Daily Thoughts 197: Telling It Twice

Author's selfieThis morning I told a story twice. I recorded at least part of it the first time (but thought it hadn’t recorded any of it), then recorded it again when I told it the second time.

Today was an example of what happens when manuscripts are lost.

Telling It Twice

I find the loss of manuscript pages disconcerting. You’ve been in a flow state, the words pouring out as if the Muse sits on your shoulder whispering the stories into your ear with the softest of kisses. It’s all that you can do to keep your fingers moving—or mouth shaping words—fast enough to tell the story forming. Even though you may later cycle back through what was written and choose to discard some or part of what was written, that is a choice made in the creative process.

The loss of words written is something else. It’s arbitrary and unplanned. A customer in the Starbucks laughing too loudly with her friend hits your table with her hip, knocking your Iced Cascara Coconutmilk Latte over onto your keyboard to permanently ice your story or chapter or whatever into oblivion. It’s saving a new empty file over your 70,000-word in-progress novel and lacking any version control or backup copies. Okay, maybe not that bad, but the point is that two things happen in this sort of case.

First, you race through the twelve steps over the course of a minute as you deny what has happened, curse, and work through to acceptance. It has happened, the story that seemed like a bright and shining jewel is gone. Second, if it is a story you really wanted to tell, you start over.

The Weight of Ghost Words

Starting over makes sense and is also difficult at times. The echoes of that previous draft float around in your brain shaking their chains. Perhaps you’re a mutant with the power to recall exactly every word as you originally wrote it. Ordinarily a curse, but in this case, useful since a complete backup exists in your head and you only need to put it down again.

I don’t have a memory like that. I make up stories for Drive-By Stories on the fly. I don’t mess with the digital recorder while driving. Instead, I simply tell the story to the road trippers that I imagine are keeping me company in the passenger seat. Sometimes, when looking at the transcribed copy, I have no idea what I was trying to say. But that’s okay. I have the recording, I can listen to it if it is important.

It’s hard, though, to redraft a story you just told. Parts of your brain do know what was said and will chitter away when you change the story. And you will because you don’t remember it perfectly. Hopefully, you’ll get back into the flow state and will just be telling the story again. If you can exorcise the ghosts of words past.

This Morning

This morning I experienced one of these moments. At least partly, I think. When I reached work and parked, I picked up the recorder and discovered it was off. It had gone to sleep. And as a result, it seemed clear that I hadn’t after all managed to record the story. The whole drive to work, the story I had made up, lost.

I didn’t have time to contemplate this long, for about a minute as I’d said earlier. I picked up a company car to head out to a library, turned on the recorder, and told the story again. I changed it.  I added details, shifted the story. By the time I reached the library I decided that it must be a better version.

Now, looking at the recording, it shows two recordings. What happened? I don’t know. The likely answer? I put my thermos down on the recorder, hitting the stop button to turn off the recording. I’ll see what the transcribed copies show, but it looks like I’ll have two versions of the story to use when I redraft it, even if one is incomplete.

That’s not too bad.


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Daily Thoughts 195: Updates From Last Week

Author's selfieI’ve been working on Drive-By Stories this past week. I was excited to see the news about Galaxy Magazine on Archive.org. The collection includes 355 issues from 1950-1976. Each issue can be read online or downloaded in a variety of formats including PDF scans (lovely for the artwork and correct text) and .mobi (Kindle) format. The OCR conversion isn’t without errors but I find that I can read past those without too much trouble.

Cover art Galaxy Magazine

I’ll be reading issues! I’ve started with the October 1950 issue. It kicks off with Clifford D. Simak’s Time Quarry serialized novel.

Drive-By Stories

My focus this last week has been mostly on Drive-By Stories. Much of the work has been behind the scenes and style tweaks, including switching to a two-column view for the stories.

Screen capture of Drive-By Stories

The site is functional now. Not finished, there’s still much to do. The artwork is a default placeholder that will be replaced with story artwork once I get that created. I plan to replace the default image too with something else.

I’ve created the site so that it’s easy to add new stories using a flat file method rather than a database. I’ll continue to refine and improve that structure as time allows. Right now it works, I added a new story titled “Go Ahead, Indulge” yesterday. I have several other transcribed drafts to work on as well.

Librarian Portfolio

Yesterday I also put up an empty placeholder site for my portfolio at librarianportfolio.info. I’ll be developing that over the next month before the semester starts on August 23rd. I want to have the site functional and ready to go by then. Now that Drive-By Stories is working, I plan to shift my attention more to the portfolio project.


