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Separating Art from Artist

This isn’t going to be a debate, or even a discussion. Ultimately it’s up to each person to follow their own moral compass. Separating art from artist is not something I can do. Many have reached out to me in the hopes of swaying me to their position. I suggest redirecting your efforts toward teaching a pig to sing.

To the argument that a used book puts no money into an author’s pocket: that is not the point. The same goes for viewing something on a streaming service that I’m paying for anyway. I won’t even entertain dragging piracy into this. To consume the work of an objectionable artist, whether it puts coin in their pocket or not, is a breach of my personal ethics.

To the argument that quality work should be praised, in spite of the problematic nature of the artist: then non-problematic artists should be even more deserving of said praise. They have, after all, managed to create something exceptional without doing harm in the process. There are more books, films, television shows, comics, paintings, comedy albums, games, and so on available now than a person could ever consume in a lifetime. We have better options in terms of whom and what to support.

Context is Everything

Does that mean that problematic artists should be relegated to the dustbins of history? No. I support things like re-releasing Song of the South and Gone with the Wind with disclaimers. Adding some commentary track to offer perspectives would be valuable. I still wouldn’t run right out and buy them on Blu-Ray.

Given a choice between reading Lovecraft or another author with no history of racism, though, I will choose the other author. If given a choice between listening to Led Zeppelin or an artist that hasn’t been accused of kidnapping and statutory rape, it’s not really a difficult choice. The lack of Roman Polanski, Louie C.K., and David Foster Wallace in my personal canon leaves me free to discover other wonderful, but lesser-known, creators.

Art as Experience

The notion of separating art from artist arose in the late 19th century as an academic tool. It was an assertion that a work should be able to stand on its own merit independent of the creator’s reputation. In this sense it is useful; c.f. The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen. It was not ever meant to be used as a decision-making tool to assuage one’s conscience when determining which art to consume or support.

There is often a matter of intention and influence. Knowing the author’s views can sometimes facilitate understanding of a piece. It provides missing context. Knowing that John Grisham is actually a lawyer gives his stories credibility; I might be able to write a legal thriller, but it wouldn’t have the same gravitas. You almost can’t fully grasp an artist like Taylor Swift without knowing her personal history; the lyrics make far more sense when you do.

Likewise, knowing that Lovecraft had a pearl-clutching fear of race-mixing adds a whole new layer of meaning to stories like “Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth“. Understanding the various allegations against Woody Allen, it’s impossible to not see them right out in the open in films like Manhattan.

I cannot un-know that. Not any of it. Which means I cannot consume any of those works without thinking about the faults of their creators.

The Brontë Effect

For a good part of this year I’ve been enmeshed in old Gothic novels. In particular, I’ve been working through the canon of the Brontë sisters. All of the authors dead. The works are in the public domain, all skeletons firmly shaken free of the closet so there are no unpleasant surprises to be had. I was taken to task for this, and rightly so.

There are living authors who need the support. People who, like me, rely on book sales to pay the rent each month. Creators who benefit greatly from my patronage. The choice to buy one of their books, and not a classic, is tremendous. My purchasing a copy of Wuthering Heights has no impact on Emily Brontë, but buying novel by a new author can affect their career in some small way. That doesn’t mean I can’t read classics. As a creator, I bear some duty to support other creators as best I can. There needs to be some balance.

It also becomes a matter of what I’m filling my head with. Is it beneficial to me to be reading the thoughts and opinions of a know bigot? No matter how well-written their bigotry is, or how limited their prejudices may be to micro-aggressions? Or is there greater benefit to discovering new voices, finding creators who keep me engaged by speaking to this moment in time?

Comments are Closed

I honestly sort of resent having to come out of my hermitage to address these things. But I made the choice, so ultimately I’m to blame. Now I’m going back into my cave to write and ignore the world.

Separating Art from Artist

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Is There an 80/20 Rule of Writing?

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like the first part of a manuscript only takes a small fraction of the time allocated to write it. The remainder of takes the majority of the time. I’m wondering if there’s an 80/20 rule of writing that I didn’t previously know about.

For those who don’t know, the Pareto principle states that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. As an example, 80% of sales come from 20% of the clients. 80% of the wealth is owned by 20% of the people. 80% of injuries come from 20% of the possibly causes. There’s a lot of research that’s been done on this, across several field. While the numbers vary, in about — wait for it — 80% of the cases numbers round to the 80/20 ratio.

I can write a 96-page book in 10 days. That’s Monday through Friday, two weeks. Roughly the first 75 to 80 pages of a puke draft are done in two days. The last 16 to 25 pages take the other eight days. It’s concepts that need to be fleshed out more clearly. There are things I’m not sure how to explain. This is just the first draft. It’s not including another draft, revisions, or editing.

Whether this is a universal law or just the way my personal process works, it’s a useful realization. I can stop beating myself up when the first couple of days on a new project go smoothly, but the rest it agony. There’s no need to stress when things go quickly in the beginning, and seem to take forever until the manuscript is complete. It’s normal. That’s just how it goes. I can stop worrying, and focus on the work.

The 80/20 Rule of Writing

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Today’s Ambient Offering: Plasma – Synthwave Mix

Today’s ambient offering is Plasma – Synthwave Mix. Odysseus is a synthwave, chillwave & vaporwave community that features emerging electronic ambient sounds in genres like synthwave, chillwave, and vaporwave. It is an odyssey through fringe electronic ambient sounds and visual aesthetics.

