I recently got some insight into my creative process from my kid’s music teacher… who is now, somehow, my music teacher… even though I previously had no skill or interest in music. But he’s really more of a creative mentor. The work we do goes from making music to making videos to managing time better, and it even informs my writing process. And how to worry more effectively. So I thought I could share with you some of the ideas I’ve gotten from his teaching style that have helped me with my creative life, and my… life life.
I’ll admit it. I resent other writers who can write something start to finish without needing any input. For me, after bathing in the unknown (aka: my last video), I need to have others look at it. I need to listen for when they laugh or sigh or gasp or hold their breath. And then, I can better understand what the hell I’m writing. That’s when I find out that my story I thought was about all the crazy bus routes in Portland is really about one lonely man’s longing to connect with another person. Or how my Darth Vader story is really a story about the challenges of step parenting. Or how there are already enough think pieces about Bojack Horseman. Or how maybe I shouldn’t have filmed my most recent video while on the toilet…
So I’m trying out non-animated videos with the notion that I might be able to create more than two a year when I’m not crudely drawing every single frame… But, unfortunately, we now have to rely on my real-world, crudely-drawn face… And my crudely drawn face is here to tell you that bathing in the I-don’t-know-ness of a creative project is really valuable…
Check out my recent Writer Unboxed blog post for more info about this subject
I’ve always struggled with being monogamous when it comes to my creative outlets. I’ve been writing for most of my adult life, but I also dabble with YouTube videos and making apps and making music (sort of) and various other activities. I used to focus on the downsides to working on so many different pursuits (and there are plenty of downsides!), but this video is about me accepting (and maybe kinda sorta embracing) this quality. (I also do about 12 seconds of research and find out that there’s already a name for this quality. But since I don’t like the name, I made up a new name…)
Check out my recent Writer Unboxed post for more info about this subject.
In a blog post about my forthcoming novel, I claimed that I’d pull together a video about writing the novel. Well, here it is. It’s under five minutes, but it still required 1060 bad drawings, some background music that I created on my iPad, and one video of me sitting on the toilet. Oy![Read more…]
A short story of mine (Darth Vader and the Lemon) was just published in Carve Magazine. It’s a story about the complexities of step-parenting, and it’s full of bad metaphors about Star Wars. The oldest draft of this story that I can find on my computer goes all the way back to May of 2009. That’s more than 10 years ago! In those first few years, I was really excited about the story, and I even spoke with editors at The Sun and The New Yorker who liked the story, but these conversations didn’t ever result in a publication. At some point (at least five years ago), I abandoned the story after getting too much conflicting and confusing feedback.
I picked up the story again this year when my wife and my agent both mentioned it in passing in the same week. I had fond feelings about this dead story and so I dug it up. It was refreshing to pick it up after so many years — I could read it like an outsider, like I wasn’t the one who wrote it. I saw some spots where the story strayed unnecessarily from the general theme and tone. I also saw spots where I could beef up the connections. But most importantly, I still liked the story.
After getting back into the headspace of this story (which took a few readings), I began working on it again. Tightening it, making it more focused, while still keeping the charm and silliness of the voice. And then I sent it out again. And then Carve accepted it. Carve is a fabulous literary magazine with issues both in print and online.
Anyway, what’s the point of this blog post (other than testing out to see if I still remember how to blog)? I guess I learned that putting a story away isn’t a bad thing. Maybe it’s just time to take a break. The story may be dead. But maybe it isn’t. I find it useful to look back into the vault to see if there’s something in there that still has a charge to it… sparks joy is the overly trending term for this phenomenon, but whatever it’s called, you know it when you feel it.
Here’s an excerpt:
I move the Darth Vader action figure next to the lemon on the kitchen table where I’m sitting with my ten-year-old stepson. It’s breakfast. Which means I cooked him fried eggs and forgot to make myself anything. But I’ve got Darth Vader and a lemon. My stepson looks at me in that way he can look at me when I’m being me at my most me.
