Creativity: Crop Rotation, Pt. 2

I’d like to expand on an old blog post called Creativity: Crop Rotation. (http://www.carlkingdom.com/creativity-crop-rotation)

Especially if you live in Los Angeles, there’s a lot of pressure to give yourself an Industry Designation. You’re supposed to decide on some narrow job description like Guitarist or Photographer — and make sure it’s clear on your business card and in your email signature for the next billion years. You’re expected to climb that ladder, work it into every conversation you have, just in case a stranger can get you a gig doing it. And never do anything else, unless you want everyone to think (know) you’re an amateur.

If you happen to love doing more than one thing, it must mean you’ve FAILED at one of them, right? Or the thing you did AFTER the other thing is because no one thought you were any good at it and you gave up.

In 2008, I took a lot of interest in programming WordPress sites and CSS. It fascinated me. So I bought some books, learned it, and did it for a living. It was extremely funny to me that a client once asserted that I couldn’t know anything about audio because I was just “a web design guy.” I didn’t bother correcting him.

Over the years I’ve studied and succeeded in graphic design, music, marketing, advertising sales, writing books, directing videos, editing, producing, photography, web programming, animation… so when someone at a party asks me what I do, I can’t give a simple answer. (If they instead asked me my favorite food, I could at least answer with one word: Burrito.)

I get good at things because I get serious. I honestly don’t think I have much talent, and I beat myself up a lot for not being good at socializing or meeting people. But what I can do every single day is study a subject until I understand it. I buy books, look up the definitions of words I don’t understand, read websites and forums, watch training videos, listen to podcasts, ask advice from experts, and go to stores & seminars where I can experience the subjects up-close. I believe I’m capable of mastering something if I just invest the time.

I master things and move on, then learn how to mix them together.

Frank Zappa called this “The Direction of Many Things.”

I have no idea what I’ll be doing in a year or five years. Hopefully something where I can keep doing many things in parallel and series, because I enjoy it.

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How To Get 1,000,000 Hits On Your Website

Here are seven simple steps, because I like prime numbers. Do them in exactly this order:

1.) “Stay home. Read a book.” -Nomeansno.
2.) Post a blog, not about the book, but about your own personality traits. Wonder if everyone will see through it.
3.) Forget about it for 3 years while no one cares.
4.) Overnight, get 23,000+ hits after being reposted on Stumbleupon.
5.) Receive sincere emails every day about how your blog made people cry and changed their lives. Try to keep up, then realize it’s not possible to sustain a genuine tone responding to that many people. Feel guilty, but instead spend your time on making more stuff.
6.) Get reposted on Wired.com and Owl City.
7.) Reach 1,000,000 views as Introversion becomes trendy at Forbes, TED, and Time Magazine.

There you have it. I never expected 10 Myths About Introverts to be looked at a MILLION times. But it’s officially the most popular / famous thing I’ve ever made. At the time I’m writing this, I’m the #3 Google Result for “introverts” — after Wikipedia and About.com.

Pretty impressive these days for something that requires reading.

For the techies:
90% Unique Visitors
Average of 5 Minutes on Page
84% Bounce

Most of those one million views took place between April 2011 and April 2012. Before that, the page was getting under 10 views per day. The biggest day was December 13, 2011: 26,000+ views.

I might seem irreverent about this topic, but it’s because the process of creating and releasing material to the public is absurd. It can’t be taken seriously by an artist. I wrote 10 Myths About Introverts in an afternoon. By comparison, I spent a whole year investing my soul in a fiction book called Cuyahoga! Sometimes people care and sometimes they don’t.

Why?

“We don’t know!” as Jim Rohn once yelled, in his Idaho farm-boy accent.

He also said: “The things that are easy to do, are also easy… not to do.”

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Why You Should Judge Your Own Work

Cuyahoga_Cover

I recently published my first sci-fi short story, called Cuyahoga!

I’d like to share a perfect case of why it’s important to not take any criticism of your work too seriously — whether it’s “positive” or “negative.” Either way, if you base the value of your work on the tastes of others, you’ll definitely be going the wrong way.

This past week, I received two personal emails from creative colleagues — both with extreme responses to my sci-fi writing. I’ve left out their names, but both of them are highly intelligent and successful in their careers. After 20 years of putting stuff out there (since my first demo cassette tape in high school with a photocopied J-card), I’ve experienced it all — love letters, praise, offers for collaboration, insults, death threats, etc. At some point you have to step back and judge your work by your own standards, Howard Roark style.

REVIEW #1

GENIUS.

I read your story. I was stuck to it like glue, laughing out loud unexpectedly, shaking my head in amazement at how your brain works, equal parts envy and pride to be an early reader of this remarkable tale.

