My Clean Eating Challenge: Part One

A while back I stumbled upon the most researched, thorough, useful article I believe BuzzFeed has ever published: The Clean Eating Challenge. The concept wasn’t new. It was a diet plan for a two week “detox” that was supposed to make you feel amazing. Normally I am weary of anything claiming to detox you, because that’s what livers are for. I’m also weary of anything suggesting a short-term diet will have long-term effects.

However this particular eating challenge excited me because of it’s completeness. Many diet plans give a list of restrictions or rules with a few suggested recipes. Some offer complete meal plans with no shopping guides, meaning you have to go through each meal individually to figure out what to buy. Other plans list ingredients to buy, but no provision for what to do with the other 3/4 of the jar of sour cream you invariably end up with.

This challenge had it all. There were meals and snacks for every day for 14 days. There were recipes with instructions as well as Pinterest-ready photos of the completed dishes. There were full shopping lists of everything you needed to get at the store, split into two trips you had to make at specific times. They even went so far as to warn you when to take things out of the freezer to defrost, and which meals would be using leftovers from other meals (in case you were considering switching any around). Hell, there was even a list of required kitchen instruments.

Day 1At the time I found it, I was at a bit of a loss nutritionally. I wanted to change my diet but I didn’t know how. And I didn’t know why. Something about it seemed off, like I should be able to have a diet that was more nutritious or that gave me more energy or cost less money or was easier to prepare. I didn’t even know what I was looking for, just that I hadn’t found it. There was something appealing about having zero choice or decision for two solid weeks. I would eat what was on the plan, nothing more, nothing less. I would have to, because I would have a mountain of produce in the fridge that would go bad if I dared stray from the path.

Unfortunately the main appeal of the plan was also its main problem. In order to do it right I needed two uninterrupted weeks. I couldn’t have parties or barbecues or work events that might require me to eat food. I also had to start the plan on a Sunday in order to have lunches I could pack for work while using up the proper leftovers. While there was a provision in the plan for deviations, I couldn’t see how I would make it work without wasting food. And for me, wasting food (and therefore money) was not an option. I looked at my calendar and found a set of weeks about a month away when I could do it. But then things came up. I moved my food challenge dates. It happened again. And again.

Finally I was fed up with pushing it back. I wanted to do this little food experiment and I was never going to do it if I kept waiting for 14 uncomplicated days. I printed out the entire 50 page plan and started combing through it. I figured out that I could skip the first two days and start on Tuesday with only a few minor adjustments. I could, and would, make it work.

The final step in my preparation plan was writing and publishing this post. I’m doing so to guarantee at least some small level of accountability. The challenge starts on September 30th, which means you should see a follow-up post by October 16th, maybe October 20th at the latest.

If you don’t hear anything from me by then, I expect to hear something from you.

The Perfect Pair of Socks

There have been two or three times in my life where I received, as a gift, a pair of fuzzy socks. I don’t just mean fun socks or thick socks, I mean heaven-to-the-touch soft fuzzy goodness. It’s the kind of fabric you want to put up against your cheek like it’s a baby. Happiness in a sock. And I never wore them.

They were too thick to fit into shoes, and I knew that if I wore them by themselves the bottoms would slowly get dirty. The fabric would stretch and they wouldn’t fit so snuggly. The softness would wear off the inside. Eventually they’d develop holes, and I’d lose my delightful socks forever. They wouldn’t be perfect anymore.

I realize that it might sound insane. But I often have this problem with things that I love. I’d rather preserve them than use them. I worry about denting the spine when I read books. I worry about the beater marks on my mixing bowls. I love keeping my possessions in good condition, but sometimes this is to the detriment of my enjoying them. That’s why I never wore those socks.

The epiphany came when I finally got fed up with storing four pairs of fuzzy socks I never wore. I kept moving them from drawer to drawer, always having to find a new hiding place for them. I honestly considered giving them to Goodwill just so I could get them out of the house. They had become clutter. Like any piece of clutter, they were taking up space without being useful.

So I put on a pair.Fuzzy Socks

And they were heavenly.

I began to wear them around the house as slippers. In many ways they were superior to slippers, because I wouldn’t feel the need to kick them off when I snuggled up on the couch or hopped into bed. My feet get so cold so easily, a pair of heavenly soft socks were just what I wanted and needed. They were perfect.