I got him the Darth Vader action figure as a Valentine’s Day gift because I knew it might sway him toward the original movies. I refuse to talk about any of the movies that came after that first trilogy. I tell him that the new movies are worse than bags of poo. My stepson tolerates my obsessions because of my accessible metaphors and because I bribe him with high-quality action figures.
I start breathing all Darth Vadery. I move Darth Vader up to the lemon. With my best attempt at a James Earl Jones voice, I say, “You have failed me for the last time, lemon.”
Vader’s movements are awkward—even though he is Dark Lord of the Sith, he is also only three inches tall—and so the lemon is watching carefully for weaknesses, in case it comes to that.
“That’s MY Darth Vader,” my stepson says. And he takes away the key character in my scene.
For the past few years, I’ve wanted to make a video about my writing process when I’m working on a book-sized project. My process is a zig-zaggy combination of scribbling and typing and listening. I particularly love writing on an iPad because you have a few different ways to interact with it (stylus + keyboard + voice + weeping under the desk), and I also find it a less distracting tool than an old-school computer. The problem with my first few fAiLeD attempts at making this video was that I overly focused on exactly what tech and which apps I used… It’s just too easy to get caught up in buying the trendy app of the month with the hopes that it’ll save you from the difficulty of writing. (Nothing will save you. Writing sucks!) And my main goal was really to focus on how and why I use the tools that I use. (But I also didn’t want to totally ignore the apps that I find valuable, because they are lovingly built and they are fabulous to use.) So… hopefully this short video gives you a feel for my approach without getting too lost in the technical weeds… (Below the video you’ll find more of the gory details.)
If you want more details about the apps, here are the apps that I use:
- GoodNotes. This is my current favorite scribbling tool. Simple and clean and feels so natural to use. Lovingly built and regularly updated.
- Notability. I also dig this app and often switch back and forth between this app and GoodNotes. This app is also built with such care and I honestly can’t tell you that one is better than the other. Try them both if you like.
- Ulysses. This is my current favorite writing tool. Looks beautiful and really powerful for organizing a book. I used to evangelize Scrivener and I still really love that app, but I like the simplicity and cleanliness of Ulysses a little better. And Ulysses is still plenty powerful — with nested folders and keywords and export, it does everything I need it to do. Works just as well on iPad as on Mac.
- Scrivener. I still have tremendous affection for this tool and it can do so much to help you organize your book.
- Say the Thing. A pretty dumb text-to-speech tool that I WROTE MYSELF! The reason I wrote it is because I wanted a lightweight app that will take whatever text you throw at it. You can copy/paste text, drag/drop text, or use the share command from most text editors. Is it amazing? No. Is it pretty good? Maybe. Is it free? Yes.
And since I was a little too quick and confusing about my specific process in the video, here it is for those who care:
- First draft, I scribble in my scribbling tool. Write by hand without thinking too hard about what I’m up to.
- Then I type it up in my writing tool. I do a little bit more organizing and thinking about it in this step. I keep the scribbling app and the typing app side-by-side as I type it up. I do not use any mechanism to automatically convert my writing into text. I know there are tools that do this, but I prefer to type it up manually so I can think about what I’m typing, and clean it up as I go along.
- Then I listen to the computer read it to me. Something about having a computer read your words exposes some of the bullshit in the writing. I use my own app (Say the Thing) side-by-side with my writing tool.
- Then I type up any edits after listening to it.
- Then I make a PDF copy of the writing (export as PDF from Ulysses) and import it back into my scribbling tool. The formality of a PDF helps me look at it like an editor.
- I read the PDF to my writing group and listen to feedback.
- Based on the feedback, I scribble notes and edits on the PDF within my scribbling tool. Sometimes I’ll even draw diagrams and flow charts as I think through the structure of my story.
- Then I type up any changes or edits.
- Then I listen to the computer read it again.
- I type up edits again.
- Repeat any of the above steps until done.