Thank you for this gift.

There were so many moments and turns of phrase and ways of thinking / seeing / experiencing in this work, I wanted to jot them down to echo them back to you as examples of some of my very favorites, but I was too engaged to scribble notes. Overall, the story built and enticed and kept me guessing and fretting – is he paranoid and crazy or is he the only one who sees? I like him so much, I don’t want him to be crazy, but if he’s not crazy, the alternative is so depressing. How will he get out of this? Will he ever be understood? And of course, why, why, why? the first and last question asked. Amazing. I was riveted.

One of my favorite chapters was when he sat and engaged with his mom. It felt almost like a new beginning and the poetics and quiet of that chapter took me by surprise, like a moment of sudden meditation while in line at the DMV. I shouldn’t say favorite because the entire narrative engaged me and thrilled me. There was a different energy that infused me with sadness in that chapter and it was beautiful.

Submit. This. To. McSweeny’s.

Keep writing. You have it. No doubt.

REVIEW #2

Carl,

I absolutely hate to write this and I’ve been holding off on it because I don’t know how to say it in kinder words, but I really just couldn’t make it through the first 30 pages of your book. I don’t like the writing style and it feels amateurish. It might not be my kind of book, either, but I felt that I needed to give you my honest criticism here. If you like, I can probably pull some specifics. I haven’t written a review or provided any feedback because I simply lost interest as I read through it.

I generally enjoy science fiction stories, but I don’t read any of the new stuff. I think the most recent sci-fi I’ve read is Michael Crichton’s Sphere. I only get around to reading a few fiction books per year, too.

Nevertheless, let me know if you’d like to discuss it further. I hope the book is successful for you, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to finishing it. I’m quite proud of you for finishing the project and putting so much time and effort into it. And I’m hoping that lots of other readers out there enjoy it immensely.

See? People don’t know what they’re talking about.

Here’s another extreme example:

1.) For nearly THREE YEARS, I’ve worked on a project called The Mysterious Octopus! It’s a Cartoon TV Show concept. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on it so far, and released two versions of it to the public. Very few people have noticed it. I think 17 people like it on Facebook.

2.) I wrote a blog entry called 10 Myths About Introverts. I crapped it out in an afternoon. Out of nowhere, it spread all over the world. It’s now been read by over 750,000 people. I get emails about it every day, telling me how it has changed lives. Therapists and counselors use it during their sessions. I’m still waiting for one of my therapists (yes, I have more than one) to suggest I read it.

It’s insane. So don’t pay attention to how people react (or if they react at all). Don’t second-guess yourself. Just follow your own path, invite others to come along, and make what you want to make. Art Because.

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New, Taller 16:12 Aspect Ratio In Development

John 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”

Dr. Zoltan, creator of the failed syndicated radio show, “Why Are You Asking Me?” has announced that he is developing a new, taller, better video aspect ratio known as 16:12.

“It is better because it is taller than 16:9,” said Dr. Øbelisk, from his top-secret laboratory that orbits the moon.

It is a revolutionary change that will mean more storytelling power for blockbuster directors. Filmmaker Peter Jackson has already planned to shoot both of his upcoming Hobbit feature films using specially-modified prototype cameras, allowing more breathtaking views of epic landscapes and mythical battles.

Some skeptics point out that this discovery will require overhauling every movie theater in the world, raising not only their roofs but ticket prices.

Jeff Blake, President of Sony Pictures, in an interview at USC Film School last week, remarked: “Moviegoers are not ready for movies that are taller. Hell, we only made them wider a few years ago. Why confuse everyone?” However, both Regal and AMC chains are already planning to modify up to 90% of their movie screens by 2011 to accommodate this newly discovered technology.

George Lucas has reportedly pre-ordered a dozen upgraded cameras for Industrial Light & Magic. “Imagine how the original Star Wars Trilogy would look in this new, expanded aspect ratio. Wow.”

For more information on 16:12, visit Dr. Zoltan’s website.

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Ween Signed To Elektra Records!

“One day, a box of Pure Guava discs shows up from Elektra, and I started crying, because I was a music junkie and now we were on the same label as The Doors. Here was this record that we recorded in our apartment for not even two dollars — we didn’t even buy new tape, just taped over demo tapes bands gave us on the road — and it’s on Elektra.”

-Dean Ween, Magnet Magazine Interview, August 2000

P.S. For a full-length, incredible, amazing, fantastic interview by none other than Southwest Florida’s Ed Furniture (who still hasn’t paid his Venice, Florida office phone bill), read it.

