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Parental Struggles: Violence in Sport

Ok, it’s time to come clean. I’m struggling with something I have to admit I’ve never really had to deal with until now but is something I’ve wondered about with other parents. You know those folks who don’t want their kids playing sports because they might get hurt? I get it now.

This Labor Day weekend we had both our kids playing in a tournament in Denver. Thankfully they both played on the same fields at times that worked for watching both of them play every day instead of having to divide and conquer across the state to make games (topic for another post). So we all went up together in the late summer heat and the haze from late summer wildfires across the US drifting lazily across our state.

They play in two different age groups. One plays high school and one plays U13. So we’re looking at a couple of different levels of play here. The high school aged girls are battle tested and have been playing for a decade or more in some cases. The U13 players are just midway through that span, with anywhere from 5 to 7 years or so.

Some more, some less. I’m not making snap judgments here, just identifying a gap not only in skill level but experience.

Mickey, now 16 going on 17, had her first major ankle sprain a few weeks ago in another tournament. AJ, now 12, has been playing goalie for years and has an array of rough spots, from ankles and knees to shoulders and wrists. They have friends who have had knee surgery, physical therapy, and heaven knows what else.

But let me get back on topic.

My wife plays soccer. Both daughters play soccer. We’ve seen indoor, outdoor, and Futsal (another brand of indoor) in some variety every year since I married my wife and it’s only ramped up since then with both girls playing competitively since they were in kindergarten or so.

Suffice it to say, that’s a lot of soccer. We’ve had many different coaches. Most good. A few bad apples. But usually the games are more about playing hard and doing your best than anything else.

On Saturday I watched that suddenly change and now I’m both furious and terrified.

In all the years and games I’ve watched my kids play, I’ve never seen anybody carded. Yes, I’ve heard tales. Sure, I’ve seen warnings. But never an actual card, yellow or red.

Saturday, I watched the opposing team get two yellow cards. And I watched our goalie Kate, who I’ve watched grow up with Mickey and consider another one of our extended family, get hammered. Repeatedly. She was in pain. She was frustrated. And she played through it, somehow. I would have quit or tried to rip the other girl’s arms and legs off by that point. The other team was deliberately targeting her, even after she was obviously hurt and they were winning.

I also watched AJ struggle on the field, but it wasn’t at the same level. Skill and judgment errors. Learning opportunities. Not violence targeted against our players.

Sunday, I watched AJ struggle again. And I watched her hurt herself during a dive. She landed hard and hurt a shoulder she’s hurt before. And she came out of the game. She’ll be fine over time, but it was not fun to watch and less fun for her to endure.

And then I tried to watch Mickey’s team play. After I watched a girl target Kate a few times and then watched Kate slide for the ball and take a girl out with her, I had to walk away. Kate’s mom was doing everything she could beside us not to scream bloody murder. I totally understood that after watching AJ get hurt on her own and then watching Kate get pummeled and do some pummeling.

I had to walk away.

That opposing team also got two yellow cards before the game was done.

I’ve sat through a lot of games. All across the state. And I have watched these girls play hard and get hurt most years. I can’t sit and watch as another team systematically attempts to hurt them — DELIBERATELY — on a playing field. I will be at many games this year, but I’m not sure how many I’ll be able to watch from start to finish.

Good sportsmanship. Good skills. Playing hard. Doing your best. Those are things I admire and can support. I don’t give a crap about who wins or loses.

Playing deliberately to hurt players and take them out of the game? To hell with that.

The levels of what I can tolerate as far as deliberate violence have never been high. Sure, I have watched years of college and professional football. But I can’t watch boxing or MMA fighting, though I have respect for what they are capable of doing (especially MMA). My father and grandfather used to watch boxing together and I never had the stomach for it. Hitting someone for sport was not something I could fathom.

That hasn’t changed and now that it’s my own kids — it’s even harder.

So to those parents who can’t stand to see their play sports because they might get hurt? I have a different perspective now. And I get it a bit more.

