Aaron Cael

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TITLE #1 is Done and I’m Filthy and Sweaty

holdingcover

Some reflections on finally getting the print issue of TITLE done…

  • Holy sweet tapdancing Batman is the devil in the details. The little things that can be obsessed on. Conforming fonts, margins, bleeds, getting the goddamn thing to actually print out in the proper folded booklet format… wow, I better do this a lot so I get permanently good at it and can actually set things up in advance. I would love to have a basic fluency in InDesign and not have to stop, Google up an answer, then try to regroup.

 

  • When in doubt, make a game. I had two pages I was not in love with so I nuked them and started over. confronted with two blank pages facing each other, I asked myself: what’s missing? Something to interact with. Some kind of tool or experience or instruction or activity. So I made a board game.  Game design has long been something I’ve been interested in. Purely megalomaniacal reasons. For however long the game takes, you have people following your rules, thinking, moving, interacting in ways that you designed. Bwahahahaha! But like any dictator, your rule only has worth as long as you get people to do what you say so the game rules are shaped by a need to create a pleasurable, interesting experience. For this one, the main restriction was that all I had to work with was ink on a page. Any other equipment or setting had to be easily obtained by the player. So no spinners, cards, complex physical interaction or blindfolds. So… a board game. With trivia elements. Dice? Might be too much to ask. I suggested throwing four coins and counting how many turned up as heads.

 

  • Collaborating on design is hard for me. I have about a half dozen close friends who are better/more professional than me at graphic design, layout, InDesign, etc. I tried working with a few of them but… can’t. It became three times the work arguing over fonts and minutia, in different professional languages. Better to crash course it or strictly define what areas are handled by whom. I can’t do design as a jam session.

Most of all, I’m excited to finally print this and start sneaking it into strangers’ hands. Should entail some kind of rethink of titleofmagazine.com as well. What the hell should that be if not a blog?

Points! (motivation game system for jerks)

Points

After a two-week summer cold, I’ve been having trouble getting back up to my old productive ways. I’ve been toying around with getting all Lifehackery and resurrecting one of the motivational schemes I’ve dabbled in. Here’s the details of something I used to do.

– – – –

In a nutshell, Points! is a system for paying myself for necessary but uncompensated labor. It’s a basic gamification scheme; necessarily basic because I’m not very game-wired. The template is the sort of arcade/Boy Scouts: accumulate points and cash them in at the trading post system that got us so many plastic army men with parachutes and whittling knives with the Boy Scouts emblem on the handle.

Points are assigned to tasks that one wants to complete on a regular basis: workouts, chores, word counts, errands, etc. Points can also be issued by other people for suitably noble gestures like favors, an hour of your time, a home-cooked meal, gifts, art. Limit these to keep others’ appreciation from messing up your system. I keep it to two points per day, issued from outside sources, more if they’re contributing to your points fund. Also: it’s bad form to solicit someone to grant you points.

Points are redeemable for various prizes, mostly useless but awesome things. Crossbow, grappling hook, robot arm, Legos, Scotch, projector, comics. You name it. The money for these purchases is already set aside at the outset so their purchase is guilt-free.

Start off by determining one action that will be directly convertible to one point. In my case, I made it 33 pushups. From there, you can assign value to other actions based upon their relative difficulty or how little you want to do them. For example, I give myself two points for taking the trash to the curb.

Actions:

Work at home 1
Mango 1
Code Academy 1
Do all the dishes 1
Take out the garbage (2 points)
Send a letter 1
Make 0rphcrack CD (by wednesday) 1

Prizes:

Bear costume
Batman costume
Bag of LEDs
Misc electronics parts kit
Fold out cup
Flask
Crossbow
Arrows
Dartboard

– – – – – –

It worked well at the time because my bathroom was painted with chalkboard paint and I could use the walls as my scoreboard/prize catalog. Eventually, the whole thing felt a bit controlling. My enthusiasm for whimsy ebbs and flows with the amount of sunlight I get so it didn’t survive the winter.

Process Summary

FerryArrows

I have an envy and awe for writers who do it longhand. Sure, they are mostly dead or (I suspect) lying but having one medium, one channel for catching thoughts, to-dos, note taking, developing ideas, sketching and writing has a definite appeal. I take a lot of notes on little folded pieces of paper and write in a variety of paper journals but often that becomes more of a long-term thought buffer for ideas that were intended in the moment of their conception as a something to act on immediately.

Similarly, I throw a lot of junk into Evernote that I never look at again. All the starred items from my RSS readers (yes, plural… I have yet to find a mobile one that suits me) end up there, typically never to be looked at again. There’s also the Send-To-Kindle button for long form things which do get read and marked up with notes (see the intense man in gray furiously thumbing his battered 3rd Gen Kindle Keyboard on the train) but those notes are stored in such an obtuse format and synched to nothing and nowhere (Amazon: the features you want, just implemented in a terminally awkward manner)

What I need is to be seeing more Interesting Things in the time when I am otherwise searching for novelty by sifting through the internet. The piece that’s missing is some mildly intelligent app that pulls from these things and flings old notes back in my face to be reread and dealt with when I am sitting down with the time to do something about it. Perhaps it could be activated by a big physical button on my desktop labeled “I’m Starting to Fuck Around”. Further, it should sort the 80,000 things I’ve tagged #watchlater into a single channel, playing one after another, sorting the shorter blips together, and putting the longer stuff (>7min) on a sidebar for when I have some serious non-typing time in me.

Despite what my consumerist impulses tell me, personal history has taught me that the solution isn’t a new fancy piece of technology or a subscription to a service that I’ll not look at again but just a better arrangement of what I’m already using. A few settings tweaks and some bigger behavior tweaks. Take the time to arrange the pieces and go forth, yelling at the stupid little man at the controls somewhere inside my skull.

The first step, obviously, was writing this.

 

Stay Tuned

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Observer_effect

Naturally, it changes the nature of what you are creating if you know there will be an audience. If you know something about that audience, that will also creep into the creation, alter your methods, affect your approach. There must be some reason why I decided to document my writing process on a blog, after all, rather than tucking thoughts safely in a notebook that has much stronger access controls.