Writing Practice – Just Write

Just write…

Just write a story. Just write a poem. Just write a chapter, or a paragraph, or even a sentence. Just – write – something, anything.

Doesn’t have to be great. Probably won’t be terrible, either. Most likely it’s going to be pretty well down the middle – not that good, not that bad. 80% of the world is, by definition, right in the middle 80% of your work, so when you write something great one day, the next you ought to expect to be below that, much more likely to be around the mean than another of those outside-the-edge pieces.

Just write. Make it real, make it true, make it honest to you, and then you’ve won. If nobody lies it, what does that matter? You did. You do. You wrote. You enjoyed it.

But here’s another similar idea- you’re not that special. If you like something, it’s pretty likely that others will, too. They’ll resonate with your stuff, because they’ve been that same poor kid growing up without a parent because they were always working. They’ll see similarities between how you listed portrayed showed demonstrated the existential angst of today’s midlife crisis generation and they’ll want to see more of the same.

Or they will stand in reference of the way you depicted (in their minds, only using your words) the vast landscape, stretching across their vision, using such basic, yet powerful, words as intrepid and seeking and voluminous. You may not make the “best” of every you and your mind and the way you see the world, thing, but I guarantee, I promise, when you are honest in yourself, when your writing reflects you and your mind and the way you see the world, Others will see it that way, too. They will feel the pull inside their chest, a reverberation that pulls them out of their chair or their subway seat or off their porcelain throne, where ever it is that you have reached them, and they will stand up proud, proud to have read you, proud to have been seen by you, proud to be shown to the world in such a pure and vibrant and poignant way, and they will advocate for you, they will tell neighbors and friends and enemies about you, they will say, “Oh, my god, you’ve got to read this, it’s totally what I was thinking the other day,” and at that point you have transitioned. You have evolved. You have gone from writer to influencer and they, that audience, they too have matured, they have evolved, they have arrived, the have advanced from passive in-takers to active out-givers. They give you to their audience, they give you to the world around them, and, in that way, the seeds spread, and the cycle begins anew.

Welcome the cycle. Appreciate it. Revel in it. And love it. For it is as organic as moss, as influential as the steady drip of rainwater, as inescapable as the sunlight. It will find you, it will swallow you up, it will overtake and overwhelm you. But only if you choose not to seek after it. Only if you allow it to happen, in its own time, at its own pace, not by Striving and Searching for accolades because you have tried to write “what they want”, but, paradoxically, because you have not.

Writing Practice 1/12/2020 – Budget

Prompt: “budget”

Good lord, don’t speak to me of budgets. How often must we talk of accounts, and income, and expenses, and allocations? Let us live our lives! Let us run free! Let us roam, let us expand let us explore! No more artificial, arbitrary constraints of a dollar here or a dollar there. No more abstract concepts of balancing from one ledger line to another. No more wondering whether we’ll be off and over by a penny, thus incurring the same warmth as if we had gone over by ten dollars or a thousand.

Why such absolutes? Be more fluid, more flexible, and see where life takes you. Fly! Fly free and enjoy the wind of life in your hair.

Ignore the boundaries of capitalism and embrace the freedom of poverty. Release yourself from the shackles of limitations and discover just how much you can accomplish with nothing, nothing at all.

Ignore the voices at the back of your head saying “worry” and “fear” and “save”. What do they know of life, anyway? What good is saving now for another day, when that other day, you are too feeble to use what you have saved?

No, tomorrow is not guaranteed. And, likewise, neither is a year from now not guaranteed. So, live your life. Love your life. Appreciate your boundaries, and run free within them.

When you find, as you absolutely will, eventually, that those boundaries no longer offer the stimulation you once received – when your cavorting within the confines of your budget no longer satisfy your curiosity for adventure, for exploration, and experience – then, then my friend, it is time.

You shall know it by the warning signs: when you are antsy with your routine – when you are bored of your friends – when your lover does not – when you see these, be aware, and be prepared, that the change is coming.

It will be difficult, no doubt. It may be violent, how strongly your subconscious rebels against the freedom you are exposing it to. But push on, continue, fight this good fight, for in doing, you dissolve the last barriers to true experience – those limitations on mind, on body, and, truly, on happiness usually called a “budget”.

How to draft a book

If you’ve ever wondered how to write the first draft of a book, here’s what I did. I don’t recommend this process.

