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Tag: 2009

The Theme for 2012

It is that time of year again! Time to announce the coming year’s theme! And I know you’ve all been waiting patiently for me to have an excuse to ramble on wildly about my musings about creativity and my own personal journey with it. I know you all love it. Or at least the three of you who read these don’t completely hate it. So, that’s good.

In previous years, the themes have been The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories (2009), The Year of 3 Music Videos and 12 Short Stories (2010), and, this year, The Year of 12 Projects (and Slowing My Roll) (2011). Of course, in previous years I had other themes—The Year of Trying New Things, The Year of Writing, The Year of Focus, The Year of Finishing Things, and The Year of Self-Care—but those have not been documented here on The Black Laser, so we’ll mostly ignore them for the purposes of this one-sided discussion. If you’d like to read more on my thoughts on previous years’ themes, go right ahead.

This year, The Year of 12 Projects, has been remarkably successful so far with 13 of my 12 projects completed at this point. I won’t go too much into my thoughts about the year as a whole yet—I’m saving that for its own year-end write up—but let’s just agree that it’s been great. And let’s also acknowledge that it’s the first time ever that I’ve met the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of the year.

Wait, that bears repeating. It is the first time in eight years of giving myself themes instead of resolutions that I’ve actually accomplished what I set out to do.

Holy shit.

Amazing!

I think a lot of what made this year such a success was that I allowed my brain to sort of go anywhere in terms of being creative. I wasn’t limited to one specific type of thing. I could do whatever caught my fancy, and, in turn, I got a lot done. That is great. In fact, a posting I recently read at NPR’s blog about Leonardo da Vinci’s to-do list seems to reinforce that allowing your brain to wander, to be unfocused, is beneficial for getting things done. Not that I am da Vinci, but I seem to have stumbled upon the same results. It goes against years of myself trying to focus on one thing, one goal, one idea. No wonder I was never able to do a damned thing; I worried so much about being focused, driven, single-minded about my creativity that I limited what I could be accomplishing otherwise. Knowing that I do better when I let myself be free is rather refreshing, actually.

While thinking about what I wanted to accomplish for 2012, I recognized that part of my creative palette that I have been really missing this last year and a half or so is my writing. I haven’t written any fiction at all in ages. Do you, avid reader of The Black Laser, recall the last time I posted fiction here? No you don’t. Do you know why? Because it was January 28, 2010. That is terrible. A couple (few?) weeks ago I tweeted, “Do you remember when I used to write stories??? Whatever happened to that, huh??” I wrote it as sort of a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it is actually kind of sad. For something that was so important to me that I was going to give up a decent career twice for it, how could it have fallen so far out of my life that the last time I wrote anything of consequence was in January of last year? It’s like having a really awesome girlfriend and then suddenly you stop talking to her at all and then 20 months later you’re all, “Hey, where did she go?? How did she get away from me????” And then after you recognize that you’re all, “Damn, I’d better do something about this because I really miss her.”

And that is what writing feels like to me: an amazing supportive relationship with its ups and downs and pitfalls and triumphs. It has always felt so much more real to me than my ventures into filmmaking or photography or drawing or animation any of the other things I’ve dabbled in. Writing is challenging and because it is challenging it is rewarding like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It feels good and it hurts and it is scary and I love it. I mean, duh, obviously, look at how I get going on things like this when I give a damn about them. I’m just blah blah blahing all up and down the East River like a crazy man with a garbage bag for a hat.

So that brings us to this year’s theme:

The Year of Writing

A question remains: how do I reconcile the success I had when I let my brain wander with the desire to focus on one specific kind of output? I thought of this, too. I think the key lies in not forcing “writing” to be any one thing, but allowing it to take whatever form I think I want to mess around with at that moment.

The astute reader will notice that this is in fact my second Year of Writing, the previous one being an abortive effort before I had any sense of how to structure these things for maximum efficacy. But I know how to do that now and that means giving myself limits that allow me to be flexible. Funny, right? Limits that allow me to be flexible. But it’s true and it works. Full open-endedness is daunting, but limit the creative sandbox a little and you’ll be surprised what you can come up with. Creativity is problem solving. Give yourself problems to solve.

So what are my limits/goals for this year?

  • 100,000 words – While chit-chatting with Lindsey on the IMs about what my goals should be for this year I recalled that at my peak output, I was writing at least 500 words a day. If I could maintain that every day of the year, my output would be 182,500 words. A massive amount. But I am not going to be so unrealistic and believe that I am actually going to write every single day of the year. Let’s don’t be ridiculous. There are going to be nights where I’ll have my face buried in the computer doing nothing but fucking off on the internet and nights where I am stuck at work late and nights where I just won’t want to write. And 100,000 is a nice, round number.

    What counts toward my 100,000 word count? Anything: letters to my brain, long articles on The Black Laser about whatever, anything for Vox Critica, any fiction, screenplays (who knows???). Basically anything where I give a damn about the quality of the writing. This encompasses quite a lot of what I do and should make hitting 100K for the year not such a daunting challenge. The only things that won’t count are when I’m bullshitting about music videos (unless I actually have something to say, my prerogative) and things like Twitter/Facebook/whatever. I mean, this thing is already 1200 words long. I’d only need to do 84 posts like this and I’d be done.

