Chuck Wendig, Wanderers, and Process

I’ve been reading Chuck Wendig’s new book, Wanderers, and it’s a great read. I’m really enjoying it. His writing is good but it also reads easy. The ideas are interesting. And it feels strangely of the moment for a work of speculative fiction (maybe because it came out last week).

The tension in culture. The problems with our media environment. Government in paralysis. Cynical political actors. Gender identity. Right wing lunatics with swastika tattoos.

I’m not sure I’ve seen another author capture internet culture as well as Chuck does in this book. The snips he includes, from Reddit to Twitter to Instagram, are so dead on that they could only come from someone who actively spends time in online social spaces. The way the characters refer to social media is dead on. He’s in the culture, and can speak the culture.

One character I’m unsure of so far is the rock star. Writers seem to always struggle to write musicians that aren’t wafer-thin caricatures doing drugs, spouting rock & roll platitudes, and more or less living the Nihilist Way. Not sure if Chuck will be able to pull it off. It might be necessary for the character arc…so we’ll see.

But, as I mentioned, I follow him online, and his blog is a great read. He wrote an excellent post on what it was like for him to write this book. In it, he talks about the process of writing the book, and how the book dictated what the process needed to be, defying his expectations about how it would come together:

This book just didn’t conform to the way I thought I did things.

I don’t mean to suggest we’re not, in a way, experts at what we do. And I think we do need to sometimes trust the process. But sometimes we need to go beyond that, outside that, and trust ourselves more than the process. The process is not the book, and the book is not the process.

Books are gonna be what they’re gonna be. They’re gonna be as big as they gotta be and take the time that they need to take.

We all have process. But when you’re working with ideas and creative things, process usually has to take a backseat to the work itself. Because the work itself needs to be what it needs to be. Sticking to process can prevent that from happening. Like keeping a goldfish in too small a bowl will restrict it from growing to its full potential.

Guitar Face for the Camera

A few weeks ago I went to see a band that my friend’s kid plays in. They played mostly covers, but they are all really great players and performers. The singer is off to Berklee this fall, and the guitar player is entering his sophomore year, studying music production in Nashville.

It took me back to my high school music days. We started playing out in bars when I was 15 or 16. Aside from the old dudes drinking beer and high-fiving the kids for kicking ass, a lot has changed.

Our nights were spent smoking cigerettes and trying our best to look like we weren’t kids that would be easy targets for a mugging. One bar served us when we were *extremely* underage. At the time it seemed awesome. Looking back, it’s ridiculous. What were they thinking?

One time, while loading up my 88 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais outside of a bar on Granby avenue in Norfolk, some dude tried to sell me an 8-ball. That was probably the first time I heard *8-ball* being used outside of a game of pool. I must have been 16.

Then there was another time, when the owner of a bar that had cancelled us one night showed up at a different bar where we were playing.

He was plastered. Three-sheets to the wind. Though that makes it sound classier than it was. He was freaking out, and starting throwing piles of cash on the stage to apologize for the past. It was sad, and weird, and disturbing. Were we even 18 yet? I’m not sure.

We took the money.

Now, back to the show I saw a few weeks ago.

It was at a rock club. But all of band members’ parents were there. Some of their parents’ friends were there. Every family had a camcorder set up on a tripod. It felt a little bit like the sidelines of a high school sports event. This was very different.

And so I’ve been left wondering whether we live in a different world now, with a different generation of parents that have more of an attachment to what their kids are doing outside of team sports, or whether it’s just that my friends are cooler than most parents and are the exception to the rule.

In any case, I did my “old guy at the rock show thing,” high-fiving the kids and telling them that they kicked ass. All the while knowing that they would be the old people high-fiving young musicians in the club sooner than they think.

Podcast Appearance: The Strategy Inside of Everything

Adam Peirno was nice enough to have me on the latest episode of his podcast, *The Strategy Inside of Everything.*

We talked about the Brandcenter, teaching strategy, and I made a bunch of accidental noise dragging my hands around my desk.

Sorry Adam!

You can listen here: [Learning strategy with Kevin Rothermel](

Quartz is shutting down Quartz Brief App

I had completely forgotten about the Quartz Brief app until this morning when I read that they are shutting it down. It was a rare app in that it willfully different than the others in the category. Rather than the usual scrolling list of headlines with a “trending” section whose only role is to make you nervous for humanity, Quartz built their app with a chatbot interface. They later added in features like a Trump snooze that would snooze anything Trump for 24 hours.

I can’t remember why I stopped using it. It might’ve been the limited amount of news that it would surface everyday. Or that I tend to scan through a lot of headlines to find stories that I want to read.

In any case, if you haven’t used it, you should download it before it’s gone to see what it’s like.

Hiking the Buttermilk Trail

Caution: This is an old fashioned blog post. The kind people used to write before social media sucked all of the oxygen out of the room. 

My son and I went on a hike last week on one of Richmond’s wooded trails that follow the river and are oddly close to downtown.

There’s a lot to take in back there. Things to look at, sounds to hear, and inferences to make.

Big and small…

Natural and human…

Official and Unofficial…

Natural and Urban…

When we came across this graffiti, he had a two word warning for me: “teenagers, dad.” Like a guide in Indiana Jones finding an ancient warning of death. I can only assume he’s learned that teenagers are punks from his grandparents. I wonder if he understands that he’s only a few years away from losing his mind to adolescence.

I was thinking about teenagers as well. Mostly noticing the paths leading from residential areas to the kinds of places that teenagers go to get away from the eyes of adults. Rocky outcroppings and secluded hiding places that we would have sought out back then. I’m sure a closer look would reveal empty packs of cigarettes and broken wine-cooler bottles.

R wanted me to play some music. But I told him that we don’t listen to music when we’re out in nature. He didn’t comment on the multiple passersby that were listening to something through their earbuds.

I wanted him to hear the noise that we were surrounded by. Hear the river. The crickets. To notice the details in the noise soup. The trees in the forest, if you will. Not sure that we got there. But we’ve got all summer…