Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

4/7/2017

Blog Posts

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Fun,Geek Work,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

My creative blog posting well is dry.

So dry.
Seriously, if you count my original blog, I have been doing this blogging nonsense for almost 17 years. My first blog post went live May 4th, 2000. How crazy is that?  Back then, I hand coded every page, making the HTML myself with Microsoft Notepad.  Then, I installed Moveable Type.  That was followed by a definite upgrade to WordPress during the great licensing debacle of 2004.  So, yes, I’ve been using WordPress since version 1.2  A lot has changed since then, but I can tell you one thing that hasn’t; the terrible struggle to create new and interesting content.
My wife, The Organizing Decorator, and I were talking about this very thing recently.  She just finished moving her site to her own hosting and content management system, so that I wasn’t responsible for her site as well as all of mine, and she told me how she need to stop tweaking and tampering with it.  My response was that it was a lot easier to mess with formatting than it was to actually create content.  And, after 17 years, I’m really feeling tapped out.

So, what’s my response?  To share with you two links about generating content!
First, a post from the very brainy and entrepreneurial Growth Lab titled How to find 20+ blog ideas your audience can’t wait to read.  It’s a process, but it’s a process that will help you generate content tailored to your blog, brand, or business.
The other is How To Think Outside The Box with 200+ writing prompts by CoSchedule.  And, it’s just what it sounds like, a list of prompts with blanks to get you started on a blog post.  They’re pretty generic, but they may not all be applicable to your chosen subject matter.

Well, there you have it.  Two links that are free and useful, if not exactly “fun” for non-bloggers or content producers.
Maybe I’ll have something better for you next week.
Maybe not.  Only time will tell.

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

3/17/2017

Writing Habit Help

Filed under: Art,Fun,Stimulus and Production — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I wish I hadn’t gotten out of the habit of writing every day.

But, well, life happened. I got a job which became a career which quickly became a life that included responsibilities like car payments and mortgage payments and health insurance. Not to mention a wife and kid, followed by a divorce, health problems and the bills that come with it, and a new wife and all that entails. At some point in there, there just wasn’t time for writing. Now, I’ve lost the habit of it. My schedule revolves around trying to work off the extra weight I put on eating all the delicious food my blushing bride makes me and trying to get to work on time.
Yes, I do manage to write these weekly notes with a few free links in them, but, honestly, that’s not really writing. Not the way I mean it.
But, if you’re like me and you harbor that hard-to-kill dream of one day writing again, this week’s links are for you, starting with Get Back Into Writing by a blogger who calls herself Verily Mary. I haven’t read the other resources she promised, but you may find her encouraging words, well, encouraging. One thing that might help is knowing that if you write 750 words per day, you’ll have written about three pages worth of whatever you’re working on. And, if you need help staying motivated to do that, you can try using the on-line app 750 Words. It’s based on some ideas found in The Artist’s Way and will give you stats on your writing which you may, or may not, find inspiring. And, everything you write, they claim, will stay private.
Finally, if you do get a manuscript produced, Lara Willard has some great advice on formatting your manuscript for submittal in the modern world.

Beyond that, there’s no substitute for sitting down and doing the work. Maybe one day I can get back to that. Knowing that my blushing bride supports me will help, for sure, but she can’t do the work for me. I have ideas, one day maybe my life will slow down enough that I can share them.
Until then, keep coming back here for more of whatever this is!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

1/6/2017

Daily Photography

Filed under: Art,Fun,On Creativity,Photography,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

I encourage you to indulge in your hobby daily.

My favorite hobby is photography.
I’ve wanted to learn photography since I was in high school, but, until the birth of digital photography, it always felt beyond my reach.  I got interested again because, about ten years ago, someone asked me what I liked to do for fun.  At the time, I was stymied for an answer.  My shock at not having a hobby led me to take a good portion of my savings at the time and buy my first DSLR.  That led me to a Flickr account and some fooling around.  That led me to doing the 365 Project, just as a way to learn my camera.  And, I can tell you, shooting a self-portrait every day for a year straight was an amazing experience.  I’m not sure that I’d go so far as to say it was “life changing”, but it sure did make me a lot more comfortable with my camera.
If you’re one of the lucky people who got a new camera for Christmas this year, you may be looking for a project to get your feet wet.  I highly recommend some kind of 365-day project.  If the idea of a self-portrait every day is too much, why not take a look at the 365 Days of Shooting Prompts Challenge at Photoblog?  They have a shooting prompt for every day of the calendar year in 2017, all in a downloadable calendar.  I know this is posting on the 6th, but you can easily catch up, or just go until January 6th, 2018!
I’m firmly convinced that your photography will improve with shooting every day, whether you use a professional-grade DSLR or the camera on your smart phone.  What do you have to lose?

Incidentally, I think photography is going to be my theme this month.  Not everything will be entirely free, but I’ll probably include some links to free tutorials for paid software, so it’ll be pretty close.
Enjoy and have a great 2017!

This post originally appeared on Use Your Words.

11/18/2016

The Inevitable Writer’s Block

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,Stimulus and Production,Truth and Consequences — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this month, you should be about two thirds done with your novel.

