Draft

In a Lithub article about writing and the meanings of the problems that a writer might have with their drafts, I came across one problem that I often find myself facing — the use of parentheses. 

Helen Betya Rubenstein writes in the article that this might indicate an attempt to shift gears, but not knowing how. 

“Or, there’s a second voice, subterranean, a bit repressed, that is trying to speak out.”

In the article’s introduction, Rubenstein suggests that our typical response to writing that “resists us” is “more force, pushing it to bend to our will”.

“We ask a friend to tell us which “darlings” to murder. We go through with a red pencil, slashing words.”

She suggests that instead of seeing these early drafts as “adversaries to be wrestled into submission”, we see them as “reflective of the unspoken needs and confusions of our writing selves”. 

Perhaps, she says, these problems in our drafts are “capable of leading us deeper into the work”. 

So back to my problem of always wanting to use parentheses, the indication that there may be an “other” voice in me trying to have its say. Or perhaps that I am always on multiple trains of thought. 

She suggests trying to “give the other voice more space”. 

But as I think about all her suggestions for all the other typical problems, I wonder if it’s not just that other voice I have to make room for. 

Perhaps I need to make room for my entire Self. To finally let more of it loose. 

Oblivion

Spotify recently released its 2019 Wrapped and it was fun to see what data the app had picked up about my listening habits. My artist of the decade was Taylor Swift. Obviously. 

But it also made me think about the December 6th issue of the Daily Stoic newsletter, which asked to do “an interesting exercise”. 

“Pull up a Spotify playlist for hits from the ’90s. Or turn on a satellite radio station built around that time.”

See how many of the songs you recognise. Then go further back. Depending on your age, at some point, there will be some hit songs of that era that you would have never heard of. 

“It’s a reminder of how ephemeral we all are. How fleeting fame and life is,” goes the newsletter.

“On a long enough timeline, we are all blips” is the title of the newsletter. A reminder that everything we do and everything we are may seem important in the now, but wait long enough and we become nothing

The Stoic lesson in this is that in the grand scheme of things, we are not as important as we think we are. So we must take care not to be overly proud. 

And we must remember what our priorities are. 

“If all fame is fleeting, if even the most accomplished and most influential—the writers of the biggest hits and the owners of the greatest songs of their time—are eventually forgotten, why chase it?” 

Why let things affect us too much?

Sketch

I’ve been meaning to improve my visual skills a little more this year but somehow found myself putting it off because 1) I told myself that I didn’t have time and 2) I wasn’t good at it anyway. Perhaps the real reason was that I hadn’t identified why

Why did I want to practice sketching? Why did I want to practice taking better photos? None of the reasons I gave seemed important enough.

According to this blog post on Marvel (the prototyping tool), sketching is a good way to refine your thinking and communicate your ideas. 

Although I still believe that all ideas begin with words, some things are just better communicated with visuals, like website mockups or mobile app user flows. 

Like Jon Robinson (the writer of this article), I like starting with pen and paper. Getting those initial drawings down on paper helps me to get the structure of it figured out before I start designing with software. 

It helps me save time — because I would know what assets I need before I even open a new file in Sketch or Figma. 

“There’s no tool more adept at creative output than the human brain and body,” writes Robinson. 

He admits that we do “rely on digital software for the final execution of design ideas” but software doesn’t allow for “quick iteration and exploration” in the same way that sketching by hand does. 

Perhaps exploration’s a good enough reason for me. 

Low ABV

Today, I attended a masterclass on low ABV cocktails. These cocktails typically have lower alcoholic strength by volume — between 0.5-1.2%. 

In the past, I would have wondered “what’s the point?” but after working at the bar for a while now (and drinking far more in volume that I’ve ever had), I realise that there are times when I just want something with a little kick that I can drink all night. 

And it’s something that other consumers want as well. According to Ray Letoa, House of Angostura’s Global Brand Ambassador, one of 2019’s macro trends included low and no ABV drinks. 