A Climate of Hate

By now, I hope my daughters have seen the man I try to be every day. Not just when they’re watching, but even when nobody else is around. Character is defined by what we do when we think nobody is watching. But living a life of trying to lead by example, I’m struck by how I see the world these days.

The events in Charlottesville are unbelievable. I can’t wrap my head around the kind of hate necessary to drive into a group of people at speed. It boggles my mind, honestly. And unfortunately it’s not an isolated incident.

If I take a step back however, I think it comes down to the idea that many of us seem to think that our everyday actions lack consequences.

Nearly every day, I see one or more of these behaviors:

  • Not stopping at a stop sign simply because there’s nobody else waiting, nobody is walking, and there isn’t a cop watching the scene to hold you accountable for your actions.
  • Staring at your phone while in a group of people because whatever the other people are doing is less important than the microcosm of activity on your tiny device.
  • Not stopping to listen to an authority figure such as a coach, teacher, or parent, because whatever they’re saying isn’t as important as the thoughts you have in your own head or what they’re saying doesn’t jive with what you believe to be true.
  • Not living your life because you’re too busy living vicariously through the lives and thoughts of others who choose to share their opinions and activities on social media on an almost moment to moment basis.

We’ve encouraged a society of people to believe that their actions have no consequences. We’ve enabled people in our society to stop paying attention to the world around them. We’ve handed our lives over to tiny devices and huge systems run by people and organizations who we don’t really know and we really don’t know what they’re doing with our data.

Beyond giving up my phone, ending my career as a software engineer, and becoming a hermit or joining a monastery far from the influences of “Western” society, I’m not sure how to combat this. And even then I’m, once again, only trying to lead by example.

  • I stop at stop signs because it’s the right thing to do. I try to slow down and take it easy because arriving at my destination is much more important than getting there at the speed of light.
  • I try to put down my phone as often as I can when people are talking to me. The real world trumps the virtual one.
  • I try to listen to what’s going on in the world around me. It’s amazing what I pick up when that happens. And though I may not agree with everything I hear, I have the power to choose not to believe everything I hear and read. Instead, I go with my gut a lot more. And it’s right more often than I’m willing to admit.
  • And I’m guilty of oversharing on social media. I know I am. Do I stop? I just don’t know.

I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination, but some of the teachings in those good books seem pretty good about now. Love thy neighbor. Do unto others as you would have done to you. Respect your elders. Listen. Make the world a better place. All the platitudes we seem to ignore as a population these days. Putting them into practice is the tough part.

My hope is that by doing the things that need to be done, listening as best I can, and being the best person I can given the circumstances of any given moment, it’s enough. I can’t control anybody but myself, so I really do hope it’s enough.

Review: Ghost in the Shell

When Ghost in the Shell was first touted in the media as a live action movie in the works, I was intrigued — but not overly so. I’ve owned the DVD for years and never taken the time to sit down and watch what has been claimed to be one of the pillars of the anime movement. An exploration of what it means to be human using a far flung future where androids and cybernetic human enhancement run wild.

It’s not the first time this idea has been brought to the screen (big or little). Blade Runner covered this back in the 1980s with what I think of as one of the pillars of my geekdom. If artificial creations gain sentience, do they have a soul? (By the way, I’m both intrigued and terrified of the Blade Runner 2049 sequel/follow-up coming out in October. I’m not a Ryan Gosling fan, but am concerned at what they will do to trample on this treasure from my youth.)

Rather than exploring it from the AI side, Ghost in the Shell takes a human mind and stuffs it inside a robot body and asks if it’s still human. As such, I found it more than a little disturbing at how little emotion there actually was throughout the picture. It was as though the main character was so detached that she was unable to even be the conduit through which the audience is drawn into this world.  We know ScarJo can emote — she does it with the Black Widow in the Marvel universe. This was a case where her character wasn’t really allowed that sort of emotional leeway.

