Friday, May 30, 2014

Graduation

Not much of a post from me today, I'm afraid. About three hours ago, I graduated high school. As I went up to get my valedictorian medal, three helicopters flew overhead. I hugged many people afterwards. When I went to the band room I was okay until I opened my locker, now empty; at that point I lost my stoicism and just cried on people, especially the members of the wonderful lower brass section. Did not expect that response from myself. Read all the signings in my yearbook, which made me smile. Burgers for dinner; grad night is soon. Wow. Is it really all over?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Legacy

Kintsukuroi
(source)
The past week, I have been extremely discombobulated and off my game in most things--writing, reading, coding. High school is about to end and somehow I think that means that I can slack off in everything, including my own personal pursuits. Add to that some personal events which generate extreme confusion, and...well, what I mean is that I forgot about blogging, so I don't have much of a post for you today, just some personal musings.

I've been retrospecting a lot lately, which makes sense, and I realize that I have actually attained some success in high school. I also realize that I owe my greatest successes to the miserable freshman I used to be.

Related reading: kintsukuroi (by Justine Musk; inspired the post image) and Challenges and Strengths (by Theodora Goss, as usual).

With the passing of time, the extremes are all that we remember. I am sure that I was happy sometimes during freshman year, but, without wallowing too much in the bad memories, rest assured that for the most part it was a bad year. I became estranged from the friends I'd had since elementary school; the friends I fell in with were a rowdy bunch with whom I always felt marginal; I tortured myself thinking I liked someone I hadn't had a class with since fifth grade; I was for most of the year a flute player in a section where the upperclassmen don't even know the freshmen's names.

What I remember most of all is loneliness. I have always been an introvert, meaning that being around other people usually drains my energy. But then, I was also afraid of being alone with myself, so I looked to other people to give me validation, which they did not, which made me an anxious people-pleasing wreck.

Sometimes I still have days like that, to be honest.

But last Thursday was the final music potluck, and I was honored with the Perpetual Music Award, given to the senior(s) (usually there are two winners, and I shared the prize with my tuba brother who is also going to Stanford) with the largest four-year contribution to the band.

The band director said some nice things about us. What stuck with me, though, was how he highlighted my connections to the underclassmen. Apparently it's "inspiring."

I don't know how much of that was hyperbole, but I do think that I've done right in mentoring underclassmen in band. Or maybe mentoring isn't even the right word--more like, making sure I know their names, greeting them in the halls, all those tiny things that I never got as a freshman and which appear to have carved a certain pattern in my psychology.

To a freshman, upperclassmen are intimidating. I have actively tried to be more accessible to the underclassmen; I've tried to get to know them, to make them welcome. My favorite person in North America, the Teal Knight, does the same thing, and I think that between the two of us we've made band a lot more open and friendly than it has been in previous years. Because this is a community, not just an organization, and there's no reason the lower brass should have a monopoly on the good relationships and mentoring.

Perhaps I am still seeking validation through other people. But the difference, and it is a cliche one, is that I'm looking to what I can reasonably give to people who need it.

I'm not advocating selflessness; on the contrary, I am an extremely selfish person. But it costs nothing to smile and wave, and most of the time it is worth it to be kind.

I haven't succeeded entirely. There are many underclassmen with whom I have never spoken, with whom I do not exchange greetings in the halls. I worry about them, too, because I was also an invisible freshman. I just hope the best for all of them. And I don't want to overstate my impact on the freshmen: I can't help them with their classes, with their friend problems, with family issues. All I can be is an upperclassman who lets them know that they are valued.

On Friday I'll have my general graduation post, but I wanted to think about the legacy I've left in band separately because band has been the most important part of my high school life. I'm going to miss my lower brass far more than I'm going to miss high school minus band.

Then, what is my legacy?

I think the most important part is being a sounding board for and champion of the Teal Knight, who will now be the Drum Major. I cannot quite believe I have only known this girl for two years, and I consider myself incredibly lucky that I have. Even this year she has proven a top-notch leader: organized, responsible, decisive, kind, and generally wonderful. I tend to get emotional when I think about her so I'll leave it at that. I should also mention that I didn't really mentor the girl who will be TK's assistant that much, but that I consider that a solid friendship on its own.