1980s film soundtracks and video games influence the synthwave genre. It developed from various niche communities on the Internet during the mid 2000s. In its music and cover artwork, it engages in retrofuturism, emulating period science fiction, action, and horror media. It expresses nostalgia for ’80s culture, attempting to capture the era’s atmosphere and celebrate it.

I like synthwave because of those soundtrack references. Good movies, bad movies, they were all using the same electronica. That was the period when I was in art school and college as well, and first pursuing the dream to become a writer. When I started watching dead mall channels on YouTube as research for a project, a lot of them used synthwave to score their videos. I realized it was a perfect generic soundtrack for a lot of my creative work, and has become the default background music in my workspace.

Plasma – Synthwave Mix

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A Statement About J. K. Rowling

I have never read a Harry Potter book. Nor have I seen a single Harry Potter movie. As such, I have been asked my opinion on recent statements made by author J.K. Rowling.

First, allow me to get the obvious out of the way: Trans women are women. Trans men are men. Transgender people are valid, no matter what rude, cruel, and willfully ignorant individuals say. If you have an issue with granting people basic dignity and human rights, or extending a bare minimum of empathy to other human beings whose lived experiences differ from yours, get off of my page.

From Source of Harassment to Odd Flex

Since 1997 I have been hounded to read the books. While they have always sounded like something I’d enjoy, I am hardwired to resist jumping on bandwagons. With the release of each new book, and the fact that the page count increased with each volume, catching up increasingly felt like a commitment. As one of those people that likes to read the book before seeing the movie, I’ve never seen any of the film adaptations.

My sole source of joy among this hateful misinformation campaign is that the number of shocked “You’ve never!?!” reactions will undoubtedly be greatly reduced. As will the number of people trying to pressure me into dropping everything in my life until I have read over 4,000 pages of text and screened 20 hours of cinema. For those that persist, I now have ample reasons to ask them to go away.

To the fans that are devastated, I say this: It’s never too late to discover new things. There are many, many authors and series that are not problematic that you can fall in love with. You will survive. The positive things that you have learned, the values that you have come to embrace, are still within you. Take all of that goodness, and move on to someone deserving of your time, adoration, and consumer dollars.

Comments are intentionally closed for obvious reasons.

A Statement About J. K. Rowling

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July 2020 Life Balance Update

For various reasons I didn’t do an “about me” update at the start of the month, as I have been for a while. The bottom line is that it didn’t seem particularly urgent.  I do want to touch base with a general July 2020 life update, though, which will explain my current priorities and my work flows.

A Tangent

As an aside, the term “work/life balance” annoys me. I remain convinced that it was coined by some corporate productivity hack. The intention is to sound concerned that an employee is able to lead a well-rounded and fulfilling life. What they’re actually saying is “leave your personal problems at home”. If it isn’t related to the job, deal with it on your own time. Note that it’s not life/work balance, either. The subtle message is that work always comes first. It’s also called out as a separate and distinct thing, with “life” being anything non-work.

It’s all life. There are still only 24 hours in a day. You are one person. Hence I use “life balance”, because work is a single component of life. A significant one, to be sure, but not so much so that your employer gets to claim equal footing with family, friends, hobbies, health, and everything else combined.

Anyway…

According to WordPress, I am on a 114 day blogging streak. This started when lockdown began, and I was doing daily “Camp Corona” updates. It continued through the period of “daily proof of life“. Things have evolved as I quit social media, adapted to current reality, and took steps to protect my physical and mental health. I enjoy having some sort of daily update going out, even when not a lot of people are reading. It’s my connection to the world.

That said, my current methodology is to write several posts in advance. I can schedule them, forget about it, and not have to look at the internet for days on end. This has been extremely helpful. Batching has been productive. I can think of a series of essays on a topic, or even a smattering of unrelated posts, and write them all in a day or two. Then I can focus on larger project work without having to change gears. I can give my undivided attention to one thing at a time.

It’s also been beneficial to my calm. There are days when I check email once a day, and that’s it for the internet. If I have research to do, I jump on to Google, Wikipedia, or other bookmarked resource sites to find what I need and get off. No need to look at this website, the company site, news, social media, or anything else. The more working this way becomes a habit, the happier I am.

The Noble Eightfold Path

I know that a lot of people tune out when I start talking about Buddhism. No matter how I contextualize it, a lot of people just aren’t interested. That’s okay. I needed to write those posts to get those concepts clear in my head again. They were written for me, not for you.

While I appreciate the people who read and comment, this whole site is more for my own benefit than yours. I know that’s blasphemy in the 21st century attention economy. If you want to see me dance for your entertainment, visit the business site or buy my books. This space, as a substitute for a social media presence. It is my attempt to reach out. To do that, I’m trying to be authentic and real, rather than pandering for views and likes.

Coming Up Next

As I’m writing this it’s the afternoon of 5 July. The sun is shining, the windows are open to let in a cool breeze, and it’s amazingly quiet. Finland shuts down for July. Most of my neighbors are gone. The plan is to savor this calm as I write posts for the rest of the week. I have no idea what I’m going to write about yet, which is kind of exciting.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to project work. I’m trying to get a big book, the highest page count I’ve ever released, ready to drop on Friday. That I can devote my full attention to that while occasionally peering out at blue sky and green forests is heaven. It’s some of the best work I’ve ever done, in my opinion. I’m happy because I’m doing what I love, without stress or distraction. There is honestly nothing better than that.

July 2020 Life Balance Update

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