Hubris: 17 January 2021

This is Hubris: 17 January 2021 edition, the newsletter where I have the audacity to think I’ve written something worth reading.

It’s been a hell of a couple of weeks, hasn’t it. Covid-19 is running rampant because people continue to gather in large crowds and refuse to wear masks. There’s a civil war raging in the United States. I’ve got person things going on behind the scenes that I don’t even want to talk about. We’re all physically and emotionally exhausted. So let’s try to switch things up, give ourselves a break, and try to focus on living a simple creative life as much as we’re able.

Rewatching Marie Kondo

Most of the time I’ve been listening to music while I work. Blue Note jazz, synthwave, 1960s soul, 1970s funk, all upbeat and energetic. Occasionally I want to hear some human voices speaking, though, just as background noise. Movies and scripted TV shows are too distracting. Musical cues, changing volume, it’s hard to process. So I’ve been streaming the most innocuous reality shows I can find on Netflix. Which led to me putting on Marie Kondo’s show, which I had watched through when it first came out.

I’m not going to editorialize about Kondo. If her methods work for you, great. If you find her a little weird, hey, you’re entitled to your opinion. What caught my eye this time around were the people she was trying to help. I’ve noticed this on a lot of reality makeover-type shows before: people clearly don’t want to change.

They’re resistant to the advice being offered, even when it’s objectively good and is the obvious solution to their problem. There’s not mistaking that a lot of compliance is performative; they’re going along to be on television, and get whatever appearance fee or other perks they’ve been promised. Most of them likely when right back to their old ways as soon as the cameras stopped rolling.

Becoming minimalist, or tidying up, or whatever you want to call it, is like any other change. It has to come from within. You need to acknowledge the problem, and sincerely want to embrace the solution. Otherwise you’re just finding a new way to waste time and money.

Business Plans

While I’ve been not-blogging I’ve also, sadly, been not-writing. As much as I wished I were sequestered away making word count, so far 2021 has been all about business. I rewrote my business plan (something every small business should do periodically) to refocus my goals and identify new opportunities. Then I rewrote Katie’s business plan, with her input of course, to help her figure out where to best spent her time and resources. I did a little consulting with some colleagues, people I trust and who know what they’re doing. We bounce ideas off each other, which is always beneficial to solopreneurs.

It’s like going on a road trip. As much as you want to be on the road, you can’t always hop in the car and start driving. Having a map, knowing how much you have to spend, and packing some supplies will make the experience a lot more enjoyable.

Social Media and Peace of Mind

Being offline for huge swaths of time, as well as spending some quality time immersed in the audio, visual, and written works of Hank Green, has given me some new perspectives on social media. I’ve needed to take a step back and look at these platforms as tools. They’re like cars. A lot of people rely on them for work, for their social lives, or as feats of artistry and engineering. There are some innate problems with cars (fossil fuels and emissions, for a start) but they’re not intrinsically good or evil.

There are some foundational and enforceable rules with cars, though. You aren’t allowed to drive on the sidewalk, for instance. Generally you can’t do things that could result in people getting hurt. I’m old enough to remember the outrage when states began requiring automobile insurance. When I was a kid there were no airbags, and seatbelts were neither standard nor mandatory to wear. People felt these safety measures were an infringement of their rights.

At some point we’ll see the benefit of having rules and go along with them. You don’t hear a lot of rants about having to wear a seat belt these days. Lack of insurance compliance is mostly an economic issue, not a protest against the concept. Social media will settle down eventually, and we’ll see decent behavior and deplatforming as social norms.

Until then, I kind of expect that “free speech” advocates on social media will look a lot like second amendment rights advocates in terms of intensity.

Hubris: 17 January 2021

Hubris: 10 January 2021

This is Hubris: 10 January 2021 edition, the newsletter where I have the audacity to think I’ve written something worth reading.

