Archive for the 'Nifty people' Category

J. J. Abrams — great talk on creativity.

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Well, it’s also a talk about his grandfather and mystery boxes and explosions. Particularly appealing: his energy level and sense of humor. It’s clear that the act of creation inspires him.

Good stuff — getcha some.

Worth some pondering.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

The answers of numerous big thinkers to the question “What have you changed your mind about?”

Two writerly insights from Terry Pratchett.

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

Item the First:

“Writing is my base state of being,” he says. “I just got myself in the habit of writing,” and though he finds his life too hectic to manage a writing schedule these days, he “writes when there isn’t anything else I have to do.”

Item the Second:

Interviewer: I’d like to talk a bit about the practical side of being a writer. You’ve said you are from the Carpentry School of Writing. And you think it’s very important that writers work on their craft. Could you expand on that a bit?

Pratchett: Okay. I have to say that I change the metaphor about once a week. But it may help if I give you an idea of how I go about writing.

I’m about 10,000 words into my next book. Do I know what it is about? Yes, I do know what it is about, it’s just that I’m not telling myself. I can see bits of the story and I know the story is there. This is what I call draft zero. This is private. No one ever, ever gets to see draft zero. This is the draft that you write to tell yourself what the story is. Someone asked me recently how to guard against writing on auto-pilot. I responded that writing on auto-pilot is very, very important! I sit there and I bash the stuff out. I don’t edit — I let it flow. The important thing is that the next day I sit down and edit like crazy. But for the first month or so of writing a book I try to get the creative side of the mind to get it down there on the page. Later on I get the analytical side to come along and chop the work into decent lengths, edit it and knock it into the right kind of shape. Everyone finds their own way of doing things. I certainly don’t sit down and plan a book out before I write it. There’s a phrase I use called “The Valley Full of Clouds.” Writing a novel is as if you are going off on a journey across a valley. The valley is full of mist, but you can see the top of a tree here and the top of another tree over there. And with any luck you can see the other side of the valley. But you cannot see down into the mist. Nevertheless, you head for the first tree. At this stage in the book, I know a little about how I want to start. I know some of the things that I want to do on the way. I think I know how I want it to end. This is enough. The thing now is to get as much down as possible. If necessary, I will write the ending fairly early on in the process. Now that ending may not turn out to be the real ending by the time that I have finished. But I will write down now what I think the conclusion of the book is going to be. It’s all a technique, not to get over writer’s block, but to get 15,000 or 20,000 words of text under my belt. When you’ve got that text down, then you can work on it. Then you start giving yourself ideas.

He should know.

Tiger Woods as an embodiment of excellence.

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

You don’t have to be a fan of golf, much less a golfer, to appreciate this long (5,000 words) Jaime Diaz profile on Tiger Woods.

The year of living dangerously

The piece focuses on the ways that Woods has grown as a player and a person during a couple of tumultuous years in which he lost his father to cancer, welcomed the birth of his first child, and won a fresh truckload of golf tournaments. The way Diaz tells it, the story can be read as a clinic for many of the concepts of excellence I’ve been wrestling with in my own mind and on this blog.

I won’t annotate the whole article, but if you’re interested in mindset, deliberate practice, and related concepts, read on.

Read the rest of this entry »

I think I’ll write a letter.

Friday, December 21st, 2007

On constraints and what we do with them.

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Marc Andreessen has a fabulous post about how A. C. Lyles got into the movie business.  Please do yourself a favor and read it.

Now that was extremely kind of him… when he said to keep in touch and finish high school, my main objective then was to finish high school. But the most important thing was writing him a letter every Sunday. He didn’t tell me to write him every Sunday, he just told me to keep in touch. So I wrote him every Sunday for four years.

Talk about dedication!

Mr. Whipple is dead.

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

There’s just no way to blunt the shock of it.


Chef Tell, R.I.P.

Monday, November 5th, 2007

Chef Tell used to come on the morning program (it would have been something like Good Morning America) that my mom and I watched when I was a little kid. I remember being amazed at how fast he could dice vegetables.

Chef Tell, Who Turned Kitchen Skill Into TV Fame, Dies at 63

His Times obituary includes his curious link to Richard Nixon. Worth a quick read if you ever saw Chef Tell on t.v.

Richard Branson would seem to support my “One big folder” idea.

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Just cleaning out an old folder of papers, I came across a magazine clipping from a while back — it would be from something like FORTUNE magazine — bearing the title “Sir Richard’s Rules”. It shows a picture of the address book and simple composition notebooks from which Branson has built his empire. (He doesn’t use a computer.) This snippet struck me:

Keep it simple. Running your life out of a black book and a gym bag means you know where everything is. It also means you stay focused on what’s important.”

Amen to that. Let the complexity flow in the work itself. Let the system-for-working be so simple that you couldn’t possibly miss the point even if you tried.

Read Redneck Mother on the vacuity of television news.

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

I never watch television news, and especially not local television news.  My pal Redneck Mother explains why, far better than I ever could.

That’s why we proudly sent out footage of an escaped monkey running amok in a Florida subdivision wielding a tranquilizer dart that missed, but we were unable to distribute a multi-part exclusive interview one of our Mississippi stations had scored with Pulitzer Prize-winning Southern writer Eudora Welty….

That was one of a snowballing series of events that just made me sad. I had gone into news thinking I could help people examine issues and learn more about the world. It was a nice theory, but in practice TV news was about flashy images, ratings and ads.

Read it all.