After many enjoyable months I wore holes into the first pair and confidently threw them out after determining that they were beyond repair. And it felt great. Because as silly as it sounds, those socks were a weight on me. Something I had received as a gift but never used. Something that just took up space. And there was no reason. They’re just socks after all.

I’m sure it will be at least another two years before I make my way through the next three pairs of fuzzy socks. But it feels good to see them in use, to know that I’m not just storing them because I can’t fathom throwing out perfectly good socks. Instead I’m using them and making them less than perfect. Which I suppose is the point of all my possessions.

It only took me ten years to figure it out.

Facebook’s Real Name Policy and the Futile Search for Safe Authenticity

I am proud to count a few drag queens and burlesque dancers among my Facebook friends. They are where I first heard the news: Facebook was cracking down on performers who have profiles under their stage names instead of their birth names. Hundreds of people have found themselves locked out of their accounts and unable to tell their friends what has happened. Many don’t even know who their friends are, since performers often know each other by performance names only. The official word from Facebook was that this policy has always been in place, and that it’s there to ensure a safe and authentic community. And that’s a great idea. Or at least it would be if the names on birth certificates were universally safe and authentic.

Celine DionOutside of the drag queens and burlesque dancers, I have a lot of other friends on Facebook who don’t use the name that’s printed on their driver’s license. Some have been using a fake name for years. So this week I asked several of them why they do it.

Some are dancers and musicians who have dived head-first into their stage personas. Their stage names are the names they go by in real life these days, with only family members and their oldest friends still calling them by their birth names. The stage name is not a lie, it’s not a fake. It’s the person they grew up to become. It’s who they are. They just don’t feel the need to have it legally changed.

Others have been the targets of abuse and stalking. Having a fake name is a way to put a layer of security between them and the men/women who would do them harm.

I have one friend who works as a teacher. “I’m sure this sounds really harsh,” she told me, “because most parents are wonderful, and their motives are generally good even when their actions seem questionable.” She’s seen stories of teachers who lost their jobs because of parents digging up things from Facebook that they found problematic. “There are always going to be parents who don’t trust their kids’ teachers enough to let them be who they are.”

One guy I know does it so he can joke around with his friends without worrying that every potential employer might one day read his comments. “I compartmentalize my life basically,” he said. He told me he doesn’t want to be accountable to strangers when joking around with his friends. He’s a funny guy, and any comedian will tell you that you have to know your audience.

As I read the responses from my own friends, as well as the articles online, I realized that safety and authenticity are the reasons almost everyone uses a fake name. If singing on stage means more to you than anything in the world, then the name you give to your singing voice is your authentic self. If allowing personal information to be openly associated with your birth name puts you at risk for threats and violence, then hiding your name is being safe. And if managers and parents aren’t willing to let employees decide how to behave outside of the job, then a fake name may be the only way you’re able to be authentic with friends while remaining safe at work.

Red Cup of WaterAuthenticity doesn’t have a single face. People are multi-faceted, and such complexity can be dangerously misinterpreted. I was one of the earliest adopters of Facebook, a fact that will come back to haunt me one day. I was a college freshman, and back then the things posted on Facebook could only be seen by a select few. This made for a relatively safe and authentic community. It didn’t matter if a friend posted a photo of me holding a red solo cup at a party, because the only people who saw the photo were also at the party. And they all knew I hated alcohol, and that the cup was full of water. My authentic self attended a party, but the photo shows someone else. If I decide that my boss or my mother or my church shouldn’t see that photo, it’s not because I’m hiding myself from them. It’s because I’m trying to tell the truth. I am trying to ensure that my authentic self is the one that gets seen, not the lie that the photo tells.

While creating a community that is both safe and authentic is a laudable goal, it is ultimately impossible for a behemoth like Facebook. It is too vast and too interconnected. No one can stay both authentic and safe when they don’t know who might be looking.

I am not the condensed version of myself I post online. None of us are. And some of us have led lives that are so interesting and painful and complex and dangerous that even our names can lead people astray. They can tell a false story or lead us into danger. None of us knew back in those early years that one day our Facebook profiles would be used to define who we are, just like these performers didn’t know they’d eventually have to out themselves in order to keep in touch with their friends. If any of us had known, we wouldn’t have posted those photos and we wouldn’t have made those jokes. When pulled from their original setting, such things don’t reflect the people we really are. Such things, when attached to a name but not a time or place, are no longer safe or authentic. That’s the terrifying truth of Facebook: had we known that this was what it was going to become, we never would have joined.


