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Opinion pieces are meant to articulate thoughts and ideas informed by fact. They are not, however, formal reporting.

Erased Vocals, Incorrect Lyrics, Music Brilliance

I stumbled up on this video on YouTube by the Professor of Rock, and learned something about one of my all-time favourite songs, California Dreamin’ by the Mommas & the Poppas. Watch the details about the history of the song, and the consequences first. Then come back and read my thoughts on the subject, because I have some opinions of my own. None of them, though, will necessary conflict or contrast with those in the video.

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The Beginnings of 80’s Music

Rick Beato recently released a video talking about some of the landmark albums that were released in 1978. He admits that the list is incomplete, but it features albums with songs that would come define a new era in music, what generally call “80’s music”.

Releases vs. Calendars

Music styles and genres don’t generally stick to formal calendar boundaries. Music is released when the artists and/or labels figure it’s ready. As such, there isn’t a clear delineation on a calendar when some “era” of music begins. But being who we are as humans, we will often describe something based on the decade we associate it with.

What we think of as “50’s music” didn’t really get started until 1954/1955, and lasted until around 1963/1964. There is “60’s music”, which didn’t get going until 1964 and transformed into “70’s music” closer to 1974. The disco era sort-of started in the mid-to-late 1970’s and by the early 1980’s it was pretty much gone. But in both these cases, there was overlap, there was a transition. There wasn’t a hard bright line that delineated these eras, and certainly not any that line up conveniently on decade boundaries.

A Defining Decade Personally

I turned 16 in 1980, so the 1980’s defined a lot for me personally. I finished high school, then university, and had my first full-time job. It was the decade that I moved out on my own. It was when I bought my first new car. We had the Winter Olympics in Calgary, and the Flames made two trips to the Stanley Cup final, winning in 1989. My brother and I attended Game 1 of the 1986 Cup finals, which was the only game the Flames won in that series.

Music has always been a big part of my life, if only as the ‘soundtrack’ to it. I spent 4 years at the University of Calgary with headphones on or nearby. My knock-off of a Walkman was eventually replaced by a real Sony Walkman for my last year of university, and it or a small boombox were ever-present from 1986 onward. I was always playing music somewhere: around the apartment, in the car, when coding. During university, most of that music was typical 80’s music: Billy Joel, Genesis, The Police, and a host of others. I also listened to a lot of ELO, and they became one of my favourite bands, along with The Moody Blues.

1978 Was A Watershed Year

When you listen to Rick’s list, you get the first or new albums from some quintessential 80’s music acts: Dire Straits, Billy Joel, The Police, Kate Bush, AC/DC, Van Halen, Bob Seger, Devo, Rush, Peter Gabriel. More would come in 1979 with acts that had debut or new albums such as Pat Benetar and Genesis. These groups and others began to transform the sound of popular music, and genres like New Wave would find their footing.

1978 was definitely a watershed year. It is, I would argue, the beginning of what we think of as “80’s music” in western culture.

And That’s It? (spoilers)

Warning, this contains spoilers for Season 3 of The Mandalorian. Continue reading at your risk.

That’s it? All that build up to end in Mando and Grogu hanging out in a cabin in the countryside? Seriously? The ending of this season was entirely underwhelming. It’s hard to know where to begin on this mess.

Too Many Loose Threads

Nothing got resolved about the Mythosaur, it’s as if it was never part of the story. IG-11 is “miraculously” put back together to be the new Marshall. The Darksabre is destroyed, which implies it was never that important. Who the hell knows what’s happening back on Coruscant, even though it was important enough to dedicate 1/8th of the season’s story to it (seriously, it could have been a 10-second sequence). Oh, and what ever happened to those giant chicks they got? Did they become dinner in some subsequent episode? And where’s the pirate gone? Is Moff Gideon really ash, or did his super-duper armour protect him?

Yeah, yeah, stuff for Season 4. If there is one. If Disney decides to end it here, I’d be fine with that. The only good season was the first. The second was okay, although the “let’s set up another spinoff” thing was getting a bit wearisome. This third season was a pointless mess.

It all wraps up so Mando and Grogu can go off on new adventures. Yeah, this is such a satisfying end (spoiler alert: it isn’t).

