Writing + Git
Git has always interested me from the point of view of a writer. It is a back-up solution perfect for plain text. It was created around code, but the principles seem as if they could be a good fit for other kinds of writing.
I wrote about writing fiction with atom before, and using it these last few weeks has reignited my interests in git.
Imagine the process of writing a book. Compiling scattered ideas, writing a draft, rewriting, rewriting again, editing, reediting, reediting again… There is so much that happens until the final story is finished. What if we could go back to some of literary classics first drafts? Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see JRR Tolkien’s first attempt at writing LOTR?
Sure some writers don’t rewrite. I love that! But even then, wouldn’t it be awesome to see how long it took for each line to be written in all its final glory?
Have you ever seen a painter’s time-lapse? It is fascinating. To see how an artist goes from rough pencil sketch to final artwork. There are many twitch streams dedicated to this art form. We never have been able to see something like that before. Technology made this possible.
We need a git for writers. So we can save every version of a draft, save every line. Save every keystroke for that matter! Could you imagine replaying your favorite book from the very first letter?
Not to mention the visualization possibilities are endless. As the collaboration possibilities are. Could you imagine incorporating readers feedback by accepting pull requests on your WIP, or fixing typos after publishing?
Lefsetz on life
I’m gonna tell you right here and now, your life will not work out, not the way you think it will, there will be bumps, left turns, moments of extreme angst, even if you play it safe.
If you don’t play it safe…you’ll have even more losses, which is why so many don’t take risks, they can’t fathom this.
Life is about story, we’re all addicted to story. You think it’s about your possessions, your image, but people can often see through those and the truth is most people don’t care about others.
But when they do it’s because of their honesty, their credibility, their humanity.
—The Great Depresh
On blogging voices
So you have something like the following. One topic, two bloggers. Go read them. I’ll wait!
- Daring Fireball: Quibi
- Lefsetz Letter: Quibi
Same title. Same date of publishing. But that’s where the similarities end.
One bloggers writes about tech, the other about music.
Compare these quotes:
And I know that Hulu has separate paid tiers, one with ads, one without, but man, $5/month with ads is a hard sell to me.
So, a brilliant idea… Millennials are addicted to their phones, they’ve got a short attention span, let’s feed them bite-sized series, since they’re UNDERSERVED!
Well, no! Ever hear of YouTube? Never mind stories on Snapchat and Instagram, all of which are FREE!
That’s the funny thing about Quibi… It’s $4.99 with ads and $7.99 without. You mean I’m gonna pay the same price as Apple or Disney?
Gruber is Apple personified. Clean, simple, direct.
Lefsetz on the other hand is messy. And that’s why you’d read him. It’s all about his voice.
So I am leaving these two posts here as a reminder—for myself—of how voice can make such a difference.
I am a human being
I remember watching ‘The Elephant Man’ when I was teenager. The whole file was beautifully filmed. And then this scene. Our protagonist, chased my a crowd of curious onlookers, and finally, cornered, cries out a plea of despair,
I am not an animal ! I am a human being !
It hit me like a brick wall. As adult now, I can understand why teenager me was so impressed. But back then, all I felt was a deep sense of empathy. Yes! I feel you. I too am a human being!
One of the most unforgettable movie scenes ever. I believe it encapsulates the deep longing of all humans to be seen. To be acknowledged.
Here is a link to the video.
Alejandro Jodorowsky on Making Art
I am not making art to give fun to people — I am not a clown, I am not a businessman making money. I am a human being. I am making art to heal myself; that is what I am doing and when I will heal myself, then I will start to heal others.
—Alejandro Jodorowsky, (An Eagle Fighting with Flies: An Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky)
You know, in order to do something, you need to organize your time. It is very easy to do — you organize your time. You say, “One hour a day you will write. From this hour to this hour, I will write that. And even if I don’t have idea, one hour I write. Even a line. Even three words. But I write. Every day I write.” You organize your time and then you do whatever you want. You take your time like your friend and you don’t lose your friend. Because your time is your life and then you organize your life. I do that, everyday I do that.
