#ThinkTober Week Three

Week Three of the Haiku project ended up as something of an experiment in different canvases. Some worked, others didn’t, but overall I learnt a great deal about organising myself more effectively. Needless to say, all of this is useful information to take going forward in the weeks to come.

One of the most significant changes will be that if I use myself as a canvas, I’ll need to get somebody else to take the pictures. This picture is a bit more blurry than I would like: had I been better organised, a far more professional picture could have been taken. Also, fountain pen ink is by far the best thing I’ve found to write onto my skin. This won’t be the last time that happens, I’ll wager.

Welcome to the green space outside my house: one of the trees here fell down a few years ago and crushed my car. This one, however, appears to be made of sturdier stuff and became my backdrop: I did think about writing on the bark, but am pretty certain that would qualify as vandalism. Card and BluTack had to do instead.

In the interests of full disclosure: this spider was not killed in order to make the Haiku happen. I found a long-dead spider corpse (with an already detached leg) to play a stunt squashed arachnid. I still need to put this unit together, now I come to think of it… ^^

I need to make more use of custom card cutouts in the Christmas set of Haiku I’m planning. Hobby shops probably will be able to provide me with some festive shapes, and I’m smart enough to be able to design some of my own. There’s also the opportunity to print out my words and then place them against plainer backgrounds, which is an approach I’ve not utilised…

This, of all the Haiku I’ve done, is my absolute favourite of all. It required me to have to write a poem only using the Scrabble letters and then finding a way to place them on the board where particular letters had to be duplicated. Okay, that’s not exactly how a game would work either, but you can’t have everything.

Yes, I texted this one in because I was short for time.

I think it works regardless 😀

… and that is Week Three done. That leaves me another 10 days worth of Haiku to complete, which I’ll post as one complete post after the Project is finished. Many thanks for sticking with me thus far, and I look forward to seeing you for the last part of the journey.

Standing in the Rain

IoW Feedback.png

At the end of this month, the Patreon content produced for this website will take a four-week hiatus in order to allow me to properly participate in the 2017 NaNoWriMo event. However, I do not intend to rest on my laurels: during this time I’m going to survey everyone currently contributing to my cause with some questions intended to try and learn what people like and dislike about my output. Using this, I’ll then replan tiers for a soft relaunch in December. If you’re a Patreon donor, look out for the e-mail in early November.

nanowribanner

The NaNoWriMo preparation is now in full swing. I’ll be spending next week putting down markers for what needs to be done: setting clear objectives, looking at what will cause me issues, working out what needs to be planned in advance. I’m probably about 80% ready to roll on this, all that is needed now is a clear plan of action that I can cross off as things are completed. In fact, if I’m totally honest, this is the most organised and confident I’ve been about this entire event since I started doing it.

its_a_trap_star_wars

There’s still quite a lot to finish before November is here, however: there’s a couple of week’s worth of Haiku that still require archiving. However, the level of organisation currently is more than satisfactory. Let’s see if we can’t keep that momentum going as we go careening into a new week, the hood of coat on my head as I pretend its a superhero’s cape…

My Affair

writing-as-therapy
Many of you read my triumvirate of blogs on a regular basis, and will know that all three together are the best way of judging my mental state. I’ve made no bones over the years of how important writing is for keeping me sane, and the last week has brought home the understanding that it also has the capacity to make me reassess myself in ways I’d not previously considered. Last week’s essay asked questions of my past that I’d not been comfortable answering until now. This resulted in a weekend where I went through a phenomenal amount of personal angst, to grasp that history cannot be avoided and ultimately has to be dealt with, whether I like it or not.

This week, therefore, is fairly crucial in proving to myself I am learning lessons. The first 48 hours are always quite stress free: it will be this time next week where I’ll see if the changes in diet, the alteration to my working practices and my change of focus are beginning to have an effect. There is a lot of stuff that I want to do before Christmas, most of which have nothing to do with personal comfort, and are wrapped around beginning to give back to those who have helped me get this far.