All Filler, Little Content

There was, at best, 2-3 hours of actual story in this season, and 5-6 hours of useless filler. All the stupid side quests did nothing to advance the overall plot, and weren’t a way to introduce any new meaningful characters. As cool as it was to see Uppa back in his X-Wing, and as amusing as it was to see him show just how incompetent the New Republic is, again, it added nothing overall. This whole season could have been a movie, and then it might have been more satisfying.

If there is a Season 4, maybe getting back to a more episodic form might be better. Although a different title might be in order (maybe The New Adventures of Mando and Grogu?). It might be entertaining. But part of Star Wars is that there is a grand arc, a bigger story that the stuff we watch (or read) is part of. The entire franchise is premised around it. And as bad as Lucas might have been at dialog, he had a knack for telling stories within stories. Season One of The Mandalorian fit within that. The next two started to drift somewhat.

All I can say now is thank goodness for Andor and The Bad Batch. Maybe we can get some stories about the Adelphi Rangers?

It Took 7 Episodes To Get Here? (spoilers)

Warning, this contains spoilers for Chapter 23 of Season 4 of The Mandalorian. Read at your own risk.

Took Long Enough

So it took us 7 episodes (and about 7 hours) to finally get to the point of this thing. Seriously? Take away all the side-quests and distractions, and this should have been the third episode of this season, not the seventh. It could have even been the second episode. We didn’t need to know what was happening with Dr. Pershing. They could have left it as mysterious. A two-minute holo comms sequence with Moff Gideon and Kane, the “His research is lost” line in the holo-Zoom staff meeting, and leave it at that. The “let’s fight pirates” bit. The useless “have to fix IG-11” and it turns out it wasn’t necessary. The rescue, the droid behaviour mystery. Seriously, none of this advanced the narrative.

Too much of this season feels like padding, like fan service and not story telling. It’s like they don’t actually know what story they want to tell, or maybe don’t have a story to tell. I mean, cool, we get some great cameos from some great performers. But we don’t have to try to jam every character the series has presented (that’s still alive) into the season. That’s just not necessary.

Grogu’s New Toy

I was so worried they had pulled a deus ex machine with IG-11 when he came strolling in. But when it was clear he’s just a mech, okay, maybe that’s something that can work. At least Grogu has a bit more mobility, and can do more than make baby noises and Force Grip stuff. It was funny watching him stumble around a bit while he figured the machine out, and pounding away on the “yes” and “no” buttons.

The only concern I would have might be budget. It’s way cheaper to digitally composite a floating egg (which can be closed, reducing detail and fidelity requirements) than an intricate machine. But whatever, not my problem. At least Grogu can be a more active participant in things.

Expect It To Feel Rushed Or Incomplete

There’s only one episode left in the season. That can mean one of two things. First, that they’re going to rush the final conflict between the Mandalorians and Gideon. Don’t be surprised if the New Republic just happens to show up, riding to the rescue. Given how sloppy the story telling as been so far, that wouldn’t be surprising at all. But it would also be a massive disappointment.

The other alternative is that the Mandalorians are chased off “for now” in a lame attempt to set up the next season. Assuming there is one. I have not seen a lot of positive comments or reviews so far, and I see a lot more “glad I skipped this season” instead.

And that leads to the question: will there be a fourth season? With poor reviews, what appears to be a disappointed (and possibly shrinking) audience, this could very well be it for this story line. It could live on in comics and novels. But these aren’t cheap to make, and Disney’s pockets aren’t infinitely deep. I’d rather see the budget put toward ensuring Andor retains it’s high standards and quality. Money spent making another disappointing season like this would be a waste.

When The Plot Twists

Warning: This contains spoilers from episode 3 of season 4 of Succession. Major plot points will be discussed, so read at your own discretion. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, don’t read any further. Seriously. Just stop now, watch it, then come back.

