Presentation of Speech 03/17/21

The things that people believe usually take somewhere between a few weeks and a few years to arrive at. Most of the conspiracy theories that I study, or even believe in, came about as a result of thousands of pages of books, days of YouTube videos, and possibly entire minutes of contemplation.

Those books themselves often required years of research. The YouTube videos, well, they’re all at varying levels of scholarly rigor, but they are on the internet, and therefore true. And my contemplative moments took up several moments that I could have spent doing something more useful, like reading the label on my bottle of Dr. Bronner’s.

It’s important when reading almost anything on Twitter to remember that most people go through a similar process of arriving at the things that they believe. Even if we’re just talking about Tweets…how many words have you read in the decade you’ve been on Twitter? It’s gotta be like, bigger than the Bible…maybe even two Bibles!

It’s probably a number so high it would make you weep. Thank god it’s all been worth it.

There are so many moving parts to belief that I take what most people say at face-value, unless they’re a blue check, which means that they are unquestionably financed (either through clout or cash) by political action committees and/or the CIA. Did you know that Brooklyn Dad guy got $50k last year from Democratic orgs? No wonder his takes are dog shit.

Anyhow, a rule I now have on Twitter is to remind myself, before every tweet, that nobody knows me on there, not even my mutuals. No one knows “where I’m coming from,” the kind of research I’ve done, or the vigorous thought experiments I’ve conducted while watching water swirl down the drain.

And, conversely, I don’t know anybody else. There are reasons people are where they are, and if you want them to change, you should be able to provide a body of work and references that will allow them to explore the same trails that you went down on your way to thinking the way you think. Otherwise, they’re not going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

In the meantime, while that body of work is compiled, I have that policy that I mentioned earlier in the post: “don’t spook the zombies.” Shout out to Gordon White and Rune Soup for that one. It’s valuable, not so much in the “everybody is a sheep except for me” way (which isn’t how Gordon means it, either), but in a practical manner. It’s a way of separating how you present from who you are, which have always been two separate things. Especially in work environments.

I wonder how many disasters could have been averted, both personally and for others I see getting their asses beat online, by taking a step back and thinking “how would this look to me if I’d never read that one book, or listened to three hours of that one podcast, or had that one personal experience?”

Nobody knows me, and that is very freeing. Now…how best to communicate?

Get the first three novellas in the Black Gum series here on (Black?)Gumroad for pay-what-you-want.

Listen to the new episode of No Country here. It’s about initiation rights and the complex, quantum (?) nature of a Peruvian shaman’s thoughtforms.

Now Offering Novel Troubleshooting 03/16/21

Yesterday I was chatting with my No Country co-host Kris about my editing work. I’d been a little grumpy during the day, because recently I’ve been trying to increase my prices, and have unfortunately run into the problem that, well, a significant portion of clients don’t want to pay that much.

Fair enough! But this conflicts with my goals. I have a year-long timeline to double my income, so that Rios can quit her job and take care of the kid at home. I don’t think it’s right that I get to work from home and she has to go to some office somewhere. I mean…she carried the child.

So the options then seem to be “increase the workload” or “specialize.” I don’t want to increase the workload, because the quality of the work would almost certainly drop off a cliff. If I have three days to work on something rather than six, well, I’m going to be moving at a faster clip.

Kris suggested the “specialize” option. I like the way he thinks. Over his career, he’s been adept in selling himself to potential employers and clients, so I take his advice seriously, which can be boiled down to “You are not someone who really has the mind for the nuts and bolts aspects of copy editing and proofreading. You’re more of a developmental, big-picture guy.”

At first, this hurt my feelings, which is usually how I know something is true. I do a good job with fixing sentence structure, finding typos, fixing grammar, that kind of thing. Where Kris is correct is that I’ll never be great at that, and people pay big $$ for the things that you’re great at.

Of course he’s correct. This weekend I did a conference call with a client over his novel. We got into the subconscious psychological throughline of the book, talking specifically about the child and parent imagery that pops up throughout, and how we could add in certain scenes and bits of character development to let that thematic arc really shine. I hopped on Skype with a different client yesterday and discussed how to make a villain scarier without making them repetitively nasty, how to bring a minor character into a place of more prominence, and how to flesh out the magical system presented in the novel.

Both times, the clients were very happy with the results. Here’s what that first client said in his review:

“First class insights, articulate, good balance between general comments and concrete suggestions. Well done.”

The times that I get the most enthusiastic feedback from clients are when I’m working at a developmental level.

