Adjustment, page 13

Here’s another one from my blackout poem experiment using a book as source material rather than a newspaper or magazine.

One of the toughest things for me to overcome has been re-reading the pages for the story as I’m working on them. I’ve found that the poems make themselves clear more easily if I’m looking for words rather than the context of the overall page or article. Trying to find that first word or phrase and then the next one that connects – that’s the fun part and it brings a degree of clarity. Re-reading just muddies the waters.

Penn Jillette and Richard Feynman |

So Where Do You Get Liquid Nitrogen?

Over the last few days, I’ve been listening through the Penn Jillette episode of The Tim Ferriss Show while on the exercise bike and it’s been fascinating. Both subject and interviewer are great and there are lots of surprises throughout.

One of the segments that I listened to this morning was Jillette talking about his friendship with physicist Richard Feynman (starts around the 1:38:00 mark), someone whom Tim Ferriss has been interested in for years. The entire bit about Feynman is great, but two things stood out to me.

First was the way Jillette and Feynman met, which to me, is a great example of letting the world know what you’d like. At the time, Penn & Teller were doing a show in Los Angeles and put in their program a list of people that they’d like to see the show, and Feynman was one of them. After one of the shows, he introduced himself to Penn and also expressed appreciation for his description of science at the end of the show.

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all set up no action | Todd Regoulinsky |

All Set-Up, No Action

Ideas are worthless.

Yeah, I said it. Of course, I’m only one in a long line of people who have said it, so please don’t think any credit is due here.

In learning about screenwriting, I found there was two schools of thought: those who guarded their story ideas as if they were a precious hidden treasure and those who didn’t. And I can understand both sides.

There’s something about an idea that is special, but a lot of that comes from our perception of it and where it came from. The idea comes from us and most of us, for whatever psychological reason du jour you happen to subscribe to, would like to think of ourselves as special in some way. Even the idea that we aren’t special kinda makes you think you’re special because it feels like you’ve figured something out other people haven’t. You’re part of an elite. You liked the band before anyone else. You actually understand and appreciate Infinite Jest. Whatever.

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The Routine, Interrupted

One of my goals this year is to have a creative routine that will start my days off, using the “make before you manage” ethos I gleamed from Tim Ferriss and mashing it up with what I remembered from Austin Kleon’s morning routine. The idea is to have a set time each day before starting work that allows me to check the creative box, and is somewhat in line with why making your bed every day is a good thing – no matter what else happens that day, I did something that fed my soul.

One of the factors involved is that I am self-employed and work out of my home. My office is a downstairs room on the opposite end of the house from my bedroom – so there is a degree of separation, but those lines can blur pretty quickly. At some point, I’ll have to do a quick tour of my space that, in spite of not being on par with many writer’s rooms or studios, might be of interest to someone.

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Your Whatever Step System To Having A Something

I have a couple problems with YouTube videos promising a Whatever Step System To Getting The SOMETHING You WANT.

First, it’s never quite that simple. There’s usually a ton of truth in the video, but there’s also something that’s left out or glossed over that represents a somewhat significant piece of the puzzle. Usually, it seems like that bit happened before the person developed The System, so it gets tossed in the corner where they’re hoping no one will notice. What’s that? You had a lucky break because your cousin’s uncle’s cleaning lady knew someone in the industry who also owed them a life debt and helped get your first book published? Definitely leave that out. Or how about you actually didn’t know what the hell you were doing in the first place and happened to be in the right place at the right time? Sure… but this system will totally negate that thing!

The second problem? I usually wind up getting suckered in by them.

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Recovering Insomniac

I’m not sure if I’ve ever qualified as a full-blown insomniac, but a good run has been made at the title. Back in high school and college, I’d survive for months only sleeping 3-4 hours per night. As recently as 10 years ago, I was working 3 jobs and getting about that much sleep 4-5 nights per week. Granted, that was a short-term period, but still… that’s not a lot of shut eye.

Now, if I stay up or have trouble sleeping, there’s a bill that comes due the next day. Call it getting older, I call it bodily rebellion. It seems like down to a cellular level, systems go on strike in protest of shabby treatment. Brain fogginess, slow reflexes, and a general bumbling demeanor pervade the day.

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My 2019 Reading List

It’s strange how you can love something and yet completely neglect it. After spending most of my formative years playing music, I dropped it completely for some time before picking it back up. I’m not sure why I did it, although the excuses more than likely revolved around a lack of time, lack of space, and not having a reason to practice. All completely wrong, of course.

Same with reading, which is why I began setting a yearly reading goal a few years ago. It’s not so much about the number of books as it is a way to keep me motivated and aware of reading as always being an option. I could sit on my phone… or I could read. I could pop in this movie I’ve watched 100 times… or I could read.

So here’s a list of what I read in 2019. Maybe you’ll find something interesting or see an old friend.