  1. Be in your mid-life crisis.
  2. Recognize that writing is one of your stress releases.
  3. Be talking with your writer’s group, and get the idea for a book title called “In Too Deep”.
  4. Imagine that In Too Deep would be an awesome name for an erotic book.
  5. Decided to write that.
  6. Notice that NaNoWriMo is coming up.
  7. Start NaNoWriMo without any characters, plot, setting, or anything, knowing only that you’re going to take some of your recent experience and try to write >50,000 words in 30 days.
  8. Finish NaNoWriMo with ~50,500 words (thus WINNING!), but realize that the story is only half-finished.
  9. Write another 10,000 words in the next month, and run out of steam.
    • Because you’ve generally used writing to figure out what the story is, not try to sell it.
    • And now that you know where the story is going, you don’t need to write any more. It’s not that interesting, and you’ve got some other stuff going on, so, meh.
  10. Wait 3 years.
  11. Pick it up again and add another 3,000 words.
  12. Put it down for another 3 months.
  13. Pick it up again and re-read it, and think, “Hey, you know what? I could do this.”
  14. Commit to finishing the draft by December 31, 2019.
  15. Get encouragement from your writer’s group.
  16. Get 3,000 words from the end and keep getting sidetracked by new ideas that come into your head.
    • Realize these are self-sabotaging your completion, because if you actually finish the damn thing, then you’re done and you don’t have something to do.
    • Say “Fuck that shit” to self-sabotage, and decide to write the last 2 scenes without adding anything extra.
  17. Write the next-to-last scene with 3 days left in the year.
  18. Think, Maybe?
  19. Write the last scene.
  20. Basically go, Wait, what did I just do?

Repeat.


Yeah, I don’t recommend that process. But, it worked! I have a draft of a novel. And I’m going to decide by February 11 whether to try to get an agent and traditionally publish, or self-publish.

Any and all comments welcome.

Writing Practice 1/5/2020 – “Mushrooms”

It is a strange mashup we have made in English for those multi-faceted varieties of fungus. We call them mushrooms, from a very strange quirk of language. Originally they were called “toe-fruit”, up until approximately the 13th century. Such a name applied because they were often harvested by walking through the forest, and kicking at the growths on the ground with your toes.

All of that changed, though, with the advent of 13th century farming techniques. A young farmer in England, whose name is unfortunately lost to history, had been finding toe-fruits in the wild for years. One afternoon she had entered her walled-off compost room at the side of her house, and found the toe-fruits growing not only at ground level, but at many different heights up and down the walls.

We now know that the spores of such must have been spread onto the rich, fertile compost by some method – mice, or perhaps accidental distribution via undigested food, or some other means. We know not what she said, or what she believed, but we do know that she became one of the first to cultivate toe-fruits with regularity, ultimately using the profits of her harvest to build another compost-room, and leveraging success over and over. The villagers around found her toe-fruits were ecstatic to find a regular, reliable source of such edibles, and when they asked her where she found them, she would cryptically reply that they came from “mush room”. Not wanting to give away the secrete of [illegible], for if she did others might apply the same to their own benefit, they more [illegible] accepted this bounty and applied the spoils to their lives.

Thus was both the strange name of the mushroom, which has carried on down to the modern day. Should you ever encounter other cultures and languages, though, you will often find yourself dealing with a name that, should it be translated literally, resembles not so much a room full of mush, but the fruit of your smallest digit.

Cheers!

A Bit Of Chatbot Humor

The other day I got involved in a discussion with what is either a really good chatbot or a really bad human. You decide! My text is in bold, the response is normal.

Annotations (my external comments now that I’m a few moments removed) are in italics.

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Photo by Owen Beard on Unsplash

***

Chat started on 12 Dec 2019, 03:31 PM (GMT+0)
(03:31:48) *** Ian joined the chat ***
(03:31:48) *** Visitor 44671434 joined the chat ***
(03:31:51) Ian: Hi there
(03:31:52) Ian: — Are you looking to get a website design & Developed ? I am Ian Sr Web Developer Allow me to assist you 🙂
(03:32:02) Visitor 44671434 (Stephan James): hi ian, what’s twelve minus nineteen?

I often pose a question like this to check and see if I’m chatting with a bot.

(03:32:23) Ian: -4 : D
(03:32:33) Ian: I am not a bot don’t worry
(03:32:55) Visitor 44671434: close. it’s actually -7. i hope your web design is better than your math.

Well, that was surprising. First time I’ve seen a bot actually try to answer.

(03:33:11) Ian: Ofcourse it is
(03:33:30) Ian: because that is our specialty and math is not
(03:33:44) Ian: So what is the nature of your business and what sort of a website you are looking for ?

At this point I wasn’t looking for anything. I don’t even remember what website it was on, so I don’t know what I was trying to do! I think it was some web design company. Hm… how can I really freak out this bot?

