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Journal

When You Can’t See the Trees for the Forest

That’s right, I wrote what I wrote. The expression goes the other way around. Except my problem is that I become overwhelmed by the big picture, and that makes it harder for me to focus on the details. I can’t see the trees for the forest.

What does this mean, practically? As a writer, it means creating a reasonably detailed outline for every project. It means setting a daily word or page count goal. When I sit down to write, I’m not starting down the massive, abstract concept of writing a book. I know what needs to be written next, and how much I need to get done.

As a minimalist, it ought to be clear. Get rid of the mass of clutter, eliminate unnecessary tasks, clear out anything that you don’t need. This is an imperfect metaphor, because it implies thinning out the forest and cutting down trees. The thing is, here in Finland they do that. No, they don’t rake the floor of the forest. But they periodically go through and find old trees, weather-damaged trees, and places where too many saplings are sprouting up. They tag trees to be eliminated, for the overall health of the forest. Then loggers come in, remove them, and they become paper products.

As a spoonie, it’s why I keep a bullet journal. Breaking tasks into steps, and scheduling them, keeps me from becoming overwhelmed. I don’t need to worry about tomorrow, next week, or next month. All I need to concern myself with is what has to be done today. Care for one tree at a time, and the forest will take care of itself.

When You Can’t See the Trees for the Forest

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Journal

Writer-Minimalist-Spoonie

In overhauling the site and looking for a new tagline, I settled on Writer-Minimalist-Spoonie.¬†Those three seem to cover everything at the moment. It’s elegant in its simplicity.

Writer encompasses blogger, game designer, and publisher. At the end of the day, none of those descriptors exist without me stringing words together first. So writer gets to the heart of it.

Minimalist connects to other things I identify as. I am a minimalist because I’m a Buddhist. I’m a home cook, bullet journaler, and productivity wonk because I’m a minimalist.

Spoonie is important for similar reasons. It drives choices I make and the way I approach things. I’m self-employed, for example, because it’s easier to manage my physical and mental health.

Expat was left off because I don’t want to jeopardize things. My feelings about identifying as an American citizen are complicated right now, for reason obvious to anyone paying attention.

Writer-Minimalist-Spoonie

If you enjoyed this post, you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

Subscribe via Email

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Journal

Why We Never See Time Travelers

I’ve figured out why we never see time travelers.

For the past several days Katie has been trying to track down a stock number. For reasons that I won’t go into, she’s trying to find esoteric information on a product that hasn’t been manufactured in around 70 years. The company that made it went under over 60 years ago. No antiques dealer seems to have this information. There are no catalogs to refer to. The existing examples of this item have no stock number stamped on them, and no original packaging appears to have survived the decades.

The reason we don’t bump into time travelers is because they’re not going back in time to kill Hitler. They aren’t trying to be in the room to see what really happened during some historic event. No. They’re obsessive-compulsive researchers trying to track down esoteric information on extremely niche collectibles that no one else would ever care about. The things they want to discover have such a small footprint on history that if there were ripples and changes to the timeline, it would be next to impossible to notice.

Why We Never See Time Travelers

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May 10 2020: Three Things on My Desk

May 10 2020: My workspace is pretty clean and clutter free. I’ve got my laptop, a lamp, my bullet journal, and a pen. Periodically some stuffed animals or dolls come to visit, courtesy of my wife Katie. There are only three things on my desk that aren’t essential to my work. All of them are there to keep me grounded.

Three Things on My Desk

The first is a small brass Buddha, about 2.5 cm (an inch) tall. It’s there to represent my values. Not just Buddhism specifically, but to hold kindness in my heart in general. Because I suffer from anxiety, it reminds me to ground myself meditate when I get stressed out. When I’m lost in thought, trying to work out some problem, I tend to pick it up and fidget with it. Like all of the objects, it brings me some comfort.

Next to the Buddha is a green-glazed ceramic elephant, about an 2.5 cm tall by 5 cm wide. Katie found it for me at a thrift store for 50 cents. I was raised by my grandmother, and the only thing I used to have of hers was a ceramic flower pot, green-glazed and shaped like an elephant. She made it while she was in a nursing home, recovering from a stroke. The little elephant on my desk is a reminder of where I cane from. Although it’s not an object from my past, it connects me to it.

The final object is a 1966 Batmobile. Not an original Corgi, like the one I had as a kid. This is a Hot Wheels version from a couple of years ago. It’s there so I remember to lighten up and have fun. You would think that I’d roll it around and play with it, but no. It stays put, only getting picked up when I need to dust. I just need to see it, to conjure up vision not just of Adam West’s Batman but Mister Rogers and other role models from my childhood. There’s a weird mixture of joy and duty, pop culture and service to other wrapped up together in my mind. I’m trying to lean into that more.

May 10 2020

  • If you get anything out of these blog posts, consider buying me a coffee. You can also purchase one of my books or zines from Gumroad or DriveThruRPG.
  • I check all email and Twitter DMs, personal and professional, three times a day. Responses are made as time allows; if it requires some thought or research on my part, it will take me longer.
  • I am actively avoiding news and social media to focus on writing. Please take your information from reliable sources and certified experts, not the Mad Carrot and its puerile cultists.
  • Today is Day 55 in isolation.¬†
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Journal

Let’s Talk About Toilet Paper

Seriously, let’s talk about toilet paper. There’s been a shortage in the United States since the pandemic began. We’ve all heard the jokes. The assumption is that people are still hoarding. Which is weird, right, because presumably people should start running out of space to store it. There’s something else going on that people are overlooking. It’s the simplest, and actual,explanation.

When you stay at home, you use more toilet paper.

Seriously, you’re not going to work, or school, or out to restaurants. You’re doing all of your persona business at home. That means you’re using more toilet paper, which leads to buying more, which results in empty shelves at the store.

From toilet paper manufacturer Georgia-Pacific’s FAQ on COVID-19:

“Based on IRI (Information Resources Inc., a retailm marketing research group) panel data, along with the US Census, the average U.S. household (2.6 people) uses 409 equivalized regular rolls per year. Using our own calculations, staying at home 24-7 would result in 40% increase vs. average daily usage.”

Let’s Talk About Toilet Paper

How long it will take for the supply to catch up to the new demand is another question. Retail corporations no doubt has standing orders, based on historical sales data. The manufacturers make enough to cover those orders, and maybe a bit more since it’s not perishable. They in turn only ordered at much material — wood pulp, recycled paper, whatever — to fill those order. The supplies of the raw material need to do whatever they do. Add in that a lot of these jobs are going to be considered non-essential, travel restrictions interrupting the supply chain, and everything else going on.

There’s also the issue of when demand will go down. If they increase production and suddenly “the country is open” again, will they end up with a surplus? If they do, will it lead to a drop in price? How would that affect their bottom line? I’m not saying that it’s not a bit warped, but that’s how businesses think. They need to protect their long-term profitability, and that makes seemingly simple things complicated.

tl; dr It’s likely going to be a while before there’s enough toilet paper.