If you’re not, don’t worry about it! And, either way, it seems like a good week to talk about writer’s block.
Now, assuming that you’ve been writing this whole time, the most common forms of writer’s block, namely not having an idea and not using the habit of writing to actually put words on the page, are not your problem. Maybe, you’ve gotten somewhere in the middle and your genius story seems to have stalled. Or, maybe you got to a blind alley and realized that your story took a wrong turn 1,500 words ago. It happens.
Either way, try to remember this is all about getting the words out and on paper. And, if that’s not enough to get you going again, head over to Gizmodo and check out their advice on The 10 Types of Writer’s Block and How To Overcome Them. Not all of it will apply, obviously, but I’d lay odds that at least one of those ten types of writer’s block will at least come close to applying to you. Naturally, I think the advice will help, too. And, in fact, I encourage you to read all the advice, because something that doesn’t seem like it applies to your frustration may end up being what knocks you loose and starts you writing again.

Another helpful resource that can help you get through a block is your fellow NaNoWriMo writers. You can connect with hundreds of people who are also participating in NaNoWriMo in the NaNoWriMo Forums. The people there can be incredibly supportive and helpful and they may need a break from their writing at this point, too.

Again, the most important thing is to get your rough draft out this month. After you get the thing written, you can take a break and come back to edit it into shape. Don’t worry about that now. Just worry about getting your first draft written.
So, go, read as much as you need to to get past your block, then get back to writing!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.

10/28/2016

Actual Writing Tools

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Now, you’ve got your setting, characters and story, so all you have to do is write it. Easy, right?

Okay, maybe not so much, but still totally doable, so don’t despair.
This week I’m going to talk exclusively about tools to do the actual writing with.  There are a lot of fancy software packages for this out there and what you choose to use is a personal choice based on who you are and how you write.  That said, let me share some of the more popular programs and tools to go with them.  First off, I would imagine a majority of people use Microsoft Word, because they have it available to them.  It’s not a bad way to go, actually, because you’re probably already familiar with it via school or work, so it won’t get in the way.  If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format.  If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead.  It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer.  And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo.  And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator.  I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.

For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text.  I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools.  I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs.  I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one.  Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level.  So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers.  Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.

So, now, finally, you should have all the characters, setting, plot ideas and writing tools you need to get started with National Novel Writing Month.

This post originally appeared on The Fantasist’s Scroll.

10/21/2016

Build Your World

Filed under: Fun,Life Goals,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Now you have a story and the characters in it, but what about the rest of your world?

Most people think that only fantasy or science-fiction writers have to create a world for their writing, but even writers who create contemporary stories create their worlds. They just create a fictional world based more closely to our real world, which is pretty subjective in any case.  I’ve been assuming that you are following these posts in order this month, but there’s certainly no reason that you should start with a story and not your world.  I know that I often start with a setting when I’m thinking of stories and, especially when I’m thinking of fantasy stories, a map is often a great place to start.  In fact, in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card writes about starting a novel by essentially doodling a map.  And, thanks to the internet, there are an almost endless number of pages about making maps.  Let’s start with A Guide to RPG Mapmaking.  It’s focused on fantasy role-playing games, but everything in the guides and tutorials are applicable to other kinds of fantasy maps.  And, if you like that, check out Observations of the Fox: Map Tutorials for even more details on creating detailed maps.  Most of the techniques there are pretty applicable to any tools you might use, and there are many to choose from, but if you’re serious about making maps and aren’t a professional artist, I highly recommend ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer.  It’s not incredibly expensive, and there is a bit of a learning curve, but I think it’s worth the investment in time and money for some of the results.  To see what some of those results can be, with practice, as well as Campaign Cartographer specific tutorials, be sure to visit Ralf Schemmann’s site Maps and More.
And, if you just want some inspiration, check out Fantastic Maps or Fantasy Cartography by Sean Macdonald.

Of course, you may not need a map at all, but want to create some other details about your fictional world to make it seem more real.  For that, I humbly submit Fantasist.net’s own World Building resources for your use, which includes, among other things, an on-line Timeline Generator to create a little history that your characters can refer to in conversation.  It also has a link to the incredibly complete Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions by Patricia C. Wrede, who covers pretty much every detail you could ever ask yourself about a fictional world.

As much as I love worldbuilding, in recent years I’ve realized that I can easily get so lost in world and setting creation that I never get around to actually writing fiction!  Don’t fall into that trap!  Make enough world to get your story going and then let the world create itself as you go.  For some more helpful worldbuilding ideas along those lines, take a look at Chuck Wendig’s 25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding.  It’s a very up-to-date approach and I found it quite helpful!

So, now you should have characters, setting and plot nailed down and you can start letting that marinate before actually starting National Novel Writing Month in November.  But, come back next week to see what final tools I have for you before you launch your NaNoWriMo project!

This post originally appeared at The Fantasist’s Scroll.

10/7/2016

Story Ideas

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:05 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Need a NaNoWriMo story idea?

