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Confuse the eye

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Tim Newark’s 2007 book Camouflage

There’s a fantastic piece about the history of camouflage in Topic Magazine this week.

Before camouflage hit the runway, artists in World War I used their creativity to disguise soldiers and protect them from aerial reconnaissance and long-range enemy fire.

To learn how to blend in, the French military turned to an unexpected group—the people who knew best how colors and textures could be used to trick the eye, a resource France had in abundance: artists. Known as camoufleurs, these artists became part of a special military unit that provided camouflage services to the Allied armies during World War I. The camoufleurs would join soldiers in the trenches, painting camouflage patterns directly on weapons, or painting canvas covers with disruptive patterns: brown, black, and green splotches or bold stripes, to make it difficult to see where the weapons’ edges started and stopped. Sometimes devotion to this artistry was dangerous, and in one instance, an artist was shot in the hand when he left a trench to put the final touch on a camouflage pattern.

The camoufleurs also provided the army with color charts that showed different tones of the terrain, depending on the area and season. One such color chart, featured in Tim Newark’s 2007 book Camouflage, looks like an impressionist painting, with golden hues that resemble the sun hitting leaves in the fall, or white and brown tones, like peeking through the leaves of a tree.

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Happy Bullet Journal Day!

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gif via Sharpie

If you look around Pinterest and Facebook groups, you’ll see that bullet journalling is all the rage but what most people don’t know is that Ryder Carroll is the originator of the Bullet Journal Method.

Today marks five years since Carroll introduced bulletjournal.com to the world, helping millions of people like myself organize and prioritize the right stuff in our personal and work lives in the face of the dopamine homing missiles of the distraction age.

I’m happy to share with you that he’s giving away two free chapters from his new book which comes out October 23.

You can download them for free here.

If you want to learn more about “intentional living” with the Bullet Journal Method, I encourage you to watch the video below:

No guarantees, guaranteed

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In releasing your thought debris onto the internet, two questions may hold you up:

  1. Will anyone will read it?
  2. Will anyone care?

They certainly won’t read it if you don’t post it. And two, no one will ever care as much as you. Guaranteed.

So, why wouldn’t you just drift into the freedom of expression?

Creative practice is the goal, the maker just happens to be found. Said artist Auguste Rodin, “Fame is no more than the sum of all the misunderstandings that gather around a new name.”

Use your craft as an unconscious guide, with no end in sight but a conscious apparition that tries to tame the mind.

Abraham Lincoln on writing

“Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye— is the great invention of the world.”

— Abraham Lincoln

The fascinating history of the pencil ✏️

“The pencil is a very perfect object,” says pencil obsessed Caroline Weaver in this TED video where she explains the history of the pencil. 

The origin of the pencil goes back to the innovative applications of graphite. Farmers and shepherds used graphite sticks wrapped in sheepskin and paper to mark their animals. 

In 1795, French painter Nicolas-Jacques Conté grounded graphite, mixed it with clay and water to make a paste that was then burned in a kiln to be inserted two cylinders of wood. This is the same method for making pencils we still use to this day!

The #2 Pencil

In the mid-American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau came up with the graphite grading scale for hardness in pencils, most notably the number 2 pencil. Number 2 pencils were thought to be the perfect balance of graphite and color. Conversely, Number 4 pencils were firmer — they contained more clay and thus wrote finer lines. 

Years later, America’s Joseph Dixon is widely credited for using machines to produce the first standard hexagonal-shaped pencils. 

The Attached Eraser and Yellow Pencil

Before the eraser, people used bread crumbs and rubber to get rid of marks. In 1858, American stationer Hymen Lipman patented the first pencil with an attached eraser. In 1889, the World’s Fair in Paris introduced the first yellow pencil called the Koh-I-Noor which had 14 coats of yellow paint with the end dipped in 14ct gold. Showing off the original plain wood grains quickly went out of style the iconic yellow pencil we know today was born. 

What an absolute fascinating video! 

‘We are told stories as children to help us bridge the abyss between waking and sleeping’

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We are told stories as children to help us bridge the abyss between waking and sleeping. We tell stories to our own children for the same purpose. When I find myself in danger — caught on a stuck ski-lift in a blizzard — I immediately start telling myself stories. I tell myself stories when I am in pain and I expect as I lay dying I will be telling myself a story in a struggle to make some link between the quick and the defunct.

Olivia Lang, The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking

Malcolm Gladwell teaches writing

Malcolm Gladwell’s first-ever online writing course is now available courtesy of MasterClass.

In the class, Gladwell analyzes his own best-selling books like Blink and The Tipping Point to unveil his thinking and creative process. In 24 lessons, the influential author will teach how you to discover, examine, and pen stories to illustrate your big ideas.

Write stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.

Students will also receive a class workbook with lesson summaries, some homework, and additional helpful materials. Inspiring and informative, this is one class guaranteed to improve your writing.

Interested?

Start your free Masterclass trial today and get access to over 30+ instructors, including access to courses taught by instructors such as Margaret Atwood and James Patterson, and more.

You can also sign up to Malcolm Gladwell’s single course right here.

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Margaret Atwood teaches creative writing

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

A timeless approach to storytelling

In 20+ lessons, students will learn how the author of The Handmaid’s Tale constructs powerful storytelling by analyzing literary classics and her own novels.

