The First Year of Reading with My Son

One year ago today, my son Connor was born to parents who didn’t know much about how to raise a child. We were ready to do our best, but we knew these next few years would be full of surprises. We knew we’d make mistakes but we’d learn to trust our instincts.

As I write this, Connor holds his sippy cup in one hand and his favorite book, “The Very Busy Spider,” in the other hand. He flips through the pages, stopping to look at his favorite pictures, then brings the book to me. He sits in my lap and I read the book to him. It’s our new tradition.

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The analog tools creatives still use today

My Notebooks over the past couple of years

I am fascinated by the pens, notebooks, and other analog tools artists and writers use each day. The New York Times highlights some in a recent article, “Creative Types From Manolo Blahnik to Milton Glaser on Their Favorite Writing and Drawing Instruments”:

Is the pencil over? It’s no secret we’ve turned to keyboards and touch screens to convey our thoughts, complete our work in the office and design everything from bespoke stationery to custom footwear. For most, it’s hard to recall the last time an octagonal wooden shaft rested between our fingers. But for a select set of highly creative individuals, writing instruments are still in high demand.

I’m surprised how many of the artists quoted in the article use pencils. As a lefty, I’ve never been able to use a pencil effectively. But a good pencil has its advantages.

If you want a quick rundown of how I use my notebooks, also read my recent post, “Why Writing on Paper Matters in the Digital Age.” If you’re still into digital tools, read my older post, “Evernote for Book Lovers.”

Setting goals isn’t always the best creative move

Digital Disruption - Critical Margins

If you do any creative work (and I’m assuming most Critical Margins readers do something creative) you’ll recognize what researcher Kenneth Stanley calls the “objective paradox”: According to Christie Aschwanden over at FiveThirtyEight (“Stop Trying To Be Creative”), the objective paradox is the feeling that “as soon as you create an objective, you ruin your ability to reach it.” This hampers the creative process, which requires “blind searching” and “an openness to discovering whatever arises.”

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In Defense of the Present Tense (from

It’s becoming the most popular verb tense in fiction writing, and this article by Alexander Chee at defends it:

As a part time professional ‘creative writing tutor’, I can say I only ever teach the present tense as one tool among many. I do not urge it on my ‘sensitive and artistic storytellers’, or any of the insensitive ones either. I teach students that verbs are the way they create a relationship for the reader to time, and function a little like the way a horizon line might in a picture. As for using it to dodge the ‘politically dodgy’, well, I can’t imagine teaching anyone that way with a straight face—and so that strikes me as something of a straw man. Or, woman, perhaps.

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I hope you’re reading this on your phone – I am!

Tablets and phones

About a week ago, when I wanted to try out Amazon’s new bookerly font, I went searching for my Kindle Paperwhite and realized the battery was dead; I hadn’t used it in weeks. Yet in those weeks, I had read several e-books and a plethora of articles – just not on my e-reader. I realized I did most of my reading on my phone.

Am I an outlier? Not according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal (“The Rise of Phone Reading” by Jennifer Maloney, @maloneyfiles). Reading on a smartphone is commonplace:

In a Nielsen survey of 2,000 people this past December, about 54% of e-book buyers said they used smartphones to read their books at least some of the time. That’s up from 24% in 2012, according to a separate study commissioned by Nielsen.

The number of people who read primarily on phones has risen to 14% in the first quarter of 2015 from 9% in 2012.

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Why Writing on Paper Matters in the Digital Age

Bullet Journal

Nothing can replace the experience of writing on paper, so why seek out a digital replacement?

Last month, I faced a predicament: How should I organize and manage all my projects? I’m a freelance editor; I have to organize my client work smartly, otherwise I won’t finish the work on time and get paid. I manage several projects with multiple clients, and sometimes I get overwhelmed.

I looked at my schedule and my to-do list scattered across four apps on my phone and a half-used notebook on my desk. I went through my stuff to organize it, and it dawned on me that I had a problem: I spent too much time playing with organization apps and programs in an attempt to perfect my productivity, but I didn’t spend enough time actually being productive. Continue reading →

Are Pen Names Worth It? (Episode 25)

Special note: This is our last episode for 2014, but we’ll be back in January with even better topics, so keep listening! Kevin is taking time off in November and December to figure out fatherhood. He is expecting his first son sometime in November. For now, enjoy the show!

Today, we are talking about pseudonyms. Do writers need them?
Are there ever times when we need to hide behind a pseudonym or publish anonymously? Some writers and artists make their persona part of their style, so certainly a pseudonym can work, but it’s not for everyone.

Show notes:

We’d love to hear from you! If you enjoy our show, rate us on iTunes or Stitcher and get the word out. Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter: Kevin (@criticalmargins) or Jason (@jasonanthebeast).