Deliberate practice, and random movie stuff

From another retweet I saw on Twitter (via writer Brian Niemeier), this blog post asks the question: If you just keep writing, will you get better?

The answer really depends on where you’re at, but it boils down to this: getting better at anything depends on what some call deliberate practice. That is, practice with focused attention on what you’re trying to improve. It’s difficult, it takes brain work, because you’re forcing your brain to build new connections. As the task becomes easier, you’ll settle into using your new connections, but you’ll cease to become better. That is, just going through the motions isn’t going to automatically increase your skill. You’ve got to hone in on and focus on specific weaknesses. The whole 10,000-hours-to-become-an-expert thing is misleading, because it doesn’t account for how focused one is.

In regards to writing, this leads to the question: how does one engage in this “deliberate practice” with writing? Is it even possible, after a certain level of skill is reached?

Critiquing other people’s work and collecting critiques for your own will help, assuming you work with the right sort of critique partners, but there remains that nebulous boundary between what one might consider the product of a writer’s skill level and his subjective stylistic preferences. That is, how can one measure one’s improvements? Is there any way to increase one’s skill beyond requiring outside help?

I’m not really sure, I’m just thinking out loud…

For me, personally, one thing I’d like to practice isn’t so much writing in and of itself, but writing faster. Or, lest that make me sound like I wish to be more of a hack, perhaps I should say I’d like to be able to stay focused on writing for longer periods of time so that I can accomplish more in less time. That should be something I could practice, though practicing staying focused always risks that paradox of focusing on whether or not your focusing rather just focusing.

In other news, an new trailer for the upcoming fantasy drama A Monster Calls was recently released:

I read the book it’s based on, which was OK, but I think the story will work better as a film, and the director J.A. Bayona is one my favorites (he’s set to direct the next Jurassic World film), so I’m looking forward to seeing how he brings the book to life.

I thought this little sci-fi short called “Adam” was interesting for purely technical reasons. (I can’t really figure out what exactly happens in it… a wizard turns off a bunch of robots’ iPhones so they follow him like sheep?) It was rendered completely in real time in Unity. Some things aren’t so impressive; the waving grass and the water ripples look awful. But overall this looks pretty darn fantastic for something rendered in real time on a GeForce GTX980. I’m just looking forward to some VR animated movies. Hurry up, rich people of the world, and make them. (Reminder: the film rights to all my books are still available.)

Animated Harry Potter (with a little blood)

If you can stand Harry and Hermione kissing nakedly in a dark magical cloud, then I think you can handle some animated blood, yes?

I think I prefer the animated Harry Potter (or I guess “Harrey Podder”) to the live-action one! This is some wonderful animation by artist and animator David Stodolny. I especially love that last sequence; the character design of Voldemort is awesome, and turning Harry Potter into a bunny is quite an unexpected and sinister thing for the Dark Lord to do. In 2D, you can do so much more with the silhouette than you can in 3D, in terms of making its lines follow more graceful arcs and squashing and stretching of overall shapes. But I guess with 3D you get more tactility with more realistic surface lighting.

Anyway, fun stuff.

I kinda wanna see the entire Harry Potter series remade with a cast of animated bunnies…

More animated shorts…

Here are some more animated shorts I thought were cool… by the way, you should push these up to the highest quality and full screen them if you can… don’t want all that other stuff on your computer to distract you!

First, simple black and white with minimal character design and wonderful comedic timing. If you go to their YouTube channel, all their animated shorts are great.

I love the color, atmosphere, and cinematography in this one. Also it’s a great blend of 3D with 2D; almost like a video game at times. The music is a bit wonky though…

This short is just a really fun idea, seeing what the character sees…

And finally another short one with great use of color (dark borders, bright centers) and a great atmosphere to it, kind a sci-fi-ish but warm and welcoming.

Playing with light – Mon ami le robot from Cube Creative on Vimeo.

Fun stuff!

Some animated shorts for your soul…

Just a few animated shorts I thought were great:

Margarita – This short looks like it came from a full-length feature and the music and art are just fantastic and match each other perfectly. And there’s no dialog, which you hardly notice. The story might seem a bit odd until you understand that the “star” is like a achieving a dream… well, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. I love the flight in the boat and the whales in the clouds. Very awesome and fantastical.



The Third and the Seventh – This really isn’t a story-oriented short, it’s more of a… non-story short. I don’t know what you would call it. It’s more atmospheric I guess. It’s all computer rendered (as far as I can tell), but some of the rendering is so awesome that it looks completely real. (Well, I’m not sure mapping textures from photos really counts as “rendering” if one wants to get technical about it.) It explores some very welcoming architecture and features music from the wonderful sci-fi film Gattaca. (At least, I think that’s where the music is from…)

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.


Alarm – A fun short. Love the Pixar references in the background, and the character and world design are wonderful. Nice clean animation as well. And it’s the first ever time a CGI character brushed his teeth and went to the bathroom at the same time, so it makes animation history!