So that’s what I will attempt to shift into.

I sometimes joke that this job can feel like therapy, but it’s not really a joke at all. There are subconscious forces at play when people write a novel, and as an outside observer with no filter, I’m able to tease those themes out. These often lead to somewhat personal conversations. Why did the author write this? What are they trying to get across? What does all of this mean to them?

As my client said yesterday at the end of the session: “I feel much better, now.”

I’ll toss this out as an idea, just to see how it works: I’m offering a service for helping people untangle a problem in their manuscript. For $50, I’ll do a one-hour consult over Skype or Zoom about a project that you’re working on. I don’t need to know anything beforehand, although it will be helpful if you’re ready to answer some in-depth questions about why you’re working on something to begin with. I’m confident that we can get your idea into shape, and get you back into the project with renewed enthusiasm.

My price-point is based on a healthy average based on what I’ve seen for astrology and tarot consults. Chart stuff is pricey, as it should be, and tarot really runs the gamut depending on the skill of the reader. I believe in the value of both of these services, not just because they help solve problems lingering in the dark parts of the brain, but because people find value in having someone really pay attention to what they’re doing for an hour or so. It’s a healthy process. I’d like to do that for your artistic project (mainly books, but I’d be open to troubleshooting script problems, music, art, what have you…the technique is the same for all of it). Of course, I am in no ways a licensed therapist, or attempting to suggest that this is a replacement for serious help. Don’t get me wrong, here. But I do believe this is the direction I should move in, to both help people and play to my strengths as an editor.

SO:

Are you stuck at a certain point in your outline, and have no idea where to go?

Do you feel like throwing your novel away and starting all over again?

Can you just not figure out who some of your characters are?

Do you want to make your book more palatable for a wide readership? Do you want to make it less palatable? Weirder? Safer? More dangerous?

We can figure all of that out.

Credentials can be found here, and you can also book me through that site if you have a larger project, and want a more holistic deep-dive into your book.

Of course, if you need a copy edit instead, I’m not bad at that, either.

Outdated Writing 03/15/21

I subscribed to the idea that you have to make writing timeless for quite some time. Don’t include too many references to the current date, because the book will seem dated within a few years. I’m not sure where this idea came from, but if I had to guess, it’s probably an MFA thing. MFAs, as you know, are CIA propaganda operations, broadly speaking, and so broadly speaking, you want to leave the current events to mainstream news channels (also ops), and let the novels slowly devolve into timeless, toothless nonsense.

Good art and good novels are complicated. They portray human behavior as flawed, which is fine if your novel takes place in some nowhere time, but not quite as fine if it takes place right now, because right now is a present narrative that needs to be controlled very, very carefully, every step of the way.

Not that novels would ever really influence mass narratives (lol), but still. You have to make sure all your loose ends are tied up.

The idea that you wouldn’t want to set your novel on March 15, 2021 because that would somehow date it for future generations of readers is flawed for two reasons. Number one: who gives a shit if future generations read it? You’re gonna die, and when you’re dead you’re not going to care. Enjoy success now, enjoy relevance now. History books won’t remember you, and that is a good thing.

Secondly, the idea that very current novels don’t get read by future generations is, itself, false.

Once you get outside the circular firing squad and propriety panels of current lit, you realize people mostly read books written before 1990. The only people who (pretend to) care about new books are other people who have new books (or fans of YA fiction), which makes total sense, because you want to be a part of that ecosystem. It’s important. Learn to care, or die.

Regular people are excited by old books, everything from Moby Dick to the Bible. And guess what? Those books are pretty dated. I enjoy biblical scholarship because, when it’s really good, it helps you to put some of the downright strange things biblical characters say to each other in context. They’re speaking in the (Aramaic or whatever) context of their time. Rob Bell is really good on this.

References and things of that nature might be dated in just a few short years. I cringe sometimes looking back on books that I wrote ten years ago. I put slang into people’s mouths that people don’t say anymore. It’s dated.

That’s fine.

A kind of grand theme of this blog is that you should just make stuff without worrying about it too much. It’s my belief that everyone has a novel or two in them, whether or not anyone else wants to read them. This is me turning my professor chair around and sitting in it very seriously. You are going to be out of fashion some day, and you’re going to embarrass yourself if you try to stay in it. What’s more cringey than someone in their forties trying to talk like a zoomer? No one understands those kids, including those kids. What are you doing?

