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Month: June 2024

Dear Trout: AI and holes. AI holes. And a quick hiatus announcement.

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Quick reminder that June is when I go on my annual writing retreat to the Keweenaw Peninsula, and that will be happening next week. Once a year since like… over a decade ago, I started going up there with some friends for a week of distraction-free writing and being away from administrative stuff. I just realized the other day that I finished writing the recap of the final chapter of Fifty Shades of Grey the night before I left on my very first of these annual June retreats. All of the Boss books have been written on this retreat. I can’t even get my mindhole around it. I missed last year because I was directing The Music Man, and this year I am ready to put the words down.

Anyway, that means no content here, on YouTube, or on the Patreon for a week. But if you head over to my Abigail Barnette Facebook page, you can see the cover reveal and sale date announcement for Alpha God Rising!

Onto the questions!

How do I ask my 73-year-old dad to stop using AI to create art for his books? He recently finished a book which is getting published by a small press later this year. He’s setting up a substack and used AI to make a logo for it, then asked me to fix the text as it was the only part that didn’t turn out well (debatable tbh). As an artist, this makes my stomach turn in a way I can’t explain. I’d offer to just do the art myself but I’m not good at the kind of graphic design thing the project needs (I’m more of an illustrator) and I feel weird asking him to do something differently when I can’t help with it and it doesn’t totally affect me. I guess I’d like him to hire someone, but I don’t have a suggestion as to who. I just really hate AI art on principle, but I have a hard time standing up for myself and my principles and I’m afraid he won’t understand and it’ll be a fight for nothing. He doesn’t use AI for writing, just visual art—he’s a writer and I do both. We get along really well and I guess I’m just scared of rocking the boat.

The internet—Threads, at least, and BookThreads, in particular—sure had your back this week. The popular subscription book box OwlCrate was called out for platforming author Lauren Roberts, who allegedly shared multiple pieces of AI art depicting her characters on her Instagram. Readers who questioned OwlCrate had their comments removed, or were blocked, and outrage followed. Another author, Cassie Alexander, posted a long, long thread promoting her lecture on using AI art at Inkers Con, and it didn’t get her the reaction she’d probably hoped for. Reader responses to both of these situations made it clear: readers do not want AI. Not in words, not in art, not on social media, not at all.

If I were you, I would send your dad some links to some of these responses. You could approach it as fear for his future success. “Look, Dad, I know you’ve used AI in the past, and I’m worried that you might be hurting your bottom line. This is how readers feel about authors who use AI images.” Because readers have made it clear: if they see AI art involved, they assume the contents are AI generated, and they don’t trust the creator. A reader’s trust, once lost, is lost forever.

You could also introduce him to Canva, an app that every publishing writer should probably have, anyway. Canva has free fonts and images an author can use to make logos and promo, with templates sized for posting on social media sites. It’s user friendly and has a monthly subscription fee for people who want to access the entire library of fonts and elements. The unfortunate side of this is that Canva also makes some AI tools available to users, but maybe once he sees reader response to the technology he’d think twice about using them.

Re: the ‘dig a hole and get in it’ plan to succeed at Naked and Afraid – could you give some advice on surviving in the wild by expanding on that plan? Would you dig a hole you could lie down in and find some kind of cover for it, or is it a vertical hole you could stand in and bury yourself into until there’s just a little head sticking out for passing deers to investigate?

(I hereby declare I do not intend to dig a hole, nor get in it, nor participate in any strange TV shows I’d never heard of until a certain blog post mentioned them, as a result of any advice I may receive.)

The number one issue I see people complain about on Naked and Afraid is bugs. People have tapped out due to the psychological stress of being bitten by bugs over and over. My theory is that if you dig a hole and get in it, the flying type of bugs can’t get you. I’m sure there are bugs in the dirt, too, but not as many as the air has. You also probably won’t get cold, because your body heat will fill up the space.

My hole plan involves something deep enough that you can sit on the bottom with your head at least six inches below ground level. Not long enough to lay down in (that kind of hole requires too much energy to dig), but wide enough to comfortably sit with your knees bent. The hole can be lined with palm fronds or leaves or whatever. And yeah, I guess you could put stuff over your head.

The biggest challenges presented by what I’m just now coining “Hole Survival” is getting out of the hole to go look for food or to tend the fire or go poop. I’m envisioning some kind of rope-tied-to-a-big-rock scenario where I can pull myself up out of the hole. But you run the risk of collapsing the sides every time you exit. Clearly, I still need time to work out of some of these details.

That’s all for this week. And next week, since I’m going on that trip. But after that, I’ll be back with more great advice that probably won’t require anyone to dig a hole. Got a question you want to ask Trout? Leave it here.