(03:34:34) Visitor 44671434: well, i’m a porn scammer. i want to create automated e-mails that spam inboxes of unsuspecting grandmothers and ask them for ransom so I don’t publish the pictures of their granddaughters banging boyfriends.

That ought to do it.

(03:34:45) Visitor 44671434: is that something you can help me with?
(03:35:47) Ian: I am sorry i cannot help you in such activity and i wish you also don’t do that ! However thanks

Surprising! Generally you don’t get much pushback. And I don’t understand the “thanks” either, so I’m going to poke this bear a little bit.

(03:36:12) Visitor 44671434: why are you saying “thanks” there?
(03:36:21) Ian: for wasting my t8ime
(03:36:23) Ian: time
(03:36:34) Visitor 44671434: hey, you waste my time, I”m gonna return the favor.
(03:36:53) Ian: Please do that ASAP !

see, now it seems like this isn’t a bot, because of the typo and the correction, but then it says it wants me to “return the favor” of “wasting my time”, which a human wouldn’t do.

(03:37:01) Visitor 44671434: Already on top of it!
(03:37:12) Ian: Don’t be on top its very sharp

Again sounds like an automated kind of response. No way this is a human. A human would be offended and pissed off.

(03:37:42) Visitor 44671434: sharp doesn’t please the ladies, Ian, you know that. you’ve got to be thick but with a gentle touch. sharp is only going to poke and possibly cut.
(03:38:10) Ian: lol

Does this thing understand innuendo? Maybe it’s not a bot after all.

(03:38:37) Ian: Well let’s be honest i really can’t help you in something like this as i really don’t know what kind of a web service will that be for
(03:38:59) Visitor 44671434: good bot. good job. I almost believe you are a human.
(03:39:09) Visitor 44671434: You’re like *this close* to passing that Turing test.

In case you don’t know, the Turing Test is named for Alan Turing, who said that artificial intelligence is achieved when an observer would not be able to tell that one of the parties to a conversation is actually a machine.

(03:39:57) Ian: Well i would suggest you to stop judging who i am and start telling what i can do for you so we could get this on track – as i really won’t get anything even if you pass me

See, now we’re back to the bot trying to sell me on its services. If it were a human, he would have been disgusted with my desire to create a scammy website, and would have ended the chat.

(03:40:53) Visitor 44671434: no “judgment” here. As I said, you can help me build a website for my business. Do you have a problem with profit? Do you have a policy against certain types of business? or is it your individual evaluation as to which are worthy of your help?
(03:41:10) Visitor 44671434: I need the website to attract investors. Mostly information.
(03:41:28) Ian: Well if it was really a business then i don’t have any problem in creating one for you tell me what things you want on it and have you secured a domain name yet ?

100% right, the bot doesn’t care about what kind of business it is, so long as it can close the sale.

(03:42:12) Visitor 44671434: I want someone else to front the $50k that the guy on the dark web told me he needed in order to build the scammy email automation. I’m just the middleman.
(03:42:35) Visitor 44671434: I don’t have a domain secured. Do you have any recommendations?
(03:43:11) Ian: Well you can let me know what domain you would like to secure and i can see if that can be done

Ooh! Options! Mind spinning… What would be something that might not yet exist in the real world?

(03:43:56) Visitor 44671434: I’d like “shadyinvestments.com“.
(03:44:13) Ian: First of all it would be a website which needs to be created so as far the content is concern tell me what pages you would like to have and how soon do you want this to be completed ?

And now that you ask, I am absolutely loving this “create on the fly” aspect that we’re getting in to.

(03:45:42) Visitor 44671434: I need one front page with a “welcome to this crappy website” type of stuff. Then I need 3 pages each with a profile of a grandmother that we’re going to scam. Finally I need a contact page, and I need a separate web forum where we can have private conversations.
(03:45:56) Visitor 44671434: Listen Ian, I’ve got another call in about 15 minutes. Think we can wrap this up before then?
(03:46:07) Ian: Yes we can do that before that –
(03:46:15) Ian: now as far the profiles are concern you have all that data ?
(03:46:22) Visitor 44671434: I can make something up.
(03:46:34) Ian: Okay let me see the domain if it is available
(03:46:41) Ian: how soon do you want this site to be up in running ?
(03:47:15) Visitor 44671434: i’m not in a hurry, i’ve got until like Christmas.
(03:47:52) Ian: We can make it up before christmas

I bet you say that to all the warm leads, Ian.

(03:47:57) Visitor 44671434: Yay!
(03:48:21) Visitor 44671434: Now, I’m a little fuzzy on whether or not you’re a reputable business. can you give me some links to prior customers of yours?