I know that this whole process doesn’t discuss how to actually structure a story. That part is at least as important as this process I’ve outlined here. But I feel like every writer and every story has its own unique way to tackle the issue of structure. Sometimes I think about structure very early in the writing process, sometimes I focus on it later. Sometimes it involves pictures and diagrams, sometimes it involves lots of lists and outlines. Maybe someday I’ll do a video on how this has worked for me for a particular story.
OK. That’s all for now. Hope this is helpful. Or at least not harmful…
It’s time for my yearly visit to the online surface – where I pop my head up, look around, and when I don’t get enough likes (or I get too many likes), I go back into my hole until next year. This time I’d like to share with you a video I made about how I write alongside chronic pain. (If you don’t already know that I’ve been dealing with chronic headaches, then check out this other video – in my head.) I’ve learned some things about how to keep at it even when burdened with a kind of pain that sticks around for longer than a short visit, that comes and goes on its own schedule, and that, on some weeks, doesn’t give you a single breath without its company. I don’t want to claim to be an expert at this. What I can say is that I’ve learned how to fumble my way through the darkness in a way that feels better than giving up completely. I’ve managed to write a novel in two years, alongside a few other projects. Balzac might not be impressed with my output, but my lazy cats think I’m quite productive. And I’m okay with this. But don’t just listen to blog-post-me, listen to YouTube-me who tries to explain all this using Play-Doh:
To those suffering with chronic pain as well, my heart goes out to you. I hope you find a few moments of peace in there.
(This post originally appeared on Writer Unboxed.)
I don’t really recommend it, but you can check out all my videos on my YouTube channel.
tl;dr: I mistakenly made an app. It’s free. If you use an iPad or iPhone for writing and you like having the device read what you write, get it. (p.s. It requires
Each morning, you’re probably waking up thinking, “Where the hell did Yuvi go?” I’ve got a whole pile of reasons and excuses — some real, some imagined — but instead of listing those here, I just want to tell you that I haven’t totally disappeared off the planet. For example, I just released a FREE app to help with the writing process…
I’m obsessed with having the computer read what I write. What I love about the computer voice is that it doesn’t give a damn what you meant to write — it only knows what you actually wrote. The problem is that I couldn’t find the right tool to do this on iPad and iPhone. I mean, there is a built-in way to speak text, but it doesn’t quite cut it… I’d like a clear way to play and pause and change the voice. And I’d like a way to do it exclusively with an external keyboard on an iPad. Drag and drop would be nice too. There are some really good fancy apps, like Voice Dream, which I use for some stuff. But that app is a little more complicated and elaborate. I wanted something dumb and lightweight, but still powerful enough to do what I needed. So I mistakenly made the app I wanted.
It’s called Say the Thing. It plays whatever text you throw at it. Here is the three-minute tutorial:
Want it? Then get it for free before the developer disappears off the planet again.
At some point, I’ll give a more elaborate online update on where I’ve been the past few years. But not quite yet.
So that’s my story. How are you?
Link to the product web page: http://saythething.xyz
NOTE: This blog post was reluctantly proofread by Say the Thing.
NOTE 2: …And even more reluctantly by my wife.
So I made this short video called “Why Scrivener?”
Why the hell did I make it?… I’ve been tutoring people on how to use Scrivener for many years now. I find that it is effective to first show people what it can do and make sure that it addresses something they are struggling with. As much as I love Scrivener, it’s not the right tool for every writer or for every writing project. I run through this shpiel enough times in an average month that I thought I’d make a short video where I make the case for Scrivener (and get to say some dirty words in the process). Let me know what you think!
Info Related to Scrivener
- Literature & Latte’s home page
- Official Video Tutorials
- To go through Scrivener’s interactive tutorial, launch Scrivener and from the menu, select “Help > Interactive Tutorial”. It’s a good tutorial.
- To see Scrivener’s help manual, launch Scrivener and from the menu, select “Help > Scrivener Manual”.
- To view my (relatively out of date) one-hour tutorial on Scrivener, check out Scrivener from my POV.
- Literature & Latte’s support page
Check out all my second-rate videos on my video landing page.