Death Of A 1000 Paper Cuts

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I’ve worked in print for close to twenty years now. Back in the early 90s, I started a magazine that I printed on my very expensive laser printer. Later, I edited magazines that you could walk into a bookstore and buy that were printed full color by real honest-to-god printing presses. I’ve co-authored books.

I’ve had my hands dirty with ink. They’ve been cut by the pulp of dead trees.

So why am I kind of happy that print is dying?

Because I still publish, that’s why.

I’ve been thinking about print since Seth Godin wrote an article called When Newspapers Are Gone, What Will You Miss?. Bottom line is – not much, really.

So, that got me thinking. Then about an hour ago, I posted an article on The Huffington Post called The Amazing Effects Of Benjamin Button, talking about the visual effects in the Brad Pitt / David Fincher film. I’ve written lots of articles about visual effects in the past but this time I got to do something I’d never been able to do when I was editing magazines about computer graphics.

I stuck some video right smack dab in the middle of the article.

You see, I went down to visual effects house Digital Domain last week and shot an interview with Button’s character supervisor – a very nice, smart guy named Steve Preeg. I edited it, added titles and a clip Paramount sent me and created a 2 minute film that explains certain things much better than just a written article could.

Them I integrated it into the article. You read a bit, then watch the YouTube video I embedded, then read some more. I also included links to a more techincal piece another website had done about the film and even to a video of a performence by Penn and Teller that I just mentioned in passing.

Try doing THAT with a magazine.

Also this week, I started a new publishing venture; a weekly newsletter about media creation in New Mexico. I’m moving to New Mexico in a few weeks and with my publishing background thought it would be a good way to jump into the media community with both feet.  (This was also based on a Seth Godin post that floated around my head for days. So, seriously…READ SETH GODIN.)

This new publication cost me nothing to start and will cost me nothing to sustain except my time. The publishing is free. I’ll write it, free. I’ll send it via email, also free since it piggybacks unto my other email lists. I put a notice on Craigslist and emailed a couple of friends in New Mexico to start the subscription ball rolling. Twenty people signed up on the first day. (You can sign up for it here.)

Digital media lets me do more, communicate my ideas better and can cost zero dollars. And there’s no paper cuts.

Do you publish? Whatever your business – shouldn’t you start?

The Danger Of Productivity

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Look around at the signs of a failing economy; the daily headlines about layoffs, bankruptcies, collapses, and even just plain theft on an unprecedented scale. What are the values that brought us to this place? 

One of the false idols is productivity.

American business has a fetish for productivity. We hear all the time about how productive our workers are, that Americans have the highest productivity in the world. Hasn’t really helped the people laid off or who lost their pensions, obviously. 

Just on it’s own, productivity for it’s own sake doesn’t really have any value. Just off the top of my head, I can think of a slew of things that I value a lot more; creativity, quality, innovation, and customer service.

If you have some core value, then actually getting that value out there makes perfect sense. Composing a great song in your head doesn’t help anybody. A idea for a movie doesn’t mean much of anything if you don’t make the movie. A business concept is not a business.

Is your problem producitivity? If it is, by all means fix it. But the problems that most businesses face right now isn’t that they aren’t producing enough. If you stop and think about it, it might really not be your problem, either. 

I’m a big beleiver in the power of deadlines for getting creative work done. But goal setting isn’t the same as the productivity fetish. 

The way productivity is pushed in American business seldom relates to other values. There’s no balance. Instead, it’s treating people like machines, whose output can be easily measured by the number of widgets they produce per hour.

One of the most dangerous things about this unbalanced focus on time filling is that it keeps people from actually being able to think. Thought, innovation, and inspiration require a little bit of breathing room. Like fire, creativity needs both air and fuel.

The productivity fetish smothers thought in the name of staying busy. And sometimes everyone at a company is so busy staying busy that they don’t even realize that the entire enterprise is doomeed.

“Row faster!” doesn’t really make sense when your ship is heading towards the edge of a waterfall.

But if you focus mainly on the idea of being ‘productive’ and decide to measure the rowers, how many strokes per hour they make, and put the improvement over yesterday’s statistic’s into a nice colorful chart…well, it sure seems like you’re being a productive manager.

Or maybe you’re really just heading for disaster faster and more efficiently.

Time Doesn’t Exist. Timing Does.

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Interview transcript with MTV’s Loder talking to Prince, when he was known as The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.


Loder: Time’s getting short here, of course. New Year’s Eve is coming right up.

 

The Artist: I don’t believe in time, Kurt.
Loder: Oh. What do you use instead? We have to keep track somehow.

 

The Artist: The truth.

Prince doesn’t believe in time.

I read that years ago and it’s stuck with me ever since. Prince is a musical genius, for real. And he’s been very productive. So if that guy says he doesn’t believe in time, I listen.

