Posts Tagged ‘problem solving’

My father was an analog man.

Etched Limestone Lithography Block

The grandson of a charcoal burner (yes, that was a thing), the son of a cement truck driver, my father was an artist by passion and a lithographer by trade, back in the day when his trade was not far removed from actual litho-graphy, i.e., etching graphics on hunks of limestone (like the one I still have, pictured, right).

As his life progressed, the world moved from Ford’s Model T to Tesla’s Model 3, from The Great Depression to The Great Recession, from flying across the Atlantic to flying to the Moon and Mars, and from the wireless and talkies to smart phones and streaming video. Yet through it all, he managed to never use a computer, even when his industry embraced the technology of digital scanning, imagery, and on-demand printing. The closest he got to the digital world was a DVD player (which he rarely employed, preferring broadcast television) and his little clamshell phone (which he used only in emergencies, and often not even then). (more…)

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On occasion, I ask my brain to go through its memory banks and search for something I know I know, but which I cannot at the moment remember. This search method is a technique honed by decades of living in a pre-Internet world, before Google, Wikipedia, IMDb, and all the rest.

What is her phone number? Didn’t I read a book about this subject? Who wrote that song? Where have I seen that actor before?

I got so good at this that I could do it in my sleep. Literally.


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A recent episode of “The Good Wife” made me laugh out loud. (In case you didn’t know, “The Good Wife” is not a comedy.)

In the episode, the management at a (rather ill-defined) software development firm referred to their staff as “artists.” Yes, that’s right; we were supposed to believe that this firm not only believed that the job I do–variously titled Programmer, Developer, Coder–is highly creative in nature, but that this firm also chose to encourage that by building an atmosphere that was conducive to the artistic temperament.

It’s not that software development isn’t creative. It is.

I spend my day solving problems. As a software developer, you bring me a problem and I create a solution for it. That’s it in a nutshell. I create a solution. Oh, sure, there’s a bunch of other bushwa in there, like translating your problem from Business-talk into Tech-speak, like translating it from Tech-speak into something a machine will understand, like trying to break the solution through testing, but the kernel of this job is highly creative in nature.

What I found laughable is the idea that corporate management would recognize this. Anywhere. (more…)

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Kurt R.A. GiambastianiNo, not coffee (though as a Seattleite, I have my opinions on that, too). Mental percolation.

Today, I pulled out my pen and pad, and read through the last bit I wrote yesterday. As I was reading I realized that I didn’t know where I had been taking the scene. Going further back, I read more. Still, no clue as to where I was going.

You might think that, after yesterday’s post about outlining techniques, I have it all down on paper, but even a detailed outline won’t tell you everything about a scene. I may have a five-page outline for this FC:V, with chapter breaks and notes on POVs, but there’s still a world of difference between that and the words and action in an actual chapter. The outline gives me the plot, but it doesn’t give me the subplots, the little “side trips,” or the variations from the original that pop up while I write a novel. It will give me the main characters and their general thoughts, but it won’t give me those subtle interactions or the conversational threads that are the fabric of the book.

In short, I knew where I was going, but didn’t know what road I had been paving to get there. 

Today, therefore, is a “percolation” day.

A percolation day is a day with more thinking than writing, where I remind myself throughout the day of where I want to go, and let my subconscious mull on the exact path I want to take.

It’s a strong tool. I use it to retrieve old memories (What’s that actors name?), figure out the answer to a question (Where are my keys?), or solve a problem (What is really happening in this scene?) It’s also a useful tool when I’m just starting to flesh out a story idea; percolation taps into creative processes that work best in the background, where the noise of language and logic is silenced, and where symbols and concepts can be swapped freely.

So, the pen and paper went away, and I pulled out my outline. I’ve changed a lot, as I’ve been writing Beneath a Wounded Sky, and have deviated from the outline at several points, but re-reading the original outline is still helpful. The original outline still has the excitement of that new idea, and the purest rendition of the roadmap I envisioned, so even after I hare off on a wild tangent, I can use that original outline to course-correct back toward the goal.

I’ll keep that outline at hand, today, and use it to keep the problem fresh in my mind. By this evening, then, I’m pretty sure I’ll know how I want to finish off this scene and close the chapter.

Percolation, baby…Percolation.


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