The junior who was my co-captain last band camp will now be band president. Though he, like me, is rather introverted, I believe that he will step up to the challenges. I didn't push him toward responsibilities as much as I should have--or he didn't take the initiative as much as I'd expected--but still, he is organized and intelligent and will learn what he doesn't know.

Sadly, some trombone boys are leaving band next year because they want to take two sciences (so I can't really get mad at them). But I hope they take with them the camaraderie that seems unique to our section. And I know that next year's trombone section leader, whom I will call Princess Fire Marshal, will do a smashingly good job at rallying the troops.

The freshman girls I know through my volunteering club will do fine. They are supremely reliable and hopefully more aware of societal problems. (Also, many of them are joining robotics, which is exciting.) I have a lot of hopes for this bunch--they're good ones.

On two separate occasions over the past month, my hero and mentor the Trombonist has told me that he's proud of me (and the Stanford Tuba Brother). I'd be lying if I said that it's all I've ever wanted, but I remember that after I wasn't elected band president and after I lost band camp, I was sad not so much because of the actual defeats but because I was afraid I had let him down. So this is one of those rare and wonderful instances when you want something very, very much and find, to your surprise, that you have obtained it.

I am incredibly grateful that I've had the opportunity to be in band all four years of high school. I really cannot express how much it means to me, how much I owe to it, and how much I am going to miss my people.

Friday, May 23, 2014

UM Progress Report: Troubleshooting

Work on Ubermadchen is moving forward, but slowly. It's my fault: the first half of May was AP season, and I took that as an excuse to contract senioritis. Luckily I have since recovered from that life-threatening illness, and am prepared to examine what is going wrong, what I need to fix.

One major issue is that I'm a lot more easily distracted now than I have been in the past. The boredom of having multiple classes in which I do a whole lot of nothing all day has bred in me the habit of checking my phone a lot. Heck, I even find myself checking Facebook first thing in the morning, which I never used to do.

This is not good and the best solution I can think of is to enforce time not spent on the phone/the problematic sites. One of my mottoes junior year was that "self-control is the highest virtue" and I haven't been living up to that lately.

Another issue, more localized, is that I didn't do enough worldbuilding for UM, so I have to make up a lot of stuff as I go along, but that stuff has to be consistent (more or less) with eighteenth-century Europe. I'm trying to keep within shouting distance of fact, which means that I need to do more research.

This at least I can take concrete steps to address. I got a book about Eighteenth-Century Science from a library book sale for 50 cents, so I'll start by reading that. Then, I'm collecting research and inspiration on the Ubermadchen tumblr, and keeping things cross-referenced.

A third issue, which emerges from the two described previously, is that I haven't been carving out time to sit down and work on the story dedicatedly. Legit authors will tell you that you need to be able to find the odd pockets of time in the day to write, and I do need to get better at utilizing those spaces, but I really prefer to be able to sit down with the story, go over what I wrote in previous sessions, and then sink into the work.

Why don't I just do that, then? The problem is that I sit down to write, and then realize that I need to know something that I don't know. So I go off to research it, and get distracted by something else, and lose track of what I wanted to know, and end up with 200 words after an hour. I usually don't know I need to know something until I hit that point in the writing, which makes it more difficult to create a system in which I write one day and research the next, or some similar combination.

I always make plans, run into problems, then have to make new plans. This is good. This is iteration, and I embrace it. So here are the edits I'm going to make to my process:

  • Put distracting sites on Stayfocusd blocked list
  • Log onto Facebook only at set times during the day
  • Read broadly on research topics during non-writing time
  • Research focused specifics as needed during writing time
  • Schedule earlier and longer blocks of writing time


Let's see how this goes.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Letting Ghosts Die

I haven't been on the MIT admissions blogs since the days immediately following my rejection. Throughout the first half of April I clung onto the MIT dream; whenever I tried flipping a coin to gauge my gut reaction to the question Caltech or Stanford, my heart always cried out, MIT!

I went back on the admissions blogs last Friday and read some posts by Anna Ho, the admissions blogger with whom I felt the strongest (one-sided, of course) connection from fall 2012 when I started reading the MIT admissions blogs to March 2014, when I got rejected. And in the course of reading one of her blogs, I discovered that she's going to Caltech to pursue a PhD in astronomy.

First of all, that's wonderful news. I'm a fan of hers (though a fair-weathered one, it seems, given that I didn't check up for two months) and I hope she enjoys the greatest success.