As a side note, it’s great when older millennials get Tik-Tok and immediately start explaining things to a wide audience of no one who asked. They’re kind of like this blog in that way, although I found out yesterday that blogs have something like 1000x the half-life of a tweet (and probably a Tik-Tok), so I win again! But at what cost…

Anyhow, I hope everyone is having a great Monday (again, lol). The weather is very nice here, which is a kind thing for Oklahoma to gift to me and my friends, as in just a few short weeks it will be trying to murder us with the sky.

The first three books of the Black Gum Cycle can be purchased here for pay-what-you-want, with the next two delivered for free to whomever gets this bundle. Thanks for reading!

Writing from the Middle 03/14/21

Here’s a bit of practical writing advice that has always worked for me:

The major issue with getting any work done is dealing with a blank page. There’s something intimidating about making something out of nothing, and I find that it never really goes away. If there’s a ton of white space after your last sentence, it feels as though you’re walking through a snowstorm with no direction.

I like to put at least two paragraphs between the end of my proper writing and the white space. These can be lists of things that have to happen, scene sketches that I’m still working on, or even a note to myself. It could be a diary, anything really, so long as it pertains to the book.

If I had to guess, this tricks your brain into thinking the book already has an ending, something that you’re moving toward. A forest with familiar signposts (in this case, words). Anything to not have to face the precipitous drop off into infinity.

Another theory is that this acts as a buffer against some kind of void, a vast emptiness that possibly reflects our fears of death (but not death itself, not by a long shot).

It works every time. If I’m stuck, I’ll bust something out really quick, go up a few paragraphs, and start writing from the new thick of it.

This blog’s readership shot up significantly over the past week. Welcome to all the new readers! Thanks for your time. I’ve got to remind myself to share my stuff, just in case you’re interested. I currently have the first 3 of the 5 Black Gum Novellas up for “pay what you want” right over here. Please don’t be shy about downloading it for free if you want to see what you’re getting into. The system is in place specifically to allow people who want to pay to have the space to do that, and to allow folks who are unsure (or in a tough spot financially) the opportunity to read it. It’s a great set-up, much better than the strict price points of The Evil Empire.

I’ll condense this into a boilerplate endnote for blogs, so you don’t have to bother reading through my spiel every time. But if you get the first three here, I’ll send you the other two for free when I drop ’em.

Also! If you’re one of my long-suffering Kickstarter backers, I have some exciting news about Dying World (one of the four books). My plan is to release that, the entire Black Gum Cycle, and two other books (Desert Priest and a book of writing advice) in limited edition short runs. I’m looking to have the books feature French flaps and nice paper stock. They’ll look great. I have a two-year plan for having all of this done, but the good news is the books will be/so far are great, and you’ll be happy with that investment you made long, long ago.

I’m hoping the continual blogging and releasing of novellas and full-length novels will inspire confidence for my readers, considering I had a dry spell of about six years.

I’ll start with runs of about 250 copies (minus those that go out to the KS backers), and re-up on stock depending on demand. The idea is to have these be relatively rare, but I’m not going to commit to a “once they’re gone, they’re gone” model (as that’s been tried by other writers to decidedly middling results).

The holistic publishing approach is essentially “ebooks will be pay what you want, while hard copies will be sold through my blog/Gumroad site in limited capacity.” This free and open system juxtaposed with optional collector exclusivity will be my mode while I shop around a horror book I’m working on to big presses. The idea is to have a multi-pronged approach, between the books and the blog and the podcasts, that all build on each other, with the end goal being a career as a working-class, professionally curious person.

In the meantime, I edit books in order to pay the bills. I am booked through the end of April, but if you’re interested in work, please contact me for quotes.

Have a good Sunday!

Back to Normal 03/13/21

There’s something about mid-March rain smell in Oklahoma that brings so many memories back. It feels like a time for celebration, even though the skies are gray and the weatherman threatens flood.

It feels like there’s been a shift in the public consciousness. Donald Trump no longer being president has a lot to do with it, I think. So does the rollout of the vaccine. For a while I was worried that people would be permanently scarred by the year-long fear campaign, and surely some people will, but mostly those scars will be borne by the youngest of our society, the children who barely got to live before they were told they were going to die.

Those fears seem less likely now, but something frightening has taken its place: that the panic and hysteria can be turned on and off like a light switch. People really will whip themselves into a 24/7 frenzy about something, and will just as quickly quiet down once they get what they want. It looks very much like a temper tantrum.

