Wonderfully unexpected

Recently I posted a bunch of Welcome to Night Vale art prompts on Tumblr.

The first one was simply this: “I need a picture of Carlos putting his lab coat on Cecil’s shoulders, please…someone…” I didn’t know if anyone would even see it, let alone reply, but Sisaat, one of my favorite WTNV fan artists (their style is just so dreamy and beautiful!) took the idea and ran. (“okay so this is turning into a comic for some reason so it might take a while and be sloppy, but it will happen,” they posted.)

Cecilos fanart
Carlos putting his lab coat around Cecil’s shoulders, by Sisaat (fansbyproducts)

And here it is!

I don’t even know what I expected. Maybe I was thinking it was just cold out and Carlos was offering his lab coat for basic warmth. But this…this is so sweet, yet sad. I’m just overwhelmed by how a random request I tossed off one day became this absolutely gorgeous artwork, this amazing little story.

My next post in this vein was a list of ideas, starting with “Carlos in Science Goggles.” This post was actually reblogged by popular WTNV fan blog sexybaldwin, so now I keep seeing artists fave or reblog it. An artist called classynerdpot responded to the prompt “Carlos giving Cecil a traditional, careful shave with a straight-edge razor.” You can view that one here. Again, not at all what I was imagining–to be perfectly honest, I was thinking of this scene from Skyfall–but oh, isn’t this funny and cute? I love it!

I wonder if anyone else will draw any of my prompts? It’s so exciting!

This experience makes me miss the Anime-Manga Roleplaying Network. Writing was so much fun when I had other writers to respond to and plot with. Other people have such interesting ideas. They see things I don’t, go places I never would. And then I can build on that, and so on, until we have something amazing.

I need to find someone to work on a project with, I think.

[Update: Carlos in Science Goggles!]

Drowning in a torrent of memory

I knew that I had once fallen in love while already in love with someone else. But today I realized that it actually happened twice. I remember the second time best because I had to actively fight it. The first time was easy to forget. Distance did most of the work for me.

I wouldn’t even really remember it now, except slightly vaguely, if I hadn’t written a story about it a few months after it happened. I definitely wouldn’t have remembered how it felt. A dull ache, twisted, suffused with desperation.

It’s been so long. I had pushed it all away. I had forgotten. But I read that story today, and it all came back.

Thinking back to Japan

Temple of the Daibutsu, NaraLast Saturday, as sort of a joke, I ran a “contest” on Facebook:

Place your bets!

Sean has been out of town this week and is coming home today. Last night he said he would “leave in the morning” and “get home early”.

The person who guesses closest to Sean’s actual arrival time will receive a vignette written by me on the topic of their choosing.


My friend Heidi won the contest with her guess of 6pm. (The earliest guess was 1:23pm; the latest, from someone Sean went to high school with, was 9:30pm. Sean got home at 5:30. He did not leave in the morning. I did not expect him to, which is the “joke”.)

Heidi thought for awhile about what topic to give me, and finally issued the following:

Ok write -something about visiting Japan that you didn’t expect. (or another place if that’s too specific.)

On the surface, this doesn’t sound like a difficult topic. But nothing immediately came to mind. I think part of it is simply the fact that I went to Japan in 2001. That was quite some time ago. I was also a completely different person in 2001. So I have to think back to my memories of that trip, plus try to remember who I was and how I felt then. It’s an interesting challenge.

As part of my research for this, I’ll go through my photos from the trip. In 2001, my family had just purchased our first digital camera, a Canon C3030-Zoom (“Filmless,” boasted the box!), and I took it with me to Japan. This was actually the starting point of my photography. I’d had film cameras before that point, but I’d never taken this volume of photos before.