  • Dance EP – I’ve been talking about making a dance record for a long time. I love dance music. It’s so stupid and fun but can also be really beautiful in the right hands. Those hands are not mine, but that doesn’t stop from wanting to put my own music out there. And it fits under the header of “writing” quite nicely and is so different than writing words that it allows me to play around in a different medium but still be working toward my theme for the year. It will allow my brain to wander when I don’t have anything particularly meaningful to say otherwise.

    What constitutes a Dance EP? Well, as we all know an EP is longer than a single but shorter than an album, so like 3 to 5 songs. I think that is about right. I just want it to be a fun project that makes people want to move and shake their asses and do all that stupid shit that people do that makes them look really funny in photos.

There you have it. 2012, The Year of Writing. 100,000 words or whatever and a dance EP.

And if you think that I think about this stuff too much, I’ll just leave this little snippet of yesterday’s conversation here for you to enjoy.

The Space Pope
4:39 PM The year I did 50 short stories, I kept a word/story count by each date I finished one so I could graph the work.
4:39 PM Jeez, I think about this too much maybe. But whatever.
4:40 PM I could keep a spreadsheet of writing by wordcount/type/date

lfkaufman
4:40 PM You think about most things too much. :)

Now I’ve blown my little secret that I intend to graph my progress. Here’s to 2012!

An Analysis of 2009 – The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories.

Now that February is clipping along rapidly, my application to Hunter is finished and submitted, and I have had a moment to think about the results of last year’s theme, the time has arrived to discuss 2009 – The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories. I know that you were all super excited for yet another text-heavy Black Laser posting in which I muse about things that matter to me but probably don’t matter to you. Isn’t the internet wonderful?

In case you missed it, here is my original statement of intent for 2009.

2009 was wildly successful for my photo work. Not only did I hit 5017 out of 5000 photos, but I really do think that my photos got noticeably better over the course of the year. I’ve throw together a gallery of some of my favorites from the last year. There’s no rhyme or reason for the selections; I just went through 2009 and picked a bunch I liked. They are arranged in chronological order, oldest first.

[flickrset id=”72157623234441883″ thumbnail=”square” overlay=”true” size=”large”]

I took a lot of good photos and a handful of great ones. I feel much more confident with my tools than I did before. I learned and experimented and limited myself. Tremendous success. We’ll see how many photos I take this year. I’ve hardly touched my camera since the year began because I was working so hard on my graduate school application, but that will soon change. Making photos is fun and rewarding, even if I don’t make a damned dollar doing it.

Here are all the galleries I’ve posted on this site. Anything tagged “Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories” is, obviously, part of this theme.

The results of my writing last year are much less clear. In one quantitative manner, it was only a partial success with only 38 of 50 short stories being written. Even once I lowered my goals in terms of word count, I was unable to get as much done as I had strived for. There is no excuse really. I missed the mark and that’s it. It’s disappointing too, because once I really got down to it, I was able to crank out piece after piece. Between the middle of November and the end of the year I wrote 36 of my 38 short stories. If you do the math, that works out to an average of 6 stories a week for 6 weeks. Not bad at all.

And that’s the rub. More importantly than whether or not I met the quota I set for myself in December of 2008, in terms of my skills as a writer, I think that 2009 was a complete success. Writing as often and as much as I did undoubtedly helped my writing. “Duh,” you say, but it’s true. I believe that whipping through those short stories made me a stronger writer. It’s one thing to know that practice makes you better at things, but it’s entirely different to have experienced it. I am sure that the writing I did last year contributed directly to the quality of my creative submission to Hunter this year, which is quite clearly superior to the work I submitted last year. And that is awesome.

I’m still not that great with writing about myself, though.

Check out all posts with the tag “Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories” to see the work I did.

This year I’ve already written 1 of my assigned 12 Finished Short Stories. I’ve not yet done any real work on the music videos, but it is only February and there is time. I hope to continue the roll I started in November when I decided that all the worrying I was doing about the quality of my work was preventing me from doing any at all (stupid). I’ve got more writing to do and photos to make. It feels great to make something out of nothing, and I hope all you lovely readers of my tiny speck on the face of the Interwebs will continue to read and look. And if you don’t, at the very least, I enjoy it all and that’s really what matters.

The Metric System 2nd Annual Autumn Salon, May 8, 2009

savethedatemay0809

Hey folks, the next Metric System party is coming up! It will be on Friday May 8th, from 7 to 11pm. That’s all for now, so save the date. I will post more details when I have them.

JC Brewing 2/21/2009

While I was at home, my brother Charlie invited me over to his house to embark on a wild beer-brewing trip through the furthest depths of space and time. Well, mostly he invited me over to hang out while he and his buddy Justin brewed beer in his back yard. He christened the beer “Blasphemale” based on a suggestion I made. My ego was pleased. I took pictures. It was also my opportunity to finally meet my brand-spankin’-new niece who shares my name, Sienna Jo. There’s a picture of her here; see if you can identify which one she is.

