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NaNoWriMo Year Nine

NaNoWriMo Year Nine

I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month so long they needed a second row for a

nano-history
Purple means “won”, teal means “participated.” The Halo means I donated.

ll the icons. Next year I hit double digits. And what have I gotten out of it? Have I published any novels? Am I famous? Or am I just wasting my time?

Well, neither. No, I haven’t published a novel, but that’s not because I haven’t been writing, or because NaNoWriMo is useless to me. But I have written a lot, and have sharpened my skills, and kept my hand in as I go through a lot of life stuff.

And I’ve written and self-published a couple of tech books, something I never thought I’d do. I’ve loved that experience as well.

I’ve found the confidence to keep writing even when it feels like it might just be pointless, even when the book I’m working on feels like a train wreck. And I’ve found a large community of helpful people and resources that help me see the value in pressing forward in my noveling even if it never will make me rich and/or famous.

I honestly believe that creativity is its own reward. I’m greateful to NaNoWriMo for encouraging that belief.

Byline, Meet Front Page

Byline, Meet Front Page

The inside of Field Notes' new "Front Page" reporter's notebook.
The colors are a little different, but the awesomeness is the same.

Field Notes just turned their wonderful Byline Quarterly Edition into a permanent edition named “Front Page“.

I’m genuinely excited about this. I have four Byline notebooks from my Field Notes subscription, and they have rapidly become indespensible to me. The reporter’s notebooks work so nicely in so many ways. The fact that they lay flat and stay open means they’re far more useful for presenting out of than regular memo books. I’ve used them for lessons and talks a number of times now, and they are my go-to way to take notes in meetings. So I was sad knowing that my dependence on the Byline books would come to an end. Now I know that it’ll just switch from serious blue covers to serious gray ones, and I can live with that.

Doctor Who

Doctor Who

or: My Descent into Fandom

“Wait, the first episode is about shop-window dummies coming to life and terrorizing London? Okay, I’ll watch that.”

And that, dear friends, was the beginning of the end.

For most of my life I’ve avoided two things: being a “fan” of anything, and Doctor Who.

(Okay and a bunch of other things as well like spiders and getting murdered, but those are outside the scope of this essay. Sheesh.)

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The Babysitter Test

The Babysitter Test

While it’s obviously not the only criterion I would use, one simple thought experiment I do when considering presidential candidates is what I call “The Babysitter Test.” It’s quite simple: would I allow the president or candidate to babysit my kids?

Looking back, the score stands like this:

  • Every Republican President Since I Was Born: only if Nancy, Barbara or Laura were there to actually take care of the kids.
  • Bill Clinton: Hahaha nope! Maybe Chelsea. But still, probably nope.
  • Barack Obama: Sure. Especially if Michelle and the girls were there. The kids would have a great time.
  • Hillary Clinton: Probably not. She would just dump the kids on a Secret Service guy and leave.
  • Donald Trump: No. No chance. Never. Even though I never have and probably never will meet him, I’m still considering getting a restraining order against him, just in case.

It baffles me how people seem to think that voting for a terrible man like Trump will somehow lead to good nominations for supreme court justices. This is, by the way, the only excuse I’ve heard intelligent people use to justify their possible votes for the guy.

By the way, this post should not be taken as endorsement for Hillary Clinton, either. There are other options. My advice this year is Vote Weird. Find a third party candidate you like, or that you dislike less than the leading two, and vote for them.

I’m glad we had this little talk.

Field Notes: Remember it Now

Field Notes: Remember it Now

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I really, really wanted to start this off with a quote. I should have written it down.

The quote I half remember is from Anne Lamott, and I think it was on twitter. But I can’t find it. The gist of it was:

Always carry a paper and pen with you to capture ideas. The Gods of Inspiration do not honor cell phones.

If you find the original please let me know. Anyway it stuck with me because at the time I was all about taking notes on my cell phone. Or rather, trying to take notes on my cell phone. You know the drill: you get your phone out, unlock it, see that you have two new emails (or Facebook messages or texts…) check those, close that app, forget why you got your phone out in the first place, and go on with your day.

And after a while I started to realize how many good ideas I was losing in this process. The thing that held me back longer was my handwriting. It’s terrible. But guess what? After a while you realize that you can deal with bad handwriting, it’s much harder to deal with forgetting things entirely.

And thus began my quest for the perfect notebook. A repository for all my ideas. A dreamcatcher for waking dreams. A garden for blooming thoughts. Or, you know, something with pages I can write on.

I tried a number of things starting with standard comp books (way too big) to hardcover notebooks (also too big and uncomfortable in your pocket) to cheap spiral bound memo books (fall apart quickly in your pocket) and was basically ready to give up.

And then I discovered Field Notes.

There are a lot of people who make notebooks. But Field Notes puts a little something extra into their lovely notebooks. Starting with their base “Kraft cover” notebooks you get a sense that these are people who take what they do seriously. Check out the inside back cover, and you’ll see everything about how the notebook you’re holding is made. Who printed it, what machine was used to bind it, the exact ink colors used on the cover and the insides (“Dachshund Nose” black on the cover and “Double Knee Duck Canvas” light brown on the pages). They have an addiction to the Futura font, which I also love. Everything is sourced, printed, and manufactured locally. They remind over and over that you’re “not writing it down to remember it later, [you’re] writing it down to remember it now”.

But as nice as that is, it’s not what makes it. Good paper is nice, good build quality is important. But neither is a call for brand loyalty.

And then they came out with the Byline edition. A flip cover Reporter’s notebook straight out of the 1920s. Smooth, classy vellum pages. A little faux-newspaper included with every notebook. Okay, now I’m sold. This is something new, weird, classy, and unique.

And I started looking at all their “quarterly editions”, and I noticed these were words that applied to the whole range. They’ve got waterproof notebooks. They’ve got notebooks where the outside cover is the color of a leaf and the inside cover is the color of that leaf in the fall. Notebooks that change color in the sunlight. Notebooks that have actual cherry wood veneer on the cover. And most recently (as in, I’m writing this on the day this came out) notebooks where the cover has a cut-out showing the moon, and each of the three books in the pack has a different cutout (full, half and quarter). Like I said, new, weird, classy and unique. I started a quarterly subscription with Byline, and haven’t regretted it at all.

I’ve been using Field Note books for pretty much everything lately. Having a small notebook in my back pocket means I’m not as worried about forgetting things; I just pull it out, write things down, and go on with my day. Kind of like how a notebook is meant to work. they hold up well, the paper is top notch and doesn’t bleed through, and the notebooks are still in great shape when you’re done with them.

A notebook I’ve been working in is a great place to look for inspiration when I’m stuck. But I’ve also been surprised at the number of times I’ve been trawling my notebook for ideas and discovered that I’ve already implemented a bunch of the ideas in there. A number of new stories or work projects have gone from a passing notion recorded in a Field Notes book, migrated to Evernote and then to a work project or Monday Story without me consciously processing it. Turns out having a memo book at all times really does help me “remember it now”.

Welcome Home

Welcome Home

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Four years ago I set out with the lofty goal of migrating away from WordPress to the heady, nerdy world of Jekyll. And then I realized that as much as I love doing everything command-line style it was actually slowing me down quite a bit. So now I’m moving back to something that actually, you know, works.

I’ve got a blog for short fiction over at Monday Stories. And I’ve got my books. And even a Tumblr. But I’ve been realizing that I don’t have a nice place to ramble like a crazy ol’ grampa. So I’m bringing this blog back out of the mothballs.

IT’s good to see you again. Thanks for stopping by.