Ira Glass on being a good creative

Ira Glass is an American public radio personality, and host and producer of the radio and television show This American Life. He talks about something that it is really important to me. Be good at what I do for living. The only way to have a style that match our ambitions it is only experience.

… Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me, is that if you’re watching this video you’re somebody who wants to make videos, right? And all of us who do creative work like, you know, we get into it and we get into it because we have good taste. Do you know what I mean?

Like you want to make TV because you love TV. You know what I mean? Because there’s stuff that you just like love, OK? So you’ve got really good taste and you get into this thing that I don’t even know how to describe but it’s like there’s a gap. That for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great. It’s really not that great. It’s trying to be good, it has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, your taste is still killer and your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know what I mean? Like you can tell that it’s still sort of crappy. A lot of people never get past that phase and a lot of people at that point quit.

And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short, you know, and some of us can admit that to ourselves and some of us are a little less able to admit that to ourselves.

But we knew that it didn’t have the special thing that we wanted it to have and the thing what to do is… Everybody goes through that. And for you to go through it, if you’re going through it right now, if you’re just getting out of that phase or if you’re just starting off and you’re entering into that phase, you’ve got to know it’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story. You know what I mean? Whatever it’s going to be. You create the deadline. It’s best if you have somebody who’s waiting for work from you, somebody who’s expecting work from you, even if it’s not somebody who pays you but that you’re in a situation where you have to try not to work. Because it’s only be actually going through a volume of work that you are actually going to catch up and close that gap. And the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.Ira Glass

Costruendo cittá invisibili

Copertina delle cittá invisibili di Italo Calvino

Nelle Città invisibili non si trovano città riconoscibili. Sono tutte città inventate; le ho chiamate ognuna con un nome di donna; il libro è fatto di brevi capitoli, ognuno dei quali dovrebbe offrire uno spunto di riflessione che vale per ogni città o per la città in generale.

Il libro è nato un pezzetto per volta, a intervalli anche lunghi, come poesie che mettevo sulla carta, seguendo le più varie ispirazioni. Io nello scrivere vado a serie: tengo tante cartelle dove metto le pagine che mi capita di scrivere, secondo le idee che mi girano per la testa, oppure soltanto appunti di cose che vorrei scrivere. Ho una cartella per gli oggetti, una cartella per gli animali, una per le persone, una cartella per i personaggi storici e un’altra per gli eroi della mitologia; ho una cartella sulle quattro stagioni e una sui cinque sensi; in una raccolgo pagine sulle città e i paesaggi della mia vita e in un’altra città immaginarie, fuori dallo spazio e dal tempo. Quando una cartella comincia a riempirsi di fogli, comincio a pensare al libro che ne posso tirar fuori.

Cosi mi sono portato dietro questo libro delle città negli ultimi anni, scrivendo saltuariamente, un pezzetto per volta, passando attraverso fasi diverse. Per qualche tempo mi veniva da immaginare solo città tristi e per qualche tempo solo città contente; c’è stato un periodo in cui paragonavo le città al cielo stellato, e in un altro periodo invece mi veniva sempre da parlare della spazzatura che dilaga fuori dalle città ogni giorno. Era diventato un po’ come un diario che seguiva i miei umori e le mie riflessioni; tutto finiva per trasformarsi in immagini di città: i libri che leggevo, le esposizioni d’arte che visitavo, le discussioni con gli amici.

Ma tutte queste pagine insieme non facevano ancora un libro: un libro (io credo) è qualcosa con un principio e una fine (anche se non è un romanzo in senso stretto), è uno spazio in cui il lettore deve entrare, girare, magari perdersi, ma a un certo punto trovare un’uscita, o magari parecchie uscite, la possibilità di aprirsi una strada per venirne fuori. Qualcuno di voi mi può dire che questa definizione può valere per un romanzo a intreccio, e non per un libro come questo, che si deve leggere come si leggono i libri di poesie, o di saggi, o tutt’al più di racconti. Ebbene, voglio appunto dire che anche un libro così, per essere un libro, deve avere una costruzione, cioè vi si deve poter scoprire un intreccio, un itinerario, una soluzione. Italo Calvino

Parole inspiratrici che voglio ricordare di Italo Calvino tratte da una conferenza a la Columbia University di New York sulla creazione del suo libro Le cittá invisibili.

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the CSS

A cartoon drawings: An old submarine and some people fighting underwater against a giant squid

OK, there were only a bit more than 2000 lines of CSS in the basic style of Twelve Eleven theme of WordPress, and today I revised half of it, shrinking the code as much as possible. I do not know (yet) how to minify programmatically a file CSS, so I am checking line after line everything.
Diving in the code helped me in finding interesting piece of web design code, that I was unaware of like the measurement ex that value the x-height of a font, the text-overflow:ellipsis and a wonderful piece of animation that it is the input search of this theme.

I am still quite unhappy about the redundancy of the code (too many nested tags dependency), the reset of Eric Mayer (which I do not find positive at all) or finding pieces of empty CSS classes and that we load all the CSS in one big files while I know that is possible to load various CSS in one only HTTP request. So a little by little I am cleaning up, and trying to remove all the silly nesting (a “return” and a “tab indentation” occupy 2 bites). I already reduced the code to 1500 lines. And even some silly part of html too I commented through PHP.

Anyway, what I am most proud of, it is not the cleaning of the code, but the implementation of WebKit and have the possibility to insert my logo using proper typography. For the moment I am working with 3 fonts mainly: Adobe Pro Garamond, Helvetica Neue and obviously Ltc Bodoni 175. It is a pleasure to work finally on the web with typography, I am about to cry by the sheer joy of it.

It is a pity that I do not have enough time to fix more my blog web page and I am obliged to go to bed because it is 2 AM in the morning. Anyway I changed a bit the style and the blog start to have the shape that I want. Still many details to take care, but at least I am reaching there.

Of my objective list I can move forward of a 20% the first objective (a lot of work need to be done there)

  • Get the most similar WordPress theme to my objective: Write HTML5 & Responsive Design (Twenty Eleven by WordPress), than strip the whole CSS, loading only the essential. Rewrite CSS and HTML on the style that I need to communicate. [30% done]

But I have to go backward on this, because the plug-in of Facebook that I found it is not working like I was thinking, so I have to take a look about plug-ins. I can share on Facebook, but I want to post automagically my post from here to there.

  • Implement social sharing to improve visibility (Twitter, Google PlusOne and Facebook). [90% done]

OK time to a proper rest 😀

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