The class comes with a downloadable workbook that includes lesson summaries and homework assignments to help you perfect your craft. You’ll also be able to upload videos to get class feedback. Margaret plans to review select student work as well!

'Genres aren't closed boxes. Stuff flows back and forth across the borders all the time.' — Margaret AtwoodClick To Tweet

Pre-enroll and you’ll get notified when the course becomes available this fall. You can also try the All-Access Pass free or 7 days and learn from 35+ other instructors including Malcolm Gladwell, James Patterson, and R.L. Stine.

Sign up to the All-Access Pass today!

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE SEE THE DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.


The nothing special

Look for a way of life, unmoored from staring at the donut hole.

Conversely, the hybrid of work and life is what makes the donut whole.

The game of goal-setting is paradoxically non-interventionist.

You don’t attack the carrot, you chew on it slowly.

The policy of non-engagement holds into force the inertia of nature’s progress.

Overworked and lost in the myriad force of competition and conformity, you inevitably emerge with fewer exuberant efforts and more residual impact.

What remains is essential, remarkably slow, vanished is the hurry.

“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” — Virginia Woolf

Why you should be using Grammarly to proofread your writing

Grammarly is the number one writing app
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Whether you’re on your computer or tweeting from your mobile device, Grammarly ensures that your writing looks polished before you hit publish

Grammarly is a free plugin for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari that proofreads your writing wherever you write on the web: in Gmail, Microsoft Office, Google Docs, WordPress, Facebook updates, Tweets, LinkedIn, etc.

Say you’re posting your latest status update on Facebook. With Grammarly installed, you’ll see instant grammar and spelling corrections in your sentences right after you type them. 

I always run my blog posts, novels, work emails, tweets, cover letters and resumes (Grammarly offers a resume setting for premium users) to ensure the most effective and mistake-free writing. 

My favorite Grammarly features

My favorite part of the app is the quick grammar check. Just when I think a piece is perfect, I run it through Grammarly only to find missed commas, slight misspellings and repeat words. Below is an example of how your piece of writing might look before and after scanning it through Grammarly. 

Not only does Grammarly pinpoint errors my eyes overlook, it also explains why it is suggesting the edit by providing brief explanations for any errors in punctuation, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, run-on sentences, and other mistakes to improve your prose.

The auto-suggest word replacement feature is also extremely helpful. As someone who tends to repeat the same words, Grammarly recommends using stronger, alternative but similar words to help me strengthen a sentence. 

If you upgrade to the premium version you get the full power of Grammarly. This includes advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and sentence structure plus genre-specific writing style checks. It also comes with a plagiarism detector that checks more than 16 billion web pages to ensure your work is original!

Premium customers report better results

Whether you’re a worker, student, or blogger, Grammarly meets all types of writing requirements. You can install the Grammarly app for free as an extension in Chrome, Safari, or Firefox, or on your iPhone or Android, for instant proofreading or wait to check your writing aftward with a click of a button.

There’s also a standalone native browser on Grammarly.com and a native Mac app for more focused writing.

Want to level up your writing? Download Grammarly for free today!

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE SEE THE DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.

This post was proofread by Grammarly

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Field Notes: One small step for notebooks

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The new Field Notes ‘Three Missions’ Edition is out of this world, literally. Because when you’re out in the field gathering string, you don’t want to miss anything.

I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.

Field Notes

Pulitzer-prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan shares her three rules for writing

In the book Why We Write, 2011’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan shares three writing tips for aspiring writers:

  1. Read at the level at which you want to write. Reading is the nourishment that feeds the kind of writing you want to do. If what you really love to read is y, it might be hard for you to write x.
  2. Exercising is a good analogy for writing. If you’re not used to exercising you want to avoid it forever. If you’re used to it, it feels uncomfortable and strange not to. No matter where you are in your writing career, the same is true for writing. Even fifteen minutes a day will keep you in the habit.
  3. You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.

Number two is my favorite piece of advice. Writing is like a muscle that needs to be worked out again and again, kind of like brushing your teeth. After you establish the habit, you should feel a bit empty when you don’t do it.  Make a schedule and stick to it.

Thanks for reading

gif by @dazyang

Dear readers, thanks again for reading the blog. There’s no better activity than waking up every morning and putting something together on screen, whether’s it’s an op-ed, an inspirational quote, an interesting read, or a cool piece of art or music. This blog is my scrapbook of sorts.

Now for the promotional part… 

If you enjoy what I’m posting on this blog, I’d appreciate it if you showed some support by either becoming a patron or making a small one-time donation below.




You can also subscribe for $23/year!

I’d like to also remind you of the new and improved newsletter which includes fresh reads and new tunes plus other goodies. You can sign up right here or input your email address below.

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If you’ve already done any of the above, thank you!

PS. Please drop me a note in the comments. What else do you want to see? What do you want to see more/less of? I’d like to this thing going. 🙏

Write just one sentence

Stuck, in limbo, at the fright of starting. It is the activation energy that gets us over the hurdle of inertia. For Ernest Hemingway, writing one sentence motivated him to write more and more.

Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know. So, finally I would write one true sentence and go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

However, his other writing trick took advantage of intertia. By pausing what and putting aside his next idea, he could guarantee he had something to play with the next day.

I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day.

Action begets action but the breaks also serve an important purpose. As Albert Camus wrote: “Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.”

Read Inertia