Monthly Archives: September 2007

Court Your Muse

In the words of Sander Cohen, respectable citizen of Rapture, a muse is a fickle bitch with a short attention span.

He’s wrong.

Though Sander’s muse may not be the most attentive and regular visitor, that isn’t because she is fickle, he simply doesn’t know how to treat her right.

He fragments his attention between several different projects. He is focussed on his audience instead of on the muse, and he is too preoccupied by anger, fear, and every other emotion in the spectrum, to pay attention to his muse at all. Worst of all, he makes someone else do his creative work for him.

A muse is not fickle, and her attention span is usually anything but short, but she is a jealous and demanding creature. If you want her to become a central and recurring part of your life, you need to invite her, make her feel welcome, and lastly you need to make her feel so appreciated that she wants to come back to you. In other words, you have to court your muse.

The most important thing to realize is that once she has arrived, your muse wants to be the center of your attention. She wants you to eliminate all distractions, and to focus only on her.

If your muse has left you, or if she seems very willing to give you space lately, let me give you some advice on how to get back into her good graces. Keep in mind that since I am a writer, the more practical portion of my advice may not apply to you if you are not, but the theory should be as universal as it is solid.

If you write on a computer, take a moment to install a writing program that takes away all your distractions. If you are on a Mac, install Writeroom, and marvel at the solid black background, and the sleek interface. For Windows users, like myself, Darkroom offers the exact same functionality.

I run a Linux distribution, Ubuntu 7.04, on my laptop, and have not yet found a Linux application out there that offers the same thing, so I am using a work-around of sorts; I have made some changes to the text editor that came with my Ubuntu 7.04, Gedit. The background has been set to solid black, the font to pale purple, and I have hidden the tool bar, and maximized the window. Not quite as smooth as Darkroom is on my Windows PC, but it gets the job done.

If anyone out there knows of a native Linux application that mimics the functionality and interface of Writeroom, I would very much appreciate a link.

Before you start writing, close your browser. In fact close all other applications except one (we’ll get back to which one later), to avoid the temptation of tabbing back and forth between the windows. Turn off your IM client, your RSS feed, and and your email notifications. Actually, if you’re on a notebook, go ahead and disable the wireless altogether. You don’t need it right now, and it distracts you from the muse. She doesn’t want to share you with Digg anymore than your partner wants you to keep trying to watch TV while you’re making love.

Now that you have removed all visual distractions, you are a quarter of the way there. Next is to get rid of all those things that take place everywhere around you, and that hover just at the outside of your perception and nags you to turn around, just briefly, to see what’s going on. I’m referring to the TV downstairs, the conversation in the next room, the loud music from your neighbors, in short, I am talking about sound.

Sound is deceptively good at distracting and fragmenting our concentration, and when that happens our focus slips away from the muse and back to the movie that is playing on the TV below. Fortunately, there is a very easy solution for this: Listen to other sounds.

Install a good media manager on your computer, and create a playlist for when you sit down to write. The media player is the only thing that should be running on your computer, aside from the word processor, when you write. What kind of music you listen to is not as important, whatever you like and whatever shuts out every single distracting sound from the world around you, is perfect. My primary writing playlist consists of a lot of metal and gothic rock, my secondary plays classical music.

Listen through earphones. Speakers are all well and good, but they don’t isolate you from the sounds of the world. Plug in your headphones, and keep the volume at whichever level is loud enough to shut everything out, yet soft enough to be pleasant.

There is one more thing you need to do, before you can guarantee your muse the complete privacy she needs. You need to let your room mate, spouse, child, pet, or any other creature living in your home, know that when you write, you want to be alone. All the Darkrooms and earphones in the world are useless if someone suddenly walks in to ask you if you remembered to buy toilet paper when you went to Costco last night. Ask for privacy. I should not have to tell you to ask nicely, or to be willing to explain why you need it.

Now, the forth and last piece of advice I have is that you make it easy for your muse to find you, and show her that you will be there when she comes looking for you. She doesn’t just want to just date you, she wants a committed long-term relationship, and she wants to be able to count on you to show up when you’ve asked her out.

Make writing a part of your routine. Sit down to write at the same time every evening. It doesn’t matter if you can only do it once a week, though if you can’t do it very often you need to rethink whether you really want to have a relationship with a creature as demanding as a muse.

But if you can promise your muse that you will be in front of your computer, earphones plugged in and word processor open, by 8:00 PM every Thursday night, and spend at least two hours with her, you will eventually begin to find her there at that time, every week, impatiently waiting for you with countless new ideas that she can’t wait to share with you.

