Let's Do It Again (And Again, And Again) Dept.

"When audiences clamor for a sequel, what they’re really doing is expressing their enthusiasm for the movie they just saw."


Robert Zemeckis on sequels:

Roger Rabbit Sequel Won't Happen, Director Explains Why

Most sequels, you’re behind the eight-ball on them. When audiences clamor for a sequel, what they’re really doing is expressing their enthusiasm for the movie they just saw. And that means they’ll have a love-hate relationship with whatever comes next, because they want it to be the same movie, but different. If it’s too similar, they don’t like it. And if it’s too different, they really don’t like it. There’s nothing more difficult.

Emphasis mine.

I think I've told this story before, but here goes. My feelings about sequels, like my feelings about almost everything creative, can be dropped into one of two buckets: the feelings I have about other peoples' work, and the feelings I have about my own work.

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Tags: creativity creators Robert Zemeckis sequels


Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned: Half Outside The Comfort Zone Dept.

I've always chosen projects that lay at least half outside my comfort zone.


Some notes on Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned, specifically. I'm now around halfway through the project, assuming we have a 250K word length. For perspective, that's the same word length I originally projected for Flight of the Vajra, but I blew that out by 100K, so my word on how long this thing gets will be worth exactly what you paid for it.

Last night I was talking with a friend about why this book has turned into such an effort. It's ironic that it has, because it was originally supposed to be a fast-moving escape hatch from another project that was threatening to become morose and somber and, well, dull. This isn't to say AONO has become any of those things — it does move fast and strike hard, but getting it to accomplish such goals has been excruciatingly tough.

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Tags: Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned creativity Flight of the Vajra writing


Coltrane Vs. Vonnegut III Dept.

To exist is to be misunderstood.


This is part three (see parts one and two) of an ongoing talk into the social utility of art.

The line I've been developing so far goes like this: Good art (including good entertainment) gives people the freedom to be things they either only imagined they could be, or never even dreamed about being in the first place. But that also gives people the freedom to be jerks, so it has to be used carefully.

Hence this whole business I come back to time and again about how you want to pay attention to what you're saying with your creations, whether you realize you're saying them or not. You don't want to take away with one aesthetic hand all that you give with another.

All creative work is art whether or not we like it to be, and so your art, whatever it is, has the potential to liberate someone, somewhere. Keep an eye towards that liberation being positive for everyone concerned, though. Make sure the rising tide really does lift all boats, and not just the ones in our harbor or that are painted a color you like.

That said, don't beat yourself up if someone takes your work "the wrong way". I remember once how Christian Vander (of the band Magma) once said that he wanted to create something as pure and direct as the sun. "You can't misinterpret the sun," he said. But we did exactly that for most of the lifetime of the human race, by thinking the sun was a giant glowing hot stone a couple of hundred miles away or some such nonsense. To exist is to be misunderstood. But that doesn't mean you have no obligation to make your case as properly as possible.


Tags: art creativity psychology


Coltrane Vs. Vonnegut II Dept.

On why being your "true" self is not a matter of acting out things that you normally repress.


As promised, a follow-up on my previous post. The premise: Art gives people permission to be that much more wholly themselves, for good or ill. Preferably for good.

A lot of people misinterpret this as being about "disinhibition" — that "being yourself" is a matter of giving free reign to selfish impulses of one kind or another. They couldn't be more wrong. Being your "true" self is not, strictly speaking, a matter of acting out things that you normally repress.

This one is kind of tricky, so I'll explain it as best I can. (Again, I owe Brad Warner a thank you for these insights.)

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Tags: art creativity psychology sociology


Coltrane Vs. Vonnegut Dept.

Two theories about the social utility of art,


Here are two theories about the social utility of art, as described in this blog post.

One is the "Coltrane" theory — the idea that, as John Coltrane once put it, "The true powers of music [or art generally] are still unknown," and that you make great things happen by first envisioning them.

The other is the "Vonnegut" theory, where he described the total power of all the artists protesting the Vietnam War as being akin to "a custard pie dropped from a stepladder six feet high."

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Tags: art Buddhism creativity John Coltrane Kurt Vonnegut


Ow My Brains! Dept.

"Pain is not punishment. Pleasure is not a reward."


I'm typing this post with minor cuts on my left thumb and right middle finger, and even with Band-Aids on they still hurt. So bear in mind how everything I say in this post is slightly more than theoretical for me right now.

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Tags: Buddhism neuroscience psychology


Tick Tick Tock Dept.

On time travel and our urge to get away from it all.


Can We Escape from Time? | by John Lanchester | The New York Review of Books

The new idea, time travel, is appealing because we know time better than we used to. We know, much better than our ancestors, the exact lineaments of what Kipling called “the unforgiving minute.” Our time is more universal and more precise than ever, and we’re more than ever aware of the fact; it’s no wonder that we dream so much and think so fervently of ways in which time might be bent, stretched, reversed, made less unyielding and less unforgiving. All prisoners dream of freedom, perhaps never more so when they know there isn’t, and will never be, any possibility of escape.

Jack Finney, author of a sort-of time-travel novel named Time and Again, once tackled this idea indirectly in another, widely anthologized story called "I'm Scared." In it, a man recites to the reader a collection of bizarre, Fortean anecdotes about people and things that seem to have become displaced in time. The conclusion he draws is that this is happening because we want it to happen, because the pressure of billions of minds against the very nature of things is causing it to kink and warp here and there, and maybe someday burst altogether. We can't stomach the idea of time being linear, so we are kicking against that particular prick with greater and greater force.

I loved this idea when I first read it as a kid, and I hearken back to it often as a possible seed for a story — not one in this precise vein, but as a general idea. I haven't thought about what form it would take, but I suspect it would in some way be a tragedy. Here's why.

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Tags: creativity fiction Jack Finney science fiction time travel


Motive Power Dept.

You can't rely on motivation; rely on discipline instead.


In a conversation over on Reddit in /r/gamedev, someone asked the one question that is asked of most anyone in any creative field: How do you stay motivated? The best answer so far: You can't rely on motivation; rely on discipline instead.

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Tags: creativity discipline writing


No, No, NaNo Dept.

No new novel this November. I'm already booked.


Forgot to mention this before, but sorry, not this time around, gang. No NaNoWriMo for me. I'm neck-deep in Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned, and am letting that stand as my current project. I still wish everyone out there who is taking the plunge this time around the very best of luck, though, including my fine friend Scott.

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Tags: NaNoWriMo writing


A quick note.

I have said very little about the election here, but not because I don't care about it.


I have said very little about the election here, but not because I don't care about it. It's because I'm trying to stay focused. Focus is one of the few salves I have for uncertain times.

I also find I tend to lose political arguments very, very quickly, in big part because I am not very good at sustaining such discussions. The last thing I want to do is waste my energy in ways that will just leave everyone, especially me, all the more exhausted.

That said, the level of quietude you're seeing from me as of late should be a good sign as to how I feel about all this.


Tags: real life


See earlier posts, starting with December 2016,
or via the monthly and category archives.



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