My current pet peeve is people who try to win arguments by citing how much money they make, or how many social media followers that have. As if the real world is a strict meritocracy. There are plenty of people who earn egregious sums of money but are still dangerously bad at their jobs. Having the multitudes tracking them on Twitter, TikTok, or whatever doesn’t mean their opinions are factually correct or deserving of attention. It’s a false equivalence at best. At worst it says terrible things about their own self-worth, as if their only value as a human being is that one metric and their ability to lord it over other people.

Less is Now

The Minimalists: Less is Now is a fantastic documentary. So far I have watched it 4 times. At 53 minutes it is concise in its messaging. It came about at the right time, as I’m reassessing my priorities and trying to be more flexible in these uncertain times.

Their story is my story. Being successful but miserable in a well-paid corporate job. Having a marriage unravel because stress and money and unrealistic expectations of life. Taking a minimalist path and finding peace and happiness.

It’s on Netflix, along with the first documentary about The Minimalists. Check them out.

I am a Literary Snob (Apparently)

So there’s a person of my acquaintance that regularly chastises me for not including pictures in my books. They don’t need illustrations or diagrams. It increases the cost of production for me and the price point for consumers for no reasons. Everyone else does it, though, so they think that’s a reason I should do it too.

This same person recently called me a snob because I don’t think listening to an audiobook is the same as reading a physical book. Yes, there are studies that show that both provide some of the same benefits. You’re not learning spelling and grammar, though. The ability to re-read something I didn’t quite understand, parsing out the words, is hard to do with audio. I sometimes like to re-read passages for the beauty of the prose.

Anyway, I pointed out that audiobooks don’t have pictures and that seems to have shut them up.

My 2021 Writing Paradigm

Since I don’t do resolutions and the state of the world has caused me to abandon goals, I’m now using the word paradigm. Having a pattern to the way I work will get me where I want to go. If I develop good habits, I shouldn’t have to think about deadlines. The work will get done, in a reasonable time frame.

Anyway, since mid-December the paradigm is writing a minimum of 6 pages per day. The writing has to be on an active project or it doesn’t count. Typically I have 2 or 3 active projects going at once; if I get stuck or bored, I move to one of the others for a while. That’s an old habit that keeps me moving.

I don’t have to stop at 6 pages, so if I’m on a roll I can keep going. Any extra pages, however, don’t roll over. If I write 10 pages, that’s not 6 today and 4 banked toward tomorrow. I still need to do 6 tomorrow. After I’m done with my 6 pages, I can work on anything else I want, including this newsletter and any essays I want to write for this site.

So far, it’s working. It’s far less stressful, and I’m better able to get other tasks done. Writing is the core work, after all, so it should be the centerpiece of my day.

In Case You Missed It

Hubris: 3 January 2021

This is Hubris: 3 January 2021 edition. It’s the newsletter where I have the audacity to think I’ve written something worth reading.

Happy New Year! I want to wish all of you good health and happiness in 2021.

My new mantra is a quote from George Washington Carver: “Start where you are, with what you have. Make something of it and never be satisfied.” The only way things get better is when we deliberately set out to make them better. No matter how small your actions may feel in the context of this world gone mad, they matter.

New Year, New Bujo

The past two weeks have been a pain in my butt. I’m happy to be down to one bullet journal. Moving between the old journal for last year, the new one for this year, and a separate project journal has been a loathsome juggling act. Hopefully having one book at a time, with all of my information in one place, will work better. If I have to get a new journal every quarter because it fills up quickly, that’s okay. My daily process will be streamlined. I’ll have an archive of old notes, threaded across books, to refer to. And I’ll have a valid excuse to go shopping for new journals.

Inside Baseball

I’m kind of resentful. News sites covering my publishing niche won’t run my business’s press releases, but they linked to a post on my personal blog. Of course it’s their prerogative to publish whatever they want. It just seems kind of crap, from an editorial policy position, to not run a new release announcement because it’s not on Kickstarter, but validate some offhand “inside baseball” comments.

This is where I point out that I just paid my rent a few day ago, for the 55th month in a row, with money earned solely from this publishing niche. I make a modest living in a space where people complain that it’s impossible to pursue this as a full-time job. I have over 150 bestselling titles in this category. But please, gatekeepers, continue to not take me seriously. Acknowledge that I know what I’m talking about when it’s expressed in a personal blog post, but ignore my products. I’ll be over here, in my modest little kitchen, being quietly successful.

