Ben Crowder

Blog: #writing

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New story: Bag Field. About twenty pages long, fantasy.

I started writing this story in March 2021 but didn’t get very far. Picked it up again at the end of August and here we are. Ten minutes of writing a day is still working well, by the way, especially when I look back at the year — six stories finished, roughly 90 pages together. Much better than not finishing anything. (That said, I do hope to spend more time on writing going forward.)


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Projects — Prints 2.8

New story: Unlocked. About fifteen pages long, fantasy.

Also, some new generative art. For these, the fundamental idea was to lay out horizontal bands, where each band was composed of rectangles of random widths, rotations, and color variations on a base hue for the band. I wrote some JavaScript to generative the patterns as SVGs and rendered them to 4500px-wide PNGs via headless Inkscape. I painted textures on them in Procreate on my iPad, mostly using MattyB’s canvas brushes. I upscaled them 2x via Real-ESRGAN on the command line, added noise in Affinity Photo (12% monochrome), and scaled them down to 7500px wide. Real-ESRGAN was a brand-new addition to my workflow but it turned out quite well, I think.

Pattern 005
Pattern 005. Bricks overgrown by vegetation, loosely.
Pattern 006
Pattern 006. A slightly stained glass kind of feel.
Pattern 007
Pattern 007. Going for a less saturated look here.
Pattern 008
Pattern 008. My favorite, even with the imperfections at the bottom.

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New story: Research Notebook 17, about ten pages long, fantasy.

This one was surprisingly easy to write, and I really enjoyed the process. The story originated with my Edge of Magic web novel (the one I abandoned years ago), went through several upheavals as I tried to figure out what to do with it, and landed with a completely new story. The only thing in common is the name of the main character.


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New story: Mother Tongue, about twenty pages long, fantasy.

I started working on this story back in 2016 but it didn’t come together at the time. This story is wildly different from that early draft, with the characters’ names (Dagh and Maria Bonita) being about the only parts that have survived.


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We’re overdue for some kind of general life update, I think. Weeknotes-that-are-not-weeknotes:

  • The health issues I referred to in May are still largely unchanged, though I’ve come to terms with it enough that I should probably stop using it as an excuse for lower productivity. (I do need to rest more than I used to, but I also feel like I’m spending proportionally less time making things than is warranted. I’m now tracking my time using a completely rewritten version of Momentum, so I should hopefully have more actual data to work with soon.)
  • We’ve also had a month of worrisome family medical issues (including two late-night ER visits) that have been weighing me down.
  • On the plus side, I got some lab results that finally motivated me to start exercising more and make real changes to my diet. I’m three weeks in and the lifestyle adjustments seem to be sticking. Fingers crossed.
  • The rising case counts and Delta situation certainly is discouraging. My faith in humanity in the aggregate has eroded significantly over the past year and a half.
  • In spite of a spectacular lack of public results, I’m still writing, slowly. (Much more successful at avoiding it.) In the middle of figuring out a process that consistently gives me a) results that b) don’t make me cringe.
  • I’ve been trying to keep artmaking to the weekends so I have more of a chance at making progress with my writing, but it doesn’t seem to be working as well as I’d hoped.
  • Another thing I’ve been itching to do is get back into making web-based art tools like Cirque (which needs a lot of improvement). Several ideas here I’m excited to work on.

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Links #42

Katherine Rundell on giraffes. Unexpectedly fascinating.

Sokyokuban, a Sokoban game set on a hyperbolic plane. Mind-bending in a great way.

Shawn Wang on preemptive pluralization when developing software. This seems like a wise practice. (Not following it has bitten me more than once.)

Michael Mulet on how he made a video game in a font. Fascinating and horrifying.

Alan Jacobs on blog gardens. I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of writing about the same topic in depth over longer periods of time as a way of organically writing what effectively amounts to a book.


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Links #27


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Links #20


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As a spur to get myself writing more, I’ve put up a new writing statistics page. There you can see in all its wilted glory how little I’ve written over the years.

Or how little I’ve finished, I should say — and that’s the main change here. By tracking actual published words, I’m hoping this sparks much more finishing and publishing. And by “publish” I still mean publishing here on this site. I imagine down the road I may submit pieces elsewhere, but for now I’m content with the small scale.

This brain hack is already working. Last week I hardly worked on the novel at all, but after putting this page up I’ve found myself fully back in the throes of editing, since finishing and publishing a 65,000-word novel — the first draft of which is already complete — seems the best way right now to push 2020’s zero up to a more impressive number. And now I have compelling motivation to make sure I get this thing edited before the end of the year.

Also, inspired by the colophon in Cory Doctorow’s Pluralist newsletter, I’ll probably add daily or weekly drafting word counts to the page soon, as further motivation to keep writing each day. Public shaming works wonders! (More seriously: while the idea of posting these kinds of metrics would have mortified me a year or two ago, I’m glad I’ve gotten round that obstacle. Working in public has been wonderfully freeing.)


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Links #7


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