Update on that no-media experiment

Things I successfully avoided in my experiment: Fiction. Surprisingly, that was the easiest thing to do. Mostly because there is such interesting nonfiction in the world! Podcasts were easy to avoid, too (with one exception that I knew I couldn’t quit. PCHH, I love you too, too dearly.)

Otherwise, I cheated a whole heck of a lot. I did occasionally still watch things, but I tried to keep it as a reward at the end of a week, or documentaries. I found myself replacing my TV-downtime with games, which I honestly hadn’t thought about. I replayed most of The Talos Principle, which was not the best use of my time, but oh well.

(Sidenote: Seriously, if you haven’t played The Talos Principle, maybe you should?? And then we can talk about it??? It’s about consciousness and puzzles and what it is to be a person and free will and lasers and a storm-engulfed tower and robots, so I don’t know how there isn’t something for everyone in there.)

And then I played through Botanicula and was this close to replaying Samorost and the Submachine games…

So instead, since it’s been about a month, I’m taking a moment to look back on the experiment.

Among other small accomplishments, I did write messy drafts of two new stories, and I got two of the three workshop stories out on submission. That’s not bad. I’m not really attempting to write poetry so much as literally playing with it — I took some paragraphs of stories I’ve written, and pages out of books I was reading, and I cut them into their component parts (copies! don’t worry) and have, occasionally, while listening to music, been reassembling them into poems. And realizing that magnetic poetry is a form of dada cut-up, and yet somehow misses the spirit of the game entirely.

As September creeps into view, I’m going to shift the experiment a little. After a month, I was craving some fiction. So I picked up The Sundial and am reading it, nice and slow.

As for TV: does anyone have some willpower they could loan me?

Confession of failure, already?

That grand plan of mine? I already kicked it over. Yesterday I came home with a headache and feeling rotten, and it was hot, and my cat was cute, and I just, I just really wanted to watch some NewsRadio with my eyes closed, okay?

Back on it today, though. Stories out on sub, having a staring contest with another piece, and I’m about to settle in with a delicious book about a mill strike.

Considering how much amazing free food I got today, I think the universe is okay with my day off yesterday.

I’m going to say right now that there was always a caveat for “movies or TV watched at the behest of friends” so if I happen to go see Ghostbusters then so be it.

But I do want to have as few exceptions as possible, because I’m curious about effects. Everything has an effect on the way you see the world, the way you think, what rattles around in your brain. So what happens when you take a hard right and change a large chunk of the input?

Hopefully genius.

On taking a break from media

I went to this two-week short story workshop, which was amazing. I got back a month ago, and have been meaning to write something about it. I think about it almost every day.

I went to Readercon last weekend, too, and intended to write something about it. Haven’t.

The short story workshop left me with three stories with varying amounts of polishing needed. None of them are on sub yet.

I have this idea for a project that I want to develop. I’ll need collaborators. I’ll need a co-writer, and people who know more about audio files than I do. But first I need to figure out more of it.

I miss playing with interactive fiction and Twine. It’s been a long time since I even opened Twine.

I want to play with writing poetry.

All of these things feel like they’re buried under a pile of junk. I don’t know what that junk is. Maybe it’s the god-awful heat of summer, as I am a creature made of dry dead leaves and impending snow. But I think it’s something else, what with the existence of air-conditioning and sun dresses.

It’s time for drastic measures, you see. In the past those drastic measures would be “BAN TUMBLR, BAN TWITTER.” But I’m not on Tumblr anymore, not really, and Twitter is important to me. Also, not that distracting most of the time.

So I’ve unplugged my external hard drives. No TV, no movies. I don’t have Netflix anymore. I’ll always have YouTube, but it’s not an automatic reflex/refuge.

I might take a break from most of my podcasts. They’ll be there when I come back, after all.

As a test, I’m even going to refrain from picking up another piece of fiction for a while. Just to see what happens in my brain. I read a lot. I can take a break for two weeks. And I’ve heard so many writers talk about how they can or can’t read other things when they’re in the midst of a project that I finally realized I’d never tried that. I’d always assumed I was fine. So I’m going to take a break on purpose.

No TV, no movies, no podcasts, no fiction. It’s kind of terrifying, actually. Distractions are very comforting.

Does anyone else ever do this? Do you institute a media blackout, or other sort of drastic measures? Or do you have other tactics to get things done?

The problem with people, if I may be so bold, is that you’re all convinced you’re people from the inside, but there’s no cast-iron way to confirm as much from the outside.

— The Talos Principle

This game is so good, friends. Except for the three spots I keep rebooting due to laser mines.

the project of civilization

Firstly! The Talos Principle is an amazing puzzle/exploration game and is only $10 right now on Steam.

To expand:

I am a weird gamer, in that I’m not one and kind of wish I were. For console games, I peaked at SNES and have barely so much as looked at a console since. (Nothing will ever beat Chrono Trigger.) I have loved certain computer games in my time, but nothing from, say, this century.

But I do look at games now and then, and want to play them. Beautiful visuals, interesting stories, great work being done. But. Then there’s fighting, or whatever. I get frustrated when you have to manage quick keystrokes during high tension (like getting hacked at by a monster), or you just have to get killed a lot, or get good at physical mechanics of the controller through rote repetition. Also, I don’t have a controller, and playing on a keyboard and mouse isn’t the best.

Anyway, this is all to say that I finally bought The Talos Principle when I had a snow day and, boy, friends, do I love it.


First of all, look at the pretty! It’s so pretty! Ruins and varied skies and plants and shiny portal things and a few laser guards that kill you, and all of it is gorgeously executed.

Secondly, it’s puzzles and exploration. This appealed to me so much about Portal, but Portal became too quickly about maneuvering and dodging and all the dangerous substances. This, though it has some of that, is moving slowly into it. It’s not the point of the game.

THE TOWER (ominous music)

The world is the point. The philosophy. The story. The choices you make, I think, and what it makes you think about.

There is a voice booming from everywhere. There is a prohibition on a certain Tower. There are notes left by other unseen people. There are time capsules telling a slow story. There are questions of personhood, of civilization, of purpose, of intelligence.

And also there are puzzles!

I’m only a little ways into it and I’ve been playing almost 4 hours, so I’m excited about the amount of gameplay I have ahead of me. At the rate I go, this’ll probably do me for, oh, all of 2016.