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Daily Thoughts 194: Building the Future

Author's selfieI’m building the future! I started my Massive Reboot project this summer. Though that is focused on my novels and collections, I’m tackling other projects as part of the wider development of my creative future. Including Drive-By Stories. I thought it’d be interesting to do a post covering some of my projects and the associated Trello boards. Some of these are still in the earliest stages!

Massive Reboot

It doesn’t look like I’ve made much progress on the Massive Reboot project if you’re looking at the Trello board. This board has multiple columns for the stages each book will go through for this project.

Massive Reboot Trello board
Looks are deceiving

I do have Dark Matters moved over to a couple columns and have some done work on the metadata for the project. The real work which doesn’t show on the board is related more to studying and improving my skills in areas like graphic design and illustration. Not to say that I can’t work on these earlier elements. It’ll just take the time it’s going to take.

Drive-By Stories

I’ve posted recently about Drive-By Stories. It’s the project I’ve spent the most time on these past few weeks.

Drive-By Stories Trello board
More activity here

The board follows a pretty basic format with elements being developed, scheduled, in progress, and done. I need to add some updates for next steps!

Librarian Portfolio

This is about to move to the top of my list! I need to work on my ePortfolio project for my MLIS degree. I’ve used Trello extensively throughout my time getting this degree. It’s been fantastic!

Portfolio Trello board
These lists are about to fill up!

Studies, and Other Boards

I have a bunch of other Trello boards I use for different projects, some which I’m not ready to announce yet!

Writing and Art Board
Studying!

Among other things, I have boards that cover my studies in writing and art, coding, and home projects. Many of the projects build on each other, studies in one place contributes to progress in another way.

It keeps me busy, and Trello keeps me organized!


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Daily Thoughts 193: Bouncing Between Tasks

Author's selfieI’ve enjoyed a productive day. A lot of task switching, but I’ve alternated tasks in the house with working on tasks outside. I have a battery-powered string trimmer and I’ve been using it to hack down our overgrown backyard in preparation for a project. When the battery is exhausted I put it back in the charger and work on something else inside. Today that included cleaning out a closet and reorganizing some books (still work to be done).

Patreon Page

Patreon makes it easy for people to get paid by those who enjoy their work, providing a regular monthly income. I’m setting up a new page focused on my Drive-By Stories project. I spent more time today working on the page.

Screen capture of Patreon Page
Click image to preview page

The page is available to preview now. Let me know if you see things that need fixes. I’ve got to work on some graphics for the page and an introduction video. Once that’s done (or close to done), I’ll set a launch date. By then I plan to have more stories up on Drive-By Stories. My initial goal is 100 patrons. Eventually, I’d like to work up to ~1,000 patrons. It’d be terrific to have that many people engaged with these stories.


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Daily Thoughts 192: Drive-By Stories Coding Updates

Author's selfieAfter errands this morning, I spend time working on Drive-By Stories to implement some of the basic functionality I wanted in the site. The plan all along has been to set up a structure that made it easy to add new stories to the site without having to do anything to get them working with the site. Basically, just upload and it would work. I also wanted the site to randomly load a story on the main page, as well as randomly populate the featured title list on the cover. And randomly change the adjective used on the site. And automatically populate the story index. Change the date.

I want the site interactive, yet simple to modify and maintain. Eventually, I want the cover image to change along with the story—once I’ve actually created cover images. I’ll have a default (other than the one I’m using now) image.

Much of that basic functionality is working now. Each time the site loads it randomly picks the titles, story, and adjective. The issue date should update. The story index populates itself, and yet each story still has a permalink.

Screencapture of Drive-By Stories
Screen capture Drive-By Stories 2017-07-09

Responsive and Accessible

The site needs additional work, particularly in the responsiveness and accessibility features. I’ll keep working on those. I’ve built the site with an eye to responsiveness and mobile use. It works somewhat but could be much better.

Next Steps

I have a number of things left to do with the site. I’ll likely keep tweaking it for quite a while. Coming up on my list:

  • Complete work on donation/support options.
  • Add social links.
  • Add Twitter cards.
  • Improve metadata for stories.
  • Create cover illustrations!
  • Address responsive/mobile issues.
  • Address accessibility issues.