Maybe you don’t. Maybe you’ve been thinking about this for a long time and you’re ready to start writing. If so, you’re golden and this is post is all academic for you. If not, this post is all about helping get you started.
First of all, you have time before everything kicks off, so if you haven’t read it, get No Plot, No Problem, which was written by the creator of NaNoWriMo and serves as a guide for a month-long novel writing experiment. Getting through this book will help you get focused on what kind of fiction you want to write and what you feel makes that genre great.
Secondly, I completely sympathize with you if you’re having a problem nailing down a story idea. When I was in school, my favorite exercises were the creative writing exercises. Why? Because when the teacher gave me a title or a theme for the story, those constraints automatically gave me a direction, a framework on which to build my story. Now, when the story ideas are totally open-ended, I find myself floundering lost in the vast ocean of possibilities. One way to help reduce those endless possibilities is to go back to some external constraints. And, that’s where the internet’s vast collection of random generators comes in handy. Some of those are what I’m actually sharing with you this week, to help you get started.

The first place to check out is the mother-lode of all random generators, Seventh Sanctum. They have a whole section especially devoted to writing. It’s pretty awesome. They have everything from simple story ideas to whole writing exercise challenges to plot twists and a whole lot more besides. They’ve really got your bases covered and I’ll most likely mention them again in this month-long series of posts.
If you’re writing science fiction, you definitely want to check out SciFi Ideas – Ideas and inspiration for science fiction writers. They seriously have the most amazing collection of random generators with a science fiction theme to them.
And, if you want to generate both a book title and section titles to help inspire your science fiction novel and keep you writing, hop over to the Space Adventure Title Generator and you can almost outline your entire book, albiet pretty randomly. Still, having those constraints and guides to keep you moving forward might be just what you need to keep going when the writing gets tough.
Finally, if those aren’t enough, you can check out Fantastist.net’s very own Story Starter random generator, which is based, in part on an exercise from the great book The 29 Most Common Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Judy Delton. If it makes any difference to you, that generator was at one time heavily featured in several grade-school creative writing curriculms. It’s pretty simple, but effective.

I know those links were a little heavy on the science fiction, but that’s just where I am with writing right now. And, the other stuff I’m going to share this month will, I hope, make up for that geeky focus.
Stay tuned!

This post originally appeared at The Fantasist’s Scroll.

9/30/2016

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo

Filed under: Fun,Life Goals,On Creativity,Stimulus and Production,The Tools — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I thought I’d try something new this year; early preparation.

To be clear, though, I’m not going to attempt NaNoWrimo this year, because I’m way too busy right now. However, in previous years, I would often post things to help people who were doing NaNoWriMo during the month of November, when the event occurs and this year, I thought I’d start early to let anyone who was writing get their prep out of the way. So, here in the earliest stages of planning, you hopefully have an idea what you may want to write and, while you’ve been thinking about it for weeks or months, maybe you haven’t captured those thoughts. In the past, I’ve used dozens of notebooks of every shape, size and description to scribble down every stray thought I may have had about whatever project I had in mind. The only problem is, I could never seem to get the ideas all gathered together and into a useful format. That’s where Evernote came in.
I started using Evernote because of the Getting Things Done method for staying organized. It’s a great system and, naturally, it gave me a way to collect all my ideas so I had easy access to them and one tool that people used in the GTD system was, Evernote. (For some more details on that, and a great introduction to the GTD system, check out David Allen’s setup document for Evernote. It’s well worth the $10!)
Once you’ve checked out Evernote, then go read their article Prepare for NaNoWriMo with Evernote. It’s got some great ideas for how to capture your story and character ideas via Evernote, which you can then reference on your writing computer or your smart phone. It’s pretty awesome!
And, if that wasn’t enough, they even have some great creative writing templates you can integrate into your personal creative writing notebook.

Trust me, it’s never to early to start planning and you will not regret using Evernote once you start!
So, let’s gear up for a month’s worth of creative writing resources in preparation for National Novel Writing Month!

This post originally appeared on the Fantasist’s Scroll.

5/6/2016

MFA Quality Ideas

Filed under: Fun,Stimulus and Production,The Tools,Uncategorized — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

Well, maybe not quite, but, still, writing ideas.

I know my posts probably seem a little random these days, but that’s because I have a lot going on.  For instance, I’m trying to adjust my personal schedule to get up early enough that I can spend a little time writing in the morning before going to my day job.  If, and this apparently is a big if, I could get up just a few minutes earlier, I should be able to squeeze in as much as 45 minutes of writing.  One day.
Of course, the other half of that is writer’s block.  Which, honestly, I don’t have, really.  What I have is fear combined with a lack of practice and strong enough desire.  Unfortunately, it’s not a new problem.  One way I’ve tried to combat that over the years has been writing exercises.  And, since I’ve tried so many over the years, a lot of them get stale after a bit, which leads me to favor the random idea generators or random plot generators.
Since it’s Friday, I thought I’d share my most recent discovery; the DIY MFA Writer Igniter. It gives you a randomly selected character, plot, prop and setting to, hopefully, inspire you to write.  Give it a try!

And, while you’re on the site, check out their other features, too.  Some of the articles are pretty good.
Either way, enjoy your weekend!

This post originally appeared at Use Your Words.


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