I also have a few pieces of writing to serve as reference material. First, there’s this blog post, copied from a handwritten journal entry. (A quick glance through it has proven to be somewhat depressing!) If the Internet Archive is to be believed, I had two more pieces of writing, from the first two days of the trip…but those pages weren’t archived, and I don’t have copies of them. The essay I wrote to thank the Institute of International Education for the grant that allowed me to go on the trip was archived, though. It seems kind of short, but as I recall, I was overwhelmed once the trip was over. I didn’t–couldn’t–write much about it at all. Finally, that fall, in a creative writing class, I wrote a short story inspired by some feelings I had on the trip. I still have a copy of that, and I’ll probably refer to it as well. (It’s private, though.)

I have been really inspired to write lately, which is why I offered a vignette as the prize for this silly contest, and also why I’ve committed to write something every day this year. It’s hard to write something every day, though. Some days it just pours out of me; yesterday was one of those days (although it didn’t feel that way until I started putting words down). And some days I’m absorbed in figuring out what I’m doing, and it’s much harder to get to the storytelling part.

Right now I’m concentrating on building the habit of getting words on the page. It doesn’t matter what those words are or what purpose they serve, if they serve any purpose at all. I’m not worrying about particular projects, either; I’ll write whatever I feel like writing. Once I’ve established a habit, I’ll start worrying about goals and word counts and stuff like that.

With all that in mind, I am considering this blog post my writing for today. I look forward to coming back to my keyboard tomorrow, refreshed and ready to share some sort of story.

Momentary and eternal

A brief glimpse into a lighted but empty commuter train sitting on an elevated track, lifeless in the dark spaces between glowing points that are cars and light poles and traffic signals. An image that lingers, becomes an afterimage, echoes, rolls like ocean waves, gentle yet merciless.

Categorized as Diary, Writing

All I want

Please teach me about feminism,
White man.
Please tell me what, as a woman, I should care about,
White man.
Please talk over me,
White man.
Please show me how my concerns are actually about you,
White man.
Please belittle my experience,
My education,
My life,
White man.
Please laugh at me,
White man.
Please tell me I have no right to feel the way I feel,
White man.
Please treat me as inferior, then say I am imagining things,
That I am “crazy,”
That I am “too emotional,”
White man.
Please do these things,
White man.
Please let them define you,
Rather than things like empathy
Or perspective
Or open-mindedness
Or faith in other people,
White man.
Nothing makes me happier
Than to be considered lesser,
Than to know you don’t respect me,
Than to live beneath your boot.
It is all I want from life,
White man.

Categorized as Writing Tagged

Twilight Zone dream

I woke up after dreaming this and had to write it down.

INTERIOR, gentleman’s clothing store. The proprietor, played by a young William Shatner, and an assistant are preparing a suit and hat for a wealthy customer and debating how to word the description of the hat. Eventually they decide that since they can’t vouch for the materials used in the making of the hat, they will give the gentleman a different one.

A young woman representing the client arrives and inspects the suit and hat, finally giving them her approval and accepting them in a box. As she is heading back to the street (off-camera) where her employer is waiting in a car, the three of them hear shots ring out. The woman races outside. Moments later, she bursts back into the shop.

“He’s been shot, and the cash he was carrying is gone. He had two bodyguards with him and they both vanished. The only way they would ever give up is if they had no way of identifying the villain. Literally no way of recognizing him.” She’s in shock and worried.

Outside, the villain, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is listening, holding a gun and a wallet. He starts to laugh disbelievingly to himself over the idea that he’s unrecognizable. He looks at the wallet and gun and starts grinning furiously, the laughter coming a little harder, as he thinks how ludicrous it all is, but how wonderful it would be if no one could ever recognize him.

The people inside the shop hear him and emerge. Laughing, he looks at them as if to say “You can recognize me, obviously!”

But he’s surprised when they stare in abject horror rather than sounding any alarm. The woman screams and takes several steps back. The shopkeeper says, “My god.”

Confused by their reactions, the villain starts laughing again. He steps toward them and they all back away. Still laughing, he dances in front of them, waving the wallet and gun. All the shop staff and woman can do is stare, frozen to the spot.

Finally the villain is so creeped out by this that his laughter fades away, as does his smile. He turns and runs.

