Science and Technology: The Age of the (ubiquitous, big) Screen

As much as many pan the notion, I believe we have entered the Age of the Screen. If you’re the observant type, you’ll notice screens are everywhere. There are multiples in our houses, and not just TVs. How many of us own more than one computer, tablet, and smartphone? I know I’m guilty, and likely so are you. And that doesn’t even include the screens at work, school, the restaurant, and just about everywhere else we look.

There is lots of press about the negatives of “screen time,” and to be sure, unmanaged, it is a negative, but I posit that our problem with screen time and all these ubiquitous, big screens is that we haven’t figured out how to use them yet. We’re in an era where technology is developing faster than we understand its impact, and it shows.

Follow me here: one of the main arguments against screen time is that it is addictive and changes brain development, especially in children. The fact that is true is undeniable, yet it also glosses over a particular set of facts: both the addiction and the development are manageable if we don’t stop doing the things we did before the screens. Screens are a modern addition to a long history that changes how humans behave, and what is lacking is management.

I find this subject particularly fascinating because so much of what I do right now involves screens. I create art on them. I write on them. I communicate on them. I interact on them. In those ways, screens are incredibly beneficial for me in a variety of ways. Where the screens fail me is when I use them to sate my sometimes overwhelming boredom by almost ritualistic use of the screen as brain candy. That failure is fixable. It’s a simple matter of doing other things. It’s a matter of discipline.

For me, the beauty of the screens is that they work the way my brain does. I get not everyone feels that way. But the fact is screens are here to stay, so we should start learning how to manage them for the best use possible. And that management is possible. We just have to do it.

–DLH

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Wordcraft by Dennis L Hitzeman: On writing and needing a gimmick to write

I’ve discovered recently that I need gimmicks to write. At some level, it offends me that I need to have some trick to convince myself to do what I know I want to do, but the fact is that it’s a valuable bit of psychology that actually works.

For example, I’ve struggled to meet my self-imposed word counts for the first three months of the year, missing March’s altogether. In March, I decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April, and even though it’s only one day down, I’m already feeling more invigorated about writing than I have since November and NaNoWriMo last year.

What I’ve come to realize is that both NaNoWriMo and its camp version represent a form of accountability, so very tenuous yet necessary so that I am not lying to myself about the progress I’m making. Needing to write 1667 words a day and knowing others, even if they’re people I only know online, are watching is enough to motivate me to move forward.

Realizing this, I plan to seek out more challenges and the like to make this a year-around motivation instead of April, July, and November. Hopefully, having that motivation will help me move forward on what I want to be doing that much faster.

Hooray for psychological tricks.

DLH

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Wordcraft by Dennis L Hitzeman: Coming in 2019

I am hoping to have a productive writing year in 2019. My main goal is to stick with and finish writing the first drafts of what may end up being as many as 10 books in a series that begins with my 2018 NaNoWriMo project. Yes, that is a lofty goal, but I never, every shoot low.

As if that is not enough, I also plan to continue work on my Tales from Beyond Earth story universe, and if history is any indicator, there will be plenty of one off stories and ideas that will present themselves over the next 12 months.

If you are interested in following my progress, check back here, or you can support my work and see more frequent updates at my Patreon site. You can get access to exclusive content for as little as $1 a day.

Here’s to a productive 2019!

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: It’s been a while

I figure it’s about time for an update if anyone is still paying attention. This year has been a roller coaster health-wise, but in general things are improving, so there’s that.

Recently, I started to re-engage myself with something I haven’t done in a long time: active accountability. In general, that means making a minimalist list of what I want to accomplish over a given period of time so as to be able to check against that list whether I am doing what I said I was going to do.

Some people will probably nod sagely at that confession, but my style of active accountability isn’t quite what most people do (is anything I do quite what most people do? But that’s a different conversation…). For example, rather than having a notebook or a calendar, I have a private blog. I use that blog as much as a checklist as I do a project management system. I tend to limit myself to five tasks a day, even if I know I have time for more because I realize that the stress of over-expectation is the second biggest reason I don’t get what I plan to done (the first being physical incapacity to do it).

The moral of the story is that I use this system to keep the things I am working on fresh in my mind and focused. I can tend to wander off if I don’t only to discover long periods of time have passed without getting anything demonstrable done. Active accountability helps me stay focused when I won’t otherwise be.

Updating this blog is now part of that accountability. I hope to make at least monthly updates, as much because I promised myself and others I would as because the act of writing is both invigorating and cathartic for me.

More will follow.

DLH

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Writing: Write!

It turns out a lot of people, myself included, like to call themselves writers. But the secret to being a writer, as it turns out, isn’t in the name but in the doing.