Although consumers want no-alcohol beverages, they don’t want to be drinking just “mocktails”. Modern consumers are looking for non-alcoholic drinks that have the same level of complexity and sophistication as cocktails. 

I’ve been curious about the sober curious movement for some time and exploring the idea of using other active ingredients to create a high, without alcohol. 

But one of the things I’d like to identify is the why. Why do people want zero alcohol or low alcohol drinks? Why don’t they just opt for juice instead? Or herbal tea? Or the 1001 other non-alcoholic drinks in existence? 

Figuring this out will put me in a better position to develop drinks that these consumers would enjoy. 

So if you have two cents to share, feel free to drop me a line.

Fake

I recently signed up for an online course called Hidden Facts: Creative Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Facts. The additional resources provided as part of the reading for the course included six links, three of which were about fake news. 

In 2017, Professor Charlie Beckett wrote that fake news may have been “the best thing that’s happened to journalism”. 

Like how Ryan Holiday says that “the obstacle is the way”, Beckett saw the fake news obstacle as an opportunity for quality journalism to set itself apart.

“It gives mainstream quality journalism the opportunity to show that it has value based on expertise, ethics, engagement and experience,” Beckett wrote.

During my time as a journalist, there were times when I did feel like we’d become too complacent. We expected to be believed. The emergence of fake news was a “wake up call”, wrote Beckett. 

“To be more transparent, relevant, and to add value to people’s lives.”

He also saw it as an opportunity for the development of new business models like fact checking and myth busting. 

And he’s right. In the last couple of years, I’ve seen quite a number of pieces and courses about how to fact-check, how to spot fakes. There have been more regulations and tools and policies emerging. There’s been more emphasis on data-driven journalism. 

Perhaps journalism is more antifragile than we realise.

Bait

I’ve been reading the winning short stories of the Mogford Prize for food & drink writing and found myself especially drawn to Bait

It’s a story we all probably know, but we don’t discover this until the end. Instead, we are treated to a delightful description of a mother preparing a scrumptious meal. 

She starts her work at five in the morning, with a batch of biscuits. Then, as prepares a whole spread of delicious goodies — including a magnificent cake — we are given a look into her mind. 

What we find there is both chilling, yet enigmatic. 

While I finished the story with a sense that it was complete, I also felt like I wanted to know more. Not about what happens next, but about what happened before. 

I wanted to know more about this mother, this person, and how she came to be. 

This is why I still read fiction — it has a kind of power over me. It takes me over and sweeps me up into other worlds, into other lives. 

One question I find myself thinking about is this: does fiction need to be justified? 

Why all the articles about how reading fiction improves social skills? Does fiction really need to have some kind of real-world productive purpose for it to be valuable? 

Can’t it just be enjoyed?

Gratitude

A few days ago, I wrote about the guilt I felt over not being grateful enough “for all the other positive things in my life”. 

But according to the Nov 28 issue of the Daily Stoic newsletter, stoics practice a more “inclusive and counterintuitive” form of gratitude. Instead of just being grateful for just the good things in life, they practice gratefulness for life itself. 

“Convince yourself that everything is the gift of the gods… that things are good and always will be,” said Marcus Aurelius. 

Could I find a way to convince myself to be grateful even for the periods of melancholy? Can I find it in myself to show gratitude for the heart-racing, finger-numbing anxiety I experience? 

According to the stoics, it’s possible. Even if it isn’t easy. 

The newsletter article reiterates that “if we can zoom out for that more complete view, understanding and appreciation can emerge.” 

The fact that I am still alive is something to be grateful for, even if it doesn’t always feel like a good thing in the moment. It’s still something that my future self will likely be happy about. (Perhaps I can implement “future gratefulness”.) 

The other thing that the Daily Stoic mentions is that “everything that has happened and is happening is bringing you to where you are”. 

All of our experiences contribute to making us into the people we are and will become.