And write more stories! I’ve dictated a couple more stories this past week. I’m adding ideas each day to my journal. I’ve found that using the Post-It notes to get the idea down and provide a reminder has helped me focus. My new Post-Its arrive yesterday and will give me much more room comfortably record my ideas.


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Daily Thoughts 191: Sharing Economy

Author's selfieI’m setting up ways for interested readers to support releasing my creations under the CC BY SA license. Right now my focus has been on getting Drive-By Stories set up and with writing new stories. I’m planning to set up a few different options for people to support my work. Buying copies will remain an option. Even if the story or book is available for free, sometimes it’s worth paying for the convenience or for a physical copy. Or access to additional material.

Patreon

I’ve used Patreon before without result. I’d like to think that I’ve learned some things since that first attempt. I’m redoing my Patreon page with that in mind and with the focus on Drive-By Stories. It doesn’t take all that many supporters to make a big difference. I’d love to see more people reading the stories and interacting. I guess we’ll see! I’ll post more once the site goes live.


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Daily Thoughts 190: The Life of a Cyborg

Author's selfieI enjoyed my morning commute today. I dictated the start of a story for Drive-By Stories. I’d wanted to finish it in a single drive, but that didn’t happen. This was the first morning I used the Post-It note method I wrote about yesterday. It helped. It gave me a reminder just by sticking it to the dash.

Picture of a Post-It note on the dashboard of a car

Yes, that is a tape deck. The car is old. Not as old as I am, but old enough. I’m sure that some of the content dictated today was simply finding the story, learning about the character and the situation. It’s an exploratory draft but I’ll cut it down and reshape it as I do the redrafting.

Cyborg Life

Praise makes me uncomfortable. I know many people feel the same way. I don’t see anything that I do as extraordinary. I do my best. I try to approach any task with the plan to do my best. That’s it. I’ve learned to accept praise, but sometimes it’s interesting because I  don’t know how to take some comments. Is it praise? Something else? I don’t know. Today a co-worker, I believe in jest, called me a cyborg. I joked back about trying figuring out how offended to be and needing another processor.

It isn’t the first time that I’ve heard such comments. In the past few months, I’ve come to realize that my brain really does work differently than what is considered neurotypical. I don’t have any official diagnosis. It’s a realization that has arrived both from watching my son develop and recognizing behaviors, sensory processing, and other commonalities we share that don’t fall on the neurotypical side of the graph. From my readings, and results from the Aspie Quiz, I’d say that we both are Aspies, people with Aspergers. Or, under the modern diagnostic standards, Autistics, on the high-function end of the spectrum.

Could I be wrong? Of course. I don’t think so, but it’s obviously a possibility.

Be Different

Cover artOne of the books I read a few weeks back was Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergian with Practical Advice for Aspergians, Misfits, Families & Teachers by John Elder Robison. I really enjoyed this book! Robison didn’t get diagnosed until in his forties. I’ve read a few books now about people that have had that same experience.

It isn’t easy to share such experiences. People may reject the diagnosis. You might be concerned that a diagnosis would impact your job or employment options. Each person has to make that decision for themselves.

For me, I think it’s good to talk about it. For one thing, reading about others who have had these experiences helps me understand the range of the spectrum beyond the common ways that ASD is portrayed in TV shows or movies. In being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I didn’t realize at the time the connections that may exist between that and ASD. It’s helpful reading accounts such as Robison and others and seeing the similarities in my own childhood and life.

That doesn’t make it easy. Our society stigmatizes ASD, depression, and basically, anything that doesn’t fall neatly within what is considered normal. I haven’t posted about this until now. I hadn’t planned to until that innocuous comment today.

I work in public libraries. I interact with the public every week. I’m good at my job. Even so, several years ago there were two positions open at our headquarters. One in our IT department, and one working with the public and our employees in the library. More than once I had people express surprise that I didn’t apply for the IT job. Partly, I believe, based on my skills and knowledge in that area. Also, because I’m not seen as a ‘people-person.’

And I’m not. At least not in the way people think. I can be friendly, calm, professional, and effective. As I said, I do well in my position, and I feel strongly about the role libraries play.

Outside of work? I’m as socially isolated as I was as a kid. I don’t tend to have close friends outside of my family. I’d rather stay at home than go out and socialize (which I don’t do). Though I have learned to be better at reading people, I still struggle at times. I focus on my interests, read a lot, enjoy the activities that I enjoy. Socializing (including work) can leave me exhausted. I don’t gain energy from it the way some people do.

Maybe I am a cyborg. I don’t think the same as neurotypicals. Not less, different.