Second, I can feel the phantasm of my Caltech self floating around a lot. For a period of two weeks, I was dead certain that I'd go to Caltech since I thought I'd never get into Stanford. Even the first part of April I thought I'd go to Caltech since I hadn't internalized the Stanford acceptance so Caltech, as the first reach school to say yes to me, felt more real.

So I imagine that there's a version of me that chose Caltech, who is busily emailing the Caltech fencing coach about student athlete forms, who is submitting Caltech forms, who is wearing Caltech shades around school, whose name on the senior map is alone under California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, who is planning meetups with friends going to the Claremont Colleges.

That's not me. I'm filling out my Approaching Stanford forms, practicing trombone for the LSJUMB, wearing Stanford Federal Credit Union sunglasses and a track jacket with a tree on it, and on the senior map my name and my tuba brother's name are under Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. I got my AS mailing last Friday and spent the weekend flailing over the immensely cool Thinking Matters courses that will be offered (I can take a class on Evil. Evil.)

I read some physics books, so I encounter Caltech's name a lot. Feynman taught there for many years, as did Murray Gell-Mann (whose book the Quark and the Jaguar I began on Thursday and already love). And while I am thrilled that I'm going to Stanford, sometimes I also look at Caltech and think, wow, what an opportunity cost.

When I submitted the form stating "no, I will not attend Caltech," I felt a twinge of reluctance. In the two weeks when I thought I'd go there for sure, I had constructed a pretty sweet future: mechanical engineering with a minor in CS, research at JPL, fencing team, Caltech-Occidental wind band. I think I would have enjoyed that.

But then I remember sitting in on a CEE lecture at Stanford's Admit Weekend and, while not literally trembling, walking out feeling like a shaken-up soda and saying to myself, I have to come here. I remember wandering across the Main Quad in a daze, only just then realizing that I got into Stanford and that I could really come here and make the place my own.

Here is my plan for the future: civil engineering with a minor in CS, research or internships, bonz sexion in the LSJUMB, study abroad in Germany junior year with a Krupp Internship the summer after, classes in complexity (which sets my brain on fire) and global sustainability (which does the same for my gut).

I must confess that I am still holding out hope that MIT will want me for graduate school. But that is a long way off yet.

I saw myself coming out of Caltech as this very serious intense Mechanical Engineer. I see myself coming out of Stanford as an intense determined Leader as well as Engineer.

Caltech is a beautiful, wonderful school. But I have never been attracted by the idea of doing pure scientific research, even if I find the results of that research fascinating. And mechanical engineering is super cool and important. But, though I didn't want major choice to be a big factor in choosing between schools, I don't think I can give up the dream of civil engineering so quickly.

Mind and Hand? They don't want me. The truth shall set you free? Yes, but if the truth is constantly evading us, will we never be free? But we are free. Or we can be free.

Because Die Luft der Freiheit weht.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Surrealism

Warning: image-heavy post.

The Castle of the Pyrenees - Rene Magritte

The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.
-Rene Magritte

Archeological Reminiscence Millet's Angelus - Salvador Dali
(source)

Swans Reflecting Elephants - Salvador Dali
(source)

Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. The aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality." Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself.

...

Freud's work with free association, dream analysis, and the unconscious was of utmost importance to the Surrealists in developing methods to liberate imagination. They embraced idiosyncrasy, while rejecting the idea of an underlying madness. Later, Salvador DalĂ­ explained it as: "There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad."

Beside the use of dream analysis, they emphasized that "one could combine inside the same frame, elements not normally found together to produce illogical and startling effects."

...

The group aimed to revolutionize human experience, in its personal, cultural, social, and political aspects. They wanted to free people from false rationality, and restrictive customs and structures.
-"Surrealism", Wikipedia


The Domain of Arnheim - Rene Magritte
(source)

Alchemy or the Useless Science - Remedios Varo
(source)
Companions of Fear - Rene Magritte
(source)
Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision.
-Salvador Dali
My Friend Agustin Lazo - Remedios Varo
(source)

The Lost Jockey - Rene Magritte
(source)

