Reflection Writing

NaNoWriMo 2022 Days 4 & 5

A tough couple days. Wrote about 45 minutes yesterday and quit with a headache, then our power went out until 2 today. My headache finally went away after dinner tonight, but I wanted to finish watching the movie I started last night that got cut off by the power outage 😂 I finally dragged myself to the computer around 10pm, and once I was there cranked out three pomodoros pretty easily.

I used to be big on pomodoros but have been more focused on longer work blocks recently, since Cave Day hosts 45-50ish minute sessions. They worked really well for me today so I’m going to try them out more when I need to write on my own. Instead of an online timer, I used a Time Timer, which I am liking for everything I try it for. I used to use an hourglass but I think I like the timer style better.

Still chugging my way through my heroine’s second misbelief scene: essentially a way for me to put her misbelief in her own mouth and see how it’s shaping her decisions. Really coming together today — and helping me see where I haven’t pushed her problems far enough. Somewhat silly problem: I don’t like the playlist I put together for my heroine 😂 I created a new one and I’m copying the tracks I like for her — and that I like listening to — into it.


Share your processes

Watched How An Algorithm Could Have Stopped The Nuclear Arms Race by Geoff Barrett from

The Fast Fourier Transform is used everywhere but it has a fascinating origin story that could have ended the nuclear arms race.

Someone discovered this important technique 150(ish?) years before it was published — but the only place the scientist included it was in their “collected works vol 3,” in Latin, so basically no one knew about it.

You never know when the “quick trick” you’ve figured out could help someone else have a breakthrough 🤷‍♀️

Learning Writing

SFF writing critique method

Liked The Ghost of Workshops Past: How Communism, Conservatism, and the Cold War Still Mold Our Paths Into SFF Writing by an author (

In 2016, Neil Gaiman tweeted: “If you want to be a writer, you want to go to Clarion, NEED to go to Clarion.”

The tweet got significant pushback, with replies calling it “crushing”, “hurtful”, and “cruel”, including from other professionals. Eight hours later, Gaiman clarified: “Obviously you don’t actually need to go to Clarion/Clarion West to be a writer.”

Both [Matthew Salesses and Felicia Rose Chavez] illustrated ways this type of critique can wreck writers who come from a cultural background not shared by others in the workshop…And both argued that the traditional workshop in which the author is enforced to silence will…suppress minority voices…

When I worked at the writing center in college, it was a one on one coaching experience, but I feel like it sounds more empowering than the Milford method, if you get a decent coach — the student would read their own work aloud, then the tutor would identify patterns of challenges (basically always the thesis statement 😉) and ask questions to help them refine what they were trying to say. Back and forth discussion was an important component — we wouldn’t write a new thesis for them, but coach them through refining iterations to find what worked for their essay. I only tutored for fiction a couple times but I think it was still a useful way to help the author figure out what was or wasn’t working towards what they wanted to achieve. I’m more into guiding the author into finding their own path than saying there’s a right or wrong way to fix their story. It also sounds less judgmental of the author’s voice and taste, since it doesn’t usually comment on those (I might point it out if I noticed the tone felt too casual if they were writing something that typically uses a more formal style — but we were trained in using nonviolent communication, using language like “I noticed” and framing observations in a nonjudgmental way) — which might be more protective of an author’s unique style and approach. I think one of the most important things to consider when editing writing is protecting the author’s voice and style, while helping them communicate their point better.

One repeated caution is the phenomenon that some participants stop writing entirely afterward—sometimes for a year or two or five, sometimes forever.

The one time I had a couple formal critiques, through Norwescon, I was basically shell-shocked by getting feedback and having no opportunity to explain anything they’d misunderstood from reading fifteen pages of a five hundred page story. It shook my confidence a lot, especially getting basically zero positive feedback (whereas coaching always made a point to call out what the writer is already doing well and made use of compliment sandwiches because crushing someone with everything they’ve done wrong is not conducive psychologically). I didn’t quit writing altogether, but I did abandon the book I was writing, and lost the confidence to give other writers feedback because I was in doubt of my own capabilities and my ability to discern issues and provide useful feedback.

Though innovative, that development happened against a backdrop of harsh social conservatism and New Criticism, with one of its leading crusaders even opining that it was dead wrong to consider writing a creative field—writing, he felt, should instead be synonymous with the field of criticism…In such a political landscape, it is no surprise such a strictly-regimented peer critique method was so appealing: a “learn by doing” class in which the instructor does not need to figure out how to become a teacher of writing, only a critic.

Is literary criticism inherently judgmental, a levying of the reader’s taste against the author’s?

