Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2017-06-14T14:00:20Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com June 14. http://ranprieur.com/#9cb434e13a83d053db3c5b8edef701aaad7df78c 2017-06-14T14:00:20Z June 14. Last night I stumbled to the end of a novel. I started writing it five months ago, but I've only told a few people, because talking about your plans drains motivation. Most of it is still ink on paper, and I need to do lots of fine tuning and work some other things out before I make any of it public.

What I can tell you is how, after years of struggling and failing to produce any fiction (not counting this blog), I finally pulled it together. First, all those years I was doing mental world-building, until I felt glutted with ideas, like a big pile of firewood that will rot as fast as I build it up, so I needed a fire.

Second, "I want to write a novel" is not sufficient motivation to write a novel. I needed creative work by other people, so good that it gave me the hunger to create something that made me feel the same way.

Third, I used a trick that also worked for my old zines: to get off loose leaf pages and write into a bound blank book. It's like there's a part of me that wakes up when I can't take anything back, even if I can still cross things out.

Fourth, pushing age 50, I finally have the emotional intelligence to write adequate characters. But maybe it was the other way around, because as I wrote, I learned from them. The second best thing about writing is reaching into the rabbit-hat of language and somehow pulling out the perfect word, and the best thing is when your characters surprise you.

Finally, I needed the courage to make it up on the fly, because the only thing harder is to plan it out in advance. Picbreeder was a big help in training me to surf the flow of ideas that come from who knows where. Also, weed. Mostly it was homemade cannabutter eaten around midday, on a cycle of 1-3 days on and 2-10 days off. I wrote some of the best bits sober, but whenever I hit a dead end, my old friend Eleven Hydroxy opened doors.

June 12. http://ranprieur.com/#de9126c3574f271021970c08ef55c1c52472930b 2017-06-12T12:40:16Z June 12. Autistic Burnout: The Cost of Coping and Passing. It's a bunch of quotations with the general idea that it's harmful for people on the spectrum to try to appear neurotypical.

My first thought is, "neurotypical" is a lie. The way you have to act to pass a job interview, almost nobody is really like that. It reminds me of that Far Side where a field of sheep discover that they're all secretly wolves. How did we get ourselves into this ridiculous ritual of appearing "normal"? Related: Adam Curtis: Learning to Hug.

But then, I'm less normal than most people. I've never been to a professional for a diagnosis, but I know that my mind works best when I can focus intensely on one thing with unlimited time. As soon as I have time constraints, or have to pay attention to multiple things at once, it's hard to not make mistakes. That's why I hate driving. Leigh Ann tells me I should just zone out, but when I zone out around the house I knock stuff over. It seems like everyone else has an "autopilot" that I'm missing, and it's exhausting to be on manual pilot all the time.

June 9. http://ranprieur.com/#79a6eb972244aabbf2b41474a5be5dd1d31342b0 2017-06-09T21:10:38Z June 9. Odds and ends for the weekend. A reader has written a historical/political novel, Duress & Desire.

Fun article: The glass harmonica: the world's most dangerous instrument?

You've probably all heard about the NSA leaker, whose name is Reality Winner. Life is a movie and someone has just looked right in the camera and winked.

Yesterday on the subreddit there was a strange philosophical post asking To what end is nature? There are some answers to this in the thread, but this was my answer:

I've been watching the Planet Earth series, and it's obvious how much better nature is than any world humans have yet created.

So then I wonder, to what end are humans? My guess is, technology will eventually be a new kind of life that supplements nature and makes it even better.

Another guess: this is a prison world in which those in human form are being rehabilitated by those not in human form.

June 7. http://ranprieur.com/#6b44469ddc8745fd0f0afcb598ed0132040c2cda 2017-06-07T19:50:04Z June 7. Taking another crack at Monday's subject: If someone is better than you at anything, there's always a deeper reason. We understand this for intellectual and physical skills, like being good at math or baseball. But our culture thinks differently about emotional skills like courage, kindness, honesty, drive.