Plant Architecture - Remedios Varo
(source)
The universe outside of us makes tons of sense. The universe follows all kinds of elegant rules. Planets travel around suns, moons travel around planets, the universe expands, matter assembles, plants and animals (and even other people) adapt both at the individual level and over the course of millions of years, and all of those things happen for intricate, dependable reasons. The universe doesn't need us to make sense of it. It makes sense whether we understand it or not. But the self? The self is not intuitive. The self confounds. The self keeps drinking coffee until its fingers shake, rewards itself for going to the gym by smoking a cigarette, falls in love with people who treat it poorly, treats poorly those who love it, wakes up at 3 o’clock in the morning for no apparent reason and fails to go back to sleep, harbors fears of heights, water, insects, clowns, babies, and the sound that toilets make when you flush them, and (most confounding of all) experiences a series of senseless narratives after it goes to sleep

...

The distinction here between the human species and the individual self deserves emphasis. The Surrealists weren't as concerned with the human condition as they were with the individual condition. When Rene Magritte wrote, “The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown,” he wasn't ruminating on the objective neurological truths of the mind, but on the subjective experience of having a mind. The experience of being yourself is an endless mystery, and an endless absurdity.

The Enigma of the Arrival and the Afternoon - Giorgio de Chirico
(source)

Punching Ball or the Immortality of Buonarroti - Max Ernst
(source)
The man who cannot visualize a horse galloping on a tomato is an idiot.
-Andre Breton

Allegory of Winter - Remedios Varo
(source)

The Gray Forest - Max Ernst
(source)
Perhaps the imagination is on the verge of recovering its rights. If the depths of our minds conceal strange forces capable of augmenting or conquering those on the surface, it is in our greatest interest to capture them; first to capture them and later to submit them, should the occasion arise, to the control of reason.

...

When the time comes when we can submit the dream to a methodical examination, when by methods yet to be determined we succeed in realizing the dream in its entirety (and that implies a memory discipline measurable in generations, but we can still begin by recording salient facts), when the dream's curve is developed with an unequalled breadth and regularity, then we can hope that mysteries which are not really mysteries will give way to the great Mystery. I believe in the future resolution of these two states - outwardly so contradictory - which are dream and reality, into a sort of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak, I am aiming for its conquest, certain that I myself shall not attain it, but too indifferent to my death not to calculate the joys of such possession.

They say that not long ago, just before he went to sleep, Saint-Pol-Roux placed a placard on the door of his manor at Camaret which read: THE POET WORKS.

...

SURREALISM, noun, masc., Pure psychic automatism by which it is intended to express, either verbally or in writing, the true function of thought. Thought dictated in the absence of all control exerted by reason, and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations.

ENCYCL. Philos. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association heretofore neglected, in the omnipotence of the dream, and in the disinterested play of thought. It leads to the permanent destruction of all other psychic mechanisms and to its substitution for them in the solution of the principal problems of life.
Discovery of America by Christopher Columbus - Salvador Dali
(source)

Elephants - Salvador Dali
(source)

I'll Pass Them Apart - Remedios Varo
(source)

Before he goes into the water, a diver cannot know what he will bring back.
-Max Ernst

Breaking Off - Remedios Varo

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

She Walks in Beauty

A Backward Glance
Charles Edward Perugini

She Walks in Beauty

by Lord Byron (George Gordon)

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

--

Dark hair gets very little press relative to its share of the population (compare: blonde or red hair). Thought I'd spread the love.

Friday, May 9, 2014

You are You and Your…

I did not end up submitting this essay for anything, since I decided not to apply to UChicago (no engineering). But my good friend Lietenant Sarcasm posted her essay, which I thought was quite good, so I'm posting mine.

I took a slightly different approach, since the idea of the self as an emergent property fascinates me (it's what my senior project is all about, after all). Enjoy.

-

Fickle thing, identity. To others, you are you and whatever they expect you to be for them. To yourself, you are you and a receptacle for past disappointments and future dreams. To posterity, you are you and your legacy. The question remains: what is “you”? If we separate out “you” into “you” and “your X”, then does it necessarily follow that the second “you” is indivisible? It does not. The identity sheds layers, whittling down finally to…to what? What is it that differentiates one person from the next, after all passing moods, social expectations, and background has been stripped away? Human beings under duress behave remarkably similarly.