If you’d like to share your support for the campaign to end Facebook’s Real Name policy, use the hashtag #MyNameIs.

Planning and Surprises

When you do something for so long that you’re able to teach it to others, sometimes you end up under the mistaken impression that you’ve got it all figured out. Perhaps you know that there are still things to learn, but you certainly don’t think anything will ever surprise you.

Today, something surprised me.

I’ve been reading, practicing, and loving organization and productivity for a long time. I’ve been planning ahead for a long time. I’ve been making lists for a long time. Yet miraculously, today I managed to plan ahead and make a list in a way that made me outstandingly productive, and I never saw it coming.

I’m making a costume to wear to an upcoming convention, and I’d gotten to the point in my planning that it was time to go to the fabric store and buy supplies. I’ve made many costumes over the years, and for some reason every single one required about eight thousand trips to the store because I forgot to get something the last time. And I hate it. It bothers me to no end. I’m wasting time. I’m wasting gas. Most importantly, my costume creation gets brought to a standstill until I can get to the store to buy one more zipper, one more specialty needle, one more tube of fabric paint.

But today? Today I was the Goddess of Organization. Well, technically, I was the Goddess of Organization last night. That’s when I was making my lists and preliminary sketches and decided my shopping list needed a few more details.

Because in addition to forgetting items outright, I often go to the store only half-knowing what I need. It’s not enough to say I need a black zipper, because that doesn’t tell me if I need a 9-inch zipper or a 24-inch zipper. It’s not enough to say I need ribbon, because I can get a three yard spool or a ten yard spoon or I can take it to the counter and buy it by the yard. And I have a terrible habit of deciding how much fabric to purchase by eyeballing it at the cutting counter. I am horrific when it comes to estimating fabric, so I have no clue why I choose to do it so often. None of that nonsense this time, I decided. My list would include every part of the costume, head to toe.

The strange thing was that rather than feeling empowered at the store, it made me uneasy. I was looking at ribbon and I almost put it back down to come back and buy later, just so I didn’t have to decide between the shiny kind or the matte kind. Why? I suppose it’s because normally I forget those little accent things until I’ve already made the piece they’re accenting. By then it’s clear if the matte or shiny will look better. This time I had to choose based on what I hoped my costume would be like, not on something I knew it already was.

Despite my crises in the ribbon aisle, I did feel good when I got to the cash register. The final price was way less than I expected, probably because I didn’t buy twice as much fabric as I needed. I was excited for the weekend, when I’d get to start up on my costume, when I’d have all the supplies at my fingertips.

I got three paragraphs into this post before it hit me. I forgot the damn thread.

A Story About Airplanes and Numbers

I woke up at 6AM. Classes at the high school didn’t really start until just after 7:30AM, but the buses ran early enough to get you there for the half hour study period before homeroom. After pulling myself out of bed I made it to the bathroom and to the old stereo my sister put into our shared bathroom years before. She had graduated the previous spring and moved out a month later, but I still had the stereo.

I turned on the local Top 40, as was my custom. I started to get ready through a song or two, and then I heard the familiar voices of the DJs.

“So the craziest thing happened this morning,” the male DJ said. “There was this plane crash in New York City. Like, some plane accidentally hit a skyscraper.”

Interesting, but not remarkable. Sometimes planes crash. Skyscrapers are tall.

“What’s really crazy is that not long after, a SECOND plane crashed into another building.”

“Really?” inquired the female DJ.

“Yeah,” he said, “And because they were already filming the first crash, they’ve actually got video of the second crash happening. It’s all over the news right now.”

This piqued my interest. I went over to the TV and turned it on. Just like in the movies, it was already playing the news broadcast the DJ just mentioned. No more than 2-3 seconds past before I saw the clip of the second plane hitting the building. I accepted it at face value. The DJ said accident. The news said accident. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but when I look back there was a sinking in my stomach the first time I saw that footage. Deep down I knew. They weren’t careening out of control. The plane was so straight, so sure. They didn’t even swerve. Accidents don’t look like that.

I turned the TV off and continued getting ready. The DJs mentioned it once or twice more. Before I left the house I tapped on my parents’ door to wake them.

“There was a plane crash in New York City,” I told them. “I don’t know where it happened or where Nikki lives, but you might want to call her to check-in.”

My mother gave me a sleepy nod. Yes. She would call my big sister to make sure she was okay.