And that doesn’t even bring up the whole idea of the whitewashing that occurred. This is a classic Anime piece with traditional Japanese values throughout. It was quite bizarre to see Scarlett Johansson play a character I assumed to be Japanese. She wasn’t alone either, with Takeshi Kitano playing the only true Japanese character in the whole film. It’s not that it didn’t have a good cast, just that it seemed weird that in such an Asian-based world (with Geisha girl robots, painful shoes, and iconic koi fish) we had so many gaijin. It’s possible that was done in the original anime as well, but I doubt it.

I was glad I rented the film instead of going to see it in the theater. Ghost in the Shell was visually stunning. The level of detail in the background and world building was astonishing. I just wish I cared about the main character more. It was an OK film, but mostly forgettable as a character piece for me. I wanted to care more about the characters and really just got distracted by the cool stuff behind her in every scene.

My wife is 29 again

It’s my wife Evelyn’s birthday today. She’s 29 again. And she’s impossible to shop for, so I thought I’d try to put a few words together to describe a bit of what she means to me.

Let me start with a crazy number. Together we’ve put nearly 500,000 miles on our automobiles since we started on this crazy road and that doesn’t even include air miles. First there was her truck and “Black Betty” my first 4Runner. Then there was the silver thing that’s come to be known as “The Street Petz Car.” And in the last couple of years there’s “The New Car.” And they’ve all been all over the place, even coast to coast in some cases. That’s a lot of miles together.

Second, let me follow that up with the fact that without her, I would probably not have traveled even half of that distance over the last 17 years. I have seen and done things that have surprised and even terrified me occasionally, but I have grown as a human being because of it. In return, I have attempted to educate her in the ways of being a geek and now we enjoy many of the same things from super heroes on the big screen to queens and dragons on the little one. Personally, I think I got the better part of that deal.

And lastly, let me try and describe how I see my wife because I may see her differently than the rest of the world.

She is a force of nature. Until recently, I didn’t know which force that was to be honest. But I have decided that she’s like the wind, moving full speed ahead one minute in one direction only to swirl, do a little dance, and shift directions in the next. I cannot compete with that, so I don’t try. Instead, I try to be the stone she wears away like a sculptor, remaining as constant as I can in the face of her indomitable will. At my core, I am the same man I have always been, but she has carved away many of the hard angles so that I don’t get so hung up on things as they fly past in the gale.

She has given us two beautiful, intelligent, strong-willed, crazy daughters we are proud of every day. They will go into the world with more than a few great role models of strong, amazing women behind them every step of the way. And at the heart of that crazy energy is my wife rooting them on with fierce determination, love, and a whole lot of sarcasm.

Today she is 29 again, but at her core she is still the youthful hurricane that knocked me off my feet and has kept me dancing ever since. My hope is that the dance never ends.

Love you hon. Forever and a day, plus one. Happy birthday!

Gratitude is More Than Lip Service

I’ve had enough self entitlement for a while. And though I was once a teenager, I hope to hell I didn’t have my head as firmly implanted up my ass as some folks do at the moment. So I’m going to clear the air with a bit of a rant by expressing three ideas as clearly as I can.

One: Be Grateful for the People Who Help You, Because They Don’t Have To

First, let’s talk about the things that people do for you out of the kindness of their hearts. As a parent, I feel responsible for my children’s well being. And I’d like to see them happy, but usually that’s beyond my control so I focus on the things that I can do.

I promise to put a roof over their head, make sure they have clothes to wear, and food to eat. I promise to make sure that they are afforded both a good education and health care as long as I am able. And to the best of my ability I will try to support their hopes and dreams by providing support and advice whenever I can.

That’s it.

I don’t feel that I’m here to support their social lives and drive them around town to parties with their friends. I don’t feel like I’m here to ensure that they get the latest X or Y because everybody else has one. I’m not always going to say “YES.”  And I’m not going to give them spending money unless I feel they’ve earned it in some way.

They get my love and attention, room and board, clothing, health care, and as much education as we can afford. That’s a pretty good deal.