—Alejandro Jodorowsky, (An Eagle Fighting with Flies: An Interview with Alejandro Jodorowsky)
In The Incal, or in another of my comics, The Metabarons, I placed an impossible solution at the end of each chapter and then I waited. What is the solution to this problem? I didn’t know it myself. For example, in The Metabarons, the powerful warrior Othon needs to have children, but he lost his testicles in a fight with a bull. And he will have children because the oracle said he will have a son. How will he have a son?
But I found a way to do it, no? A woman comes who is a magician, and with a drop of his blood she makes sperm and he has a child. And in The Incal, I have impossible situations all the time.
—Alejandro Jodorowsky, (The Most Beautiful Illusion)
My writing routine is everyday I put a record on, the same one since 20 years. Then I burn a stick of incense, I put perfume here on the insides of my soles, I paint my left testicle red, and I write.
The you in you isn’t the you you think is in you.
The world a person perceives is filtered by their own fantasy and paranoia.
On Letting AI Write the Story
This article from the Guardian discusses the ever present tension between humans and AI that is playing right now on the movie writing business.
“We envision a next-generation writers’ room where whenever they don’t know where to head to for the next scene, they would have Deepstory create it. The engine takes into account everything that you’ve written, and it will deliver you the next scene, or the next 10 pages, or write it to the end.”
If there is one field most technophobes seem to agree is that of Art. That’s art with a big capital A. If there is something AI can’t do that has to be art. After all isn’t art creation and appreciation the highest expression of the sensibility of human soul?
One potential drawback is that AI eliminates not only financial risk but creative risk, too. The fear is, if you fed in a vaguely challenging or experimental or atypical project into the machine – say Mulholland Drive or Under the Skin – the algorithm would discourage you from taking the gamble. Why not do a Dwayne Johnson action comedy instead?
I personally find computer-created art (AI or not) a fascinating concept. And I find it very interesting how polarizing such a concept is. Behind every piece of software or AI, there is a human component that has created such technology. So we can’t truly separate AI creation from human creations. And this concept is specially important when we are talking about decision making and bias.
Tabitha Goldstaub, a tech entrepreneur and commentator who specialises in artificial intelligence. Her work has raised deeper concerns about AI. Far from being a dispassionate tool, it often reflects the biases and prejudices of its creators, she says. “A lot of people think it’s maths so it can’t be biased, whereas in fact it’s completely the opposite way around: it’s maths, and therefore it’s data, and whatever data you feed a machine will have bias in it. The world is biased, and so these machines exacerbate our own biases.”
—‘It’s a war between technology and a donkey’ – how AI is shaking up Hollywood
William Gibson on the Short Story Format
It’s been argued that “the single” (a one-cut vinyl recording in either 78 or 45 rpm format) was the medium that defined the most perfect expressions of rock: that the single is in fact that music’s optimal form. The same has sometimes been said of the short story and science fiction. In the case of rock, I’m inclined to suspect nostalgia for a dead media platform. In the case of science fiction, I think there may be something to it. It requires a very peculiar sort of literary musculature to write a very short piece of science fiction that really works.
—William Gibson, from the introduction to Burning Chrome.
Everyday: Kate Bingaman-Burt’s Daily Drawings
I am big on routines, specially daily habits. I am starting to collect examples of artists and crafts people who produce something everyday. The real product is not the single piece, but the compendium of all the output.
I drew something that I purchased everyday from February 5th, 2006 until February 5th, 2014. This phase of the project lasted for 8 years. On August 12, 2017 (three and half years later and on my 40th birthday) I decided to pick this process of daily documentation up again. My plan is to keep going until I don’t.
Everyday: Austin Kleon on Daily Blogging
Austin Kleon deserves a mention for a million reasons. Particularly, on the topic of daily habits, this segment that Kleon shared on his blog from the book Art and Fear has resonated and stuck with me for years:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work — and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
—David Bayles and Ted Orland, Art & Fear
Here are more quotes from Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.
Bruce Sterling on Science Fiction
If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, science-fiction writers are its court jesters. We are Wise Fools who can leap, caper, utter prophecies, and scratch ourselves in public. We can play with Big Ideas because the garish motley of our pulp origins makes us seem harmless.
—Bruce Sterling, Preface for Burning Chrome
I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going
Today there was an article in the NYT about McDermott & McGough, a couple of artists and lovers who collaborated on paintings, photographs, films and sculpture. The article describes their breakup, but I found much more interesting, how they were able to live n a fantasy world, anchored in the past while living in the middle of the New York of the 1980s. I mean… what a feat!