A Brilliantly Simple Plot Twist

It is amazing when a show’s team decides to take the story in a new and radical direction. This happened on Succession, in the most recent episode of the final season of the show. Episode 3 of the 4th season, Conner’s Wedding, starts off as expected. We see the first stages of a ludicrous and over-the-top wedding. Logan is plotting and scheming, testing his youngest son. Tom is trying to find more ways to stay useful and be important. The early scenes are basically a carry-over from the previous episode. The closest to a ‘surprise’ we get is that Logan tells Roman, his youngest, to let Gerri know she’s on the way out.

And while the plotting and scheming continue, we get the twist. Not the “Gerri is fired” twist. The “Logan is dead” twist. At some point, we knew that Logan would have to either retire or die. The show is named “Succession”, not “Game of Org Charts”. Someone has to succeed the old man. And for most of the second and third season, it didn’t look like Logan was going anywhere any time soon.

The whole thing plays out while the main characters are basically in no control of where they are going, physically. The children and Cousin Greg are on a boat, leaving dock and sailing toward the Statue of Liberty. Logan and his team, along with Tom, are in a plane in the air. There’s no hopping into a luxury SUV or limo to meet at some office, apartment, restaurant, or karaoke bar. Boats don’t turn on a dime. Planes can’t just park where they are.

The brilliance was, after a few minutes of “perhaps he’s faking it to test the kids”, it was clear that Logan really was going. There’s a body on the floor of a plane. A flight attendant is giving CPR. We hear the distinct sound of a defibrillator being fired. Doors are closed. He doesn’t just pop up, and there would be little point of playing out a lifesaving routine since nobody is using Facetime or Zoom for this. A visual performance wasn’t required. It was all done without the grabbing of chests, shortness of breath, or all the other trappings of an “old man death scene”. We see him get on a plane. We get to hear phone calls.

It’s Par For The Show

Really, this fits with how Succession has played out from the start. There is plenty of absurdity, over-the-top behaviour, a sense of entitlement, and basically no boundaries or limits. There are also virtually no consequences except those imposed by the limits of physics and what the universe allows, which does track for the most part with the real world. The ultra-wealthy are largely immune to the artificial consequences imposed by society. They only thing they can’t ignore is things like gravity and mortality.

I’ve been watching the show regularly from the start, but I’m still not certain I’m a “fan” in the conventional sense. All of the characters are irritating, there are no good guys here, and none rise to the level of anti-hero. Even Cousin Greg is, frankly, obnoxious. The writing and acting, though, are absolutely brilliant. Everyone in the show is scheming and plotting, and most of them actually aren’t very good at it. Having a real curveball thrown at them from time to time is how the showrunners keep the characters off-balance. This curveball, though is a doozy. While it looked like we would get more of the usual plotting and changing allegiances, the story takes a hard right turn, knocking over the crockery and spilling everyone’s drinks.

It Isn’t What I Thought

It wasn’t until I was reading some summaries during season two that I learned the show is meant to be a dark comedy. There was little I found “funny” in a sense that you’d laugh at it. The business elements are entirely fictional, and a complete and utter mess. Unlike Billions, where they actually get a lot of the technical aspects around markets and trading right (or at least close), Succession makes no effort to do so. And that is, apparently, by design. It’s meant to be absurd, not just in how the characters play our their parts, but in how their weird and twisted world works. And if anyone thinks “well, rich people get away with lots”, even rich people aren’t that stupid, and there are limits. You don’t get to be rich without at least a modicum of intelligence.

When I first started watching, I was sort-of expecting something like Billions, just focussed more on the family and business dynamics of who takes over when the old man is gone. It was clear after a few episodes that all the business jargon was used more or less at random, meant to sound “business-y” without worrying about details. Once I got a handle on that, it was then only about the characters and their interactions. The plots and schemes and twists and turns. And the sheer ineptitude of the of all these people.

Which is how the show is brilliant on multiple levels. That ineptitude isn’t necessarily that far from the truth. It’s further demonstrating that being rich doesn’t mean you’re smart. And it isn’t unusual to see ultra-wealthy people somehow believe that they are smarter than everyone else, when the truth is that they are just luckier. They were in the right place at the right time and stumbled onto something that let them build insane levels of wealth. But they succeeded in part because they were at least surrounded by smart (or smarter) people who could actually do the work. If you want to see a so-called “genius” at work, without the supporting talent, just watch the implosion of Twitter.