In addition, when I am able, I try to support their extra-curricular habits. In my house the list of extra-curricular activities starts with soccer, but varies wildly after that. Drama. Choir. Art. Cooking. It gets insane. But there’s a point of no return here. If you push your luck, the next time I will likely be less inclined to help you in your mission of the moment.

I’m not saying that I won’t take them to the occasional party, practice, or shopping spree, but I am saying that I’m not made of time, patience, or money and there are limits to all three.

Two: Gratitude is More Than Lip Service

Second, if you’re in my house, you’re pretty spoiled whether you have two feet or four. We spend way too much money on things we don’t need. We go out to eat too frequently. And we’ve even gone on trips to the other side of the world from time to time. So… spoiled and you have it pretty good.

What I expect in return is that you participate in the household experience, show respect towards family members (both immediate and in our crazy extended family), and express gratitude towards those people who help you out. Otherwise, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

This means that you need to take a good look around you every now and then and examine life beyond your own little world. Help with the dishes. Cook a meal. Clean up a room. Take care of the animals. Offer to do something nice for a change.

But it goes beyond muttering the words “thank you” or “love you” every now and then and trying to isolate yourself more and more. Actions speak louder than words. We do a lot for you without you having to ask us and we would like to think you would do the same.

That hasn’t always been the case. And it wears thin. So refill the gratitude bucket now and then without us badgering us to do so.

Three: Pay it Forward

Lastly, be sure to pay it forward. I’ll explain this with a quote. Babylon-5 was a TV show well ahead of its time. And it had many quotable moments, but one of my favorites was when G’Kar (a warrior and a politician) gave some advice to another character… “The universe is run by the interweaving of three elements: Energy, matter, and enlightened self-interest.” This quote is never far from my mind.

What do I mean by that? Karma is a bitch. If you take the folks for granted who help you daily, it’s going to bite you in the butt eventually. If you are mean, cruel, or rude to them, the payback is that much quicker. The principle of enlightened self-interest is best expressed through the Golden Rule… ” do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matt. 7:12)

Unless you want to be treated like crap, try to treat those around you with kindness, love, and respect at all times. Maybe they don’t deserve it. Maybe you don’t feel like giving it. Doing the right thing is rarely easy all the time. But doing so is in your best interests.

You have been treated kindly by the universe so far. Pay it forward. The universe may not respond in kind immediately, but I bet eventually your kindness will come back to you in spades. It’s a good feedback loop to try and keep going.


Rant over.

 

One Crazy Stay That Influenced My Creative Life

Today I saw the trailer for a new project from Netflix based on a world I explored from a hospital bed in 1982 or 1983. Later this year Netflix and Jim Hensons’ Creature Shop will begin work on The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance and watching the teaser over at Nerdist, I got very excited. VERY excited.

Go watch if you would like, I’ll wait…

Ok, are you back? Cool! Now let me tell you a story about why this got me all geeked up and set me on an expedition into my memories.

While I was in junior high school, in the 7th grade I think, I played basketball. Poorly, but I had fun and worked hard with a bunch of my buddies. One day during practice, I unexpectedly had a grand mal seizure. One moment I was passing the ball to a teammate. The next I was sitting on the wall of the gym covered in a bit of my own vomit with my coach and wondering what the hell happened. Definitely one of the scariest moments of my childhood.

That led me to an ER visit, which led to visiting various specialist doctors, and eventually I ended up at Children’s Hospital in downtown Denver. The very nice doctors and nurses there got me sorted out and I was on my way after a few days. I won’t bore you with the details, but will suffice it to say it was a side effect of a thyroid issue and treatable with medication I’m still on today.

While I was there, I had a TV in my room and that TV had HBO. I think this was before the time we had cable TV at home, so HBO (and cable in general) were luxuries we simply didn’t have. And all I remember watching are two movies over and over again while I was in that bed hooked up like a video game.