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Study: Colored Beams Of Energy From Your Hands Can Heal You

Professor and NIH director Joie P. Jones (University of California, Irvine) has released a stunning video proving that colored beams of energy from your hands can indeed heal you. Known as, “Pranic Healing,” this discovery (which the Chinese have been practicing for thousands of years) may change the way that the world perceives and practices medicine forever. If we are able to master this art, we will no longer need to visit a doctor’s office full of advertisements for mass-produced, toxic chemicals — all of the healing powers will be present within our very hands, with no exponential, self-perpetuating side-effects. Is Western Medicine actually the pseudo-science holding us hostage? Find out for yourself!

Visit The Society for Scientific Exploration for more information on this incredible discovery!

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Musical Entertainers Vs. Musical Scientists

While it is true that, “not all things should be measured,” let us turn our attention to the distinction between Musical Entertainers and Musical Scientists. 

In one group, we have Andrew WK, David Lee Roth, and Gwar, to name a few polarizing examples. These are humans who dress up in costumes and jump around on a stage, attracting attention to their appearance. They engage the audience with their amusing antics. Most rock bands are more tame versions of this category, with varying levels of subtlety. Every performance group from Paramore to My Chemical Romance to Katy Perry is a variation of this same idea. In an instant, the listener can hum along and tap his / her foot, and much of the focus is on the personality and appearance of the performer. The music is a cheap jingle to advertise for the obnoxious dancing, which is only another superficial jingle to decorate and disguise the exchange of Wealth.

In the second group, we have master craftsmen like Morgan Agren, Marco Minnemann, and Virgil Donati. (Is it a coincidence that these are all drummers? The answer is no, as we shall see in the next paragraph.) These are advanced musicians who dedicate themselves to discovering new musical ideas and performing at a level that most non-musicians are unable to comprehend. As with other sciences, their discipline is not focused on serving an audience. The majority of their time is well-spent on the puzzling and creative world of their musical imaginations — finding new tricks, new combinations of sounds, and new ways to perform challenging patterns. Should other scientists be seduced to “dumb themselves down” for the sake of earning a living on stage? Or should they be free to study high-level theories and seek esoteric knowledge? How important is invention?

Not important enough, these days. 

An easy way to determine whether a particular individual is a Musical Entertainer or a Musical Scientist is to ask yourself, “Is the person standing up or sitting down while playing?” Perhaps if all musicians were permitted to sit down as rock drummers and classical musicians are, the science of music would advance exponentially.

Dr. Zoltan understands the internet almost as well as Seth Godin does. Visit www.drzoltan.com to be made into a really smart human.

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David Coverdale Is Taking Some Time Off Soon

In this lucid 1990 interview with David Coverdale of Whitesnake, it is announced that he is going to be taking some time off soon.

To find out more about the importance of Time, visit www.drzoltan.com.

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Lakers Vs. Dragonforce

Dr. Zoltan was prevented from escaping a fancy Hollywood bowling alley for several hours last night, while on a routine anti-social data-gathering mission. There, he discovered many large projection screens at the end of the lanes — through which, several youth-creatures were admitting as legal and acceptable data to stream directly into their subconscious minds. On one screen, The L.A. Lakers. On another, the rock band, Dragonforce. Since Dr. Zoltan was in robot configuration and unable to properly have and be able to use a bowling ball, he allowed sports and rock music to compete for his attention. Here are his findings:

• Dragonforce required fancy camera angles, video effects, and wind-fans blowing their hair around in order to impress the viewer — their primary discipline (music) does not stand on its own.
• The Lakers do not require special effects. Their abilities are judged objectively, in real time, according to statistics.
• Dragonforce can pretend to be “amazing.”
• The Lakers do not have to pretend.

Ask yourself: Is it art or entertainment?

The Winners: The Los Angeles Lakers! True artists of the impossible!

The above content contained therein and herein is made public by Dr. Zoltan and must be read with scrutiny by the intended recipient in perpetuity throughout the universe. This blog entry is not meta-philosophical advice or an investment recommendation and should not be construed as such.

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Neal Stephenson: "Why I Am A Bad Correspondent"

The following was scraped from Neal Stephenson’s esoteric homemade website. Unfortunately, it was removed from his official pop-culture domain in favor of advertisements for his books. In Dr. Zoltan’s ironic opinion, this letter is much more important than his fiction writing.

Writers who do not make themselves totally available to everyone, all the time, are frequently tagged with the “recluse” label. While I do not consider myself a recluse, I have found it necessary to place some limits on my direct interactions with individual readers. These limits most often come into play when people send me letters or e-mail, and also when I am invited to speak publicly. This document is a sort of form letter explaining why I am the way I am.