Of course, the past and the future don’t exist. Only this moment does. Right now. That’s just impossible to argue with. So, really there goes your whole idea of time right there, if you stop and think about for a minute.

Oops. I said ‘for a minute’. Damn, that time is a persistent illusion.

And since I’m still stuck in that illusion, I’ll just mention that I notice often how the universe has a way of unfolding itself, right on time. Things happen right at the momement they need to happen. I wished they happened when I wanted. Sometimes I wish they didn’t happen at all. But later, I can see that things just happen exactly when they need to.

Are you any good at knowing when things are about to end?

If I think back (damn persistent illusion) I can see that often I’m known on a deep, instictive level when things were about to end.

When I first moved to California, I was living in my car down by the beach in Ventura. One day I knew I had to find a place to live that day. It was really as clear as that. I need a place, right now. I found a room to rent, immediately. No exaggeration, I looked in the paper, found something, moved right in.

The next day, I read in the paper how the police had cleared out everybody who was living in their cars down by the beach the night before.

There’s a real power in staying connected to the present moment. The same way a surfer can look out the ocean and see which way far off waves will break, you can develop a sense for which direction other moments are going to break. You won’t be able to tell exactly how events will work out but at least you’ll know which wave to ride and which not to fight.

My Shoes & Hats

After a very productive start to my new year’s blogging, I’ve ground to a halt. I got busy in the past few days with…well, a lot. Like a lot of people, I do a lot of different things, which reminded me of the work of Edward De Bono, a writer on subjects of creative thinking whose work I’ve learned quite a bit from. 

He has two books that are related, one called Six Thinking Hats and the other is Six Action Shoes. If you Google the titles you’ll find a few summaries online or click the links; plenty of used copies on Amazon mean you could pick up both book for around five bucks plus shipping. Without getting into considerable details, both books illustrate an important idea – that you can’t think or act the same way in all situations. 

De Bono creates a nice metaphor of hats and shoes that serve as a reminder that sometimes we need to wear the ‘black hat’ of critical thinking and at others wear the ‘yellow hat’ of positive thinking, for example. He discusses these different modes for both thought and action and after getting the gist of De Bono’s idea you might find yourself in a situation where you say to yourself something like “Okay, time for the black hat.” 

For me, even just the past few days have reminded me of the different roles I play and how differently I approach them. IFor example, since Friday….

1) I shot a video interview with an effects supervisor on the film The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Shooting the video required being the tech guy setting up the equipment, a manager dealing with my son Shane, and an producer / editor making sure I got the material I needed to be able to put the story together.

2) I was a reporter, breaking news about Ann Coulter and potential voter fraud on the Huffington Post. As a marketing person, I promoted the story on Twitter and by emailing it to important bloggers I know.

3) As a comedy writer, I posted a piece on 236.com based on a weird idea I had about a Disney version of Slumdog Millionare. As a graphic artist, I mocked up a fake poster to go along with the story. 

I’m really leaving out a lot but you get the idea. We’re entering a new era for creative people where wearing just one job hat won’t do for many if they want to be successful. Musicians and poets need to also be computer experts and sales people. Programmers need to be market researchers and graphic designers. 

Of course, they don’t really NEED to…but it’s getting tougher and tougher to succeed if you are having to rely on other people.

The pace and pressue of this change is enourmous. One way I keep sane is by not trying to be ‘myself’. I realize that different roles require different skills and I relish the change. When I write a fact based story like the Coulter piece, I go into logical, methodical, clear explanation mode. If it’s an opinion piece, I switch between a focus on facts and on my inner sense of the truth of the matter is in spiritual sense. When I write comedy for 236.com, I let myself go crazy, turn off my inner critic, experiment and really trust my own instinct of what’s funny to me.

So, who are you? How do you change yourself from project to project? And who do you need to learn to be in order to take your own work to where you want it to go?

Drowning

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Here’s my weekend analogy about having a full time job.

Imagine  you’re being tortured. There’s a man gripping you by your hair and he keeps pushing your head down under water. He hold–s you there, just occasionally yanking you up so you can breathe. You gulp for air..but he gives you barely enough time to catch a breah before shoving you back under again.

This cycle – pushed down, yanked up, try to bteathe before being pushed back down – repeats over and over and over until you know the routine. You learn how to catch your breath, how to hold it best underwater.

If he let you out of the water for a while, though, your thought process might change. An hour, even.and you’d stop thinking about breathing and start to figure out how to solve your REAL problem….namely…

You have to kill that man holding your head underwater.

For most of us, the weekend is just a time to catch our breath. The five day, 40+ hour workweek is literally stealing your life and they make sure to not give you enough time to think about whather there are other options. A long vacation is wonderfully mind clearing experience sometimes.