In For A Bumpier Ride

The ever-changing landscape of who is working with whom in Succession is now in new territory. The first half of season one was off-balance, in part because we’re still learning who the characters are. Things settled down into a pattern in the latter half, plus for the next two seasons. Sure, there were lots of small twists and turns. Characters would be loyal to some faction at one point, only to betray them when it looked like things were better on “the other side”. None of what we were seeing for the past two seasons was particularly surprising. It was, for me, getting a little stale.

They could have gone on like this for some time. At some point, though, they were either going to have to do something more radical. Of course, the showrunners could have simply introduced new characters to add a different dynamic to the show. It could have chugged along while we all waited for it to jump the shark.

But instead, they blew the shark up, and I’m thankful they did it. Not having Brian Cox on the screen is going to be unfortunate, since the man is a brilliant performer. The show, however, needed to get to the point. It was losing its focus for the past two seasons, becoming more of a soap opera (albeit with writing and acting that were several orders of magnitude better, and characters that weren’t glorified cardboard cutouts). In some ways, Logan’s death gets the train back on track. We’ve had too many side-trips that didn’t really advance the plot. Hopefully we’re done with those. We have seven more episodes to find out.

An Unproductive Week

There’s not much to write about at the moment. Between a family health thing and family in town for Christmas, there are other things to focus on. Be well. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Merry Kwanzaa, Merry Festivus, Happy Solstice, and happy holidays for the other festivities and celebrations I’ve overlooked.

Social Media Ambivalence

I am experiencing some ambivalence when it comes to social media, although most of that is about Twitter. I use a few different platforms, for different purposes, and I am trying out a pair of newer ones.

What and Why

I currently use most of the common social media platforms. Facebook is mainly about friends and family, keeping up with what they are doing or thinking. LinkedIn is about professional connections, and keeping up with that community. Instagram is a weird mix of friends, family, and various celebrities or other notable personalities. I visit each of them once per day. On Instagram, once I’ve “caught up”, I don’t keep scrolling. I did for a time, and it was easy to lose a lot of time to that. No more.

Then there’s Twitter, Mastodon, and Post. The latter two I’m experimenting with, seeing if I use them differently than I did with Twitter. Twitter is, for me, an oddball. There’s no way to keep up with each and every tweet from the people I follow. I’ve reduced the number of accounts I follow there over the years, but even then, I usually didn’t read everything. It wasn’t hard for a thousand or more tweets to pile up in a 24-hour period, and that’s with me following maybe 50 people.

Twitter The Outlier

I wasn’t sure about Twitter when I first joined in 2009. It was already 3 years old by that point, and appeared to be gaining traction. It was when social media was becoming more of ‘a thing’, and there was an expectation in some circles that you should be part of it. I followed a lot of different people and organizations, all of whom I was interested in, or sometimes connected with, in some way. But it didn’t take long to get buried in tweets. I would check once a day, and there were thousands of unread tweets. This was before promotions and recommendations started to appear on the site.

For the next few years, I would stop using Twitter for months at a time, or even for more than a year. Then I would come back, pay attention for a few weeks or months, then just sort-of “wander off”. I removed more and more of the accounts I followed to try to get the volume of tweets down, but it was relentless/ There were just enough accounts that I wanted to follow, and many are fairly prolific posters.

To Stay Or Go

I have been considering deleting my Twitter accounts for some time now, long before the Elon Musk Imploding Disaster Show arrived on the scene. And leaving isn’t really about the dumpster fire fueled with thermite that Twitter appears to be devolving into. Twitter was a mess before that, it’s just managed to get worse. I, fortunately, had been spared that, in part because I used TweetDeck, which doesn’t show ads, promoted or recommended tweets, or following suggestions. I rarely posted anything. What I did tweet was apparently uninteresting, so I wasn’t subject to the trolls that roam the Twitter landscape.

But I also found that I had little or no engagement from Twitter and my modest number of followers. I generally tweeted a link to my most recent blog posts, as I do on other social media sites. The number of visits to my blogs that were courtesy of Twitter were generally zero. I would get some from Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. But almost nothing from Twitter.

