• Amateurs

    When did the word “amateur” become derogatory? It comes from the French word for “lover” and denotes someone who works out of love, without regard to compensation. Seems like a noble word. So why the negative connotation?

    I’m not sure. I have some theories. But I suspect the world needs more amateurs.

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  • Garden of Forking Paths

    Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books? This Atlas Obscura article was a nice throwback for me, and a peek into the creative process of one of the authors. Both the designer and writer in me geeked out over those hand drawn story maps.

    My first CYOA book was a gift from my aunt; she bought it at a yard sale. It was this one: Track of the Bear. I remember little of the plot. There were polar bears, and several endings where you died. I loved it.

    I don’t know that I read many CYOA books. Maybe they were a couple years before my time. The year the original series ceased publication was the same year my family bought our first PC. My interests shifted. But those books served as a map for the non-linear playground of the Internet.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about forking paths during the past few weeks because of my own projects. One is a web app, and the other is another experimental short story. I spent last weekend mapping their stories and watching them grow like trees. I’ll share more about both soon.

    Looking at all these maps, I also saw a model of my life. I see it less like a linear story and more like a tree. Forks and branches, most of which trace back to simple choices. A single email becomes a cross-country move to California. A phone call eliminates one career path and sets another in motion. A fateful magazine subscription alters innumerable branches. We are a summation of choices, both the choices we make, and the choices made by others.

    But we don’t get to turn back and follow the prompt to a different page. As much as I wonder what those other branches would have looked like, this is my branch now. We can only choose what to do with the next minute given to us.

    Choose well. I hear there are polar bears.

  • Orwell vs. Huxley

    “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism.”

    Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death

    I finished this book a few weeks ago. Postman wrote it 1985, but in the past 32 years it seems to have only grown in relevance.

  • Harvest Time

    Fall is my favorite season. Nature shifts from a palette of greens to oranges, yellows, and browns. The air becomes crisp and the wind whispers secrets. The waning light imbues everything with a comfortable mystery. Even the names of the season are lovely. Fall. Autumn. Harvest.

    Although we still throw the word around, harvest no longer plays the same role it did for our ancestors. They oriented their lives around their crops, and as a consequence, around the seasons. There was a time to sow, a time to reap, and a time to enjoy the fruits of their labor. They moved to the rhythms of the year.

    We operate at a different speed. The clock and its 24-hour cycle dictate our lives.

    That may be a good or a bad thing; either way, there’s little we can do about it. But is there any wisdom we can regain from a seasonal way of thinking?

    A few weeks ago, Matt Thomas wrote about living with the seasons. His piece inspired this one; you should go read it. He wonders what it would look like to live and work in step with the seasons. What would it look like if our lives revolved around the turning of the year?

    As fall deepens, I’ve begun to ask myself that question.

    Last year, I created The Gargoyle, an experimental short story website. It was nothing major, but it was a turning point in how I approach my creative work. It may yet prove to be a turning point in my life. In the season since, it would seem that I’ve been quiet.

    That’s only because you can’t see what’s happening beneath the soil.

    I’ve started several projects on the past year, all in various stages of completion. There are several short stories, a couple new web projects, and some early drafts of a much larger project. They’ve all been growing under the surface. Now, as the season changes, it’s time for me to enter into a new creative season.

    I’m ready to get to work on these projects. Some may not see the light of day, but they’ll be good practice. A few may need more time to ripen.

    As for the rest, I’m hoping for a bountiful harvest.