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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about. Ask me anything you can't Google.



Posts tagged "tools"

Aug 18, 2013
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Twyla Tharp’s boxes

Whenever she starts a new project, Twyla Tharp gets out a banker’s box. She writes about her system in The Creative Habit:

Everyone has his or her own organizational system. Mine is a box, the kind you can buy at Office Depot for transferring files.

I start every dance with a box. I write the project name on the box, and as the piece progresses I fill it up with every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me.

The box documents active research on every project….

There are separate boxes for everything I’ve ever done. If you want a glimpse into how I think and work, you could do worse than to start with my boxes.

The box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet.

It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on the box means I’ve started work.

The box makes me feel connected to a project. It is my soil. I feel this even when I’ve back-burnered a project: I may have put the box away on a shelf, but I know it’s there. The project name on the box in bold black lettering is a constant reminder that I had an idea once and may come back to it very soon.

Most important, though, the box means I never have to worry about forgetting. One of the biggest fears for a creative person is that some brilliant idea will get lost because you didn’t write it down and put it in a safe place. I don’t worry about that because I know where to find it. It’s all in the box….

They’re easy to buy, and they’re cheap….They’re one hundred percent functional; they do exactly what I want them to do: hold stuff. I can write on them to identify their contents… I can move them around… When one box fills up, I can easily unfold and construct another. And when I’m done with the box, I can ship it away out of sight, out of mind, so I can move on to the next project, the next box.

Easily acquired. Inexpensive. Perfectly functional. Portable. Identifiable. Disposable. Eternal enough.

Those are my criteria for the perfect storage system. And I’ve found the answer in a simple file box.

Read more in The Creative Habit

(idea via 43 Folders, text via)

May 13, 2013
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Blackwing Palamino pencils

Clive Thompson got me totally hooked on these: they’re super soft and dark, which makes them awesome for marginalia and writing longhand. You can also buy a badass longpoint sharpener for them.

Blackwing Palamino pencils

Clive Thompson got me totally hooked on these: they’re super soft and dark, which makes them awesome for marginalia and writing longhand. You can also buy a badass longpoint sharpener for them.

Feb 16, 2013
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Turn off notifications

3 things that have improved my life greatly in the past couple of months:

  1. I turned off all notifications on my iPhone.
  2. I quit using Tweetdeck on my laptop.
  3. I turned off my Gmail Notifier.

That’s it.

It might be an obvious point, but it’s crazy how many of my devices tout their ability to distract me as an intelligent feature.

The dumber I make my devices, the smarter I feel…

Oct 04, 2012
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If you translate music through one instrument, then through imagined sheet music, and then into a second instrument, you will inevitably make enough small errors and transpositions that you’ll teach yourself the new instrument in a way unlike anyone else’s way.

Sep 23, 2012
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A lot of my ideas start with looking at a tool and thinking what else you could do with it other than what it was intended for.

Sep 10, 2012
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I continue to consider a word-processing window a hostile work environment. Writing is not word-processing.

Sep 04, 2012
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How John Porcellino makes his comics

One of my favorite cartoonists, Mr. John Porcellino, has a trilogy of blog posts up about his process of making comics.

In part one and two he lays out his materials, and in part three he talks more about the process of actually creating the comics.

I was struck by how tight he tries to get the originals before he scans them into the computer — he fixes most of his inking mistakes pre-digital.

The other thing that has always fascinated me is how writing leads his process, and how much subtraction the stories go through:

I almost always draw my comics from a well-considered script. The script usually contains just text— descriptions, narration, and dialogue. Sometimes I’ll throw in little drawings, but it’s mostly just text. In the first draft I typically throw in everything that comes to mind, and the writing process for me is editing all that down into a more streamlined, rhythmic story. The vast majority of the time and energy I spend on an issue of King-Cat is on the writing part of it. Some stories come out just fine the first time around, but many need extensive revising and editing. The Perfect Example storyline, for instance, took ten years of work (off and on) before it felt ready for me to start drawing. That’s an extreme example, but it just goes to show you, you can’t force things. When it comes time to actually sit down and draw the comic it usually goes pretty quick, because the script is so precise.

So it follows that most of the comics come from his notebooks, which he uses to stage the material until it’s time to do a new issue of King-Cat:

Basically, I keep little notebooks around that I fill up with ideas:  memories, turns of phrase, poems, lists, dialogue… Lists…help me keep track of how close I am to having enough material for a new issue, and they’re constantly being updated, edited, and reformulated.

It makes me think of David Shrigley, who says, “I usually write a list of things to draw – a big, long list. If I want to make 50 works there are 50 things to draw.”

If you think about it, a script is sort of just a list of things to make happen.

Related reading in the NYTimes this Sunday: “Our Longing For Lists

(via Kevin H)

May 25, 2012
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Cosmonaut iPad stylus from Studio Neat

Okay, heard about this thing a while back, but then realized you could get it on Amazon for $25. It’s awesome. Like drawing with a big fat crayon. And dig the packaging!

Cosmonaut iPad stylus from Studio Neat

Okay, heard about this thing a while back, but then realized you could get it on Amazon for $25. It’s awesome. Like drawing with a big fat crayon. And dig the packaging!

Mar 20, 2012
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Nov 21, 2011
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Woody Allen’s typewriter, scissors, and staplers

Woody Allen bought his Olympia portable SM-3 typewriter when he was 16, and he’s used it to type every single thing he’s written since then. “It cost me $40. The guy told me it would be around long after my death.” When he needs to cut and paste, he cuts and staples.

Screenshots from the terrific American Masters documentary on PBS. (Thx, @mattthomas > Orange Crate Art > New Yorker)

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