23 Nov

Does your mirror say that you’re happy?

Banner - Sunrise

In my day job, I do a lot of zoom meetings, and every time, I’m struck by how similar people look on zoom.

You can get 20 images, side by side in a big grid. 20 faces looking back at you. And they all frown. Every single one.

Granted, I’m from Sweden and Swedes are a bit of a dour people. We don’t have that compulsory, smiling thing that they do in Japan, or that big “I love everything in the world is great”-thing they do in the USA.

But still, I’ve spoken to people from other countries on zoom, and they don’t look much happier than I do. Read More

16 Nov

A Note on Time

Banner - Typewriter

Banner - Typewriter

I like to fool myself that I’ve got a fairly decent sense time. This, of course, is utter hogwash.

Humans live in relative time. We simply do not know how time passes, we can’t feel it, can’t predict it. And it’s doing pretty weird things to our sense of self, or rather our sense of accomplishment.

For example, I’ve been writing every day. For the past month, every single day. But some days, even though I’ve marked down that I’ve written, even though the writing has felt quite long and hard, I haven’t accomplished much.

Other days, even though I feel that I’ve just written a little bit and I would have liked to write more, I’ve written thousands of words.

Both of these feelings are false.

Fortunately, I’m pretty good at noting when I start and stop my writing sprints. And amazingly on the days when the writing has felt like it’s taken forever but I haven’t accomplished much, I haven’t spent much time writing.

Fancy that.

See, my writing speed is fairly constant around 1500 usable words per hour. So it’s the total amount of time I spend writing that determines my total output. It’s simple math. However, when I consult my feelings, it’s anything but simple.

On days when I produce less, I feel that I’ve spent more time and more effort on my writing, and on days that I produce more, I generally feel that I’ve spent less time and less energy to produce more.

What’s going on?

What’s going on, is that my flow, my enthusiasm, and my natural fear of encountering difficulties collaborate to make my sense of time as accurate as that of a five-year-old waiting for Santa Claus.

But the more sprint’s I do, the less that feeling persists. Basically, the more I write, the more I feel like writing, and the less time and effort I feel that I’m spending.

Note the key word “feel” here. It’s got nothing to do with actual, observable, measurable time. Everything is about feeling. That’s why time gets shorter the more I write.

It’s a like warming up before a workout. You warm up, and warm up, and it’s hard. You’re still stiff, maybe hurting a bit from the last workout, and things aren’t going so great. But then you move along into the exercise itself. And after about 10, or 15, or 20, or however many, minutes, you hit your stride.

You’re feeling good about it. You’re no longer thinking about how heavy those weights are or how long you’ve been running or biking or swimming. You’re just doing your thing, in the zone.

Writing is exactly like that. Getting into the zone takes time and that time feels like a long, hard slog with a heavy backpack. In absolute terms it can be minutes, maybe quarter of an hour at most, before things get into flow. But those beginning moments, the warm up to the writing feel long. Especially before you begin, when they feel infinite.

That little warm up hump is enough to put a lot of people off, stop them from writing entirely. I know that I’m one.

My methods to break through this brain-hurdle is to count my writing as starting. If I just sit down and start, I get to count that day as having written.

This means that no moment, even if it’s only three minutes of cycling through old text, is wasted. I get to chalk it up as writing.

It gets me past the hard relative time and into the easy relative time. Not always, but often enough. Not reliably, but often enough that I can reach that relative time that just flows, effortlessly and swiftly, like a brook in spring where the words tumble, waiting to be caught.

It doesn’t always work. I’ve got days where the beginning time really feels infinite, and I can’t get past it. I’ve got days when I’m too stressed out, too tired, to worn and depressed and just plain fed up to write.

But the more I write, and the more used I get to the habit of starting, the quicker I get into fast time.

And that’s where I want to be.

09 Nov

Flexible yet indomitable

Banner - Old tree

Banner - Old tree

You want to be flexible. Not like water, which will flow around anything, but will be stopped by a simple dam, be pumped away, forced into a new path, evaporate, or simply sink into oblivion.

You want to be indomitable. Not like a rock, which is hard and strong, but once cracked, will never heal itself.

No, you want to be flexible, yet indomitable. Like a tree.

A tree will grow past any obstacles, cracking concrete, breaking through rock. It will stand against hurricanes and floods, shaking, bending, but resuming its growth once the storm passes.