Eventually he comes upon a shop window with a mirror, and he stops for a look at what in the world they were reacting to. It is now that we see him as everyone else does.

He has no face. The front of his head is a smooth, blank, oval mask…no mouth, no nose, no eyes.

Creating female characters who are people

Over Thanksgiving, I watched a direct-to-video Disney movie called Super Buddies with my nephew Logan. The main characters are five puppies from the same litter, and in the movie they get temporary super powers from alien technology. It was a cute movie, but despite some obvious efforts to insert “girl power”, it largely falls into the same pattern of minimizing and oversimplifying female characters that we see in so many of our modern stories.

The pivotal characters in the movie are largely male. Four of the puppies are boys; just one is a girl. The kids who own the puppies are the same, and the girl kid owns the girl puppy. The top-billed kid, a boy named Bartleby, and his puppy Budderball are the two main characters.

There are a few incidental female farm animals: two horses, a group of hens and one cow. I only mention them because they talk, but they’re not particularly important. There’s a female TV reporter who gets a few minutes onscreen. And there’s one female alien named Jorala who makes brief appearances at the beginning and end. Otherwise, all the characters are male: Gramps (played by the fabulous John Ratzenberger), Bartleby, the candy shop owner, Sheriff Dan, the sheriff’s deputy dog Sniffer, comic writer/superhero Jack, Captain Canine, the bull who inspires Budderball, the “good” alien Megasis, the “bad” alien Drex, Drex’s assistant Monk-E, and plenty of incidental characters.

Other than the super powered girl puppy, none of the female characters is integral to the plot. Further, all the female characters are either defined by their relationships to male characters or simply by the fact that they are female. The female alien’s purpose is to be the love interest of the “good” alien. (Sure, she’s a princess, but you don’t see her making any decisions that impact the action.) The female puppy, Rosebud, and the female cows continually call each other “girlfriend” and talk about how girls can do anything they want. This may sound empowering on the surface, but ultimately the message it’s sending is that female characters have to prove they are worthwhile by talking about how worthwhile they are. No male character goes around talking about how boys can do anything they want.

While the boy puppies could be considered cheesy archetypes, each one has unique characteristics that define him beyond the fact that he is male. Budderball is the sports puppy; he’s into football. B-Dawg is the cool puppy who speaks in slang and and is into hip hop. Buddha is the spiritual puppy who loves yoga and meditation. Mudbud is the hippie; he’s relaxed and loves to roll around in mud. Meanwhile, Rosebud’s stereotype is “female”: she’s into fashion, she’s “feisty”, and she cares deeply for and is protective of her family. (Her owner is also into fashion. Is fashion the only interest girls can have?)

Rosebud is so defined by the fact that she is female (rather than actually having a personality, even a stereotypical one) that her character profile on Disney.com reads thus: “Rosebud’s mission in life is girl power. Never one to slow down, Rosebud loves that her Power Ring kicks it up a gazillion notches.” Note that her super power is related to the female stereotype of being “gabby”. She talks fast and a lot; her power is moving at super speed.

The most recent Tropes vs. Women in Video Games from Feminist Frequency, Ms. Male Character, discusses the phenomenon of characters being defined solely by their gender. I definitely recommend it; not only does it explain the issue well, but it includes some examples of how to avoid it when creating characters. I also recommend Parts 1 and 2 of Damsel in Distress for examples of female characters used solely as plot devices for male characters.

I’d like for girls and boys to have some female characters they could want to be like. When I was a kid, there were plenty of male characters I wanted to emulate: Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Marty from Back to the Future, Lance from Voltron, Cyclops from X-Men. I doubt many boys grew up wishing they could be April O’Neil, Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer or mom Lorraine, Princess Allura, or perpetual love interest Jean Grey. When I was younger especially, I often felt that the female characters were annoying and that people only kept them around because they had to, or because there was some appeal to them I didn’t understand. (As I got older, good female characters started popping up here and there, like Gosalyn in Darkwing Duck and Dot in ReBoot. Gosalyn was such a breath of fresh air after DuckTales’ Webby.)