Consider a serial killer. What pressures in upbringing, what genetic tendencies, made the taking of life a viable career choice? At what stage could something--anything--have turned our metaphorical serial killer onto a nobler path? Or was his or her fate sealed from conception? Before conception, given the parents’ temperaments and situations? Genetics are not fate. The child of an addict--two addicts, even--need not fall into vice. Circumstances are not fate. The child of abuse need not abuse.

I am me. I am me and my community. I am me and my family and my community. I am me and my upbringing and my family and my community. I am me and my creations and my upbringing and my family and my community. I am. Even this last is uncertain: perhaps I are, because this human being who calls herself by my name is made up of millions of cells capable of responding to stimuli and making decisions accordingly. The intellect is, perhaps, an emergent property of the complex systems of systems that make up this frail and wondrous human body. On the other hand, perhaps what I perceive as consciousness is the dream of a butterfly.

Do we have a core identity, a soul, if you will, that would be the same regardless of where or when or how we were born and raised? Is there any aspect of our personality that cannot be traced back, somehow, to external influence? (Genetics is included under external influence.) If someone was created with my exact memories, would she be me? If every inter-neuronal connection were mapped and replicated? Could someone tell the difference between her and the original?

When I was younger, sometimes I would lay awake at night and look at the ceiling and wonder - why am I me? Why did this consciousness choose to inhabit this body, this life? Could I see into another’s mind while preserving my own autonomy or would I seep into the other mind and leave with its electricity rewiring my own? Can we ever know, truly, what it is to be someone else?

You are your universe and chaos and time. I do not know if “you” even exists. But who am I to say so? I am me, my self and aye, every single term in this sentence breaks down when you push it hard enough. Careful if you do. They might push back.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Troy--Ray Bradbury

The Trojan Horse into Troy
by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
(source)
Troy

by Ray Bradbury

My Troy was there, of course,
Though people said, Not so
Blind Homer’s dead. His ancient myth’s
No way to go. Leave off. Don’t dig.
But then I rigged some means whereby
To seam my earthen soul
Or die.
I knew my Troy.
Folks warned this boy it was mere tale
And nothing more.
I bore their warning, with a smile,
While all the while my spade
Was delving Homer’s gardened sun and shade
Gods! Never mind! cried friends. Dumb Homer’s blind!
How can he show you ruins that ne’er were?
I’m sure, I said. He speaks. I hear. I’m sure
Their advice spurned
I dug when all their backs were turned,
For I had learned when I was eight:
Doom was my Fate, they said. The world would end!
That day I panicked, thought it true,
That you and I and they
Would never see the light of the next day -
Yet that day came.
With shame I saw it come, recalled my doubt
And wondered what those Doomsters were about?
From that day on I kept a private joy,
And did not let them sense
My buried Troy:
For if they had, what scorns,
Derision, jokes
I sealed my City deep
From all those folks
And, growing, dug each day. What did I find
And given as gift by Homer old and Homer blind?
One Troy? No, ten!
Ten Troys? No, two times ten! Three dozen!
And each a richer, finer, brighter cousin!
All in my flesh and blood
And each one true
So what’s this mean?
Go dig the Troy in you!

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Boxes

Things are getting rather real lately. In the next two weeks, I have four AP tests, an in-class essay, a concert, a final project, and a final exam. This is much less hectic than last year, but it does mean that it's more of a challenge to carve out time to sit and write for an hour.

But sitting down and writing is not the only way to make progress, and though there is great value in forcing yourself to focus on your writing, sometimes your brain really does just have to take a break. For those times, it's good to have something else you can do to make progress on a project while simultaneously relaxing.

But what?

I ran into an answer a week ago when I read The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp. (Excellent book, by the way, and visually pleasing as well.) In it, she devotes two back-to-back chapters to the ideas of "the box" and "scratching." More below.

-

On "the box":

"There's no single correct system. Anything can work, so long as it lets you store and retrieve your ideas--and never lose them…A writer with a good storage and retrieval system can write faster. He isn't spending a lot of time looking things up, scouring his papers, and patrolling other rooms at home wondering where he left that perfect quote. It's in the box.

A perfect archive also gives you more material to call on, to use as a spark for invention. Beethoven, despite his unruly reputation…was well organized. He saved everything in a series of notebooks that were organized according to the level of development of the idea…He never puts the ideas back exactly the same. He always moves them forward, and by doing so, he re-energizes them…

That's the true value of the box: It contains your inspirations without confirming your creativity." (82-83) //emphasis mine
Let me emphasize: good organization is key. I have been misfortunate, or lazy, enough to construct systems that stop working very quickly. A cumbersome structure stifles productivity very, very quickly.