As we look back at this uneasy history, it helps crystallize why a method like Milford would fail more often for writers of color or other minority students in the workshop. The Iowa method purposely eschewed teaching; instead it used the power of cold interaction with a group of critics to mold writers into a “1930s America” majority opinion of good literature.

In Craft in the Real World, Matthew Salesses points out that writing workshops are often culturally homogenous along several axes. Thus, when a mostly-white, mostly-American workshop makes statements on what “the reader” will understand or enjoy, that hypothetical “reader” is far from a generic representation, but instead reflects the backgrounds of the participants.

This doesn’t sound like an ideal approach to promote diversity of style or story that come out of different backgrounds, whether cultural heritage or lived experience or neurodiversity. We know too that authors of color have been gatekept out of traditional publishing in SFF for many years, this feels like another way to drum authors out of genre. It is good to see people rethinking whether this is the best way to level up writers in the SFF community.

Mental Health Personal Growth

Countering Rumination

Bookmarked On worrying about what you think people think by Madeleine Dore (Extraordinary Routines )

Have you ever had an afternoon free, or even an hour you could be resting or doing something you enjoy, only to wither it away ruminating past disappointments, worry about the future, or replaying embarrassing moments or awkward conversations over and over.

I took the advice of the late poet and philosopher John O’Donohue. In an interview with Krista Tippett, he suggested a simple thought exercise that involved tracking your most common thoughts and devising a new set.

For the first week of the experiment, I noted and catalogued my thoughts in the notes section of my iPhone. By day seven, the themes were clear—worrying about the future; worrying about what other people think; beating myself up for perceived flaws; comparing myself to others; negatively internalising other people’s actions or words; and ruminating on the past.

What was most startling when reflecting on this list was that each worrying thought was outside of my control. What people think of me, the future, and what other people do is not something I can change by mulling over it. For the most part, I can’t control what happens in my life, but I can control how I think about it.

In the second week, I developed an alternative thought to each on my list.

— Madeleine Dore

Personal Growth

Changing habits through observation

Bookmarked How to change an unwanted habit by Amogh (The Examined Life)

It took me <2 min/day for a month. No will power, guilt or external motivation needed.

Exhibit A, what gets measured gets managed.

“We won’t need to force any change in our behaviour because consciousness itself will take care of this by its intrinsic power.

His approach: literally write down how much of something you did a day. Every day for a month. For example, number of cookies eaten or time spent on phone.

As we begin to see and realize what we repeatedly do–without needing self-shaming and blame–the power of awareness automatically begins to exert influence on our behaviour and impulses


Newsletter Seasons

Liked Advice for newsletter-ers by Robin Sloan (Robin Sloan)

A tiny bit of forethought, some cautionary design.

A personal email newsletter ought to be divided into seasons, just like a TV show.

Here’s what you get from the nomenclature, the metaphor, of the “season”:


a sense of progress: of going and getting somewhere.

an opportunity for breaks: to pause and reflect, reconfigure.

an opportunity, furthermore, to make big changes: in terms of subject, structure, style.

Constraints are helpful. So is going into a project knowing that it will end and loosely when that happens or what it looks like. Predefines an ending or at least an opportunity for one. I like this approach.

Mental Health

Anxiety Reminder

Liked Moosekleenex • Instagram (

Comic about anxiety - a person steps outside their anxious body to assess why they are feeling anxiousa good reminder

Personal Growth

Reading in Clusters

Bookmarked How I read by Slava Akhmechet (spakhm's newsletter)

Read clusters of five books. Visualize clusters as instruments to inspect the world. Collect instruments into a mental lab. Read ~40 pages/day. That’s ~20 books/year, 40 new instruments per decade.

Radically intriguing approach to choosing what to read: clusters.

I settled on clusters of five [books] and almost never read a single book in isolation. Less than five feel lacking; more than five gets repetitive. Every cluster has a goal of the form “study X through Y“.

He aims to read one cluster each quarter, 20 books a year.

My approach to non-fiction reading is much more haphazard, just whatever I think sounds interesting, and occasionally a targeted book for a specific issue. Most of the non-fiction I read focuses on personal growth and creative work, with a handful of other topics thrown in.

My approach is much more reading for entertainment than necessarily reading to learn. I pick things I’m interested in learning about, sure, but with less focus and application. Probably why I quit half the non-fiction I start after getting bored. The information isn’t given purpose beyond entertaining me and satisfying my desire to know things. I trust that I’ll find connections, but don’t intentionally seek them.

His approach makes me think of college, where I invariably made lots of interesting connections between all the things I was learning, even cross-discipline between my science classes for my major and the core humanities.

I could probably stand to read some more non-fiction, but I’m not sure I’m up for this intensity of learning right now.