Ultimately, I would like to see movies and TV shows have a 50/50 male/female split in cast. I’d like the female characters to be just as important to the plot as the male characters. I’d like the female characters to have personalities and interests that go beyond female stereotypes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a good example of how to do it right. I hope more shows and movies go down that path.

Effective feminist criticism

Often when people attempt a feminist critique of a story, they’ll focus on characteristics of the women in the story. For example, Pacific Rim‘s Mako Mori was criticized for not having much of a speaking role. This sort of criticism does no favors to feminism and actually perpetuates one of the worst aspects of patriarchy: the determination of who a woman is “supposed to be” by someone who isn’t that woman.

Just as we reject that all women must be submissive, passive, good with children, helpful to a fault, etc., we must also reject that all women must be anything. Some women are loudmouths. Some women are quiet. Some women are great with kids. Some women hate kids. Some women want to be lawyers. Some women want to be designers. Some women find nothing as fulfilling as being a homemaker. And men are the same. People have different beliefs, backgrounds, interests, and skills, and they make different decisions.

An effective feminist critique of a text, then, is not one that judges how “badass” or outspoken a female character is. Instead, it focuses on how the film portrays her life. Does she make choices? Are her choices realistically effective? She doesn’t have to be right or successful all the time. She does have to receive the same story treatment as a male character. Does she serve a purpose in the plot beyond furthering a male character’s story? Does she have her own story? Does her story make a difference in the world of the text? Is she essential, or could she be lifted right out? These are the questions to ask, not whether a female character fits some sort of template for the “modern woman”.

We are people, we are different, and we deserve to be portrayed in myriad ways. There is no catch-all character who can speak for “womankind”.

Feminism and relatable characters

Today I started reading a review of Brave. It mentioned a little boy had no one to relate to in the film. Oh, boo hoo.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I stopped reading the review when it became evident that it contained copious spoilers. But I may as well have just stopped at that point. I mean come on. “No relatable boy characters” is the first thing that comes to mind?

And yet I’ve never seen this reviewer comment on any perceived lack of relatable female characters.

(This reviewer a writer I have enjoyed for many years, but he is occasionally sexist. Maybe unwittingly. I’m just baffled.)

Women have had to relate to male characters in stories pretty much since the beginning of storytelling. Do you really think we relate to the hot chick who is only in the film to give the guy someone to rescue? All the great adventure stories, traditionally, have had male heroes, and so we’ve just had to relate to those guys.

We have “women’s lit”, but that’s philosophy, us trying to figure out who the hell we are. It’s not entertainment.

There have been some excellent exceptions in recent decades, thanks to forward-thinking storytellers, but most movie heroes are still guys. Think about Marvel’s Avengers. Which team members got their own movies? (Granted, the superhero genre is flawed in general because it’s built on stories written decades ago about a bunch of white guys.)

Upshot: When someone who gets all the stories suddenly doesn’t have one story and starts complaining about it, I just have to laugh. Or cry.

Speaking of disappointing movies, I watched X-Men: First Class, and why do we still have token black guys who get predictably killed off?! Reminds me of how I immediately knew who that guy in Men in Black III was, because, well, he was black. Not to be too spoilery. Or pessimistic.

The Bourne Ailurophilia

Last night I went a little nuts on Twitter trying to come up with funny titles for Bourne movies.

Some highlights:

Then this morning I came up with a new one, and I was so amused I decided to go all-out and make an image for it.

In case Twitter gets sent to the cornfield someday, here’s the image:

Jason Bourne stares wistfully at an adorable kitten.


This is the introduction to what may become a longer story.

He was dragging himself through the window, sodden foot sliding as it sought purchase on the sill, when that old familiar tingle registered at the back of his mind. In an instant he dropped into a somersault that brought him the rest of the way into the room, just as a creak on the stair reinforced his immediate dilemma.

He tore at the mask, wrestled his arms and chest free of soggy blue and red, and cast about for something to hide his legs.