At the corner I waited with the other kids for the bus. My neighborhood sat directly under the runway paths, and I watched a plane fly by. I smiled. Something about it was funny, watching a plane navigate the air so successfully after two had failed so horribly just an hour before. I told the kids at the bus stop what had happened. The story didn’t seem to interest them.

The radio was off on the bus. It was usually on, but not every day. I considered asking the driver to turn it on so I could hear about the planes, but I didn’t. I rode to school in silence.

Between the bus and the front door of the high school I saw my homeroom algebra teacher walking the opposite direction. “Mr. Andrews, did you hear?” I yelled over to him with a smile. “Some planes crashed in New York, right into the buildings.” He hadn’t heard. We kept walking our separate ways.

I went to the classroom and got out my algebra homework. I figured if the bus insisted on getting me to school a half hour early I’d make the most of it by not finishing my homework the night before. I wasn’t particularly interested in what we were studying, and I didn’t really want to do it. But it was due today.

Students and teachers were in and out of the classrooms as usual, and within minutes someone leaned into our room to let us know there was a TV on in the classroom down the hall. They were watching the news. I abandoned the homework I didn’t want to do and walked down the hall to watch the broadcast. By then it was known. By then it was clear. Another plane had hit the Pentagon. There hadn’t been any accidents.

I went back to my classroom and got out my phone. I called my mother, who didn’t pick up. I left a message asking if she’d gotten ahold of my sister. I didn’t even realize I was scared until I heard the crack in my own voice. I hung up the phone and looked over at Mr. Andrews. He had heard my message, the change in my voice. He heard me ask my mother if my sister was okay. He said nothing, I said nothing. I went back to the other room.

There were about 15 of us sitting in that little room when the South Tower fell. I could hear Roosevelt’s voice in my head on repeat: A Date That Will Live In Infamy. Another plane had crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania. They didn’t know where it had been headed. We were scared. We didn’t know how many planes were still in the air. We didn’t know if it would ever end. On live TV we watched as the second tower fell. Then the bell rang to start the school day.

Nothing happened in homeroom that day. Nothing in second or third period either. Every class started with the same plea to our teachers, “Can we turn on a TV?” By forth period it was clear that the present danger was over, and everything that was going to happen had happened. Still, nothing was getting done. We couldn’t focus, we couldn’t learn. My biology teacher gave us an assignment that didn’t much matter and agreed to leave the radio on. But we talked over it instead. We couldn’t do our work, but we couldn’t keep listening to the same confusion either. At some point I got the message from my mom. Nikki was fine. She didn’t live or work anywhere near the towers. She was still asleep in her apartment in Queens when it all happened.

When I got home from school I turned on the TV. The local ABC and NBC affiliates were playing coverage. So was CBS and FOX. I turned to CNN – a lot of people turned to CNN. It’s hard to remember that there was a time when “24 hour news” was synonymous with CNN and no one else. They were the source. If it was news you knew they’d be talking about it.

But today, everyone was talking about it. I flipped through the channels. Those that didn’t have their own coverage were showing a feed from another news source, usually CNN. I had a printed out piece of paper on the coffee table that I used to track which channel number corresponded to which network. I got out a pencil and started flipping down the line, marking off which channels were playing coverage. Nearly every working station was devoted to 9/11 coverage. I still have that piece of paper in storage at my parents’ house.

I watched the footage until I couldn’t anymore. It was the same facts over and over, the same wreckage and smoke. I needed to see something else. I flipped to Comedy Central, one of the few big channels that wasn’t playing coverage of the attacks. Instead it was some idiotic college movie staring Jeremy Pivens. Probably “PCU” but I can’t remember for sure. I laid on the couch and watched a series of stupid sex and fart jokes. It helped.

I’d been watching the movie for about 20 minutes when my mother came upstairs. She commented on the fact that the movie I was watching seemed stupid. She was right, though I didn’t say anything to agree. She asked if we could change the channel to watch the news. I told her yes and we flipped to CNN. I sat on the couch with her for a few minutes, and then felt the sudden and intense desire to not sit there anymore. I stood up and went into my room, which was directly behind the wall with the TV on it. I sat on my bed. I could still hear the news. I stood up and paced. I went back out into the TV room and into the bathroom. I opened the medicine cabinet. I closed it. I went back to my room. Then back to the bathroom. I’m not sure what happened next, but I think I must have slammed the door or thrown something on the floor, because my mother came over to me with sudden concern.