Court your muse. She’ll reward you with life-long loyalty and endless inspiration, and she will help you achieve things you never thought possible because she wants to inspire you. She just needs to be convinced that you want her there with you, every step of the way.

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Apocalyptica plays Metallica

I used to play the cello, a long time ago. If I had known back then that a group like this would appear, or if I had realized that it was at all possible, I might have been a professional cellist today.

This is what it is all about. My music, on my instrument, my way. The way I like it, the way I want to, because this is how I love it.

This is Enter Sandman, performed on four cellos, by four very talented and skilled cellists. Enjoy.

Now, take my hand. We’re off to Never-Never Land.

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By popular demand…

Here we are. This is what we look like when we are very tired, and very dressed up. Despite both those things, we are also very happy in this picture. That’s why we’re smiling.

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Happy National Video Games Day!

Today is National Video Games Day. Celebrate your favorite games or gaming devices by playing your latest obsession for hours and hours tonight. Take a moment to fondly remember the game that got you hooked on gaming, your first love, all those years ago.

Rejoice in our captivating hobby, and don’t forget to send an e-card to the favorite gamer in your life.

It is fitting that the 360 is returned to us on this auspicious day.

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A Magician Has Left Us

I know that this is several days late. I know that I am doing what everyone else has already done, but I don’t really care that much about that.

Luciano Pavarotti has left this world, and he left it a better place than he found it. I’m hoping I can say the same one day, though I could never hope to do it the way he did. He had a magical voice, and a skill that matched his fantastic talent, and recordings of his performances will hopefully last for generations, who all will have a little more beauty in their lives from the music he was a part of.

This is not a tribute, so much as my contribution to his memory. May it live for centuries.

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Entirely Bug-Free Software, Guaranteed

Andy Brice did it! He wrote the first ever bug-free application, and you can find it, completely free, at all the reputable download sites!

Actually, to be serious for a moment, what Andy did is pure genius. Everyone who uses freeware, a lot or a little, should read his blog article and make notes of all the sites he submitted his little application to. Don’t be too scared, but do be careful from now on.

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Intermediate Literacy

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The ability to express oneself clearly and concisely, using the written medium, is not so much an ability as it is a skill. Because it is a skill it takes time and practice to acquire it, and that has rarely been as painfully clear to me as over the past few days.

I am on email and chat detail at work. That means people write in and ask questions and I write back and answer them. The emails are not so bad, but the chat can be physically painful, and not only because of the way I tend to hunch in my chair. Maybe it is because I have spent nearly ten years living online as much as I do off-line, maybe it is because I read a lot, or maybe it is because some of the people I talk to in the support chat really are illiterate idiots, but it is becoming more and more clear to me that though basic literacy may be widespread, the intermediate version isn’t. I’m referring to the ability to communicate or describe clearly, using exact words and phrasing, a situation or the events that led up to it.

Another side of intermediate literacy is the ability to read between words, to understand the implied meaning of written language and not only what is actually there. The ability to understand that when the Technical Support agent in the chat asks “Did you receive an error message?”, they expect you to copy and paste that error message into the chat if your answer is yes. It is implied, and the ability to understand such implications is vital to clear communication in a medium where all you have to work with is the written word.

I admit that I may be spoiled. I spend a lot of my spare time in internet forums, chat rooms, and talking to friends on various messenger services, and after nearly ten years I have become very good at expressing myself in writing. I know the difference between calling someone a “nice” person and a “kind” person.

I know that I read more than average. I know that a lot of people that I communicate with online do the same, and I realize very well that the amount you read, and what you read, directly affects how you write, and now I have finally arrived at what I was pondering on the way home today.

Is there too little writing in our everyday life today? Everything is in pretty colors that are easy to distinguish, words are short and quick, and news as well as important political issues come in 5-second sound bytes. We’re moving towards a society that has no room or use for long segments of written language, where novels sell better if they are easy to read and use short and simple words, and where soon only college textbooks use four-syllable words and demand that you think while you read them.

But we are also moving towards a society that exists at least partly online, in blogs, chat rooms, on IM clients and on message boards, and in those places, the written word is the only way of communicating. Can there be a balance between the real visual world, and the written online one? Will there be?

There should be. It seems to me, that with computers and network connections here to stay, the written way of communicating should be focussed on, emphasized and celebrated. After all, what else are we to each other than words, strung together to form sentences?

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