Jelec, the White Bear

Beware an Encounter with a Raven and his Friends

Month: February, 2012

How to Write, Part 2: Deliberate Practice, or, Give Up What You Could Lose

Albrecht Dürer: Ritter, Tod und Teufel

First: a Note I Wrote for You

It’s come to my attention (via a friend who’s much smarter than I am, and whose opinion I respect), that the tone of this blog is condescending. Upon reflection, I agree. Who am I, anyway, and more importantly, who do I think I am, that I should write these things, and in this way?

The answer is that I’m just some random guy on the internet who has opinions about stuff. Those opinions may have value (or not), but the way in which they’re presented could use improvement. I’m keeping that in mind going forward, and trying to be more real. Even if that’s not cool. Just sayin’.

Second: That Said, Check out this Fortune Cookie I got Today

You must give up what you could lose in order to gain what you could not lose.

I ate some Chinese food last night. Too much of it, in fact. Came away all bloated and depressed, ready to call it a year already and move on to 2013, as if that were possible. That’s when I found this little gem. Little harbinger of serendipity, that. Saved me from thinking too much about the inevitable doom that awaits us all. Death, taxes, larger pant sizes, cavities, retirement (or lack thereof), you name it. Just doom and gloom, and turtles all the way down. Until this.

Perhaps I’ve said too much?

In any case, amid the general waste and decay, the piles of wrinkled clothing and so on that surround me in this, my man-mole internet shut-in habitat, I came upon a wrinkled message from an angel. Or from the LORD, if you believe in such things. Cthulhu, anyone? Whomever the originator, the Prime Mover, if you will, it saved me and kept me strong to fight another day. This day.

Third: What in Tarnation does Any Of This Have to do with Writing?

Easy. Just list all the things that you could lose, without which you’d still be able to function and, beyond that, even thrive. Yes, maybe you could even thrive. Perhaps you could do without your Tivo, your Netflix subscription? What about your favorite internet video games, or your (GASP) Angry Birds? What if you spent three days without seeing an Angry Bird? What would you do?

Why, you’d write, of course. And write some more. Think of all of the distractions you could lose, that would allow you to gain what you could not lose. And if you’re a writer, and love this stuff, and even think of being a “real” writer, one of those mythical, unicorn-like creatures which Absalom absconded with lo those many years ago, then the definition of what you could not lose must absolutely include the time to practice your craft. No, not like I do it when I ramble here on the internet, but really practicing, as in: “Deliberate practice,” which is a term coined by Swedish research psychologist Anders Ericsson.

There’s a great introduction to the research and its general points in this piece by Shelley Gare in the Australian.

Incidentally, I’ve read three of the books mentioned in that article, and they’re worth a look: Colvin, Coyle, and Gladwell. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order, so as not to play favorites.

Let me close by adding a question and an answer, lest you think I’m ignorant of my own failings: Do I need to take my own advice here? Good heavens yes!

Ah! Dollop of the sweet cream that is metacognition! I salute you!

All best to you, my sweet readers, writers and dreamers of all kinds.



Some Preliminary Notes on Making the Ebook Sausage

So, you wanna make an ebook, huh?

There are lots of folks and/or companies out there who will take your lovely Word document and, from that, generate all manner of ebook file formats, to wit: MOBI, EPUB, AZW, LRF, CBZ, DAISY, PDB, LIT, PRC, PKG, OPF, PDF, PDB, and PS, to name but a few 1. MOBI and EPUB are the biggies, but not the only ones. Smashwords comes to mind as a place where they’ll convert your opus. There are others, of course. You could always ask the mighty Google about them. Or, if you care at all about your privacy (even though it’s half-dead already), avoid the All-Seeing Eye and use Duck Duck Go instead. (Not trying to boss you – you can do what you want. Just sayin’ is all.)

If you don’t know what all those weird file format acronyms stand for, it’s OK. Just click the lovely links and read away. Or don’t, and just know that there are several of them, they mostly do the same things (from our lowly authorial perspective), and you should only worry about them when you need to. Which is probably not just yet (but soon).

If you’re writing in Word (like many people), what I have to say here probably won’t make a lot of sense to you. However, it might be of interest if you just want to see how someone else does it. I’ll try to take it pretty slow, since a good deal of the stuff I’m going to talk about presupposes some really sad levels of computer nerdery. Lots of Friday nights lost to the gods of the machine, that sort of thing. Weight gained, neckbeards grown, women not spoken to. But if you stick with me, there’ll be a payoff, I swear, and it’s this: you’ll be able to make your own ebooks pretty easily (provided you waste a bunch of time up front learning about it, but isn’t that true of anything you want to learn to do?).

Stay tuned for the first installment, in which we’ll begin with the Emacs text editor, which is a truly wizardly tool that has sucked out my weak-willed human brain and replaced said brain with its own malevolent mechanical will. Verily, it is that same dark will which propels my shriveled hands across the keyboard as I type this. Surely you’d like to hear more about it? Don’t be afraid!

(Image courtesy dshaboy under Creative Commons license.)