  • Firefox. Clint Eastwood as a pilot of a super jet he stole from the Russians and had to use his mind to control. It was awesome. Gun fights. Cool planes. Spies. Everything a growing boy needed to kill a couple of hours.
  • And The Dark Crystal. Wow. Jim Henson took it up a notch for that one.  Fantasy. Magic. Monsters. Humor. Peril. This one blew me away even more than Clint flying an amazing jet.

Quite honestly I think The Dark Crystal formed most of my initial impressions of the fantasy genre. This was about the same time I discovered Dungeons & Dragons and played with my friends every weekend we could. To this day, I remember the Skeksis being cruel and interesting, while the Mystics were slow and meditative. The Gelflings were my entry into a world very far beyond our own. And they had a pet — Fizgig — and I wanted one.

My other influences were Star WarsRaiders of the Lost ArkFlash Gordon, and many many books. I devoured fantasy and science fiction and hardly touched a comic book.

But if you look at the stories I create, they’re a combination of Conan the Barbarian and The Dark Crystal. Sure, there are more variations than that, but my sword and sorcery influences are strong even today.

Why am I excited about The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance? Because I’ll be revisiting my childhood and revitalizing my love for Jim Henson fantasy… YAY! I hope they don’t screw it up. 🙂

So let me leave you with this question…

What were the movies, TV, or books that influenced you the most in your childhood? Let me know in the comments!

The Struggle with Negativity

Every so often I fall into the trap that many people do and start listening to the whispers in my head. Call it self-doubt. Call it self-loathing. Call it imposter syndrome. But whatever it is, the whispers are never a positive influence.

  • You don’t deserve this.
  • Happiness is for other people.
  • You suck.
  • Nobody listens, so why talk?

Now, the rational part of my mind knows this is all bullshit. I definitely deserve to be happy, deserve to be heard, and deserve to have the success that I have worked hard to achieve. But the whispers wear me down over time and I get more and more tired.

Though I am married to an extrovert, I’m definitely an introvert. So I typically have to combat this negativity by feeding the creative side of my personality during my downtime. Sometimes I can do that through my writing. Other times through reading or drawing or music.

But these days that’s become harder and harder to do as we have become more and more busy as a family. The girls are constantly busy with school, soccer, and busy social lives. My wife is working at multiple animal clinics, running a non-profit, playing indoor and outdoor soccer, and starting a business. I’m working a full-time job, trying to be a part-time publisher, and attempting to keep up with the madness.

What’s quickly becoming apparent is that without the time to recharge, the battle between positive and negative forces is becoming a losing one, so I need to change a few things. I can already feel the retreat from the world in full swing inside my brain and choosing to fall back behind a wall of my own devising is not the way to go.

I’m finding less and less downtime in the cracks and finding that a few minutes here or there isn’t enough to combat the slide. Even a few hours tucked in here or there doesn’t seem to be enough. Sleep isn’t enough because it never has been. And our lives are definitely not slowing down any.

So I just need to figure out how to a) stop the retreat and b) return to a sense of positivity again in a world not predisposed to giving me what I need.

Yay. This adulting thing continues to be a challenge.

A few thoughts on a big ape

A couple of weeks ago I went to see Kong: Skull Island with my wife for a long lunch on a Friday. I had some bad vibes about the film, but was hoping to be blown away by a new take on the old tale. I like a good monster movie, after all.

It turned out that Kong was more about the filmmaker trying to recreate Apocalypse Now than create a monster movie. But even so, I found myself saying two very positive things about the film when we were done. 1. It was a very pretty monster movie. And 2, it had a great soundtrack.

When I saw Apocalypse Now in high school, it was in AP English during a unit on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. I honestly didn’t like either the book or the movie and I think the movie soured me pretty much on war movies in general, not that I was really a war movie kind of guy. (I did appreciate the parody in Hot Shots! with Charlie Sheen however.)

Kong is the story of a small collection of characters and their relationship with the big ape. One wants to prove it exists. One wants to kill it because he can’t stand the idea that he lost the Vietnam War. One has accepted Kong as a force for balance in a world of monsters. And one, well, I’m not sure why he was there. And I think that was part of the problem.