The comforter from his bed would have to do. Thwip!

No sooner had he embedded himself in folds of fabric than the door squeaked open and in came Aunt May with an armload of laundry.

“Peter!” she gasped upon seeing him. “When did you get home? I thought you were out studying.”

He shivered involuntarily, and her eyes went to the drops of water clinging to the tips of his hair. “What on earth?” she said. “Why are you all wet?”

“Um…shower?” said Peter Parker, adjusting the blanket on his shoulders and glancing quickly down to make sure his feet weren’t visible.

“If you’ve just taken a shower, Peter, you didn’t do a very good job.” Aunt May’s nose screwed up as she set the neatly folded laundry on Peter’s desk chair. “What is that awful smell?”

He could hardly tell her the truth, so he shrugged helplessly. “Sorry, Aunt May. I’ll try again.”

“You do that, Peter.” Aunt May turned to leave, giving him one last sidelong glance. “And this time, try using a towel.”

A writing exercise

This morning I made the acquaintance of writer Mac Logan on Twitter. Since then I’ve been poking through his blog, and I discovered an interesting writing prompt.

I’m doing an experiment today: I’m going to open up the first spam or selling type of email I receive from the top of my email inbox.

The task? Go five lines down and seven words in, then write 250 words based on the word I find, and complete the rough text in under half an hour.

I thought I’d try it myself. Thanks to Gmail’s spam filter and some judicious unsubscribing on my part, I don’t receive much spam these days, but this morning a message from an advocacy group slipped past and I got my word: white. Here’s what I wrote in about 20 minutes. (I did minimal tweaking because I had hit precisely 250 words.)

It’s all stained, all of it. Nothing is pure. Nothing pristine. Even the palest shade betrays some hue, some blue or red or brown that saps away the essence of a thing. Of a creature. Of a person, if you can even call it that.

There’s no soul there. Or if there is, it’s corrupted.

Every day I fight back. I know I am losing the battle. But what I do has purpose. It creates something from nothing. It brings that purity back, if only for a little while. It shows the world what’s possible.

The main thing is to remove the colors. And there are so many colors.

I take my time. I make small steps. I choose one thing. One small mark at a time upon a world drenched in putrid dye.

Last week it was a chair. It took a certain combination of chemicals, meticulously determined over many trials, to purge the darkness. You cannot create purity with paint or lacquer. The subject must be fundamentally altered. The rot must be forcibly removed, leaving only the splendor of the original soul.

It cannot be rushed.

This week I have a far more difficult subject. There are so many colors, so many materials. I will carefully test new methods on each one until I find the perfect treatment.

When I am finished, her blood, her organs, her hair, her nails, her skin, her eyes, her all will be free of corruption. She will shine the most brilliant white.

Using technology to make in-house style guides more efficient

Companies that put out lots of content, have lots of employees, and want consistency in voice across their messaging will often have a style guide, which is good. If technology is leveraged, this can be even better.

Let’s say a company wants certain text in uppercase and certain text in title case. Often the copywriters are expected to type in the content in the required style. To me, this is the same as hard-coding boldness or color. Like other text transformations, case can be controlled by CSS. Companies could therefore simplify by having copywriters write all headlines and titles in title case. The content management system would label each item (via class or id) with a category, such as headline, subhead, etc., and the case of each could then be controlled via CSS. Not only would this simplify things for copywriters, cutting down on user error, but it would also make it simple to shift copy to a new format if there was ever a change to the style guide.

There are caveats. CSS is not natively able to transform text properly from uppercase to title case or sentence case, nor is it able to transform text from uppercase or sentence case to title case. Title case has strange rules–certain words are capitalized, others aren’t–that would have to be scripted. And transforming to sentence case presents another problem: there would be no way to preserve or create capitalization of proper nouns. If an organization knew all the proper nouns that were to be used in copy, this could be scripted as well, but it’s extremely likely that something would be missed, making this an imperfect solution.

