First The Why, Now The How: 25 Ways To Keep Making Stuff


And now, a more practical followup to last week’s post / tweet thread — note that this post, like last week’s, started on Twitter, chockablock with many animated GIFs. So if that’s a thing you want to behold, you gotta check it out over yonder Twitter hills.

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IN THIS WACK-ASS YEAR OF 2018…

IN THIS AGE OF AEROSOLIZED FASCISM THAT WE ARE ALL HUFFING…

IN THIS INGLORIOUS CYCLE OF HORSESHIT NEWS FIREHOSED INTO YOUR FACEHOLES…

Not why, but HOW do we keep on Making Cool Stuff?

1. WRITE YOUR ANGER. SING YOUR RESISTANCE. PAINT YOUR PANTS-CRAPPING RAGE wait okay maybe less evocative than “pants-crapping,” but you get my point. Shove your feelings not into a box, but into the work. Where it can be seen.

2. Stop poking the broken tooth that is BAD NEWS. Yep, yes, you need to be aware of all the shitnanigans going on in the world, but you also don’t have to swim in it. Get clear of it. Create first, dunk your head in the HELL TOILET later.

3. Learn to FORGIVE YOUR OWN ASS. Forgiveness starts at home. You might create less in this turbid, turbulent era, and that’s okay. Keep moving forward. Embrace momentum. Sometimes it’s a game of inches, not miles.

4. Cleave to routine! When in doubt, routine for me is like a ladder. I can plant my feet and grab a rung and cling there as the world churns around me. And when I find a calm moment, I can climb up, one fucking rung at a time.

5. If you’re starting to figure out that SELF-CARE is a theme here, that’s because it is. Another method of self-care? Eating right. Sure, sometimes you want to die inside a gallon of ice cream, but a lot of the time, try to eat healthily. Healthy body, healthy mind, healthy output of work.

6. Also though it’s okay to eat the fucking ice cream once in a while because the world is cuckoo bananapants and if you’re happy, it’ll be easier to MAKE COOL STUFF.

7. Exercise. I’m not saying you need to be one of those ULTRAMARATHONERS whose nipples are flensed into little bloody quarters – but get that blood moving. Blood carries ideas from your heart to your brain to your fingers. HASHTAG SCIENCE.

8. Also important to practice care for others. Do well by the world. You might feel your work is a distraction (it isn’t!) but you can assuage it by taking positive steps: donate to charity! Food kitchen work! Work for a political campaign!

9. Read history. It helps. It’s not that the arc of history bends toward justice, necessarily – but humans have a history of forcibly bending it back toward justice when they decide to. Bonus: history is instructive for art and writing. History is a story!

10. Have a secondary hobby. Something that has no pressure associated with it. Something that is not current events-related. Also not related to your other STUFF-MAKING. Photography! Robotics! Interpretive dance! Heinous occult summonings! Be distracted! Work new intellectual muscles.

11. Be optimistic. This might be the hardest thing on this list. It may cause your sphincter to clench hard enough your butthole could snap a broomstick. But optimism is resistance. Especially optimism where you are engaged in enforcing it upon the world.

12. Also, be advised: this current kidney-stab bad news era is likely to trigger all kinds of anxiety and depression. It’s super-hard, but forgive yourself for that, and try to find treatment to address it. It’s not about “fixing” it – but it’ll be easier to make stuff if you’re working on it.

13. Consume art in greater quantities than before. UP YOUR INTAKE OF CREATIVE GOODNESS. In every goddamn direction you can find. Guzzle it! Gorge yourself upon it! Doesn’t have to be the same kinda stuff you make – and better if it’s unrelated to current events.

14. Travel. Anywhere. Seriously, anywhere. Two towns over. One state up. Other side of the country. A subterranean villain’s lair in New Zealand. Whatever. It opens your brain, and lets you escape, and lets you see how other people live.

15. Meet other artists. Online if you must, in meatspace if you can. (Mmm. Meatspace. Also: meetspace?) It’s good to find other likeminded weirdos to remind you: you’re not alone; this shit really isn’t normal; making stuff is cool and also hard.

16. Go to a bookstore. Even if you’re not a writer, just go to a bookstore. Or a library. SHUT UP THOSE PLACES ARE SACRED PLACES AND BOOKSELLERS AND LIBRARIANS ARE MAGICAL IMAGINATION SHEPHERDS.

17. Enjoy nature. It has nothing to do with creativity or making stuff, but it can be reinvigorating. Go look at a fucking bird. Smell a tree. Get out of your house and your head.

18. Make stuff first. Look upon the world second. This will be different for everyone, so YMMV, but for me, it helps to devote time to making stuff BEFORE I go swimming in the Turd River that is the Trump Era.

19. Also at least once per day, yell FUCK TRUMP at an ugly sock. It doesn’t really help you make stuff, but it’ll feel better. Feel free to make up new insults for him. F’rex: YOU OLEAGINOUS SACK OF RANCID RACIST MONKEY LARD. See? Creativity!

20. listen, kid, have you tried coffee

21. listen, kid, have you tried various unguents and balms and magical greases, I got a guy who will get you some enchanted elk bezoar, or a wizard-toe, or even just some really high-quality lavender hand lotion

22. Repeat after me: it’s not your job to fix it, shit’s been broken before and shit’ll get broken again, art still needs arting, stories need telling, stuff needs making.

23. Meditation. Therapy. Podcasts. ASMR. CBD Oil. Seriously, find something that works to just chill you the fuck out for a little while every day. Code it into your daily programming.