Before anyone starts in with “oh, Berin’s being negative again,” no. I’m not. I know my worth, I know my accomplishments, and I recognize them even if very few others do. Last year I published 12 books, 8 issues of a zine, and two regularly updated blogs. This coming year I intended to go bigger, be bolder, and to become so good that they can’t ignore me any longer. I’m not being petulant. I’m getting ready to roar.

DO NO HARM, TAKE NO CRAP

I’m tired of struggling to find balance between the Mr. Rogers side of my personality, and the Incredible Hulk part of me. There is no dichotomy. I am me. These are tools in my toolbox. When someone needs compassion and understanding, I have it within me to provide that. But if what they need is a brutal kick in the head, I can do that too.

Clearly you don’t break out the sledgehammer when you need the precision of a scalpel. It is entirely possible to misjudge situations, or to react inappropriately. That doesn’t mean you throw the tools out. You just need to understand how to select the right tool for the job at hand.

Katie’s New Year Art Sale

As I wrote yesterday, Katie is having a massive 50% off sale in her web store.

I’m having a super-duper big sale to kick-off the new year! If there are any pieces of my artwork that you have been wanting to purchase now is the time! There will be pieces of my artwork pulled from my online shop on January 11, 2021 and no longer offered for sale. So, to reiterate, if you’ve been wanting to purchase a specific piece, you have ten days to do it!

Go check out the sale on Katie’s website!

In Case You Missed It

That’s it for Hubris: 3 January 2021 edition. Tune in next week for more of whatever the hell this is. 

 

So Here’s the Plan

Since September I’ve been evaluating my habits. Heading into 2021 I want to use my bullet journal more effectively. I want to have a clear picture of the projects I’ll be working on. Anything that I can do to eliminate unnecessary tasks, streamline my workflows, and create more time for self-care is at the top of my list. This extends to the maintenance of this site, the operation of my business, and the management of my personal life. So here’s the plan.

No More Daily Blogging

I’m dropping back to a weekly post on Sunday. It will be a cross between an open letter and a newsletter format, with quick snippets on what I’m up to at the moment. The idea is to share less, but to make what I do choose to share more meaningful. Think of it as a more curated experience.

On an irregular basis I will be posting essays. These will be more of a deep dive into a topic I care about. Not so long that they’ll be difficult to read online, but more polished and well-researched than a typical blog post. When I say irregular, I mean I’m making no schedule. If I have the time and inclination to write one every week, then that’s what will happen. If it’s one per month, or one per quarter, that’s what it will be. The point is to strive for quality over quantity.

Oh. I will also continue to plug my books as they’re released.

Twitter and Email

Both my personal and business Twitter accounts are back to broadcast-only. Basically, they’re an avenue to let people know the respective blogs have been updated. I’m going back to checking email once per day, after dinner. That also applies to personal and professional accounts. Anyone that needs to reach me urgently has my phone number. That’s the plan.

The Business Site

I’ve already stripped the business site back to a basic information site. You can learn about the current product lines, a little about the company, and use the contact form to email me. Those will all be freshened up in the coming weeks. New products will be added as they’re published.

Here’s the plan: I’m not blogging there any more. My reasons for this are varied, but mostly have to do with the efficacy of blogging as a marketing tool for my publishing niche in the 21st century. It’s not the best way to grow my business. My time is better spent elsewhere.

I’m Taking the Holidays Off

This is my last post until after the New Year. I’m taking a couple of weeks off, not just from blogging but the internet in general. When I’ll be back is up in the air. It could be the first week of January, it could be later than that. Rest assured that when I’m back I’ll be back. There will be weekly posts, and hopefully a new essay or two.

Of course, if there’s any big news I’ll jump in and post it. I just need a break. According to WordPress I’ve blogged every day for 273 days. That streak began with daily covid updates. I wrote and published 11 books and 8 issues of a zine this year. There’s physical and mental health stuff that I need to deal with. On top of that is the wait for an immigration decision. Plus, you know, endless pandemic and political nonsense.