The girl (played by Brie Larson) was not there for a good reason other than the fact that King Kong needs his Fay Wray. Tom Hiddleston was there for the money. Sam Jackson was crazy. John Goodman wasn’t far behind. And John C. Reilly was the only character in the whole damn film who I felt I really believed.

Did I mention it was a very pretty movie with a great soundtrack?

Kong and Skull Island was amazing. The special effects were fantastic. I want to just get an animated gif of Kong snacking on some squid tentacles at some point just for fun. And the soundtrack was right out of the early 1970s. I jammed along to every single song.

But I couldn’t get emotionally invested with any of the main characters except for John C. Reilly — and I don’t even like Reilly. His crazy little pilot character was the only grounded thing in the whole damn movie for me.

Maybe I missed something, but I want an emotional connection to a character in the flick if it’s going to really do anything for me. It doesn’t give me a lot of hope for the Tom Cruise Mummy movie that’s coming this summer, though I know I’m going to go see it and hope that it is better than this one.

It seems I’m in the minority on this one, so go form your own opinions. The big ape deserved more than a nod to Vietnam in my book.

The Prisons of Thought We Build for Ourselves

This past Friday, I was doing a workout for the CrossFit Open and found myself saying a number of things I hadn’t heard come out of my mouth for a while. “No more.” “I can’t.” “F*ck this.” All while attempting to squat under a 20 pound medicine ball and thrust it upwards to a 10 foot target. It’s a common movement in crossfit and one I’ve done many times before. But I seriously wanted to quit.

Putting aside any physical discomfort, this is a common problem for me in more than just crossfit. There are many, many boundaries I bump up against that are purely in my brain. I am a creature of comfort. If I’m pushed out of my comfort zone, I really struggle to continue.

Thank goodness for crossfit and the demands of family life or I would be even more of a social hermit than I already am.

I’ll give you an example.

I hate crowds. They are exhausting to me. I’m pretty good at reading the room, both from a strictly neutral observation standpoint and from an emotional one. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that I’m empathic, but I have used that word before. If I’m in a space with more than 5 or 8 people, it gets difficult because I am bombarded with input.

Sometimes I can center myself enough to enable myself to remain calm in certain situations. A couple of years ago we went to a concert where I was able to sit on the ground with my family, close my eyes, and focus on the music rather than the masses of people that surrounded us. I almost reached a sort of meditative state to where I was able to tune out the world and just listen.

Other times, that’s not an option. I’m a geek and like geek things, but places like Denver Comic Con are completely overwhelming. Even a few hours of wandering through the vendor and art hall, I have to really fight to stay calm.

Honestly both of these reactions are ridiculous and I believe I learned the behavior from my father. He has hated crowds as long as I can remember. Going to places like Elitch’s or Disneyland was not his idea of a good time, so now it’s not mine either. But I’m at a loss with how to combat it.

My response when my wife asks if I want to go somewhere where a crowd is almost immediately no. But I’ve gone to Denver Comic Con a few times now despite it. And by forcing myself to endure those situations, I hope I’m helping myself get over the automatic “NO” response. It certainly doesn’t feel like it’s helping, but hey — at least I’m trying.

Here’s another one of those weird behaviors that is having a detrimental effect on my ability to function day to day. Talking on the phone. I go out of my way to avoid it, actively putting off the simplest of conversations simply because it causes me a great deal of stress.

A few years ago we had some issues with a collections agency. We went through one of those organizations that helps with such things and that was supposed to reduce our stress while resolving the problems. And it did resolve the problems, eventually. But it did not reduce my stress.

I learned to hate the phone during that period of my life. Now I go out of my way to avoid any phone number I don’t recognize. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message. But it doesn’t help the other way. Calling people back. Making simple calls to make appointments. All of this becomes impossible because there’s a huge ball of stress that builds whenever I even contemplate picking up the phone.