I would handle all these situations by simply having copywriters write everything in sentence case. Transformations to title case could be achieved through scripting, as there are finite rules as to what gets capitalized. The capitalization of proper nouns would also be preserved. Meanwhile, changing to uppercase would be a simple CSS transformation.

This discussion has been web-focused, but I imagine something similar could be done for print.

Speaking of print, it amazes me that some organizations keep their print and online content storage separate. I would put them all together in a robust, customized CMS. Yes, the two have different needs, and those would have to be dealt with. But there is also a lot of crossover. Having everything in the same place would ensure consistency across the organization’s media.

Fringe finale disappointments

There are copious spoilers in this post.

Let me first state that the two-part finale of Fringe was generally enjoyable. There was a nice Fringe event featuring one of my phobias–nanobots (you can’t see them!)–and it was awesome to see Leonard Nimoy return as William Bell, especially in the second half. His performance was excellent. I was intrigued by the notion that David Robert Jones got what he wanted in this timeline: recognition by Bell, even if it meant self-sacrifice. And the new explanation for why Walter had parts of his brain removed was shocking and perfect. I also loved Bell’s escape at the end, which hearkens back to Olivia’s first meeting with him in the original timeline. Makes you wonder if he rode out of there inside someone’s head. The various character wrap-ups were nice too. I appreciated seeing Nina doing some science and being recognized for it. You could tell that the writers had been planning things so that they could end the series here if they hadn’t gotten a season five. (Which perhaps would be better, since season five seems destined to follow the horrid totalitarian Observer plotline.)


The heroes of the day, ultimately, were Walter and Peter. Olivia’s main contribution was to get her and Peter onto Bell’s ship, which seemed more “oh, Olivia should do something heroic too” rather than “Olivia is a vital member of the team”. In fact, it was Olivia, or rather Olivia’s victimization at the hands of William Bell, that threatened to destroy the world. And she had no way of fighting this. All she could do was stand there freaking out. She didn’t even think to kill herself–Walter had to do that for her. (Self-sacrifice would not have been an empowered choice, but at least it would have been her choice.)

Nina makes a big deal about how compassionate Olivia is, and how Bell is using that against her. It is Olivia’s compassion that allows her to become powerful. But based on the events of this finale, we may well conclude that compassion is weakness. Olivia is so compassionate, she can only react emotionally, and is stymied when faced with a dilemma more complex than protecting one person in front of her. She’s powerful, but ultimately she’s weak. She’s just a woman.

That’s the message I was getting.

I would have liked to have seen Olivia control her powers. We saw her doing it in the future of the original timeline, the future that Peter ultimately ended up erasing. The difference with the season four scenario is that she had been dosed with cortexiphan more recently by Evil Nina, to get her up to par with her original timeline self. This probably led to the instability and rapid release of power, provoked by the events Bell put into place around her. But think back to seasons one and two. Olivia–original timeline Olivia–had already dealt with her victimization, with taking care of other victims. She’d found her strength. She’d turned weakness into power and her past into a mission. Would this Olivia really have been flummoxed by William Bell, once she knew what was really going on?

I say no. I say that our original timeline Olivia would have stared Bell down, folded her arms, and calmly turned it off like a light.

Heck, if they’d played their cards right, the writers could have left in the headshot scene, which was actually pretty cool. Just as Olivia figures it out, Walter shoots her in despair. Peter freaks. But the bullet goes all the way through and Olivia’s cortexiphan-infused brain self-repairs instantly. Bell, about to flee, stops to gloat as the universe-destruction starts up again. And then Olivia drops the hammer on him. Later, in the denouement, Olivia undergoes a series of tests and discovers that excessive use of her powers causes an enormous drain on her body and might threaten her life, so they should be treated as a last resort.

(I’d like to keep the part where Walter removes the bullet, because that scene is just crazy, but I’d also like for Olivia to be able to stare William Bell down as she’s turning off her powers, and I’m not sure he’d stick around after he thought she was dead.)

