March 8th, 2011


[links] Link salad snores way too hard

There are still slots open for this summer's Cascade Writers — Instructors include me, David Levine and Beth Meacham.

SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series — Mark your calendars for April 19th, with me, Kay Kenyon and host Brent Weeks.

The Day the Movies DiedGQ on Hollywood decisionmaking. (Snurched from Scrivener's Error.)

51 hours left to live — An Oregon cancer victim talks about his death. (Via [info]willyumtx.)

Reducing cancer patients' painful treatmentA NASA technology originally developed for plant growth experiments on space shuttle missions has successfully reduced the painful side effects resulting from chemotherapy and radiation treatment in bone marrow and stem cell transplant patients. Interesting stuff. For bonus points, spot the egregious science writing/copy editing error in the middle of the article. (Via John Edward Bartley.)

Identification and Neutralization of Robotic Combatants — Hahahah.

Text Message Language Is Everywhere — I am entranced by the sign in this photo. Photochop or real?

Photos of NYC subway cars being thrown into the ocean — (Thanks to [info]shelly_rae.)

Adding It Up: Amazon Ship vs. Costco Shop — Ah, consumer culture. (Thanks to Dad.)

Followup thoughts on the meteorite fossils claimBad Astronomy with some debunking.

Bachmann and Palin — Ed Brayton's "Badass Quote of the Day" is hysterically funny.

In states, parties clash over voting laws that call for IDs, limits on where college students can cast ballots"Voting as a liberal. That's what kids do," he added, his comments taped by a state Democratic Party staffer and posted on YouTube. Students lack "life experience," and "they just vote their feelings." 'Cause, you know, no one rational would vote to help other members of society improve their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

?otD: Got sleep?

Writing time yesterday: 2.25 hours (2,500 words on Sunspin, plus some WRPA)
Body movement: overslept (by 2.5 hours!)
Hours slept: 8.5 hours (interrupted)
Weight: n/a
Currently reading: The Falling Machine: A Society of Steam Novel by Andrew P. Mayer


[photos] Rainforest Writers Village, and Lake Quinalt

This past weekend, I was at Rainforest Writers Village, on the shores of scenic Lake Quinalt in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Had a lot of fun, took a few pictures. Sadly, none of the wildlife I saw was willing to pose at the appropriate moment.

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As usual, more at the Flickr set.

© 2011, Joseph E. Lake, Jr.

Creative Commons License

This work by Joseph E. Lake, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


[process] Reopening the topic of Consumers and Producers

As long-time readers of this blog know, I've occasionally commented on a critical framework that characterizes the creative process as a relationship between Consumers and Producers. Whilst at Rainforest Writers Village this past weekend, I had occasion more than once to dig into this concept in the course of various conversations. This seems worth sharing in hopes of further discussion, as I continue to elucidate my thoughts on the subject.

To define my terms a bit better, I am referring to the creative process specifically in terms of Story. Story can a written narrative, a video or movie, a play, the internal logic of an RPG or MMORPG, an illustration, a song, a dance, a tale told over a campfire or across a bar. It's a way of communicating ideas and events and actions, evoking both an intellectual and emotional response in the person experiencing that Story.

We are all Consumers. Experiencing Story is perhaps one of the basic characteristics of being human. To experience Story one must have a concept of futurity and the past, for the sake of plot. One must be able to entertain counterfactuals, at least conditionally, for the sake of dramatic tension. One must be able to empathize with the world outside one's head, for the sake of character. Animals generally don't do these things. People generally do, or at least can. To experience Story is to be a Consumer.

Note that every culture experiences Story, even very conservative, isolated or ascetic cultures. An Amish family might not watch television or attend plays, but they talk about their day's events and study their Scripture. The Sentinel Islanders might assiduously reject outside contact, but they must have their narratives. Whatever the framework, Story is how we teach our children and understand our own experiences, assuage our grief and communicate our joy.

To Consume is to experience Story. To experience Story is to Consume.

To create Story is to Produce.

In the broadest version of the above rubric, everyone is a Producer as well. We've all walked into a room and said, "You won't believe what happened to me today..." Most of us have worked or otherwise performed tasks that required describing something — sale pitches, meeting reports, classroom presentations. Many of us have explained the world to children in small, often idiosyncratic chunks of meaning.

But in modern, Western/Western-influenced society, we also have categories of activity and employment that are more formally Producers. Artists, writers, musicians, moviemakers, and game designers, for example. We generate Story in the form of entertainment that is packaged and delivered as media. This is a formal activity distinct from either the peer-to-peer flow of Story or from those occupations and pursuits where Story is a supporting behavior in pursuit of some other formal goal.

In my own personal experience — I'm not prepared to generalize from this, though there may be general principals in play — I have found that in order to be a Producer, I have had to control and limit my role as a Consumer.

For example, I gave up both television (in 1994) and computer/console gaming (in 1998) to allow myself more time to work as a writer. I had discovered that both of those activities scratch the plot bump in my head sufficiently that I no longer had the drive to write fiction. For me, the immersive nature of Consuming both television and gaming silence the internal voices that create Story of my own.

To a lesser degree, I have this problem with reading. Reading fiction doesn't silence my internal voices, but it directly competes with them for my time and attention. The same budget of cognitive and temporal resources supports both activities.

This is not a good thing. In order to be an effective Producer, one must also be very aware of what Consumers do, and how they think. A writer who does not read others' work is like a chef who eats no other cooking. Ultimately stagnant.

So I find that I must shift and reshift priorities in order to balance the impulse to Produce with the impulse to Consume, while granting neither of them short shrift.

Next up, as time permits, I'll discuss my recent insight on being a Producer and a Consumer with respect to the writing of Sunspin.