This was a true request. I’m now invested(ish) in this thing, and I just might create a fake website.

(03:49:22) Ian: Also the domain is available and it is for $4000 but i do have other options in the same name available for you Shadyinvestments.co Shadyinvestments.org Shadyinvestments.Us

shady-investments.com

(03:50:31) Visitor 44671434: whoa, $4,000 is too much.
(03:50:45) Visitor 44671434: What can I get for tree fiddy?
(03:51:15) Ian: shady-investments.com < We can secure this one for $500 – for 5 Years
(03:51:27) Visitor 44671434: only $500? that’s more like it!
(03:51:58) Ian: and let me share you some of the sites which we have done www.sammydress.com https://limnia.com/ http://www.lillypulitzer.com https://dogstudio.co/ https://rocka.co/ https://travelshift.com/ https://www.penarosawatches.com/
(03:52:21) Ian: yes $500 for 5 years Domain Name will be www.shady-investments.com
(03:53:00) Visitor 44671434: Hold on, I’m working on something on this end… give me a minute.

I was; I decided to register shady-investments.com for myself, rather than paying them for it. Not sure I’m dropping $500 just yet.

(03:53:04) Ian: Sure
(03:54:12) Visitor 44671434: so, quick question – I just registered shady-investments.com myself, and it only cost $8 for a whole year. Why are you charging $500 for 5 years?

I used namecheap.com. I like using a domain registrar for searching whether or not a website is already active, because in the off case that it’s not, there are other trawlers out there that will note what you searched for, note that there’s no website, and go register that one automatically. Then when you want that one, boom, it’s taken, too, so performing searches as clandestinely as possible is better. 

(03:54:34) Ian: Because that include the hosting Server for 5 years as well on which your website will be hsoted
(03:54:35) Ian: hosted

Oh, that makes sense.

And look, another intentional typo.

I wonder if I could get a data scientist to analyze this type to see whether there is any regularity to the typos?

(03:54:49) Ian: With the Dedicated connection including SSL (Secuirty for the website )
(03:55:00) Visitor 44671434: oh, well why didn’t you explain that before?
(03:55:35) Ian: We send invoice mentioning everything or when confirming the domain name you heavn’t confirmed yet which is why the information was not shared
(03:55:58) Visitor 44671434: see, you’re going to have to go slow with me here. I’m a little new to this whole scamming everyone thing. Most of the businesses I’ve run before have been legit.

Trying to bring it back to “shady investments”.

(03:56:34) Ian: Even i am thinking that you are about to scam me as well with the offer so it would be better to talk over the phone so we could wrap this up shortly
(03:56:39) Ian: May i have your number to call you ?

No way this would be “Ian” calling me, if I actually gave a number it would be some other sales schmuck. Not interested.

(03:57:01) Visitor 44671434: sorry, as I said, I’m going to be on a call in about 3 more minutes.
(03:57:26) Ian: You said 15 minutes and according to my watch you still have 9 minutes left

We had about 3 minutes left. The bot is as bad at math as I was.

(03:57:40) Visitor 44671434: I’m bad at estimating time. I gotta be honest, Ian, I did not expect this to go so well! thank you for everything.
(03:58:33) Ian: Not a problem hopefully will wait for you to come back after the call 🙂 as i found this business very interesting which is why will get you extra discount on it to catch more granny’s !

Again with the sales pitch! I don’t believe that was a real person (like, who would find this business “interesting”), but I’m not kidding. I totally enjoyed the chat, and I now have another website I might develop.

(03:58:57) Visitor 44671434: Awesome!
(04:30:01) *** Visitor 44671434 left the chat ***

***

So, what comes out of this? If you’ll notice, “shadyinvestments.com” is actually registered, as well as “shady-investments.com”. That’s not a problem.

In the next couple of days I put in a request on “shadyinvestements.com” for a quote to buy that domain name. It was something ridiculous like $4,000, and I ended up getting a call from a dude on the phone. He wanted to scare me into buying the name, because people wouldn’t remember the ‘-‘, and then someone would develop the site shadyinvestments.com and scam off all my members, but, remember, I don’t actually have a product.

All I have is an idea.

So I didn’t buy his crappy $4k domain name. I’m gonna make my own crappy domain and get rich!

Let’s make Shady-Investments.com into an entertainment website, where each month we’ll create a questionable, but perhaps plausible, business idea and post about it. The first one is that grandma-scam website. The “shady” part is not that we’re going to scam grandmothers, but that we’re investing $50k to build the website. Will solicit ideas from readers, maybe make it interactive. I bet there’s more that could go up there, and we could gin up some Excel spreadsheets to make it look legit. Do it right, we’ll get some of those “investors” hooked. And then?

