Here are some things I’ve been musing on this week:
Of all the many, many articles I’ve read about learning and performance, this is one of the best. The awesome Nat Eliason discusses the progression from Novice to Expert in any given skill, using some concrete examples; it’s a clear and useful way to think about learning. It’s also interesting to note that most people stop their progression at the Advanced Beginner stage for most skills; and an awful lot of people consider themselves to be at the Proficient or Expert stages, when they’re actually Advanced Beginners. Looking at people’s skills in this framework (and not incidentally, your own), can help you sort out the true experts from the people who just think they are.
As a woman with three daughters, I’m concerned sometimes about how society so often tells girls to be quiet, to conform, to subsume their ambitions to the men in their lives, to be less than they are. Fortunately that’s changing, albeit slowly. Here’s a good article from the Washington Post about how, if we want girls to be leaders and reach their potential in life, we need to (among other things) teach them to be funny.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading about and thinking about the creative process, so I know very well how important it is to capture your ideas and incubate them until they’re ready to be developed into a completed work. I have to admit, though, my process to do that has been fairly haphazard so far, so I was very interested to see this article on having an idea garden. I found this an appealing concept, and I think I’m going to try something like this myself.
If you’re in the mood for some weird and slightly morbid humor, I’ve been laughing (sometimes in spite of myself) at the webcomic “jake likes onions”
What I’m reading:
Blaze by Krista Ball.
Krista is a local writer that I’ve met a few times, and she’s weird and funny in person, and I can see her personality reflected in her main character. The book is a high fantasy story, but Krista does a good job of taking standard fantasy tropes and using them with a subtle (or not so subtle) twist that makes them interesting. I’m not quite done this book yet, but I’m enjoying it so far.
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
This is an older book, and Lukeman talks from the perspective of a couple decades ago when self-publishing wasn’t a thing, and all serious writers had to get an agent, get a publishing contract, or both. The vast majority of his advice is evergreen, though, he does a good discussion of all the things that will get you a rejection letter from a publishing house — which not incidentally, are also the things that will make a reader put your book down and not pick it up again. He gives examples, too, and exercises and advice for fixing the problem. This is much more about editing and revising rather than writing in the first place, but very clear and valuable advice on that stage.
Turing’s Cathedral by George Dyson
This book is all about the history of the modern computer and the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton, where the majority of the work leading to modern computers was done. Dyson is the son of the physicist Freeman Dyson, who was at the Institute in the latter half of the 20th century, and so he has a personal insight and connection to the subject. Dyson gets fairly technical in his descriptions sometimes, even too technical, in my opinion, but I’m still finding it fascinating to see the trial-and-error, non-linear process that was involved with making such a huge paradigm switch happen. Politics, economics, petty conflicts between disciplines, along with brilliant men and breakthroughs are all part of it. It’s a heavy read, but I’m finding it enjoyable.
I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo this year — my first time ever. I’m doing a challenge through the Smarter Artist group, as an exercise in learning story structure from the inside. I’m excited about it, and a little nervous. Which probably means that this is a good thing for me to do. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.