Half of the Victorian-inspired art duo McDermott & McGough, Mr. McGough has written a memoir about his partnership with Mr. McDermott, “I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going,” in which he recounts their bizarre journey as time-traveling artists known as much for their retro lifestyle as for their pseudo-historical art.
They dressed in Edwardian clothes, drove a 1913 Model-T Ford and eschewed modern conveniences. As lovers, they shared an apartment on Avenue C that lacked a telephone, television or electric lights.
And it wasn’t just appearances. They even renounced the technologies necessary to keep them connected to one another. Talk about dedication.
As the more doctrinaire of the two, Mr. McDermott never joined the digital age. He has no smartphone or email, Mr. McGough said, and it’s not clear if he has even heard of Facebook and Twitter.
Contacting him is not quite as antiquated as sending a messenger on horseback, but close. Mr. McGough has to first send a text message to a man named James, a friend of Mr. McDermott’s in Ireland. If James happens to be in Mr. McDermott’s presence, he passes on the message, at which point Mr. McDermott may or may not agree to speak.
They Were Victorian Dandies Who Made Art. Now One Is Broke.
In One Sentence: Evensong by Lester del Rey
An allegory about human’s role in the universe.
It was a peaceful world, he realized, and the fear thickened in him at the discovery. In his younger days, he had cherished a multitude of worlds where the game of life’s ebb and flow could be played to the hilt. It had been a lusty universe to roam then.
—Lester del Rey, Evensong
On the Revival of the Novella
As the last few years have clearly shown, there is a market for this type of intermediate narrative, which arguably fills an underserved gap in literary preferences for character studies and tightly-plotted storylines. In an era of infinite content and fractured attention spans, where creators need to build trust with their audience in exchange for the investment of their valuable energy and time, novellas are compelling, easily consumable, and reflect a certain awareness of their readers’ busy lives.
—Rebecca Diem, Long Live Short Fiction: The New Golden Age of the SFF Novella
Seth Godin on writing bad
Write poorly. Continue to write poorly. Write poorly until it’s not bad anymore. And then you’ll have something you can use.
People who have trouble coming up with good ideas–if they are telling you the truth–would tell you they don’t have very many bad ideas. But people who have plenty of good ideas–if they are telling you the truth–would say they have even more bad ideas.
So the goal isn’t to get good ideas. The goal is to get bad ideas. Because once you have enough bad ideas, then some good ones have to show up.
—Seth Godin (via The Tim Ferris Show, #376: How Seth Godin Manages his life)
Chuck Wendig on getting back to blogging
Every now and then bloggers have call to arms: “Let’s reclaim the good old blog.” Because, eventually, writers, readers, all of us, get tired of the public spaces. Those social networks with the loud voices, the misinformation, the bots, the bad manners, the stress-inducing barrage of news, etc. And with each event of data leak, privacy changes, misinformation, etc, we seek refuge in the simple and safe. The good old blog.
Those social media sites are external.
They aren’t yours.
Maybe collectively they can be ours, if we claim them, but just the same: we lack actual ownership. But you need a place to call your own. A place to which you can escape. A place to call home.
Remember being able to read something that took you more than two, three minutes to consume? Not just one glib tweet, not just an article you reshare because you peeped the headline and that’s probably good enough, not some SASSY MEME or ANIMATORTED GIF FILE. Wasn’t that fun? Not having the attention span of a high-anxiety, cocaine-sniffing chipmunk?
—Chuck Wendig, Old Man Blogs At Cloud
Ray Bradbury on the practice of daily writing
These are quotes from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. A collection of inspiring essays about writing. Ray’s advocates for regular practice to get out of our own way, and let the inner child speak on the page.
One of Ray’s repeated advice for new writers is daily practices, and more specifically to write one short story a week. His approach inspired my goals for 2020.
But how did I begin? […] I wrote a thousand words a day. For ten years I wrote at least one short story a week, somehow guessing that a day would finally come when I truly got out of the way and let it happen.
What kind of schedule? Something like this. One-thousand or two-thousand words every day for the next twenty years. At the start, you might shoot for one short story a week, fifty-two stories a year, for five years. You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done. For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality.
