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Notes from Ash Huang

iydkydk and gut feelings

I’ve been thinking about gut feeling in both design and writing—just the immediate sense that ‘something’ is or isn’t working (or even, that it won’t work), being able to explain it, and what could fix it. I hear this referred to as ‘instinct’, but I don’t like how immutable the term is.

This is poorly paraphrased from a panel I saw with Carmen Maria Machado, but I really appreciated the frank advice, after you write for a while, at some point you just know whether it’s good yet. It’s hard to get to iykyk, because iyDkyDk. Also a lot of people work with false confidence: using gut feelings, but taking no time or care to develop that gut. Like…I’ve found throwing out uninformed hot takes is quite encouraged in tech, though these days it’s easier to find space away from this burndown energy.

I don’t know about you, but I run around with ultimate librarian-nerd energy. Armful of books and texts, notes flying after me like fallen leaves. It’s stressful to think of everything I don’t have access to, all the things I need to learn. The last few years I’ve been focusing more on honing rather than gathering. Interrogating what excellence would mean to me, what sharpness is, what it feels like to slice through cleanly through a sheet of copy paper in the unflattering lights of an infomercial…?

Experience is just as important as knowledge—ideally you have the two together when creating, editing, critiquing. That’s what gut feeling really is, it’s a shortcut you get after showing up year after year, making mistake after mistake. I’m starting to feel the ‘elder’ in elder milennial lately, but it’s nice to feel a little less ageist energy and see the benefits of experience. As long as there is open mindedness in the mix, experience is truly priceless.

I have 7 total (!) edits left before I am finished with this draft of my novel. If I managed to average 1 each working day, that means I’d be done in less than two weeks. Some of them are full-on scenes, others are ‘finish the last line of the song you left for later.’ This is the first full draft of this project that I’m going to let a few folks read. Exciting, but also a bit scary—not at all because I’m afraid of feedback, but because it means I’ll have to let the manuscript/project go to another place, where I’m not there all the time with it. I can only do my best, but setting a manuscript free is always hard.

Also just finished a draft of a short story that’s been cooking on the back burner of my brain for months, just in time to send it in for the Roots. Wounds. Words. Worskhop. Excited to polish up that weird little yarn (it involves extinct trout and angel investors haha).

Top of mind

I’m reading Alex Elle’s How We Heal, and in that spirit, I’m trying to forgive two things every day: 1) someone who has hurt me in the past, and 2) myself! for a dumb mistake/mean thing I did while bent past snapping. I’m not in a sturdy enough place to write this down or delight in it, but just doing it in my head is actually really helpful. Sometimes I forgive the same thing/person multiple times, and accepting that feels good.

I have had the urge to paint something for a few months (and get to my neglected jewelry bench), but something’s got to give with everything I’ve got going on. I made this tiny, tiny painting. I tried to use my rustiness to my advantage. It feels like I’ve forgotten how to draw completely, but that gives me some space to approach painting idealistically instead of by habit. Honestly…not bad for a reintroduction. It’s a bummer that I won’t get that satisfying stacking that comes with practice, but this is all I can manage this season. I have to just be proud I painted at all.

A small watercolor painting of a cloudy mountain view

I’ve been playing Townscaper and it’s the most soothing thing. It’s more of a toy than an app, but the little surprises that come up when you put just the right elements together is very satisyfing!

A screenshot from Townscaper

And just for fun, I basically only visit Instagram to look at Adrienne Maree Brown’s meme piles.

before you send that email, ask yourself: is this a december or a january problem?