And that, to me, is really disconcerting. Rational thought went out the window in 2020, the ability to be level-headed, assess risk, and put things into perspective. All gone. I didn’t think a new face on TV would be enough, but the temperature that I’m taking from people in my orbit (a small sample size, of course) seems to suggest that it really was that simple.

Light switch.

I’m going to choose to look on the bright side of all of this, because with that light switch getting flipped, people seem to want to get back to some version of normal, which is what I’ve been wishing for for the past 12 months. They want to laugh, to look at art, to read books and watch movies. Overall, it’s a win.

But I’ll never forget this past year. Not for the whole rest of my life.

What the past year has taught me is just how fast a population can devolve into witch hunts and hysteria. All it takes is a clown in office and the threat of infestation. It had been a while since we were really afraid of some outside force invading our space, whether that’s our neighborhood or our bodies. It’s not lost on me that “leaked” cell phone videos that came from China showing people displaying what we can now see are very un-c*vid-like symptoms were what really seemed to trigger the Western world.

There’s some latent xenophobia going on with the whole thing. Even the conservative c*vid deniers got in on the action. The sinophobia was too strong to resist. How does one say that the v*rus is both fake and that it was made in a Chinese laboratory? Strap in, friend. They’ll find a way.

I’m happy to see that my friends are getting their vaccines, and that it’s helping them to return to some sense of normalcy. Whether or not they work, or whether they’re safe long term, well, I guess we’ll find out. The trick about measuring the effectiveness and safety of a thing over time is that it takes time to do that, so we won’t know. You’re all adults. You can make your own risk assessment. My position on that hasn’t changed. And, at the end of the day, if I have to take a vaccine to travel or go to shows or even to make my friends comfortable around me, then I’ll do it. I’ll just hold out for as long as I can, which probably won’t be very long. It’s odd, how social pressure works. It’s odd that at the end of it I won’t have a practical choice as to what I put into my body. The decision has been made for me, pretty much.

“You could always go live in the woods, or stay inside all day, or not do anything you enjoy for the rest of your life.” Yeah, it’s not a choice at all.

My sincere hope for everyone reading this is that you never find yourself on the wrong end of a zeitgeist. I’m not going to pretend that it really hurt me in any way. I still work, I still have my family and my friends. But mentally, it’s difficult to feel that alone all the time. It’s even more difficult to read people who share your opinions and find out the other things they believe! Strange bedfellows doesn’t begin to cover it.

But there’s a lesson in all of it. I learned this year that I’m just one guy in a huge world, and there’s not much I can do to change that. You ever watch movies that take place in the Dark Ages, and you think damn, it would really suck to be at the whim of a king, to really have no choice in your life? Well, I’ve got bad news for you: you really don’t. We are tossed around by the large forces that control things, or try to control things, anyway. God help you if you’re not smart enough to shut up and go along with it.

In that helplessness, however, is a lot of power. It shifts your perspective to what you can control. And you render unto Caesar the rest of it.

Stay safe, and stay healthy out there. I’m going to enjoy this rainy day, and remember what all these new familiar smells mean.

Adding Metaphors 03/12/21

I was talking to a buddy of mine on the phone, another writer, and we were puzzling over the state of books these days. When I say “these days,” it is not to imply that there was some golden age when all books were awesome. It simply speaks to the unique way in which most books are bad in this particular moment.

He had an interesting theory: that books are intentionally bad. This piqued my conspiracy brain. His rationale was simple: there are so many writers putting out great stuff on small and indie presses. Unique and interesting writers exist in all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds, and they’re not even limited to English-speaking countries. And yet, the representation we get is usually bottom of the barrel bullshit. His thought process was that if you started publishing these actually good writers, you wouldn’t be able to slip as much bullshit in anymore. That means someone famous, or their kid, or someone who you owe a favor to, wouldn’t be able to publish, because everybody couldn’t pretend that these were great books anymore.

Obviously the way things work in reality is much more complex than that, and subjectivity is a thing! Still, I like the metaphor of it. The “myth” aspect that Charles Eisenstein speaks of.

Speaking of metaphor, he had another great insight into what big publishers are looking for these days. He mentioned a post he’d seen on Facebook, years ago, from a successful literary agent. She linked to a “metaphor generator,” and her post simply read “Authors: use this.”

What they’re looking for, it turns out, is at least one metaphor per page. This is an actual rubric that is being used. Meaning it’s some poor developmental editor’s job to go through manuscripts and leave notes like “action here…metaphor?” or “description here…metaphor?”