When I read a novel that I really like, I feel as if I am in direct, personal communication with the author. I feel as if the author and I are on the same wavelength mentally, that we have a lot in common with each other, and that we could have an interesting conversation, or even a friendship, if the circumstances permitted it. When the novel comes to an end, I feel a certain letdown, a loss of contact. It is natural to want to recapture that feeling by reading other works by the same author, or by corresponding with him/her directly.

All of this seems perfectly reasonable—I should know, since I have had these feelings myself! But it turns out to be a bad idea. To begin with, a novel has roughly the same relationship to a conversation with the author, as a movie does to the actors in it. A movie represents many person-years of work distilled into two hours, and so everything sounds and looks perfect. But if you have ever met a movie actor in person, you know that they are not quite as dazzling and witty (or as tall) as the figures they play in movies. This seems obvious but it always comes as a bit of a letdown anyway.

Likewise, a novel represents years of hard work distilled into a few hundred pages, with all (or at least most) of the bad ideas cut out and thrown away, and the good ideas polished and refined as much as possible. Interacting with an author in person is nothing like reading his novels. Just about everyone who gets an opportunity to meet with an author in person ends up feeling mildly let down, and in some cases, grievously disappointed.

Authors are participants in a kind of colloquy that joins together all literate persons, and so it seems only reasonable that they should from time to time stop writing fiction for a few hours or days, and attend public events, such as conventions, signings, panels, seminars, etc., where they should exchange ideas with other authors and with other members of society. Therefore, authors such as myself frequently receive invitations to do exactly that.

Letters or e-mail from readers, and invitations to speak in public, might seem like very different things. In fact they are points on a common continuum; they have more in common than is obvious at first. The e-mail message from the reader, and the invitation to speak at a conference, are both requests (in most cases, polite and absolutely reasonable requests) for the author to interact directly with readers.

Normally, my only interaction with readers is to go to a Fedex drop box every couple of years and throw in the manuscript of a completed novel. It seems reasonable enough to ask for a little bit more than that! After all, the time commitment is very small: a few minutes tapping out an e-mail message, or a day trip to a conference to speak.

For some authors, this works, but in my case, it doesn’t. There is little to nothing that I can offer readers above and beyond what appears in my published writings. It follows that I should devote all my efforts to writing more material for publication, rather than spending a few minutes here, a day there, answering e-mails or going to conferences.

Writing novels is hard, and requires vast, unbroken slabs of time. Four quiet hours is a resource that I can put to good use. Two slabs of time, each two hours long, might add up to the same four hours, but are not nearly as productive as an unbroken four. If I know that I am going to be interrupted, I can’t concentrate, and if I suspect that I might be interrupted, I can’t do anything at all. Likewise, several consecutive days with four-hour time-slabs in them give me a stretch of time in which I can write a decent book chapter, but the same number of hours spread out across a few weeks, with interruptions in between them, are nearly useless.

The productivity equation is a non-linear one, in other words. This accounts for why I am a bad correspondent and why I very rarely accept speaking engagements. If I organize my life in such a way that I get lots of long, consecutive, uninterrupted time-chunks, I can write novels. But as those chunks get separated and fragmented, my productivity as a novelist drops spectacularly. What replaces it? Instead of a novel that will be around for a long time, and that will, with luck, be read by many people, there is a bunch of e-mail messages that I have sent out to individual persons, and a few speeches given at various conferences.

That is not such a terrible outcome, but neither is it an especially good outcome. The quality of my e-mails and public speaking is, in my view, nowhere near that of my novels. So for me it comes down to the following choice: I can distribute material of bad-to-mediocre quality to a small number of people, or I can distribute material of higher quality to more people. But I can’t do both; the first one obliterates the second.

Another factor in this choice is that writing fiction every day seems to be an essential component in my sustaining good mental health. If I get blocked from writing fiction, I rapidly become depressed, and extremely unpleasant to be around. As long as I keep writing it, though, I am fit to be around other people. So all of the incentives point in the direction of devoting all available hours to fiction writing.

I am not proud of the fact that some of my e-mail goes unanswered as a result. It is never my intention to be rude or to give well-meaning readers the cold shoulder. If I were a commercial best-seller, I would have enough money to hire a staff to look after my correspondence. As it is, my books are bought by enough people to provide me with a sort of middle-class lifestyle, but not enough to hire employees, and so I am faced with a stark choice between being a bad correspondent and being a good novelist. I am trying to be a good novelist, and hoping that people will forgive me for being a bad correspondent.

Dr. Zoltan is now obsessed with Logical Fallacies. Visit http://www.drzoltan.com/blog to find out more.

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