Dear Trout:

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Welcome to the first installment of Dear Trout, my hopefully weekly advice column. Look, we all know shit happens, sometimes I’m gonna skip a week or something. My plan is to do two questions a week, unless this really takes off and I have to bump the number to keep up. You can submit your questions here. The form asks for a name so I can refer to you while still maintaining your anonymity, but some of you put your government names on the form, so I’m worried that I didn’t explain that part correctly. So, I’m dropping the idea of using names at all. It’s still on the form because I’m lazy. Put a good name for a penis in there, if you feel like.

On to the questions of the week:

I wish I had a fun question, but I just lost my mom and I’m a grieving, lonely mess. Do you have advice for someone who is desperate for some kind of sign, to be able to believe there’s an afterlife? I’m so afraid that she’s either forgotten me, or just isn’t out there anymore and I’ll never see her again. Or maybe she realized I was a bad daughter and hates me now.

We all know that I’m an ooky-spooky, twitchy-witchy, new age buffoon with beliefs so extreme that I sometimes bully myself over them. I’ve talked before about hauntings I’ve experienced, the fact that I was in a coven at one time, I’ve even done tarot readings on YouTube. I have no trouble, as Jenny “crystals have energy” Trout, telling you that there is an afterlife. Not just an afterlife, but more actual lives after this one, and some of them may be on Earth, a fact I think about every time I fail to recycle a beverage container. There’s an afterlife. The universe is too specific to be by accident.

One thing I can’t explain is how to believe in it. I was raised religious. I have no mechanism to doubt, so I would be talking out of my ass if I tried to even speculate on how not-doubting works.

What I find really interesting about your question is that you say you want to believe in an afterlife, but the scenarios in which your mother forgot about you or started to hate you are only possible if there is an afterlife. I feel like that’s a pretty powerful sign of two things: you do believe in life after death, and what you’re experiencing is a natural feeling of abandonment that happens after a death.

You know logically that death isn’t a choice we make. We die because we’re ill or we die because we’re old or we die because there’s an accident. But whether the death is expected or sudden, we always want an explanation. Why, God? Why did you take Aunt Hildy away? She was only a hundred and seven! It doesn’t make sense, but our logic brains can’t accept that grief is its own process. We feel our human confusion surrounding death and interpret it as something that can be cleared up with an easy answer, even while we know there is no easy answer. Your brain could be saying, “Since we can’t blame mom for leaving, let’s blame ourselves instead. Then something will make sense.”

I think that when we’re grieving, we have to be careful about how we let our brains talk to us, but doing that is exhausting on our own. I think it would be a good idea to look into getting a counselor, if you haven’t already. There are people out there who can unpack all this stuff way better than I could ever hope to, and guide you through it. And I hope things get better and you can get to a place where you allow yourself to look forward to a joyous reunion with your mother.

What is the best way to overcome executive disfunction with regards to writing? I can break the process down into tiny steps, but actually starting can take me months.

I struggle with executive function (“What? No! But you’re so consistent and organized!” they said, sarcastically), especially when it comes to focusing on just writing the damn thing. I’ve found a few things helpful. The Pomodoro Technique has worked on-and-off for me. If I can do it and really stick to the rules, I can get a good few weeks of work out of it.

When that fails, I use a program called Write or Die 3. There’s a free version online, but I bought the full program for its “Peril” mode. You set the amount of time you want to spend writing, the amount of words you want to write in that time period, and then you hit “Ready?” The program shows you a cute little animated cat, prompts you to name it, and then tells you that this cat you have just named trusts you and has no concept of betrayal before revealing that the cat is dangling over some deadly green liquid. If you stop typing, a chain will slowly begin to lower the cat toward the danger juice. It is incredibly motivating.

I’ve also found that sprinting with others is a great way to get words on the page. One of my group chats has a Discord server where we can drop in any night, from 7pm-11pm EST and use a plug-in that I believe is called Sprinterbot to keep track of our time and word counts. It ranks participants from most words to least, so if you’re competitive, that’s an extra layer of fun. But it helps to just do the activity with someone else. If this is something that appeals to people, we could always add a channel for this purpose to the Trout Nation Discord; just chime in and let me know.

But if it’s not concentration and executive function holding you back from starting, then it might just be imposter syndrome or a fear of imperfection holding you back. In which case, fuck those things. You’re allowed to write. Nobody has to give you permission. You can write the thing just because you want to. Tell yourself a date and time when you’re actually going to start doing the thing. You cannot get out of it. No excuses. The most intimidating part of starting is actually doing it, but once you start, that hard part is over. You don’t have to start from scratch on that project ever again.

That’s all for this week. Submit your questions here or give our friends your (gentle) thoughts in the comments.