24. Remember that whatever you’re making will make The Worst People mad, and that is precious fuel, indeed. YOU’RE LIKE A CREATIVE VIGILANTE

25. Try to help other people make stuff, because helping other people make stuff helps you make stuff too.

And that’s it.

Buy my books or I die in a lightless oubliette of my own making.

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DAMN FINE STORY: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative

What do Luke Skywalker, John McClane, and a lonely dog on Ho’okipa Beach have in common? Simply put, we care about them.

Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. It’s making your audience feel the tension and emotion of a situation right alongside your protagonist. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens.

Whether you’re writing a novel, screenplay, video game, or comic, this funny and informative guide is chock-full of examples about the art and craft of storytelling–and how to write a damn fine story of your own.

Indiebound / Amazon / B&N


17 responses to “First The Why, Now The How: 25 Ways To Keep Making Stuff”

  1. Finished Damn Fine Story…again. But, yeah, my making stuff has gone down a hole of irretrievability (is that a word? Is now) as I exhort my CH to get his fuckin’ passport so we can bail if we need to (can’t. Kitties to care for) and he persists in asking when I’m going to finish my damn book (actually that was in a dream but shows what a whirl of crud my brain is in).

    All of which was just meant to say “thanks.”

  2. Pursuant to #10: Don’t monetize that secondary hobby. This is difficult for me because I don’t know how to justify “wasting” time on something that doesn’t even pay for itself, but… uh… whaddya call it… “FUN” is apparently crucial for mental health, and turning everything into a side hustle ain’t it.

    • “Don’t monetize that secondary hobby.” YES!!! That’s why, when someone tells me I need to sell my photography, I just can’t. I’ll give it away before I monetize it because I NEED that not-for-money creative outlet since writing books is now my primary source of income.

  3. I hated history at school, but am now devouring as much as I can – the difficulty being that history is written by historians, and they often have their own slant on things, and it’s hard to know if what I’m reading is…wait for it…FAKE NEWS! But I’m getting more and more into finding out how we got where we are. And hobbies? Oh yes! Photography is my ‘flow’ state. Yoga is my other ‘flow’ state, but I’m lazy about that, I have to be honest. Fuck Trump is something I yell about 20 times a day, to be honest. And I have reserved a word for him that I usually only utter about once a year. But he deserves it. That word begins with ‘c’ and it’s not Christmas.

  4. The world needs “LIBRARIANS ARE MAGICAL IMAGINATION SHEPHERDS” coffee cups. Seriously. My life hero is the bookmobile librarian who handed me Clark and Heinlein books and told my mom those would keep me busy for a while (little did she know…).

  5. Once again, your writing is right on pulse with what is going on in my head. Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea to return to the World of News, after a long holiday weekend full of family obligations and food poisoning. So I watched an educational comedy show, a news program and husband even shoved some super technical politcal blog by some rando in my face, which I still won’t pretend to understand.

    Cue an entire night of nightmares full of guns, racism and violence. And I’m fucking dead to the world all over again. Not quite as bad as when I had food poisoning, but close. Close, but in a different way. I was able to half edit two articles, and that’s down from yesterday’s productivity fest of drafting out three.

    If there’s a way to balance being informed with creativity, I have yet to find it. It’s the dreams. It’s always the fucking dreams. And then the extreme tiredness the next day.

    I’m happiest the days I don’t and can’t care. I vote and do what I can, but the shit show is in the hands of the newly democratic House, now. Their job, not mine.

  6. On behalf of the all the planning departments of the local councils of New Zealand, I would just like to point out that no building consents have at any time been granted for any subterranean villain’s lair whatsoever, and any information you may have received otherwise is purely hearsay. However, I do have a particularly nasty crawlspace under my house if anyone wants to rent it for the night. There’s even a mummified cat…

  7. 2) I heard this phrased once as “don’t drink the sea-water.” It stuck with me.

    4) “Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.” W H Auden. Also works for non-men!

    9) “It’s not that the arc of history bends toward justice, necessarily – but humans have a history of forcibly bending it back toward justice when they decide to.” Well said!

    10) Granny squares should come with an addiction warning. Just a couple of weeks and I’m nearly at a one-a-day habit.

    11) Some people say that positive endings are morally irresponsible. Presumably they prefer ruin, desolation and despair. Personally, I consider my mission as a writer to be the production of (figurative & literal) cups of tea: warm, heartening and restorative.

    14) “Travel. Anywhere… A subterranean villain’s lair in New Zealand.” The spiritual inversion of a hobbit hole? Haven’t spotted one yet but I’ll keep my eyes peeled. Actually, there’s a hobbit hole in the grounds of a nearby school, but it’s stocked with books, so I’m guessing it’s probably not too villainous.
    Side note: the best thing about an underground lair is that you don’t have to worry about how to fit your bookcases in around the windows.

  8. Thank you so much for these last two posts. I’m in the middle of a round of therapy that is completely re-writing how I understand my past and it’s full of grief and it hurts, and the world is a dumpster fire of poo, and I just really really needed this right now. I passed it on to a couple of friends, as well. I think they need it, too.

  9. Oh Chuck, it’s like you opened the top of my brain and saw all the crap swirling around in there. Thank you so much for this list! I intend to print it out and pin it somewhere I can see it, and that will be my second Christmas present to Writer-me. (My first is ‘Damn Fine Story.’)

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