My rewrite would allow Olivia to keep her powers without becoming some sort of overpowered superhero. It would give her an advantage in a universe populated with (male) scientific geniuses, other than her photographic memory and detective skills, which haven’t really seen much use lately. It would also bring back the feeling from seasons one and two, when the main character of Fringe was a strong woman who fought her own battles rather than feeling like a victim and waiting for her white knights (or rather, Bishops) to save her.

Today, I choose writing.

I’ve finally come to accept something I think I knew all along: I should be a writer. So starting now, I will be taking significant steps to make that a reality. I’ve already been writing blog posts and charting out ideas when inspiration strikes me, but now I will work toward the goal of publication. I’m going to be evaluating various routes–fiction, nonfiction, long form, short form, magazine articles, targeted blogs, serials, comics, maybe even screenwriting–and trying to come up with the best fits for the stories I want to tell.

It all came together

In the past, whenever people told me I should be a writer, I’d always respond, “Sure, maybe, but I have nothing to say.” I think perhaps I just needed to build up life experience and let it all simmer for awhile, because all of a sudden I have plenty of ideas and desire to write.

I think fear played a role too–fear of what people would think, fear of what effect the things I wrote would have on my life. But these days I’m more afraid of what might happen if I don’t say something. It’s oddly given me an amazing sense of freedom.

I’m very lucky that I’m in a position where I can pursue something that won’t have financial benefits for years, if it even has them at all. As such, I am throwing myself into it headfirst and making some serious changes in order to give myself the best chance of success.

Maximizing workday efficiency

The first big change will be social media. When I first started using Twitter, I used it as a microblog, and I really haven’t stopped using it that way. However, few others use it that way, and Twitter obviously doesn’t want me to use it that way. I am unable to go back and read my old tweets, and as such many thoughts and ideas are simply lost. So my first change (and challenge) will be to stop posting my stream of consciousness thoughts on Twitter, and instead put them somewhere where I can use them later.

My second Twitter change will be some mass unfollowings, and perhaps following a few new accounts. At time of posting, I follow 156 accounts. Some of them I follow because they are funny. Some of them I follow because they are friends of mine. I have a smattering of Japanese twitterers I follow for the purpose of having Japanese in my stream to practice reading. And then I have a collection of people in the web design industry who I follow to keep up with trends and information.

I will evaluate the “funny” accounts on a case-to-case basis and see if they warrant keeping. Are they funny enough to spend time reading every day? For my friends, if I am friends with them on Facebook, their Twitter accounts must go. Most of them cross-post, so I won’t miss anything but annoying redundancy. For the ones who don’t cross-post, I’ll evaluate them the same as I evaluate the “funny” accounts. Ultimately, does reading these tweets help me pursue my goal or just waste my time? I will cull some of the Japanese twitter accounts, especially the ones I know I just scroll past without trying to read, but there are a few I know I would like to keep. I will also keep Japanese-culture related Twitter accounts. And finally, I will purge all web design-related Twitter accounts. I do not intend to ever again pursue web design as a career. I’ve come to realize that the things I enjoyed about that sphere were content writing/editing and graphic design/layout, and I have no interest in wrangling code. Since I am now resolved to focus on writing, I have no need to read about CSS tips and tricks.

I will start to look for more people interested in writing and storytelling, and follow them for inspiration. I will also look for people who are interested in the same issues I’m interested in. But I won’t let my follow list get so large that a significant portion of my day is taken up catching up on my feed.

Facebook will largely remain the same, though I will prune some Page “likes”. I may add a few new friends so as to get them out of Twitter. Facebook is more private for me, though, so this will be done only after careful evaluation.

I will probably stop using Path. All I ever do there is tell it when I wake up and when I go to sleep, and very occasionally check in to a location.