30 THANK YOUS 2.png

I’m going to be privately contacting a number of people I want to particularly thank for their support but I’ve had a plan for a while to use November’s Haiku in the same way I’m doing with the Inktober prompts via #ThinkTober on Instagram. Therefore, I spent some time on Sunday finishing up a series of 30 Tweets that will be Haiku for November. I won’t say in advance who these thank you messages are for, only that I have spent a quite some time working out who’d be gifted a poem.

I’ve already spoken about NaNoWriMo, more details of which will be discussed next week. What also needs to change, as a result of what I’ve learnt from this month’s worth of Patreon content, is what I’m offering in terms of tiers and rewards.

clickhere

It’s become apparent with my mental reactions to the content I’m producing that there is so much more I could be doing, but cannot due to the self-imposed structure I have in place. Therefore, in my month’s worth of downtime in November there’s going be some hard thoughts about how things change, and I will be polling my existing patrons quite extensively on what they would like to see. If you’d like to be part of that process, you can become part of my Patreon family with just a click of the above banner.

I look forward to taking some genuine steps into the unknown in the months that follow.

NaNoWriMo 2017 :: The Beginning

NaNoWriMo 2017.png

Okay, people. November’s always been a big month for words in this parish, and 2017 is already shaping up to be the most significant yet in terms of how I do the entire writing gig. I have decided what I’m writing and it is one of the many Works in Progress that has existed on my hard drive for some time. In fact, I even got as far as making a book cover and a lovely Twitter synopsis, both of which will be retooled along with the original narrative. Having read through all that I have to begin with yesterday, to say I’m excited is an understatement.


For me, the biggest single problem that occurs in a NaNo ‘month’ is the conviction of an idea from inception to completion. This time around, I’m tackling a complete plot (with the exception of a hole in the denouement) and updating my writing style, plus adding some vital background and depth along the way. Getting to 50k this year, therefore, is of largely secondary significance to having a working and complete draft on completion. That’s my bigger aim: finally, finish a piece that I feel is one of the strongest narratively that I have ever produced, then set about seeing if I can’t get someone to want to publish it.

So I can devote 100% attention to this task, I’m taking November off from the Book of the Month project and the various stuff that normally takes place. However, there will be content here for the whole 30 days, with a subsidiary project that’s already in the planning stage. If you follow me on social media, I’ll be mentioning it as time goes on, but it is being created in the hope that I can give back to the Community that has helped me to fulfil my own potential as a writer in the last few years.

skatersgonnaskate.gif

In the buildup to November 1st, I’ll be sharing some of the thoughts I’ve had on this process, and there’ll be regular writing updates throughout November itself. If you want a more personalised view on how things are going, here’s a reminder that my personal site exists and that I’m far more likely to swear and challenge your traditional notions of sexuality there than anywhere else.

All the Small Things

autumn schedule
Next week’s quite an exciting one for me as a poet, as the UK celebrates a National Poetry Day. Whilst lots of famous people are doing high profile stuff, I’ve decided to embrace the subject matter [Freedom] and produce a whole day’s worth of special pieces around that subject. Whilst the logo of the day is clearly considering the more high-profile aspects of the concept (doves do conjure up some very specific metaphors) I am making it a priority to examine and present some very personal interpretations. I’ve even gone so far as to register myself on the Official Website, which is a step into what might end up as a far larger Universe. You never know until you try.

2017-banner-1.png

What this means therefore is that instead of a WiP Day (which is normally what happens on Thursdays) I’ll dedicate an entire day to writing ‘live’ and posting the results. There’ll also be a week’s worth of Haiku and Micropoetry on the subject, starting bright and early on the 25th. If you are a Patreon user/supporter, you’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled starting on Monday. In a desperate attempt to build tension and create mystery, I’ll say no more than that.

Because music is a very, VERY important part of my life (and lyrics are effectively poetry, right?) there’s also going to be a Freedom Playlist compiled and posted via YouTube. I’ve already got plenty of ideas for this, but if you want to add any suggestions in the comments, please feel free to do so.

