows and I find myself standing in the present. My mind reawakens and I find myself in the weekend. I glance to my right and left slowly remembering. The first week of the great study vacation has flashed by in a blur and here I stand on the brink of another week of study. The small gap of rest before the decision to leap.

I walk to the living room brought back to the present on a snowy Sunday afternoon. I sit on the couch with my wife, my coffee, my cat, and a book.

I toast the air and breath the relaxation deeply into my bones, knowing tomorrow will bring another day.

Ethnography and writing

Ethnography: A branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific descriptions of individual cultures. During graduate school I took a class called Ethnographic Methods. It was pretty much people watching on steroids. We were required to wake up and pay attention to the world around us and document it. One assignment in particular sticks out in my mind. We had to go out in public and collect data. This meant going somewhere and writing about the people, the place, and what was going on. We also had to be discrete by participating in the event but all the while writing things down.

I choose to do my assignment at the local farmer's market. Saturday morning, a few classmates and I went to the local city square where the market was happening. I decided to use my phone to keep my notes. That way I could look like I was texting while really taking notes. When I arrived, I drew a map of all the booths in my notebook and wondered what to do next. I have had a lot of experience people watching, but I had never taken notes on it. What should I write? I started asking myself various questions:

Where do people go first? Why can a puppy be without a leash around all this food? How do customers know who to pay? Should people really wear that color? How long does the typical person stay at each booth? Who is allowed to sneeze and not cover their mouths? What type of people are here? Where is that awesome smell coming from? Which booths are the most popular? What ages are the people here? Why is the coffee all the way down the block!?

Answering these questions told me a lot about my own culture that I had never noticed before. It showed me the things we just know. I was able to see my culture instead of just being a part of it.

I sometimes still do this when I go places. It has become a little addictive to be honest. This practice has given me a better understanding of my own culture and the people who live in it.

All of this has also increased my people watching by about 400%. (When I am paying attention.) Coffee also seems to increase this process exponentially.

Have you ever noticed why people do things they do? Do you have any fun people watching stories?

NaNoWriMo - The End


I have just finished my 50,000 word novel for the month of November. As you can see from the graph below I had a few struggles along the way.

That big dip you see around day 17 is called life and procrastination. November is all about priorities and sometimes writing takes a back seat, even during NaNoWriMo. Honestly, every NaNoWriMo I have participated in I have fallen behind on word count at some point. The key is not to get discouraged even when you start to fall behind. This is where forums and friends come in.

You see, before my second NaNoWriMo I tried to convince everyone I could to join without much success. It was not until my wife decided to join the challenge that our friends followed suit. My wife and friends have been writing novels along side me for the past four years and that is the reason I have been successful at this endeavor every year. I believe this is true for anything we do. Community is important and without it you may still be successful, but it is a lot harder.

The only reason why I started to catch up this year around day 24 was the goading and prodding of my wife and friends. I had to scramble to bring my word count back to where it should be. I did not want my fifth year to be the year I failed and neither did they. After a lot of coffee and a few write-ins, I finished two days early. It is the earliest I have ever finished NaNoWriMo and I could not have done it without my wife and friends.


What was your NaNo experience? Would you like to join me next year?