We only have one working landline in our house right now and I’m considering killing it. We all have cell phones. Cell phone coverage is good at our house so if we need to dial 911 or anything else, we can do so without needing a landline.

But that doesn’t help me. I still have to pick up my cell phone and make the damn phone call.

It’s the most ludicrous thing ever, but it’s standing in my way to doing certain things. I usually ask my wife to make the calls for me so I don’t have to, but even that is becoming harder and harder because I see the insanity of it all.

So as you can see, I’ve built a lovely little conundrum for myself. I don’t like crowds, so you’d think that a phone call would be a perfect solution. But I can’t make a phone call because I can’t get out of my own way to call someone. I’m becoming a hermit in my own house.

What does all this have to do with the crossfit workout at the beginning of the post? Good question. I think it comes down to the fact that if you say things or do things enough, you start to believe them. “I can’t” will eventually just prevent me from doing those damn wall balls, despite the fact that I can do them. Nothing physically is preventing me from doing them, not really.

Just like nothing is preventing me from picking up the phone and making a damn chiropractic appointment. And yet, I can’t bring myself to do it.

The mind is a powerful tool for defining our own prisons. I just wish I could find the damn key.

I know I’m not alone in this, but damn I’m a bit frustrated.

Effective Workflows in Publishing

No, this is not a normal topic for me but it’s something I’ve recently had to ponder and decided to capture my thoughts about.

I’ve been doing desktop publishing in some form or another for a very long time. I’ve worked with Interleaf, Framemaker, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft Word, and InDesign. And I even vaguely remember doing physical layout of copy for a class at CSU more than 25 years ago.

Yes, I’m not doing it professionally these days, even with my degree in Technical Journalism and choosing to make my living doing software development instead, but that doesn’t mean that I have stopped. My work through Moebius Adventures, even going back to the mid 1990s, has seen me lay out books of significant page counts (from a handful of pages to over 100) for quite a few projects since I stopped doing it full time.

But working alone, I probably have developed some odd habits over the last 20 years while I’ve done this work.

For instance, I do quite a bit of writing within my desktop publishing software. I don’t recommend this. In fact, I don’t think anybody does. But it’s easier for me to get some text written in Evernote or in a Google Doc and then keep working on the text itself while I am working on layout. This requires that I mix and match concepts from desktop publishers and writing tools from time to time.

I rely heavily on templates, not only for the look and feel of a book, but to help structure the content. Paragraph styles, just like in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, do that nicely. I can consistently apply the same headings, text styles, bullets, and so on, to keep the document structure manageable. And that’s probably one of the reasons why I can get away with editing/writing directly inside InDesign when I go that route.

So I would sum up my process as:

  1. Write some notes
  2. Move notes into new InDesign document
  3. Do layout and writing at the same time in InDeign from that point until completion

Recently however I hired a designer to help update the look and feel for some of our books. First to create a new template and second to actually lay out a new book.

The designer does not have the same goals in mind as I do for the results of this exchange. I mean, sure — the document has to look good in print or online. That is a shared goal and he definitely has an amazing eye for that. But I realized very late in the game that I was not specific enough in what I was expecting out of a template.

We exchanged many e-mails and sample PDFs of how pages would look and when I got the final template I discovered that paragraph styles were not part of his approach to creating templates. Instead he formats everything independently, changing space before and after, adjusting indents, adding elements, and so on. It’s a perfectly acceptable.

It became very obvious that his preferred process is:

  1. Get complete, final, unchanging document for content
  2. Move content into InDesign and do layout
  3. Produce output. Done.

When I receive the “final” documents from the designer, I will have to go through and update them locally with paragraph styles to create a usable, living document and template I can use from that point forward.

This has been a very expensive lesson to learn.  It’s not the designer’s fault. I made an assumption and it’s going to bite me in the butt.

What was the lesson? Be VERY specific when you are paying someone to create something for you, not only in what you want as your deliverables but how you are going to use the deliverables going forward.

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