So there’s the idea of four stages of competence, right? Unconscious incompetence (you’re bad at something and don’t even know it), conscious incompetence (you’re bad at it, but you know that), conscious competence (you’re good and you know it), and unconscious competence (you’re so good you don’t even have to think about it anymore).
The other day, while meditating, I realized a form of this applies to mindfulness:
Unconscious lack of focus — I am distracted from what I’m supposed to pay attention to — usually my breath — and I haven’t even realized that fact.
Conscious lack of focus — I am distracted from what I’m supposed to pay attention to, but I have noticed that fact. (Which means I am succeeding at the basics of mindfulness, yay!)
Conscious focus — I am paying attention to the correct target, but dammit, my awareness of the fact that I am focused keeps on breaking that focus. (I am again succeeding, but I’m annoyed at my own observer effect.)
Unconscious focus — I am paying attention to the correct target and don’t even realize that fact. (I am succeeding, buuuuut I’m lucky if this stage lasts for two seconds at a stretch.)
. . . and if you’re thinking, “But if you realized this while meditating, that probably means you were somewhere in the ‘lack of focus’ half of that list,” you are quite correct. 😛
In addition to the ongoing SFWA auction (where you’ve got three days left to bid on the Rook and Rose book + tea sample package and the first, second, third, and fourth kaffeeklatsch seats), there is now also the Sunflower Auction for Ukrainian charity! There are tons of things on offer there, browsable via the tags, but my own contribution is a bespoke short story based on the folkloric source of the winner’s choosing. Bidding for that one runs almost to the end of May!
If you prefer your worldbuilding essays in tangible form, you can now get New Worlds, Year Five in print from Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million, Bookshop.org, IndieBound, and Amazon in the US or in the UK — note that the US link gives me a small commission, but I mention that for disclosure, not as a push for you to buy from Amazon.
Also also! At JordanCon last month they published their (I think) annual) anthology, this time titled Neither Beginnings Nor Endings. It contains my long story “And Ask No Leave of Thee,” which the familiar among you will have recognized as a line from the ballad “Tam Lin;” yes, after several decades, my brain finally produced a Tam Lin retelling! You can get the anthology only from Amazon, in ebook or in print (both of those commission links again).
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association is running a silent auction, and I’m in it! Prizes on offer are a package deal of a signed copy of The Mask of Mirrors and five Rook and Rose-themed tea samples, and a virtual kaffeeklatsch for which the seats are being auctioned separately: one, two, three, four. Bid on one of those + the first package, and you could potentially sip delicious book-themed tea while we chat! Or if those aren’t your cuppa (sorry not sorry), there are oodles of other great things on offer at the auction site. But you only have a few days, so bid fast!
If you’re wondering what the money will be used for, SFWA does a great deal to assist people in the field, from the Emergency Medical Fund to the Legal Fund to scholarships for marginalized creators to attend events like the Nebulas Conference. Over the course of my career, SFWA has managed to reinvent itself as a much stronger advocate within SF/F publishing — the closest thing we have to a union, and very much needed, as things like #DisneyMustPay continue to show.
A while back I wrote an essay on how translation gets represented in fiction for Dan Koboldt’s blog. Well, that essay is now available as part of an excellent book called Putting the Fact in Fantasy, which is stuffed full of practical advice on a variety of topics relevant to writers. You can get an overview for some of its contents in Dan’s post, and you can order the book from a variety of retailers — including as an audiobook! Some of you might also be interested in its predecessor, Putting the Science in Science Fiction.
For me, these kinds of books aren’t only about learning details that let me correct my mistakes (though that happens, too). Just reading through such articles often gives me ideas for new stories, as some concrete specific suggests a whole plot problem or scene. May they do the same for you!
Man — I got through an average of one book for every two days in April. That’s kind of astonishing to realize.
For the fifth Friday this month, the New Worlds Patreon begins a journey (that will stretch across the theory essays for Year Six) through the question of how to create a magic system. We begin with the origins of systematized magic in genre fantasy, and with the countervailing notion of magic as a thing that is, rather than a thing one does. Comment over there!
(Edit: link was broken before because I forgot I had edited the title and URL of the post at BVC. It’s fixed now!)