As a creative person, I find it’s easy to get lost in the notion of creativity. I dream things. I imagine things. I talk about things. But for more often than I would like, I fail to execute on the effort.

This is a common refrain among creative types, I know. There are all kinds of reasons it turns out that way, yes. But none of them change the fact that, if you’re not actually creating, it’s really a waste of time.

Us creative types often forget our creativity is work. It’s a job. It’s one percent ecstasy and ninety-nine percent drudgery, like most other things in life. But that one percent is fuel for our souls, and that’s enough to cover the rest.

So, write, writer! Paint, painter. Compose, composer. Sing, singer. Do what you said you were going to do. And keep doing it.

DLH

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Worldview: The Rambling Road: Rambling and repetition

When trying to write a daily weblog, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of repetition, especially when the subject is narrow like I’ve imagined the subject for this blog to be. So I wonder, what do other people want to hear about?

It’s often hard to get other people to respond to that sort of a question because they feel embarrassed about their answers, don’t think others will listen to them, or don’t feel like they have the time. Yet, I think that sharing those kinds of thoughts with each other helps us see the world more clearly and can help make each of our own rambling road less repetitious.

So, what do you want to hear about? Tell me in the comments.

DLH

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Writing: My NaNoWriMo 2016 review

Or, so you wrote 50,000 words. Now what?

I am being honest when I say how easy NaNoWriMo was for me this year. Of course, saying it was easy is a relative claim, but the fact is that this latest 50,000 words came out with less struggle than I have ever experienced writing anything long or short. I suppose that means I have somehow matured as a writer, but the reality of that notion remains to be seen.

The reason I think that is because the endeavor this latest story represents only begins with the effort of NaNoWriMo. It turns out that, as a writer, I am far more like a painter adding layers to a painting than I am a sculptor carving away stone or clay. What this means is that the story I have now still needs a lot of work to be the kind of story you’d expect to see in a book.

What does that mean? Well, first, I’m going to let it just sit for a bit. That may mean several days or several weeks, but after having expended so much effort, I find that it is good to just let the story age some before I do anything else with it.

Second, I have to compile the writing I’ve done into a readable format. It turns out that I wrote the entire story as notes in Evernote. This is basically that modern equivalent of writing a story on note cards, and it gives me the advantage of being able to easily reorder scenes as I go through my first rewrite process.

Third, I will do my first edit/rewrite. I know a lot of authors like to print out and mark up copies of their rough draft, but as I’ve noted, I tend to write like a painter rather than a sculptor, so my rough draft tends to be a lot more like a very long outline than a true story. Once I’ve completed that rewrite, I will print the story out, read it through, then mark it up.

Fourth, I will take that marked draft and type the whole story back into a new document. Yes, that means I will write the entire story again, using my draft as the source. I know a lot of people wonder why I would expend that much effort, but what I have discovered is that typing the story again forces me to revisit and rethink every single word. It is the best editing tool I have ever encountered for the way I write. Depending on the story–this happens often with short fiction I write–I could end up repeating this process more than once.

Along the way, I may show my efforts to several people or groups of people to get comments on what they think about the story as it progresses. I find that it is good to get those views along the way because other people tend to notice the plot holes I’m ignoring or other issues the story might have for a reader.

Finally, once I’ve edited and rewritten, and tweaked enough, I will take the plunge to try to get the story published. I’ve never reached this step with any long fiction I’ve ever written, and that’s saying something given that I have at least four stories somewhere along the process I describe above.

So, there is a brief outline of what happens after NaNoWriMo. Hopefully, this year’s success will prove as easy to see all the way through as it was to write for the first time.

DLH

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Writing: Done before it started: a NaNoWriMo cautionary tale

I had a great idea for NaNoWriMo this year, one I conceived of months ago and have thought about a lot since then. Unfortunately, thinking is all I did about it, with the result being that my attempt at writing 50,000 words in 30 days died almost before it began.

There is something of a common problem among writers (and I’m not going to get into the philosophical, psychological, and practical battles here about what defines a writer) in that we often don’t write. We want to write. We think about writing. We talk about writing. Then we don’t actually write.

For the past year or so, this has been my shortcoming in the extreme. I actually really do love writing. I crave it, to be honest. I feel more complete when I am writing. Then for a variety of reasons, I don’t actually write.

My caution, then, and my encouragement for all of us flailing writers out there is to not let another November sneak up on us with a years worth of wishing about writing without any writing actually having been done. I’m not saying it will be easy or that it will be good, but if you’re like me, you need to do it.

So let’s.

DLH

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