Here are some of my favorites. Click on them to view them larger.

And here’s the entire gallery: JC Brewing Extravaganza 2/21/2009

Here Charlie is playing his banjo in a self-made promo for JC Brewing.

Notice his bare feet while at the office. Real classy.

The Ks’ Going Away Party 1/17/2009

I took some pictures last night at our friends’ little going away potluck dinner. Fun fun fun! Check them out. Nothing serious, just dickin’ around with the camera in available light and with bounced flash. Which photos are which?

Photo tally for 2009: 152/5000

Happy New Year.

I hope all of you had a festive, safe New Year’s Eve celebration last night and that you aren’t feeling it too hard today. I spent it with Juli at a friend’s house and today I am enjoying the tail end of the Sci-Fi Channel New Year’s Eve Twilight Zone marathon. What can I say? I’m a sucker for the Twilight Zone. It’s a tradition.

In case you missed the old post, today begins The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories, so keep your eyes peeled for more solid content here in the coming year.

Good luck, and I hope your first coffee of 2009 was as nice as mine.

The Theme of 2009

In theory, New Year’s resolutions are a good idea. It is in the realization of these resolutions where we discover that, in fact, they don’t always work out. How many New Year’s resolutions have you made in your life that you’ve never followed through on? How many people have you heard make resolutions to do whatever the hell it is they think they should be doing but then never do? If you’re like me, the answer to both questions is “A lot”. Sure, some people have success, but I’m willing to bet that the ratio of successes to failures is skewed toward the latter.

What are some of the problems with New year’s resolutions? Well, for one, they are often short sighted, setting a goal for the immediate to near future and not often considering 4 or 8 or 12 months from now. They are also generally too specific, not allowing for the person making resolutions to change their minds or to adapt to changing situations throughout the year. People and things change, so it’s stupid not to be able to adjust your goals accordingly.

A few years ago I decided to pick a theme for the upcoming year (2004, I think?) and stick with that for the whole year. The idea was that the theme should be broadly applicable with recognizable short term goals. That might sound contradictory, but hear me out. I wanted something that would provide many opportunities to express itself in easily accomplished situations, something that could apply to many things yet all fall under the same heading. Thus the idea of a “theme”, rather than a “resolution”.

Since putting this into motion, I have had a few years of success and a few years of not-success. Let’s look at some examples, shall we?

  • The Year of Trying New Things—This was my first theme and esaily the most successful. It exemplifies everything a year’s theme should be. Broadly applicable to many things (what new thing am I trying? It doesn’t matter, so long as it’s new) and provides short term goals (try it).
  • The Year of Writing—This year was moderately successful for a while but ended up being too broad. There were no goals to set except “to write”, which was enough for a while, but not strong enough for me to keep my focus.
  • The Year of Finishing Things—What? Serious? I broke both my guidelines here. Too specific and too long term. No good. Next!
  • The Year of Self-Care—Again, moderately successful since it was focused mostly on figuring out what I needed from my life, but not a great theme since it lacks clear short term goals.
  • The Year of Focus—Seriously? What the hell? Horrible.

For 2009 I am determined not repeat my past mistakes, but to really work on keeping myself occupied outside of work with personal creative work. And now that I have this blog running, I have something to keep my honest and not let myself slip into complacency as I am prone to do.

After a lot of thinking, I have decided that 2009 will be:

The Year of 5000 photos and 50 Short Stories

Right? It’s good, I think. It has short term goals (stories, photos) and is broadly applicable (stories about what? Photos of what?). It’s also enough to keep me busy throughout the whole year, but not so much that it is daunting. Originally, it was going to be The Year of 10,000 Photos after I was inspired by Bryan’s photo count on his site, which, if you have not seen, you should. But then I realized it didn’t carve out a space for the other craft which is important to me and not addressed professionally—writing. So a little bit of calculation was done to establish reasonable goals and the theme was changed.

But, you ask, what constitutes “a photo” or “a short story”? Well, I’ve thought about that too and here’s what I think.

Photo – a photo is counted when it is part of a set that was deliberately taken. I am not limited only to my selects from a given shoot, but at the same time, test shoots do not count toward the final tally.

Short story – a short story is any piece of narrative writing between 1500 and 10000 words. It can be about anything at all, but needs to fall roughly within those two limits. The upper limit is looser than the lower. 1500 words is a bare minimum, but ok since, once I get rolling, I’ll bang out 1500 to 2500 words in a sitting.

And you, Black Laser readers, will help to keep me honest! Follow my progress over the next calendar year. I will be posting every photo and every story to this site for you to enjoy. I also hope to make periodic comments on my status and how I’m feeling about my progress. Stay tuned, intrepid readers!

You can check my progress with this link: The Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories. It will link you to every post with that tag, which will be every post I make with a story or photos. Let’s do this.