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday Season

Be safe out there. Please be smart. Find joy where you can. I’ll see you again next year.

In Case You Missed It

so Here’s The Plan

 

Ashcan Hubris: 6 December 2020

This is Ashcan Hubris: 6 December 2020 edition, the weekly newsletter where I believe I’ve written things worth reading.

How do I give thanks for this without sounding ungrateful: I’m happy that after today, I won’t need to deal with another holiday for 18 days. Halloween, my birthday, Thanksgiving, Black Weekend (for my business, not as a consumer), Katie’s birthday, Finnish Independence, all in a row. It’s nice to have two weeks off until Christmas. No special meals to prepare, no rituals to observe, I can just chill.

Bullet Journal Blues

I cannot wait for 1 January. At this point I’m working out of 3 separate journals: the main one for this year, the new journal for next year, and the project journal. The new journal will have the project spreads incorporated, not in a separate book. One journal. That’s it.

As future log items for next year come up, I switch to the 2021 journal. Yes, I could put them in this year’s book. Copying items over it double work. As I finalize what projects I’ll be working on in the coming year, I’m setting up spreading in the new book. Projects that are being closed out are finalized in the old project journal; ongoing things are being migrated to the new book.

It’s a lot of back-and-forth. I think it will be worth it, though. To only have one journal, or at least only one at a time (until it’s filled and I start the next one) will make life so much easier. No stress about what’s written down where. I won’t have to make notes and create mini-indexes in different books to point me toward what is where. This system has worked well, don’t get me wrong. It’s just a lot to deal with when my executive function issues are flaring up.

Tabletop Design

A friend recently gifted me with a copy of Tabletop RPG Design in Theory and Practice at the Forge, 2001–2012, by William J. White. It’s an academic work about tabletop roleplaying. Apparently the publisher had a Black Friday sale, and brought the price down to something resembling reasonable. While I was somehow expecting something pretentious, the book is quite good in its examination of how TRPG design has been discussed.

It’s also made my aware of why I find current design discourse options frustrating. The Forge, for those not aware, was a forum in the early 2000s for designers. Definitions of terms were set, and could be linked to. Longer articles on bits of theory and practice were published and discussed. The tone was pseudo-academic, which some people found off-putting and admittedly it sometimes could be. But, there was a touchstone for talking about tabletop roleplaying, an a common language to be used.

The problem with discourse on, say, Twitter is that there is ease of reference. You can’t easily refer to a previous thread on the same topic, and build on it. That leads to the same subjects come up over and over and over again. The same arguments are hashed out. It’s Groundhog Day, every day.

There’s also the matter of The Forge having a singular purpose, as opposed to the generality of social media. You went to the forum to talk about tabletop roleplaying design. You weren’t also there, under the same account, to kibbutz with people who only wanted to discuss politics or pop stars. It was an immersive experience.

The Best Time to Read

For most of this year I’ve tried to read after dinner. It’s been my routine. My logic was that it’s a low-spoons activity, and actually relaxing. My mind is drawn away from the stresses of the day. The intrusive thoughts that come with anxiety are distracted, making it easier for me to fall asleep. The problem is that when I am beat, and brain fog has set in, it’s difficult to concentrate on a book.

An acquaintance recommended reading in the morning instead. Studies seem to conflict, but there is some research that says reading retention is higher earlier in the morning. Engaging your brain as early in the day as possible tends to keep you more engaged and productive throughout the day. Plus, starting the day off with a relaxing activity sets an easy going, low-stress tone.

After trying it for a few days, it works for me. Reading first gets me energized to write. My productivity is higher. I’m not running out of spoons until a couple of hour later in the day. If nothing else, it keeps me away from the internet longer, and assuages my guilt over not getting enough reading done. I save the period after dinner for tasks like accounting (somehow I can still math when I’m low on spoons) and doing light housework.

In Case You Missed It

Ashcan Hubris: 6 December 2020 Edition