Inktober

inktober-2018-prompts

It’s coming up so fast and I’m so excited!

For each day during the month of October the challenge is to draw something in ink and share it with the world. The drawing can be anything you want, but there is an official prompt list as well.

I enjoyed sticking to last year’s prompts because it was fun to see how other people had interpreted the prompt and how my own contribution contributed to that body of creativity, so I’m going to try to do it again. For an additional challenge, some people layer in another constraint. Some people incorporate a secondary theme – all prompts as animals, all prompts fitting into an overall narrative, prompts drawn using their non-dominant hand. I’ve played with that idea, but it seems just too overwhelming. Just doing the drawings will be good enough  again this year.

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One to Watch – Nico Walker’s Cherry

Apparently Nico Walker got a bunch of attention from BuzzFeed, even before he published a list of books that have most influenced him to Good Reads, though that is where I found him.

I think I fell in love with the guy when he wrote in his recommendations,

“I’ve been asked to put together a list of the five most formative books that I read in jail. I’m supposed to tie them in somehow with my own book, Cherry, so forgive me when I do that.”

Either that, or when he’s talking about Turgenev’s Sketches , the guy who lived war, and addiction and bank robbery says:

The spirit of the thing is beautiful. It overflows with love. And like all good books, it confirms all kinds of various things that you knew but you didn’t know you knew, that you hadn’t ever brought out and put into words before, though they were there for a long time, dormant down in your soul somewhere. The eternal truths. The ones that when one of them gets found out, you say, Yeah that is it, isn’t it.

At this point, Walker still has 2 years in prison, so it must be a little rough promoting his new book, but the New York Times and Esquire have taken an interest, and there are rumors of movie deals put on hold because he’d run out of phone minutes in prison. The Washington Post had a neat article about the cool cover design – a skull half hidden in a field of small white stars. I read the excerpt in Esquire, and am not sure I like the kid in the book all that much, but it reads like something worth reading.

Travel Writing – or Just Living?

Who would know better about what it takes to be an interesting and well-received travel writer than National Geographic? They put together a list of things that aspiring travel writers should consider during their travels. As I read it, I thought these were great tips for navigating your way through life on a daily basis.

#1 Assignment: Even if you aren’t on assignment for Nat Geo, you can give yourself a task or challenge to propel your journey. This puts you on a quest, and quests are excellent foundations for stories.

#2. Ask a million questions: Learn about the place you’re in. “It’s not necessarily expertise that separates a travel writer’s trip from your own. It’s urgency, an appetite for discovery, and an absolute necessity for answers.”

#3 Hire a Guide. They know the coolest places that you might not find on your own, and become an excellent resource for questions about the location. Even if you’re at home, there are parts of your town that others might know better. Find those people. Hang out with them.

#4. Find places where you can engage, and “go local”. Wander off the maps, step into locals pubs, take a class, or accomplish everyday tasks like getting a haircut or going to church. Isn’t this what we all do day to day in our own lives? It’s the attention to what is happening that is heightened when we travel.

#5. Walk. Travel slowly and eschew convenience for opportunities to stop and interact as much as possible.

#6. Get coffee. and while you’re there, try to strike up conversations. Apps and social sharing platforms like Traveling Spoon, Couch Surfing and Meetup can help open the doors to things that are going on in the region.

#7. Take Notes. Collect things. Take pictures. There is so much going on, collecting things you can sift through later in a quiet moment can inspire new ideas or suggest a shape to your experiences.

#8 Take a Break. Don’t forget to sit still for a while. It’s a good opportunity to be still and just absorb what is around you. If you really must plan every moment, consider finding a place for sunrise and sunset and being still while you watch.

#9. Embrace Change and feel free to scrap plans when something better/more interesting comes up. Have a plan to provide initial structure, but be flexible.

#10 Let go of your emotional baggage, and strive to be in the moment while traveling. As George Stone writes in the article, “Don’t compare, don’t anticipate, don’t vacillate, don’t cogitate. Simply embrace the present possibility of having an enlightening experience that reveals something you didn’t know about the world – or about yourself.”