Read More

26 Sep

Defining your Writing Career Through a Mission Statement

Defining your Writing Career Through a Mission Statement

Defining your Writing Career Through a Mission StatementI have a dream. I dream to be a professional writer. You know, a professional writer. Who’s, you know, professional and stuff.

Until very recently I had no idea what being a professional writer meant. I had a vague idea that I wanted to get paid for writing, and that I should be able to make a living from my writing and game design combined, so that, you know, I wouldn’t need to go to work anymore.

I bet that you’ve had that kind of dream: if only I’d strike it big/win the lottery/accidentally buy a Ferrari made out of solid gold I’d be able to retire, live my dreams and eat lunch in my pajamas[note]I no longer eat lunch in my pajamas. Not only do I need to set a good example for the kids, but I no longer find bread crumbs in bead to be sexy.[/note]. But it never happens does it?

That’s because this kind of dream relies on magic. If only I’d magically get X, then Y would be easy. But magic doesn’t exist in the real world[note]Because we’re all Muggles[/note]. That’s why you need a Mission Statement. Read More

04 Jul

Dealing with Lack of Motivation

Dealing with Lack of Motivation

Dealing with Lack of MotivationI’m losing my will to write. I’m losing my will to design. In fact, I’m losing my will.

And I should have seen it coming.

I’ve learned some things about myself, things that I can’t seem to change. First off, I’m a carrot type of guy. I work best when I’m motivated by positive feelings. Negative motivation, stress, and pushes don’t work for me. And I know that I’m not alone. Read More

30 May

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and Crashplan

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and Crashplan

Easy and Safe Writing across Multiple Computers with Scrivener, Dropbox and CrashplanSome years ago I lost all of my writing in a hard drive crash. I’m not crying over spilled milk – the writing was rather horrible – but it did set me thinking about redundancy and safety. I started doing backups.

At first, I did backups to CDs. That worked all right, until I thought I had done a backup and formatted my hard drive. Of course, I didn’t have any CD with my latest stuff on it. And then, when my computer crashed and I had to reformat it, I lost a few months of work as well.

So instead of CDs, I started using an external drive to backup all of my files. Which worked fine, except that it’s a pain in the behind to hook it up all the time. And I didn’t want to leave it hooked up and out in the open because part of the reason of doing backups was to protect me in case my computer got stolen.

But, two years ago, I found my main backup and sync solution. And last month I found the perfect way to work across multiple platforms, multiple computers, in complete safety, without having to do anything. Read More

23 May

Mathematical Proof that You’ve Got Time to Write

Mathematical Proof You've got Time to Write

Mathematical Proof You've got Time to WriteThere is one in every gathering. The friend-of-a-friend who says “Oh, I’m going to write a novel, too, when I’ve got the time.”

Sometimes they use variations “I’m going to write when I retire.” “When the kids are older.” “When this project at work is finished.” If only they’d have the time.

Well, friend-of-a-friend, since I don’t have the courage to take you by the ear and shake you, I’ll do the second best thing. I’m going to lampoon you on the Interwebz. I’m going to prove to you that you’ve got the time to write, using cold, hard math. Read More

16 May

Why Do you Do what you Do Do?

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you do what you do?Ours is not to reason why, Ours is but to do or die[note]Contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with the US Marines, Iwo Jima or the Battle of Ypres. The original quote, “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die”, comes from the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson, and translates to: “damn, what idiots”.[/note].

What a load of bullshit.

The ability to reason why is central to human experience. It is what drives us to purposeful action and what separates us from the animals – experiments have shown animals to be able to reason (horses, for example, can do arithmetic on the level of a 4-year-old), be optimistic or pessimistic (shown in both birds and mammals using colored coded learning/unlearning models), and learn to read and write (dolphins can learn a symbolic language and use it to communicate with humans, as do chimps). However, no experiment has managed to show that animals have the ability to self-analysis.

Humans do. And it’s one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to productivity. Read More

09 May

You Have to Begin

You have to begin

You have to beginYou have to begin.

You have to begin, over, and over, and over again. A new story, a new chapter, a new sentence.

You have to begin. That’s all there is to it.

For me, beginning is always hard. I know of people who look at the page and don’t know what to write. I don’t. If I look at the page, I start to write. It’s the moment before, right as I start the computer, think about what I need to do, that’s the hardest.

I know I should begin. I know that as soon as I begin I’ll be able to write, I’ll be getting somewhere, anywhere. But the moment before I start, that’s pure fear.

I’ve been writing professionally for over fifteen years now, and I still have trouble beginning. I still feel the fear. Read More