The only thing holding me back is that I have a few connections on Twitter that aren’t on other social media platforms, and I’d like to stay connected to them. I go back every week or so and check for notifications on Twitter. But otherwise, I’ve stopped using it again.

Stay, For Now

For the moment, I’m going to keep my personal and Vintrock Twitter accounts. Part of it is to retain the Twitter handles. Part of it is because maybe, perhaps, things might change again. For now that appears unlikely, but who knows. But I’ve got the accounts reasonably secure, I’ve removed a bunch of personal information from them, and it costs me nothing to let them sit. Whether I also stay on Mastodon and Post is a question mark, but I need to give both a lot more time before I decide what I do next. It’s too soon to make any decisions on them.

More Progress

While I’ve already technically “won” NaNoWriMo 2022, the book itself isn’t done. I’ve crossed the 60,000 word threshold now. I’m working toward completing one of the other achievements, which is updating my writing progress every day for the month.

Ease Off The Throttle

I don’t expect to work on writing seven days a week. Like any task, breaks are a good thing. It keeps you fresh, and it helps you focus. Starting in December, I expect to focus on writing at least five days a week. The big lesson for me was understanding how productive I was (or wasn’t) going to be, and how much time do I need in a day for writing. I seem to be able to get a fair bit done in about an hour or two, hitting my personal goal of 2,000 words in a day.

Those words are, right now, first draft words. I’m working on getting the story told, knowing I have to go back and revise and revisit what I’ve created. The idea that I can create the “perfect” work on the first try is beyond optimistic. Moreso, since I’m still new to becoming a novelist. Writing itself isn’t hard for me. Writing well is where the challenge lies.

It’s Encouraging

This novel, so far, plus the one I drafted a few years ago, are proving to be encouraging. I enjoy the act of creation, whether it’s crafting a story, building a piece of software, or taking wood and making something. Building is part of who I am, not just what I do. Being able to build entire worlds is fun and a challenge.

I’m into the next section of the novel. One of the big events has now passed, but we’re building toward the finale. Sure, I’ve already planned generally how the story is going to end. But there’s an element of mystery, since I don’t know exactly how it will turn out. And the story has already morphed a bit from my initial vision. Here’s to the final few chapters!

Is Andor Near-Perfection? (Spoilers)

(Warning this contains spoilers on Season 1 of Andor, proceed at your own risk)

Season 1 of Andor wrapped up on Wednesday, and I am almost speechless. The consistency and quality over 12 episodes was breathtaking. It’s interesting because it’s Star Wars, but not Star Wars in the conventional sense. It’s like Star Wars, but with a real edge. I am keeping fingers, toes, eyes and whatever else I can cross crossed because I hope they can maintain it into season 2. And I hope beyond hope they don’t use the second season to hype up more spin-offs they way they did with season 2 of The Mandalorian.

Amazing Material

The depth of the characters, the dialog, the pacing, the dialog (again), and THE DIALOG. Holy crap, it’s nice to see someone who can write high-quality dialog that is expository and exhilarating, and doesn’t leave you thinking “c’mon, just get to the point”. Luthen’s (Stellan Skarsgård) speech at the end of episode 11, and Maarva’s (Fiona Shaw) speech via hologram on Rix Road were both poignant, powerful, but still to the point. There was very little wasted dialog.

The dialog was further bolstered by the sets. Those that should be pristine were pristine. But not everything was neat and clean and orderly, and the disorderly or well-worn looked the part naturally. None of the settings felt contrived or fake. They looked and felt like real places that you could visit. You felt the depth and history for those sets that were old. Niamos (aka Space Florida) looked as it should, sorta-new but sorta-tired at the same time. Few resorts are as nice as the brochure, and this was no exception.

The acting for every single character was incredible. I didn’t see a single flat or phoned-in performance, and even the truly minor characters that had a few seconds of screen time felt real. But the main characters were each able to shine, even when you had groups of them together. Their energy and their performances seemed to feed off each other.

There was a single, brief space battle. And as short as it was, it felt special, it was exhilarating. I suspect its because we weren’t immersed in action, so it stands out. It’s uniqueness in the story makes it more dramatic, and it’s pacing and composition as a small story was incredible.