This subreddit post mentions a bunch more, taken from this page of 24 character strengths. We imagine that people with these kinds of skills have somehow earned them, when usually they were born with them (or with simpler component skills), or their family helped them develop the skills at such a young age that they don't remember not having them.

Of course you can improve "good person" skills as an adult, but what arcane factor separates someone who does this from someone who doesn't? We imagine that it's just some deeper level of being a good person, and so on, turtles all the way down.

It doesn't occur to us to think of good character as a matter of luck. We actually have a taboo against the idea. That's why the Big Five personality model, which says the traits are mostly fixed for life, won't say that high conscientiousness is better than low conscientiousness, or that low neuroticism is better than high neuroticism -- but those judgments saturate our culture.

On a personal note, it feels liberating to think of character as a matter of luck. For more than 20 years, since I sent my first photocopied zine out for review, strangers have been attacking my character, and I've been doing the most obvious and least effective thing: defending my character. I'm so deficient in wisdom and creativity that it took me 20 years to figure out the better move. There's an old Billy Bragg song with the line "Just because you're better than me, doesn't mean I'm lazy." I always thought it would be more radical the other way around: "Just because I'm lazy doesn't mean you're better than me." But the even more radical move is to concede both points.

June 5. http://ranprieur.com/#6af213a303be6faf234a87317fa2b06776d4d10b 2017-06-05T17:30:09Z June 5. Following a tangent from this question three weeks ago: What are the deep differences between people who are good at life and people who are bad at life? I'm not the best person to answer that, but I'm also not the worst. That would be someone like Elon Musk who has always been successful. Whatever it is that makes someone good at life, for a lucky few it's so intuitive that they're not aware of it and couldn't describe it.

This is true for everything. If you've had to grind through the details of getting good at something, then you can tell others how to do it, but if you can't remember not being there, then you can't see the path.

Also, if you can't remember not being good at something, then it's tempting to dismiss people who are not good at it, to see them as inferior in some absolute way. "Idiot" is a word used by people who take their brainpower for granted. No one who has struggled with low motivation would call someone "lazy". Even people who were born rich tend to believe that money comes from virtue, when they themselves got it through luck.

So as a general rule, talent feeds disparagement and hard-learned skill feeds compassion.

Are there moral talents? There are attributes considered moral by this culture, that are subject to talent. This leads to a weird paradox, where a naturally good person might be less good than a naturally bad person who becomes good.

June 2. http://ranprieur.com/#8f5d0ae282ab680c07ef80e29b14f7e54ac60fe2 2017-06-02T14:00:07Z June 2. I've already changed my mind about the last post, where I said we need to find a way to live where it doesn't even occur to us to search for meaning. In that world, everything we do would be laid out for us, already intrinsically rewarding. It would feel great, but we would be basically unconscious, like compulsive gamblers except our every action would be part of a sensible sustainable airtight system: Prison Utopia.

Agonizing over the meaning of life is an unpleasant symptom of something good: a world full of questions, full of cracks, full of uncanny possibility. Existential angst is a small price to pay for freedom, and we need to be challenged by even more freedom until we learn to thrive in uncertainty.

This brings me around to my favorite political cause, the Unconditional Basic Income. I just found out that Finland is already experimenting with a basic income. It's not yet for everyone, just for the unemployed, but if they get jobs they get to keep it.

And after I mentioned Buckminster Fuller, a reader sent this quote:

We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

It also occurs to me that a UBI could make us nomadic again. Our prehistoric ancestors were constantly moving around, but then agriculture and industry forced us to settle down, and settling down geographically is linked to settling down mentally. A good book on this subject is Wandering God by Morris Berman. But as agriculture and industry get more mechanized, more of us can go full circle to the wandering life. We would just need transportation and travel housing cheap enough to fit under the basic income.