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Daily Thoughts 189: Sticky Ideas for Drive-By Stories

Author's selfieI want to write more stories. Particularly, I want to write stories while driving for Drive-By Stories. I’m out of practice. For the past couple years, I haven’t written much. My attention has been mostly on school. I’m off this summer, so I’m spending more time on some of my other projects. I’ve been dictating each morning on my commute. And I have managed to come up with a few stories, or partial stories. I haven’t gone through the transcribed drafts to write coherent drafts of the stories yet. I’m hoping that being more organized will help.

Sticky Ideas for Drive-By Stories

I posted the other day about relaunching some habit streaks. Dictating each day fulfills the writing requirement, but I’d like it to be more productive. Ideally, I want to get in the car, start the recorder (I only work hands-free), and dictate the story with a minimum of digression and useless chatter. I have nothing against useless chatter. I just want to make my commute more productive.

This morning was productive. Not because I wrote a story, but for developing an idea that I had yesterday. I’m going to start doing some sticky brainstorming.

4 Steps to Sticky Ideas

  1. Briefly, write a story concept each day in my journal (share on Instagram).
  2. Copy the story concept to a sticky note.
  3. Stick the note on the dash before leaving as a reminder of the story idea.
  4. Peel the note off the dash and stick it on the journal page after dictation is complete.

By adding new ideas each day (potentially more than one), eventually I’ll build up a backlog of story ideas. I only dictate for Drive-By Stories on days I go to the library.

Story idea 1: #drivebystories drivebystories.com

A post shared by Ryan M. Williams (@ryanwriter) on

In this example, I’ve used the elements Damon Knight described when writing about creating short stories. Character, Situation, Setting, and Emotion provide a way of thinking about the story. I’ve defined a particular character, a potential title, and a short summary.

Everything is subject to change.

It’s an idea. It gives me something to work with. I’ll see how it goes. I ordered some new Post-Its. Who doesn’t love new office supplies?


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Daily Thoughts 184: Learning Adobe Spark

Author's selfieI’m usually busy learning. I have stacks of books. A long playlist on Lynda.com. And, of course, my studies at SJSU.

One of my goals is to achieve a deeper level of understanding of various software projects. I posted the other day about learning JavaScript. Today, I’m going through a short course on Lynda.com on Adobe Spark. I’ve been using it, and find it pretty easy to use. It’s limited in some ways. Obviously, using other products gives more control, but it’s quick and easy to use. I usually pick up at least a few things in any of the Lynda.com courses. With this course, I learned how several things, including how to mask text. I knew it was possible (several of the designs included transparent text) but I hadn’t worked out that it just took an extra click on the shape. And I learned that you can drag and drop sections in the layout.

Drive-By Stories

I spent five days last week dictating during my morning commutes. I worked on a new story titled Strange Neighbors. It’s not done. I have a very rough and incomplete draft. I’ll start working on it soon.

Today I worked on the website. I’ve made a number of changes since the other day, including stories that I’ve already written. I haven’t implemented the random story on the main page yet, but it’s still progress. For a cover image, I added a self-portrait image. Not entirely what I want, but effective for a place-holder image.

Screen capture of Drive-By Stories
Drive-By Stories as of 2017-06-26

The stories are all accessible now. I don’t have very many yet! As I spend more time creating stories on my morning commute I hope to be adding much more in the weeks ahead.


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Daily Thoughts 182: Learning JavaScript

Author's selfie I’m learning more JavaScript. I’ve used a little JavaScript in the past, covered a bit in my courses, but I’m far from experienced with the language. I’m working on it at the moment to apply to some of the projects I have in progress, including Drive-By Stories.

Screenshot of Drive-By Stories
Drive-By Stories, as it currently appears

Development Plans

I have a lot of plans for the site. Initially, I set it up using the Grav CMS before deciding that I wanted to develop the site myself. There are good reasons when it comes to saving time to use an existing CMS. Why create something myself? Because it’s fun. And it’ll teach me about design, JavaScript, and so much more.

I want to work on getting the basic functionality done first. That means the site will randomly load a story when visited. It’ll be easy for me to add additional stories without having to recode the site. Each story will also have a permalink that loads that specific story, allowing people to link to and share specific stories.

Likewise, I eventually want to have the cover generate randomly from a selection of cover images. I want it easy for me to add additional images.

It should be responsive and accessible.

Simple! Stripped down to the minimum, and then features added as needed.


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