Repair Cafe

The closest Repair Cafe to home is 4 hours away – so that isn’t going to work for me, but it’s encouraging to learn that people are getting together to learn how to fix things in this culture of planned obsolescence and a legal necessity for “right to repair legislation“.

For myself, the reminder that these things can/should be done is the most important thing. For example, I would love to know how to darn socks. And maybe I can’t make it to an in-person gathering, but I could probably learn how to do it on YouTube. So, thanks for bringing the idea into my attention, CityLab!

 

 

 

4-Day Workweeks

MSN.com recently reported about a company in New Zealand recently completed a 2-month trial where they moved to a 4-day work week with the same pay. The company reported this was a success in terms of reducing employee stress and increasing their perceived ability to manage work/life balance. Their “performance metrics” cited as measurements of leadership, commitment, stimulation and empowerment all also increased, and the CEO has recommended that they move to a permanent change in schedule.

Several things struck me as interesting about this trial as it was reported.

  1. The company, Perpetual Guardian, manages trusts, wills, and estates, but there were no reported metrics about things like customer satisfaction, volume of work completed, or any quality of work numbers. These are the kind of numbers that I see as more persuasive to an American company.
  2. Employees who grateful for their company work environment, which they see as a gift, not a right, tend to be more accommodating (available for weekend work), and loyal, as well as being willing to ‘go the extra mile’.
  3. When presented with the prospect of moving toward a shorter work week, it strikes me that many employees would be (a) fired up to be more productive, and (b) would certainly report being more personally productive in order to protect that opportunity. I’d love to see the data a year down the road when the new work plan was less of a novelty and more that people might feel entitled to.
  4. One of the things the company did was to allow time for a “planning phase” where employees were taught about ways to be more effective and efficient in the work place. Several employees reported trying out new productivity strategies, to make this work. Strategies like taking advantage of automation, focusing meeting times, staying more on-task and helping each other out more could be part of a new company culture.
  5. One strategy, “combining meal breaks with work tasks” aka working through lunch, I’d argue isn’t actually an improvement in terms of true productivity. I wonder if the company invested in productivity training, or left their managers to figure things out on their own.

I’m excited to hear about any research which shows the benefits of a shorter work week, and more leisure time, so I see this as a promising step in the right direction. Hopefully we’ll continue to see these more progressive nations set an example that might be picked up in the US.

 

The End of the Story

Thank goodness for the lovely Brain Pickings essays by Maria Popova. In an essay titled “Susan Sontag on Storytelling, What It Means to Be a Moral Human Being, and Her Advice to Writers” Sontag is quoted as saying:

Endings in a novel confer a kind of liberty that life stubbornly denies us: to come to a full stop that is not death and discover exactly where we are in relation to the events leading to a conclusion.

and

There is an essential … distinction between stories, on the one hand, which have, as their goal, an end, completeness, closure, and, on the other hand, information, which is always, by definition, partial, incomplete, fragmentary.

Like many, I have been sequentially enjoying the storylines of several TV series recently. But according to Sontag’s definitions, these are not stories at all because they are designed NOT to come to a conclusion. And yet, the elaborate worlds, the plots, the suspense, hardly fall into a common understanding of the word “information” either.

The rhythm of the current series – and that includes book series that have a financial disincentive to conclusion as well – is to weave a continuous rope of several storylines so that as one storyline resolves, another propels you into the next episode, the next volume. To take advantage of the attention economy, some marketers even propose a similar serialized strategy for email marketing.

It’s hard not to admire the mastery of such, in the absence of a better word, storytellers. Compelling characters. The intricate dance of the story – weaving different plots and sub-plots together into a graceful and coherent whole, both believable within the framework of the world and also different than anything that has already been addressed in the narrative that just keeps going, and going.

And that continuous going – maybe that’s what stops us from asking the question – have we lost something essential when we lose the endings of stories?