So, until next week…

Book of the Month :: When Steven met Stephen…

It is the summer of 2003. Europe is sweltering under the worst heatwave for 500 years as Malta, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland all vote to join the European Union. In the US, it is less than six months since US forces invaded Iraq and liberated Baghdad, as intellectual fights rage as to the validity of this action. In the midst of all this, writer and journalist Stephen J. Dubner is asked by the New York Times to go and interview a man who is causing quite a stir in the world of Economics. So, he goes to Chicago, and for the first time meets Steven D. Levitt.

These were the days when social media meant MySpace and Friendster plus very little else: Skype had only just launched and no-one had even heard of Twitter or Facebook. Podcasting only began in this year: if you had an original idea to expound, there was literally nowhere to go other than magazines or newspapers for any radical thinker to find an audience who might be interested. In the case of Levitt, he’d already made a name for himself proposing fairly unconventional theories in a very conventional discipline.

His latest work, ‘The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime’ had aroused interest after publication in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Levitt argued that a crime wave that had swept the US in the 1990’s had not been arrested by any of the means by which politicians, commentators or indeed sociologists had stated were responsible. In fact, the rapid drop in teenage perpetrators was a direct result of the landmark Roe v Wade legal case in 1971 which legalised abortion and effectively prevented a very specific demographic of potential criminals from ever existing.

This assertion was, understandably, met with a fair deal of academic scepticism (which continued for many years after publication) but Levitt’s work was based not only in fact, but considerable background research. Here was a man who looked at Economics not simply as a series of empirical concepts, but was acutely aware of the interconnectivity of other World events in relation to basic economic theory. Dubner, very much the epitome of the street-smart New Yorker, saw potential for the two of them, but it was his literary agent who can be credited with the inspired notion of getting the pair to write a book.

Freakonomics was published in 2005, the same year as a blog of the same name was launched. The latter tapped into an important, emerging means to capitalise on a new and previously unexplored group of critical thinkers riding a wave of Internet freedom. William Morrow and Company, who distributed the book in the US, sent 100 ‘preview’ copies to specialist bloggers in the hope they’d give favourable reviews. Many people subsequently credit the initial success of publication to the influence of the ‘blogosphere’: as of late 2009 (according to Wikipedia) the book had sold over 4 million copies worldwide. Then came a number of (probably inevitable) challenges to the original concepts covered in the book, a 2006 defamation case, which forced a revised version of the original manuscript to be published in the same year.

The success of the Freakonomics brand wasn’t just in the hands of independent internet writers or thanks to publicity over legal challenges: 2007 saw the blog become so popular it was absorbed by the New York Times, who continued to host it until 2011. By then there’d been a second book, documentary film made about the concept and the establishment of a podcast, Freakonomics Radio. However, more significant was the foundation in 2009 of the Freakonomics Consulting Group, soon changed to The Greater Good or TGG. With a number of Nobel laureates, this rapidly emerging commercial juggernaut attempting to maintain largely ethical status made perfect sense.

In a decade plus, Freakonomics has become big business, the epitome of Internet Brand Awareness. There’s now four books, a bi-weekly podcast and, if you have the cash, the original instigators of the lifestyle are available to come speak at your event. Their publicity blurb joyfully celebrates 600k followers on Twitter and a now fully independent blog that receives two million hits a month. This duo effecively and smartly rode the wave of emerging social networks and established the concept of out of the box thinking as a buzz-phrase for a generation.

However, there are critics, especially when it comes to their assessment of certain subjects (climate change most notably) combined with this peculiar deconstruction of what an American academic can do with enough disparate data to work from. Their joint success has generated the kind of grumpy annoyance that inevitable follows anyone who’s able to be hugely successful at the task in hand: there are imitators of Levitt and Dubner’s partnership all over the World, inevitably including those who resent not having had the ‘idea’ first.