“Is everything okay?” she asked.

I’m not sure what I said. The moment is so fuzzy in my memory and when I think of it my throat gets sore and I feel heat in my head. Somehow I must have told her that I couldn’t watch it anymore. Somehow I told her that I just wanted to watch my stupid movie. I was crying.

My mother ran over to the remote to change the channel back. My mother, it should be noted, knew nothing about how our TV remotes worked. She hit the wrong button and the screen turned to static, then to static with something undetectable on behind it. She kept pushing buttons until I ran over to help. I started pushing other buttons to get it working again, and somehow we ended up on one of the only other channels that wasn’t playing coverage. It was playing bunnies.

It was educational public access, and on the screen was a pair of cartoon rabbits. The narrator explained that they were talking about the Fibonacci Sequence, which neither my mother nor I had heard of. The narrator went on to say that it was first developed to explain the mating habits of rabbits. A third bunny appeared on the screen, then two more. Bunnies making bunnies. My mother and I burst into laughter. We watched as a few more bunnies went by and my tears dried. Mom asked if we should keep watching the bunnies and I told her that was okay, I just wanted to watch my stupid movie.

Later that week I looked up the Fibonacci Sequence online. I wrote down the numbers on a piece of paper: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21…

The Fibonacci Sequence is tied to the Golden Ratio, the mathematical quantifier for natural beauty. The spiral of a nautilus shell is mapped by Fibonacci. You find it in the leaves of plants and in the seeds of the sunflower. The sequence goes on forever, each number the sum of the two before. For years after September 11th the list of Fibonacci numbers was taped above my desk. When I was angry or despairing I would repeat the digits silently in my head as a sort of meditative chant. One. One. Two. Three. Five. Eight. Thirteen. I was never able to get past 55 before the mental math overtook the emotion and I found myself feeling better.

There’s a lot I could say about September 11th and the effect it had on our culture, our politics, our media, our lives. But today I just thought I should tell you the story. My story. I am the beginning of several other people’s September 11th stories. I am the beginning of my mother and father’s stories. I am the beginning to the story for the kids at the bus stop. I am the beginning of Mr. Andrews’ story. I heard it on the radio, and they heard it from me. Two planes crashed into buildings in New York City this morning. Isn’t that weird. You’d think they would have swerved.

The Most Beautiful Template Website in the World

When I decided to switch from the free blogging platform to the more do-it-yourself, I approached it as a challenge to move up. This time I’d put more effort into layout and design. This time I’d make sure it didn’t look like ‘just another wordpress site.’ This time it would all be different. It would all be better.

However when it comes to design, I fall into that unhappy lot Ira Glass described in his now famous quote about beginners. I’m just good enough to recognize that I’m not very good at it. I don’t have any specific need to get better since website design is not my passion, but the unintended side effect is that I hate every design I create within 18 hours of its birth. When I was rebuilding this blog using, I went through version after version. I put together my own header images and spent time perfecting my skills with Paintbrush, the free paint program for Macs. And it was all terrible. I couldn’t stand any of it. I wanted to give up. Before me were hours of hating every site I ever made.

All I wanted to do was write.

That’s when I happened upon a great article on John Scalzi’s blog Whatever. I’ve never read any of John Scalzi’s books, but I know his name and something of his credentials. I knew he had an award-winning blog but I’d never seen it before.

And if John Scalzi can win a Hugo running the WordPress 2013 Default Theme, I think I can move forward with this blog no matter what it looks like.

Project 333

Several months ago I came across Project 333, an exercise in simplifying your wardrobe (and hopefully your life). I was intrigued, because at the time I was feeling the drain of how many decisions I was making every day. I had trouble getting anything done in the morning, and it was mainly because I was trying to make too many decisions before I was even awake.

The premise of Project 333 is simple: choose only 33 items in your wardrobe to wear for the next three months. Ideally this would include outerwear, shoes, and accessories, but exclude workout clothes, pajamas, and underwear. However what I really like about Project 333 is how committed the founder is that the project shouldn’t be an exercise in suffering. She tells people that if limiting shoes is too hard, don’t include them. If three months is too long, try three weeks. And if an item gets damaged or no longer fits, replace it.