To include in the box: "two blue index cards. I believe in starting each project with a stated goal…to remind me of what I was thinking at the beginning if and when I lose my way. I write it down on a slip of paper and it's the first thing that goes into the box." (85)
I often lose track of what I wanted to do with a work and, typically, end up a few orders of magnitude less epic than I wanted.

"a box is like soil to me. It's basic, earthy, elemental…It's what I can always go back to when I need to regroup and keep my bearings. Knowing that the box is always there gives me the freedom to venture out, be bold, dare to fall flat on my face. Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box." (88) //emphasis
At this point, you may have the question "what else goes into the box?" In case the above quotes weren't clear, it's essentially a research/inspiration/draft archive for whatever project you're working on.

Journalist: "Filling up the notebook can take hours or months…but only when his research and reporting are done and his notebook is full does he write the story. If his reporting is good, the writing will reflect that. It will come out clearly and quickly. If the reporting is shoddy, the writing will be, too. It will be torture to get the words out.

My box is like the journalist's notes. It's the 'reporting' routine I follow before creating a piece. If the quality of a journalist's work is a direct function of how much background material he has sifted through…that is, how diligent and clever he was in assembling his research--then the quality of my creative output is also a function of how diligent and clever I've been in filling up my boxes." (88-89) //emphasis mine
This was really the moment when I sat up and took notice, because writing UM is going rather slowly, and I think it's because I haven't been diligent enough in filling up my "box."

-

On "scratching":

Scratching around for ideas "can look like borrowing or appropriating, but it's an essential part of creativity. It's primal, and very private. It's a way of saying to the gods, 'Oh, don't mind me, I'll just wander around in these back hallways…' and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell." (95) //emphasis mine
Another moment to pay attention, for me personally, because I have a strong resonance with the symbol/story of Prometheus. Also, I greatly admire Austin Kleon, whose book Steal Like an Artist (which I haven't yet read) seems geared toward "scratching" well.

Places to scratch: books/magazines/the written word, conversation, other people's work, nature
Tharp's list.

Ways to make scratching easier: practice it (coming back after a break, you're going to need time to get back up to full capacity--re-introductory work is going to be worse), go to good sources (use the "best fabric"), vary your inspirations; in a pinch, get angry //emphasis mine
Let's look at the first item in this list: practice it. Okay. Will do.

-

What's the solution to my question: how can you progress your work when your brain is fried?

Scratch. And the things you scratch, put in your box. In other words, collect inspiration and research where you'll be able to find them later.

To that effect, on Monday I made three new Tumblrs that will serve as repositories for images, words, music, whatever, that relate to various projects. I waste a lot of time on Tumblr at the moment, and I might as well get something out of it, by reblogging cool stuff that can be "soil" out of which my own works can grow.

I haven't been doing this long so I can't yet say if I recommend it or not. But I do like having the Tumblrs there, where I won't lose links or images that I like. It unloads a minor weight from my memory, of having to remember. You can empty your mind and intentions into the box and no longer worry that you're going to misplace something (and that is something that I deeply loathe, losing things. I've had nightmares about losing my wallet. This is probably psychological).

Might this detract from real writing time? Well, possibly, but I know myself and I know that when my brain needs a break, it's going to have a break. Gathering inspirations is generally less valuable than actually producing work, but it's a whole lot better than Facebook-stalking people I don't care about, which is what happens all too often when my brain is tired.

Besides, the box will probably enrich the writing somehow. I am bad at conveying a sense of atmosphere, and collecting images of the relevant places may help with that. This is also a lot less messy than trying to do an inspiration board or something of that sort.

So this is an experiment. We'll see if this helps, by which I mean if it

  1. keeps me from wasting time on Facebook and non-interesting Tumblrs
  2. makes the writing process more efficient by collecting all the info I need in a convenient place
  3. provides new ideas.


Here are the Tumblrs in question:

Check them out, see how I'm doing. Scheduled posts for the next two weeks, which are probably better than my live ones. If you're taking AP tests, good luck! Even if you're not, good luck anyway!