However, this pair have effectively redefined an area of academia, giving the -onomics suffix an entirely new lease of life, and allowing people like me to believe that there is more to explaining why the World works as it does than simply spouting statistics and claiming academic superiority. In fact, I’d not be here today with a Patreon were it not for the belief that acceptable explanations do not simply have to involve one discipline’s set of particulars and no others. Allowing disciplines to overlap and merge, reading data from multiple (and often unexpected) sources means that literature has much to thank science for, history can look to economics to help explain actions… it may be considered by some as homogenisation, but it is a logical reaction to the means by which we now both absorb and react to the vast amount of (often contrary) stimuli available.

Looking for the unexpected answer to a question often allows us the ability to grasp the larger, more fundamental principles at play. In the introduction to Freakonomics, the perfect example of this is the US ‘real estate’ agent who you’d like to sell your house… but does she have your best interests at heart? Not according to the data, say Levitt and Dubner. If you look at the behaviour of Real Estate agents when selling their own houses, they’ll always try and angle for more money themselves, whilst looking for clients to take the first good deal that comes along.

What this pair are asking their readers to do is not necessarily agree with their principles, or indeed subscribe to this way of thinking. They are providing a valid alternative to what is presented as ‘conventional’ thinking. The definition of our individual truth, undoubtedly, is a complex combination of many factors. Sometimes, it is apparent that groups of people aren’t necessarily interested in the scientific facts presented. What they crave is their own, personal comfort away from actual reality.

If you want a perfect example of this in action, spend a moment reading around the subject of clean eating which has rapidly and significantly altered both what we consume and what is considered as healthy in the last decade. This movement owes more than a little to internet evangelicals: often women who have sought to transform themselves, creating a particular lifestyle of foods and detoxes before selling the concept to others via platforms such as Instagram. In many cases, conventional wisdom and scientific fact has been completely ignored in preference to ‘feeling good’ regardless of how this actually takes place.

However, in the last few years, academics and others have been at pains to debunk the transformative properties of certain foods, and that in many cases prolonged exposure can cause long term harm. Many cite this as yet another example of a ‘post truth’ environment many people now choose to inhabit. They would rather be wrong and happy than right and miserable. With the current state of world news right now, it really is not difficult to grasp the appeal.

The truth for most of us should be a combination of acquired knowledge, influence and personal consideration: looking outside what has been your accepted norm and thinking differently is never a bad thing. Challenging what is presented as fact is, after all, never a bad thing. What is increasingly apparent is that the real truth can not only be painful, but potentially damaging to people who refuse to accept that science and mathematics can only be ignored for so long.

Freakonomics challenges us to look at the World in a different way. It uses often disparate facts and examples to present a reality where everything truly is interconnected with everything else. Science’s constant reassessment of the Universe is now showing this to true on a molecular level, with rapid advances pointing the way towards a number of major re-examinations of matter, existence and even the history of mankind itself. As our very perception of reality is both reassessed and altered, it is time to look to the ordinary in order to find answers we can grasp on a personal level.

Now you appreciate the concept, it is time to examine evidence…

GSME #20 :: New Shoes

social-media-asides

The more astute amongst you will have noticed that this site has changed appearance. It’s not a seismic shift by any means but… the header image is now different, there’s some stuff organised behind the scenes and (by the time you read this) there will be an archive area for all the Books of the Month we will be trailing and then writing about, plus poetry associated with each month. As we discussed last week, this is all wrapped around my acceptance that if I want to ‘sell’ a Patreon that revolves around the cerebral world of poems and non fiction, I need to be targetting this to people other than those currently following me.

flyingsquirrel.gif

In the revolving bird feeder that is Social media, I already know that keeping up with trends matters rather a lot. Unfortunately, making my content right now is taking up far more time than I’d like, which is leaving the brain less than optimal for self-promotion. Therefore, the plan is to try and improve the site little by little until the end of the Summer Holidays, and then when I’m on my own again in early September (and therefore able to dedicate a bit more time to the promotional side of things.)  Therefore during month I want to try and up the Patreon subscription count from existing followers before I start trying to hook them from other places. That leaves the rest of August to trying to optimise myself effectively.

I think that will be eminently doable under current timescales.