  1. STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST by Austin Kleon (non-fiction – creativity)
  2. BEASTIE BOYS BOOK by Michael Diamond & Adam Horovitz (non-fiction – music)
  3. STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER by Tom Robbins (fiction) **
  4. ART & FEAR: OBSERVATIONS ON THE PERILS (AND REWARDS) OF ARTMAKING by David Bayles & Ted Orland (nonfiction – art)
  5. GENTLEMEN OF THE ROAD by Michael Chabon (fiction)
  6. LUKA AND THE FIRE OF LIFE by Salman Rushdie (fiction)
  7. FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury (sci-fi)
  8. ON WRITING by Stephen King (non-fiction – biography – writing) **
  9. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner (fiction) *
  10. B IS FOR BEER by Tom Robbins (fiction) 
  11. ANANSI BOYS by Neil Gaiman (fiction)
  12. EE CUMMINGS: A LIFE by Susan Cheever (biography)
  13. THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE by Neil Gaiman (fiction)
  14. GET SHORTY by Elmore Leonard (fiction)
  15. WHEN THE WOMEN COME OUT TO DANCE by Elmore Leonard (short stories – fiction)
  16. DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON by Ernest Hemingway (non-fiction)
  17. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway (fiction)
  18. TIETAM BROWN by Mick Foley (fiction)
  19. SHAME by Salman Rushie (fiction)
  20. THE MYSTERIES OF PITTSBURGH by Michael Chabon (fiction)
  21. WONDER BOYS by Michael Chabon (fiction)
  22. NO WALLS AND THE RECURRING DREAM by Ani DiFranco (autobiography)
  23. COLLECTED POEMS by ee cummings (poetry)
  24. ADJUSTMENT DAY by Chuck Palahniuk (fiction)
  25. THE PARTLY CLOUDY PATRIOT by Sarah Vowell (non-fiction / essay)
  26. THE FOUR HOUR WORK WEEK by Tim Ferriss (non-fiction / self-improvement)
  27. THE ALCHEMIST by Paolo Coelho (fiction)
  28. A SLIP OF THE KEYBOARD by Terry Pratchett (non-fiction / essay)
  29. GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (fiction)
  30. THE AUTOGRAPH MAN by Zadie Smith (fiction)
  31. AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman (fiction)
  32. ALL YOU NEED IS KILL by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (fiction / manga)
  33. MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS by Michael Chabon (non-fiction / essay)

* = partial read    ** = re-read

adjustment - page one | blackout poem and book |

adjustment, page 1

So this should be an interesting project…

Somewhere in 2019, I picked up Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk and decided to give it a try. It might have even been in the 50-cent bin or it might have been discounted down to a couple bucks – either way, I didn’t pay full price.

I really liked Fight Club and Survivor, thought Diary was pretty good too, and then wandered away from his catalog. And so here I was several years later thinking I ought to check in and see what he’s up to these days.

Maybe someone out there likes this book, but I didn’t. In fact, the only reasons I kept reading until the end was that: 1) some hope there’d be some big twist at the end that would redeem everything that came before it, and 2) to see just how bad it’d get. At some point, it turned into a re-watch of Showgirls. There’s confusion, shock, horror, humor, and then just sadness for everyone involved. I’d throw shame in there, but since I’m publishing this on the internet, I guess that one can be safely scratched off the list.

Anyways… I was looking to create a new blackout poem for Word Wednesday and realized I’d neglected to buy a newspaper. Being January and snowing, I started looking around the house for something to use. Then it came to me in one big, beautiful, vandalistic thought – I’m totally going to ruin Adjustment Day. Well, maybe not ruin it since Chuck seemed to do a fair job of that in the first place, but at least cross a bunch of stuff out.

So my idea is this… I’m going to take the 316 pages of this novel and try to turn them into 100 some odd poems (depending on blank pages). Only one side of the page can really be used because the permanent marker seeps through, but I’m thinking of some other ways I can work the backs of pages too. At the very least, I’ll get back my investment in paper, right?

So here it is, page one. Enjoy.

Screenshot from the Essential Craftsman YouTube channel |

Smart Still Produces Sweat

Let me introduce you to my new favorite YouTube video.

I don’t plan on building a ramp any time soon, but I’m always interested in becoming more productive. I’m fascinated by the ways people streamline their workflow and spaces to get more done – from Adam Savage’s workshop to Casey Neistat’s old studio and everything in between.

What I really appreciate about this video is his appreciation for hard work and that working smarter doesn’t negate hard work.

It’s made me think about what my definition of “working smarter” actually means, and I’ve come up with this – eliminating wasted effort. Working hard is fine and in many cases is necessary and good; so long as the majority of the work is getting a positive result. It’s working hard for little or no results that causes problems.

There’s always going to be some degree of wasted effort, especially if it’s a new type of project or new skill that’s being learned. But it’s those moments when I want to be aware of the times I went down a dead end then backtracked so I can avoid that same path the second time. I know I’m going to make mistakes, I just want them to be new and interesting mistakes rather than the same ones over and over again.

In my opinion, this is fertile ground for creativity. It’s not just finding a system that works and never changing it ever – it’s find what works, always being aware that you’re using a system, and whether there are places to tweak that system. Or it might be a matter of dumping the system altogether and trying it a completely new way.

This is something I’m thinking about at the beginning of a new year. How many places in my life have I lost track of the underlying system? How many times do I do things just because “it’s the way I do it” without examining if there’s a new or better way of doing it? Where are some low-risk areas that I can completely abandon the system and try it a new way – almost an intentional forgetting of my habits where I can force myself to learn something new?

Video and screenshot from the Essential Craftsman YouTube channel.