By way of example, he sent me an excerpt from Chuck Wendig’s book Wanderers. I think this is helpful, but shouldn’t be read as either an endorsement or a dunk on this guy’s writing. He’s successful, and we are grabbing all the tools we might need to carve out the lives we want. These can be integrated rather than enforced. And who knows? It might just help some of us get one step closer to a bigger audience (which, and this is maybe a subject for another post, should be the goal with regards to publishing with a big house, not necessarily the money…I know only a handful of people who have made big boy money from their major debuts).

Here is the example:

Count the metaphors. I analyzed Wendig’s piece of writing closely, and there is, more often than not, at least one per paragraph within the whole excerpt. But he does some other interesting stuff, as well.

He focuses on the specific, in many cases. Sensory detail, authoritative statements on minutiae, and the occasional bit of conversational humor. Overall, it feels like talking to a booksmart friend. And it seems to work!

I’m not suggesting, again, that you somehow alter your entire style to match Wendig’s. That’s impossible to begin with, because you are you, and you have a unique way to approach these things. But as someone who is working on a book that I’ll be sending out to agents (in between writing the books that I plan on releasing independently), I’m taking this note and tacking it up on my wall.

As a final, passing thought: rap music does this, as well.

Solutionism (Part 3) 03/11/

In our hero narratives, there is often a person who is just like you and me, who discovers that they have a secret power. Luke Skywalker or Harry Potter come to mind. It turns out they’re not just regular Joes, but are instead Chosen Ones, with the power to alter the course of history. Our actual history is full of people like this as well, because they do exist, although they are slightly less common than lottery winners.

This seeps into our minds. If we are not Chosen Ones, and therefore cannot alter the course of history, then there is no point in doing anything. Which is halfway correct. I suppose you could vote, if you felt like it.

But I think we often overlook the power of small lives. During your day to day, you encounter people, you might feed a pet, you might add 500 words to a novel. You might raise a child or make dinner for a significant other, you might enjoy a beer with friends or make small talk with coworkers. You can teach people in prison how to read, you can pick up trash on the side of the road, you can (as Peter Singer recommends) donate 10% of your income to whatever organization you think is doing the most good. You could build a time machine in your backyard, or plant a garden, or learn the different types of birds in the trees near the condemned houses on your block. You could squat in an aqueduct or listen to the rain outside your window. You can lift weights and you can boil some broccoli. There are all sorts of things you can do. Read a book on the history of Mexico, watch a movie made in 1985, listen to the Esalen recordings of Terence McKenna, play a video game. You can actively not give a shit about things that don’t matter, and it’s through that practice that the real things that do matter start to come through.

Nihilism and apathy are the wrong words for what I’m suggesting. It’s more of an active engagement with the short life you’ve been given, imbuing every moment you can with as much fullness as possible. The concept of “as above, so below” is functional here, and if you fix the below of your life, all of you, then the above will work itself out.

The learned helplessness of problems that are too big are specifically meant to psy-op you into doing nothing at all. Feeding possums becomes a radical act. Doing ten pull-ups is an incredible victory. Finishing a book all the way through is an accomplishment.

Appliances are not meant to last. Batteries are meant to die. This is so that you can be sold a new thing. The same thing goes for ideologies. They are meant to collapse, to present problems so big that all you need is the newest, most refined ideology to replace it with. All you have to do is keep letting yourself be crushed over and over again. There’s an app for that.

What’s the solution? There isn’t one. There are many solutions.

Solutionism (Part 2) 03/10/21

Received a cool series of texts today from a friend:

“In response to the closing question on your blog today, this permaculture principle came to mind: Observe until you can see how the problem becomes the solution to improve something else. Make the minimal intervention necessary to achieve an effect. Measure the effect and decide whether an adjustment is in order or a different intervention altogether.”

This is more of a solution than I was thinking, which could be boiled down into “don’t do shit.” But I like it, and I appreciate the person sending it along.

In both cases, the principle stands that you step away from a difficult issue until you can either find a new way to tackle it, or you can find a different issue that you can tackle.

Put another way, while discussing the difficult Sekiro with a friend, he said, “Sleeping helps. It’s like playing the piano. When you wake up, you’ll know how to play the piece.”

At my worst moments on social media, I would become obsessed with a conversational meme, or just how stupid everybody was being. How wrong they were. I found it helpful to take a step back, find someone who was not online, and attempt to explain what was bothering me in under thirty seconds. If I couldn’t then the situation was complex enough to suggest that it was something specific to me, and that I was caught in a loop that I had to extricate myself from.