Not-so-Minor Characters

Syril Karn’s (Kyle Soller) arc in the story was incredible, not because it was so compelling necessarily, but because it was so well done. His narcissism having his rent-a-cop uniform tailored. Every scene where he is eating at his mother’s home is him eating a children’s cereal, never “grown up food”. His demeanour around Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and his uncertainty when dealing with other people in general was so well portrayed. I was sure he was going to kiss her after rescuing her from the street battle, and was impressed the writers had the courage to stay away from that trope. Syril had just enough growth to be plausible, but wasn’t entirely transformed, which is a good thing. People don’t change as much as we think in a short period of time, so why would he?

Watching Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay) switch between clean and coifed and grubby and ready for action was impressive. The first time, I wasn’t sure I was watching the same performer. Seeing a character that wavers between confident and tentative, from certain to uncertain, made that character more believable, more real, to me.

The droid B2EMO (voice by Dave Chapman) was made important, and had a personality. Watching the little guy reacting to Maarva’s death was truly emotional.

There are so many characters with limited time in the story, but that are still important to the story. You’d be hard pressed to remove any one of them and have the thing hang together. And every one of their performances left an impression. Kino Loy, Ruescott Melshi, Saw Guerrera. The list just goes on.

And Then There’s Cassian Andor

Diego Luna’s portrayal of Cassian Andor is simply spectacular. We can see someone who is still growing, still learning, becoming the character we eventually see in Rogue One. The man is an incredibly talented performer. He takes the amazing material at his disposal and creates a masterpiece on the screen.

The character’s strengths and flaws are there for us to see. Luna’s performance brings both the good and bad in Andor to the fore. And the storytellers never resort to cliche or stereotypes to get their tale told. It’s incredible.

Don’t Forget The Soundtrack

The music for the show is it’s own strength. The opening theme is the same melody, but a different performance each time. There are very few repeated musical cues, and none of the grand symphonic music from the rest of the Star Wars universe.

What’s equally impressive is the diversity of musical styles throughout the show. You have classical, synth, basic rock, and a host of other styles, sometimes all within one episode. I read an article (I’ve lost the link) that interviewed the composer, and he spent as much time making the music as they spent filming and editing. He spent hours on a piece that would only be heard for a few seconds in one case, but wanted to write the entire song to it felt complete. There is one song that they decided would be a “galactic hit”, so it appears in its original form, and in various forms including muzak throughout the rest of the show. Brilliance.

Hopes for Season Two

I have high hopes for season two. My wish is for them to put the same care and attention into it, and to avoid a sophomore slump. I hope beyond hope that Disney leaves them alone (and with Iger at the helm again, that may just happen). Don’t use it as a vehicle to push other products. Stick to the story.

If the producers, cast, and crew can make season two with the same stunning quality as season one, I will be thoroughly impressed. It can be hard to carry on something at that high level. At some point, there will be stumbles. That it never happened, at all, in 12 1-hour episodes is truly impressive. If they can repeat that in season two, then they deserve all the accolades possible.

Writing and Technology

There are many, many opinions on what is the “right” way to use technology when writing creatively. Some are deeply held, others are more flexible. There may be a divide when it comes to the age groups that different writers fall in, but even there, you’ll find exceptions (some vocal about it). I’m a technologist, so naturally my views are skewed by my experience, but I’m also in that gray area between “baby boomer” and “Gen X”, depending on where the line gets drawn. Frankly, I’ve never really identified with either all that strongly. But I won’t pretend that my age and experience don’t influence my preferences when it comes to the tools I use for writing.

Modernity vs. Nostalgia

I’ve noticed that there are a cohort of writers out there that swear by the more historically traditional tools of the trade: either pen and paper, or the venerable typewriter. Personally, I love typewriters, although at the moment I am without one. I have some vintage machines I’m hoping to acquire in the coming years. They are both marvels of art and engineering. And there are those that swear by them as their main writing tool. For them, there is some visceral connection between the words and the act of forging them on paper.

