How About This Year 1 - original writing retrospective
Reflecting on the posts, essays and other writing from Year 1 of How About This
This is the second of three posts where I recap Year 1 of, this newsletter you’re reading, which is written and published by me, .
My previous post was a retrospective on the interviews and Q&As I conducted with 56 wonderful people during Year 1 (the newsletter’s year runs from May to April). Now I’m going to look back at some of the original writing I created for the newsletter.
These selections are a sample of what I consider the better newsletter posts from Year 1. I’m not going to cover every post or essay, just some of the writings that were particularly important to me. I’m also going to avoid the notebook oriented posts for the most part and instead focus on the other topics (although the Notebook and Paper Palooza post provides a good overview of my notebooking ways, plus links to other relevant posts).
So here we go:
The backstages of our own private Seahavens - this was one of the first essays I wrote for this newsletter. There’s a scene in The Truman Show where Truman tries to enter an elevator and he accidentally sees part of the soundstage that makes up the hidden reality underpinning Seahaven, complete with actors taking breaks between scenes. But Truman thinks Seahaven is a real town and the actors he spends his days among are the only people he know. The image of this backstage area has haunted me since I watched the movie and I finally had to write about it. I think the backstages and foundations of the buildings, organizations and people that we encounter are terribly important and often fascinating.
Strangely familiar but new worlds - this review of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds was a lot of fun to write. I was pleased with how the text and images seemed to work well together, which isn’t something I’m usually comfortable doing - I’m not a natural graphic designer.
How to entertain the possibility that your opinion might be wrong - this essay was influenced by Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World, an important tome for our times. I tried to capture the best points of Sagan’s advice for critical thinking and skepticism. The 2020s have been a decade fraught with information, misinformation and disinformation and at times it’s been hard to determine if the things we see on television, online and in print are factual vs. fiction designed to manipulate us. Sagan’s concepts can help us critically evaluate what we’re seeing.
Monochrome was the palette of the unreal, envy and nostalgia - this trip down memory lane, remembering what it was like to grow up with black and white television, was my favorite essay of Year 1. I think you get more out of the limitations in your early life than you realize at the time. I want to write more essays like this while continuing to improve my skills.
Impossible to say - the real value of a $300 dollar idea - this post talks about Dungeons & Dragons with a look at how the game was created and how its creators had no idea how successful their idea would become.
Where did the moon come from? - another fun piece, right up there with the monochrome essay in terms of how much I enjoyed working on it and the satisfaction I felt with the final result. It’s all speculation, of course: the moon could have been grown from a magic bean for all we can prove at this point.
Digging the beach - on average I write about one short story per decade so I was surprised at how quickly and easily I wrote this one. The two inspirations for this piece were Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series of novels as well as Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic book series. My apologies for ripping them both off, in different ways. Actually I think I also took inspiration from another of King’s stories about a marooned surgeon who gradually devours himself. Maybe.
I wrote several posts about creativity and creative problem solving. Two of my favorite books on these topics are How To Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci by Michael Gelb and Advantage Play by David Ben. I wrote about these topics here, also referencing a couple of other books about creative problem solving:
On Process and Place: A Substack Letters series - this collaboration withof turned out to be incredibly fun to research and write. I'm not a person who spends a lot of time fondly reminiscing about his childhood but this series made me root back through the memories of my younger years and pull out some fun things. It also made me think about how my childhood experiences informed who I've become as an adult. Julie was wonderful to work with and her posts in this series are joyful and enthusiastic! This post contains links to the entire series of letters.
For many years I dreamed of being a fiction writer, probably a mimetic desire asmight say. Fiction writing has never been easy for me and I've abandoned far more attempts than I've ever finished (my NaNoWriMo binder is close to six years old and stares accusingly at me whenever we cross paths).
Essays, opinion writing, how to articles, interviews: these all come more naturally to me, mainly because they aren’t a huge stretch from the type of writing I have to do for my day job. This is probably why I’ve been far more prolific at non-fiction writing.
Around 2008 or so I used to blog multiple times per week and had great dreams of becoming a reknowned blogger and influencer… for a few months. Eventually I realized that a) I didn’t really know as much as I should about some of the things I was writing about b) some of the things that I was writing about weren’t that interesting to many people c) I needed to focus more on the things that would allow me to make a living and d) I wasn’t really a marketer or social media guru anyway.
So coming back to online writing and publishing is about 50% deja vu and 50% OMG don’t make the same damned mistakes again and remember why you stopped doing this before. Older and wiser, he muttered, crossing his fingers.
I’m going to keep going. I’m just going to keep a close eye on the pitfalls that are lying out there, waiting.
The next post will be a more typical month end/year end retrospective like I’ve been publishing during Year 1 - I hope you’ll come back for it! I’ll also be revealing the winners of my latest notebook giveaways!
How About This is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.