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Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Totally worth it.

Be on the lookout for a launch announcement in Q1 2020!

Writing Practice 11/26/2019

Stories of Your Life, page 119: It’ll be when you first learn to walk…

It’ll be when you first learn to walk. Your drunken-baby steps, uncertain and wobbly, that lead you only a few inches away from the safety of the couch at first, then further and further as you gain skill, confidence, strength.

Or – maybe – it will be when you first ride a bike. That proud-parent-even-prouder-child experience, when you go zooming off down the street faster and more sure than I could ever be for you right now.

Or – maybe – it will be when you have your first sleepover party, that time when I will for the first time be unable to sneak in your room at night and just watch, just check, just to make sure, once more, that you are, in fact, still breathing and are, in parallel fact, still my little daughter.

certainly it won’t be as late as when you get glasses. That’s going to be in about fifth or sixth grade, if family history is any indication. You’ll be what – eleven? Twelve? So grown up, and yet so vulnerable still.

I won’t even conceive that it could be as late as your braces, those fences inside your lips holding back your “true” development, but, at the same time, driving you to a more secure, more happy, more healthy body image. I must admit – I never went through that phase. The one bright spot in my DNA, I guess, so I don’t know how to relate to that. I’ll just have to listen then while you hate having braces and hate the rubber bands and hate flossing and hate the checkups and hate everything about it, just smile and nod, smile and nod.

Perhaps it would be foolish of me to think it would be at your first date. Or when you’re driving to your job. Or when you’re moving in to the dorm, or moving out, or when you finally come back to tell me the fabulous news. Or when you’ve finally gotten that sweet little bundle of joy of your own, when you feel “complete”, whenever that is down the road, whenever you’re able to give me advice on finances, or memory, or organization.

I could be forgiven for hoping it will last that long. But I know it won’t. Someday, it will come, that I will realize you are no longer my “little girl”. And then I will probably cry. Laugh, too, and give you a hug, but, yes, without a doubt, I will cry.

Until that day, though, I will savor these moments. I will cradle you here in the crook of my arm. I will feel the solid weight of your head against my bicep. I will stroke your tiny fingers, one at a time. Then all at a time, with my huge fingers, my giant hand, my overwhelming love. I will bask in this wonderful feeling, and together we shall march, arm in arm, into the future, as one. Let’s go, my dearest daughter.

Let’s go.

Writing Practice 11/23/2019

Write without purpose. Let the words flow freely. Do not impede their progress, from Muse to brain to pen to paper, but let them allow them encourage them to express themselves in your presence.

Become their conduit, rather than their dam. Become a gate through which they flow, rather than a barrier blocking their passage from the universe to your audience. See yourself not so much as a writer, or artist, or sculptor, as if you have the power, as if you have agency over the final form. But, rather, see ourself as the liberator, the catalyst, the accelerator of the birth and emergence of ideas, which once were clouded in the obscurity of the quantum foam, and which, through you, have been able finally to find their true expression, their fullness of being, their own transcendence of the chains holding them back from their truest, fullest, most complete and satisfying existence.

For is that not truly what all things, beings, even ideas, want? To achieve their potential? To make as large an impact on this universe as they are called to achieve?

To be anything less, then, is to laugh at the judgment of those who designed these spaces, these worlds, these modes of expression, and to say to them, “Bah, forget you, I know better than you do how high I can rise, how complete I can be, how fully my heart can be, and, contrary to your exalted expectations, honestly, I must say, you were quite mistaken. Would that I could reach so high! Alas, it is your error in judgment, then, that we expose here today. You aimed too high for me. I, on the other hand, have achieved exactly what I believed, and, truly, know could be done, at the limits of my performance.

This is, let me remind you, absolutely not my failure to achieve the plans you have set in place for me and my benefit and my success and my happiness. Could I have more? Oh, if it were only so easy! But the fault, then, is clearly yours. Do you not see that in fact I have truly reached my limit? Fret yourself not over my ‘failings.’ It is not I who have missed the mark, but instead it is you, you power, you divinity, with your overestimation, with your naïveté to the reality of the situation, with your foolhardy expectation of a life that, clearly, I am not bound or able to live. Shall we all agree in that, everyone would be much better off.”

Do you see, then, how your arrogance plays out in limiting you? Turn not to your own small [illegible], therefore. Believe not the small, limiting voice in your head. Listen, instead to the wide, grand, aspirational call from afar, and seek and strive and achieve the great heights to which you are truly destined.