I get that, but I also know that I was about three times faster on an electric typewriter, and I’m faster again on a computer keyboard. I’ve been writing other work that way for so long that it’s my “connection”, but that’s me. It doesn’t mean I won’t try using a typewriter (once I get one) as an experiment. I suspect I won’t find it as productive, but I haven’t used one for writing in decades, so I could very well be wrong. If nothing else, it will be fun to give it a go.

Over time, I’ve experimented with a few different technological approaches to writing. I tried using a Freewrite Traveler, but found it a bit awkward and cumbersome both physically and from a workflow point of view. The bigger reason, though was I  didn’t see the point of dragging another piece of technology around, since I already have a laptop (with an arguably better keyboard). I also experimented with a dedicated writing tool on iPad (Hanx Writer from Tom Hanks) coupled with a bluetooth keyboard that approximated the feel of a typewriter. It was fun, but it felt like it was slowing me down, that it wasn’t “keeping up” with my thoughts as I tried to get them down. I won’t pretend that I was looking at that objectively, that is a purely subjective feeling on my part.

Most of my writing over the past four decades has been done in either a simple text editor (before PC’s and word processors were a thing) or using a word processor, virtually all of it using Microsoft Word. I’ve used others (Framemaker, Pages, Google Docs, LibreOffice, a host of others on Unix, Mac, and Windows), but Word became the standard in most industries, so that’s what we used. For my creative writing, I began using Word, but in the past few years I’ve been using Scrivener. It suits the workflow that I’m comfortable with, and it provides me with some reasonably straightforward ways to organize and edit my work. It also allows me to collect notes, character outlines, external links for references, all in a single project.

My Workflow (for now)

During the past year, I’ve begun to develop my own personal workflow that seems to help me focus on my writing. I expect it will continue to evolve. My participation in NaNoWriMo 2022 helped focus and structure it more than I had in the past. Part of how I work was inspired by an article I read in Writer’s Digest, on some approaches to “winning” NaNoWriMo. It starts with the checklist I made, which are the “work items” I need to put in place to get writing.

This is in front of me on my desk, ready for me to refer to it to make sure I haven’t missed something in my rush to get writing. I use the Focus feature on my Apple devices to filter out distractions like the arrival of new email or text messages, or any news alerts. I have a tool (I’ll describe later) that helps me with some of the mechanical elements of crafting my story. I keep a web browser ready for any searches I might have to do, but other than that browser window, Scrivener, and my new tool, all my other apps and windows are hidden away. I remove all the other distractions so I can focus on the task at hand, writing.

Setting The Mood

Part of my writing environment is the music playlist that I’m using. I’ve created one specific to the story I’m working on. It’s a collection of songs (currently the soundtracks for both Blade Runner movies, Andor, The Martian, and The Expanse) meant to set the mood of the story. I’m hoping my current novel captures the kind of dystopian world seen in Blade Runner, The Expanse, and parts of Andor. A new novel will require a new playlist, since it will likely have a different vibe, a different feel.

A key for me when writing prose is that the music not include lyrics. I have no problem with them when I’m writing code, but when I’m writing words, I find the lyrics can be a distraction. Some of the songs in my current playlist do include vocals, and I think I’m learning to tune out the words and just listen to the music. I haven’t removed them from this playlist, but I’m leaning towards them being deleted from the playlist. They can be a bit jarring when they appear.

This Is Me, Maybe Not You

The approach I have taken will not work for everyone. Some of what I do might be useful for others. Other parts will seem ‘wrong’ to people. I will not claim that I’ve captured the “secret sauce” for being a productive and creative writer. Partly because I’m still new to this. Partly because I’m not representative of all writers. No one is. What works for some will not work for others. But sometimes we can learn from others, and take what works from them, and leave what doesn’t. My goal is to remain open-minded enough to try new things, to help me to not just be ‘productive’, but to enjoy the act of writing at the same time. This isn’t meant to be ‘work’, even if I’m hoping to make something of a career of it. Most of my main career wasn’t ‘work’ either.

So this is an evolving thing, and I expect to add, drop, and modify elements of it. Some will be about revisiting the technological components. Some will be about the processes, the procedures, the rituals, finding what works (for now) and doesn’t work (for now). I don’t want to become beholden to something for any particular reason, either.