This quote below puts this exercise in perspective. To write, even if the work is imperfect is part of the path to write. You can’t get to be a pro without all the practice. And while you practice you will inevitably suck at whatever you do, like all beginners do.
An athlete may run ten thousand miles in order to prepare for one hundred yards.
All during my early twenties I had the following schedule. On Monday morning I wrote the first draft of a new story. On Tuesday I did a second draft. On Wednesday a third. On Thursday a fourth. On Friday a fifth. And on Saturday at noon I mailed out the sixth and final draft to New York. Sunday? I thought about all the wild ideas scrambling for my attention, waiting under the attic lid, confident at last that, because of “The Lake,” I would soon let them out. If this all sounds mechanical, it wasn’t. My ideas drove me to it, you see. The more I did, the more I wanted to do. You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your beast-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.
By work, by quantitative experience, man releases himself from obligation to anything but the task at hand.
And while feeding, How to Keep Your Muse is our final problem. The Muse must have shape. You will write a thousand words a day for ten or twenty years in order to try to give it shape, to learn enough about grammar and story construction so that these become part of the Subconscious, without restraining or distorting the Muse.
If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.
I many times set goals and then review when I completed them as well as when I “failed” to. And Ray here reminds us that working hard and falling short is not to fail. To abandon the struggle, only that is failure.
So we should not look down on work nor look down on the forty-five out of fifty-two stories written in our first year as failures. To fail is to give up. But you are in the midst of a moving process. Nothing fails then. All goes on. Work is done. If good, you learn from it. If bad, you learn even more. Work done and behind you is a lesson to be studied. There is no failure unless one stops. Not to work is to cease, tighten up, become nervous and therefore destructive of the creative process.
What we are trying to do is find a way to release the truth that lies in all of us.
All quotes from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.
We are all writers
Oh, it’s limping crude hard work for many, with language in their way. But I have heard farmers tell about their very first wheat crop on their first farm after moving from another state, and if it wasn’t Robert Frost talking, it was his cousin, five times removed. I have heard locomotive engineers talk about America in the tones of Thomas Wolfe who rode our country with his style as they ride it in their steel. I have heard mothers tell of the long night with their firstborn when they were afraid that they and the baby might die. And I have heard my grandmother speak of her first ball when she was seventeen. And they were all, when their souls grew warm, poets.
—Ray Bradbury, Zen In the Art of Writing
We are all writers.
We are all storytellers.
Some of us believe it.
Chuck Wendig on Writing During Weird Times
Shit is weird.
Shit is weird.
W E I R D.
It’s not even that it’s bad —
I mean, ha ha, it is. It definitely is. But it’s also just fucking goofy. Our world is theater, and it’s currently being staged by a gaggle of goony dipshits. Political upheaval and social chaos and huge leaps forward in technology and regressive tumblebacks of justice and progress — it’s weed and fireworks and drones, it’s Twitter President and hellscape wildfires and flat-earthers, it’s coins to witchers and yoda-babbies and for some reason people are watching Friends? It’s way the fuck off the map. It’s not really dystopian — it’s dyspeptic, it’s twist-topian, it’s what-the-fuck-a-lyptic.
Tell the tale. The one that’s yours. The one that’s weird. The one that feels off-kilter, that other people aren’t sure about. This is not a safe era, and so we are not beholden to safe storytelling. Go as big and bold or as small and strange as you see fit. The world’s gone wacky and we gonna die (someday!), so step into the firelight, and we’ll join you by the fire to hear what you have to say.
—Chuck Wendig, Writer Resolution, 2020
I agree these are weird times. The question for me is, shoud we write weird to blend with the times, or should we write about more sane times to balance out the bizarre that surounds us.
In any case, we can’t ignore the times we are living, they give context to our writing.
Walter Mosley on black heroes
But I’m writing about a people, about black male heroes. Who writes about black male heroes? Langston Hughes, somewhat. And then, after that, it gets really sparse. I mean, there are a lot of black male protagonists, from Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Ellison, Chester Himes. But someone like Easy? Or Mouse or Jackson Blue or Fearless Jones or Paris Minton—the guy you want to go to if you’re in trouble? There are very few people who write about those kinds of heroes. When white people do it, they’re always drinking Dom Pérignon from the neck. It’s bullshit.
Walter Mosley, The Art of Fiction No. 234
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