I am very interested in continuing my study of Japanese. It’s my hope that someday I’ll be good enough at reading the language, and have a strong enough appreciation for and understanding of the culture, that I can translate literature. To that end, I’m going to be removing a few motivational websites and social media accounts from my routine. I once thought that any site that offered motivation would motivate me, but I’ve recently realized that my personality requires a certain type of motivation, and other types can actually demotivate me very quickly. Anything that makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough will make me throw up my hands and give up entirely. One site in particular is written by a person with completely different goals from mine, and I discovered that I was feeling bad because I wasn’t working hard enough on his goals! Even though I know it’s not this blogger’s intent to make me feel this way, nor any other’s, I have to be aware of my own personality and reactions and cut out any negativity, regardless of where it comes from.

Once I have cut out social media distractions and demotivators, the time I spend overall on social media should automatically decrease. I plan to ensure this by not leaving a tab with Twitter or Facebook open at all times, as has become habit. I further pledge to start my day as a producer rather than a consumer. I currently have a habit of reading Twitter and Facebook while I’m getting ready in the bathroom, then reading webcomics when I get to my computer. Instead of engaging in these distracting and procrastinating activities, I’ll think about my day while I’m getting ready, and maybe even start brainstorming what I’m going to be writing and taking audio or text notes with my phone. And when I get to my computer, I’ll start working. Simple as that.

I’ve considered even creating a separate Windows user account for when I am working, and blocking certain websites and applications that could be distractions. But I know that too much change all at once is difficult to maintain long term, so for now I will see how the above adjustments go.

Tools of the trade

Right now I don’t have a great system in place for capturing and then revisiting writing ideas. I’ve been using iPhone voice memos and notes when I’m out and about and Word documents and blog post drafts when I’m at my computer. This piecemeal approach has been okay while I really haven’t been doing anything with most of my ideas, but it isn’t very conducive to getting writing projects out the door. Ideally I will find a way to bring all of these things together so I can easily find them. I’ve been thinking about a cute yarn clothesline with clothespins to hold fancy notecards with the name of current projects. On the backs of the cards I can list where the research information and notes are stored physically and digitally. It would be a fun way to see all my projects at once and keep me focused without cluttering up my desk. I’ll have to think about where such an apparatus would actually go, though.

I already have information on getting published (or, perhaps more accurately, getting rejected) from discussing the topic in my creative writing classes in college and from reading Magazine Man’s blog. I have a few leads on literary journals and know how to find more, and I have ideas about what sorts of magazine I might want to write for. So when the time comes, I think I should be okay to start sending out short stories, essays, and articles. I am also obviously well-versed in blogging, though perhaps not in cultivating an audience. I’m not so clear on how to begin with writing for comics; I would need an artist to bring the story to life, but even writing a comic script is new to me. I will research whether or not there are templates or examples available anywhere. I know there is a format for TV and movie scripts, so all I’ll need to do is find it and study it. As to where one might submit a pitch, again, I’m unsure, but this is only the beginning, and I have lots of research to do. And writing, which is the most important thing.

As far as where I’ll do the writing, I’ve always been most comfortable in Word documents, probably because that’s where I wrote all my college papers. However, I can certainly see the benefit of using an online service, such as Google Documents, and being able to access my files anywhere I go. It’s something I’ll have to think about, but for now I will stick with Word. I will probably sign up for something like DropBox to make sure I don’t lose anything.

Starting out

I’ve heard that six hours is the longest viable block of working writing time. I’m not going to start out shooting for that–going from nothing to six hours would burn me out fast. Instead, I will write until I’m fatigued every day and not worry about how long I write. I know there will be days when I don’t feel like writing, and for now, as I ease into it, I will use those days for research. In the future, though, after I’ve established a writing routine, I will write through the block to keep myself going, and try to hit at least my minimum writing time.

Looking forward

I’m excited to finally have direction in my life. For so long I’ve been reactionary, just accepting whatever came my way and dealing with everything day by day. In recent years I’ve started taking charge of my health, and that has empowered me to take charge of so much more. I’ve learned just how destructive and demoralizing bouncing through life aimlessly can be, and even though I’m scared, I’m putting a stop to the uncontrolled ricocheting and propelling myself towards a goal.

Here I come, universe.