ScarvesLast spring I opened up all my drawers and began pulling things. I wanted to choose what to keep rather than what to lose, which made it much easier. Pretty soon I had my 33 items and set to work hiding everything else. There’s a lot to be said about the effects of visual clutter, and I didn’t want to constantly look at things I wasn’t going to wear. I grabbed a bunch of scarves and began draping them everywhere. I moved all of my 33 pieces into one drawer and hid everything else in the others. Even though I wasn’t counting socks or underwear, I still went through them and hid about half of each in drawers that I wouldn’t bother opening for the next three months.

The project was a huge success. I credit my victory to the “this isn’t about suffering” philosophy it came with. I cheated plenty of times. Some were legitimate, like pulling out costume outfits for shows and theme parties. Other times I just wanted something more casual than my usual wardrobe, so I grabbed a t-shirt that wasn’t part of my 33. And along the way I switched out one or two items when I realized something else would be better. But none of that cheating matters, because I still solved my original problem. Every morning when I got up, the decision of what to wear was easy.

In July I picked out a new batch of 33 items, though many were the same ones from my first batch. In theory I still have 30 days to go before I switch out again, but after five months I’m wondering if the lesson I needed to learn wasn’t about living with less (which wasn’t hard), but about giving up some control. My problem wasn’t that I had an overflowing closet, but that every morning I approached my closet as a blank slate with all options open to me. Once I switched to only 33 items I had very few options, and you know what? I barely noticed or cared. Neither did anyone else. The only real problem was having to do laundry more often.

For me Project 333 wasn’t so much an exercise in minimalism of objects but in minimalism of effort. I have a simple style, and mentally going through the hundreds of permutations I could make between pants, shirts, and shoes doesn’t hold up to cost/benefit analysis. This is one part of my life where I’m no worse off for not thinking about it.

Perhaps my next experiment will be limit to my vision rather than my clothes. I might stack my sweaters directly on top of each other so I only ever see the top two. Those will be the sweaters I wear until they need to be washed, at which point new ones will be revealed. I’ll solve my laundry problem without adding back the unnecessary decision-making.

My sense of frugality will probably make it difficult to let go of perfectly good clothes even if I don’t wear them, so for now I’ll just have to keep hiding the things I don’t need to see. The scarves work wonders for that. And one day I’ll have to own up to another obvious problem: I own too many scarves.

Over Writing

There ought to be a word for it in German. Something without a direct translation. Something like “zietwertlos.” It’s a word for that feeling of worthlessness you get when you know you’ve created something bad, but you can’t seem to fix it. It’s different than simple lack of confidence, because your assessment of the work is accurate. You haven’t allowed low self-esteem to convince you that what you made is awful, it actually is.

This happened when I tried to write about the days I spent in Ithaca last year. The post was massive – over 2,000 words. I tried to break it up into three parts with marginal success. I tried editing. I edited it over and over again. I took out 600 words. I added 200 back in. I moved paragraphs around. I pulled some points to the end that were in the beginning. I took out the slow parts. I added them back in. I gave myself time. I gave myself way more time than usual. But the piece was over-worked. It was the kind of thing that gets you kicked off Project Runway.

It was especially disappointing because I had a wonderful time in Ithaca. I hung-out with fun people and had great experiences. I felt as though I’d let down the people I met there by not being able to write an interesting story about them. They were, after all, just as interesting as any of the other folks I encountered along the way. But I couldn’t seem to muster anything more than a long list of declarative sentences that came to no conclusion.

Eventually I decided to scrap the entire thing and start from scratch. Rather than trying to make it into a cohesive whole, rather than trying to explain each instance, I just wrote down the good parts. They were devoid of context, containing only what was necessary. And it worked. I realized that I’d been guilty of the thing I hate most in storytelling: abundant clarity. I don’t enjoy having everything laid out. I would rather walk out of a movie with questions than answers. There’s a reason we seldom watch characters while eating or driving or going to the bathroom. It’s boring.

I watched the latest Thor movie recently, and realized midway through that the subtitles for the evil elves had accidentally been turned off. Rather than turn them back on, I watched the whole movie without them. It was great. The elves were mysterious. I knew they were planning things but I didn’t know what. It left me guessing rather than guiding me through all of their precise evil schemes. As a side-effect I felt more sympathy for the heroes. Like me, they had no idea what was coming next.

As writers sometimes we’re so worried about being understood that we forget how much our audience will figure out on their own. No one cares how you get to Ithaca, they just want to know what happens once you arrive.