Being against solutionism does not suggest that you never attempt to fix anything, or make it better. It is against the all-encompassing principle that if a thing is “broken” it needs to be “fixed.” That implies that you know what broken is, and what fixing it would look like.

And I’m not sure that we do.

So what can we do?

Let’s give it another day to think about it.

Solutionism 03/09/21

I refuse to write about long-dead authors of children’s books on this blog. Or the Space Jam rabbit. Or the skunk. Or the Mexican mouse. I think Jordan really hit the nail on the head with this tweet:

I mean…that’s pretty much it, isn’t it? From any end of the political spectrum. Yesterday, the cheeseburger factory posted a tweet about women in the kitchen, and man was it ever successful! But I won’t write about whether it was right or wrong to say that.

What I’m more curious about is the way that capitalism so incredibly successfully ingratiates itself in every aspect of our lives. It is truly inescapable.

We begin with two ways of thought: the first is whether or not something is right or wrong. The second is whether or not something should be done about it.

The second mode of thought is a tricky process of decision-making that largely hinges on whether or not the wrong thing is itself causing harm.

In a corporate/consumer hell, anything that upsets the customer is causing harm, and must be destroyed.

When I worked in retail, we had a very strict “the customer is always right” attitude. This led to years of annoyance and, at times, outright abuse from customers. There were some people who, I swear, would go into the retail establishment where I worked looking for a fight. A fight that they knew they could win. Someone to pick on, essentially.

Luckily, it seems as if the tide is changing, with that:

Watching videos like this warms my heart. These two trolls walked into a B&BW with no masks on. Whether or not you think masks are a good thing (insert picture of the red-faced kid with the vein showing in his forehead trying not to say shit), these women very specifically went into this store to show their ass. They were continuing a long, proud tradition of daring employees to say something to them, specifically so that they could enact their power as a customer.

It didn’t work out for them. Warms my heart.

Capitalism is based around the illusion of choice, and the illusion of power. You have a choice as to which product you consume, and you have the illusion of power over whichever (still $7.25/hr) employee looks at you the wrong way.

It is only natural that this would extend into a neverending news cycle. The synthesis of the illusion of choice and the illusion of power is the illusion of “progress,” an illusion of “something being done” about a perceived wrong.

The irony of this, of course, is that in most cases, right or wrong, nothing should be done. It is the 2021 disease of solutionism.

I’m sure I’ll write more about this tomorrow. And maybe the next day. It’s an important topic. I’m busier than I’ve been in quite some time, with a full editing schedule from now all the way til the end of April.

But something to sit with now is the question: when should things be done about a perceived wrong?

Indexical Signs 03/08/21

I was reading Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think over the past week in preparation for a podcast episode of No Country. The book has a lot to say about how the Runa people of Ecuador interact with their environment, the animals in it, and fellow people.

It gets really dense at a certain point, and Kohn gets deep in the weeds with some semiotics, nobody’s favorite methodology. But it got me thinking about writing (of course), and how different signs work on the page.

There are three different types of signs: symbolic, iconic, and indexical. Symbolic signs are the words on this page, symbols that represent ideas, objects, etc. Sigils would fit into this as well. Iconic signs represent the signified directly. It’s like the little man walking at a crosswalk. Indexical signs relate to the signified, how do I describe this…the best way I heard it described is seeing smoke means you know there is fire. Another way are the skull and crossbones label on poison. Drinking poison is the signified, but the indexical sign is what happens down the road.

In a book, we are using symbols to relate ideas. If there are pictures, we are using icons. But I think a lot of great writing uses indexical signs as well.

By the way, if I mess any of this up, remember that I’m a dumbass.

Some of my favorite passages in books relate indexically to the thing that they’re trying to express. These are clues or hints within a text that allow us to form a picture in our minds without the words to explain them. It’s kind of how jokes work, as well. You’re doing that final leap to click the picture together, rather than having it told to you expositionally.

I’m sure there’s a better word for that.

Thanks for reading the blog! I’ve gotten a bunch of new readers in the past few days. I do this every day, so feel free to subscribe. Sometimes neat things come out of these daily sit-downs. It’s an emergent thing. I go into it with no clear path, and just dump thoughts down. It’s cool!

My new book is out, and I’ve bundled the first three over on Gumroad. If you get this one, I’ll either send you the file (if there’s a way to do that) or you can download the next two for free.