Limits are Possibilities

I'm a huge fan of formal constraints, and years ago was pleased by finding this bit in Chip Kidd's graphic-design bildungsroman The Cheese Monkeys:
Always remember: Limits are possibilities. That sounds like Orwell, I know. It’s not – it’s Patton. Formal restrictions, contrary to what you might think, free you up by allowing you to concentrate on purer ideas. As graphic designers you want the world as your palette. But beware: You can be crippled by too many choices, especially if you don’t know what your goals are.
So it's a thing I do for myself: set arbitrary rules, some rational, some less so, in whatever I write. It helps beyond the telling.

And so then it's no surprise that it's also a thing I love doing to my students: giving them assignment sheets with insane strictures, which they at first blanch at and then wholly embrace when they find themselves so pleased with the end results. This is the sheet I assigned near the beginning of the semester. And this is the one they just got for their final story. I am very much looking forward to the results.

Also! It's nice to see one's hunches and personal experience confirmed by science. And by Russell Smith, who also, I'm pleased to note, also asks that students produce more material than is seemingly reasonable to ask. But again: it's worth doing because it works.

Hand Puppet!

The Pio, Whitman College's student newspaper, did a super nice write-up of the reading. I talk about how I think Wal-Mart is awesome for longer than maybe I should. The photo is lifted straight off the newspaper. I look as though I am holding a little hand puppet up to the mike, but actually I am gesturing for dramatic emphasis.

Also: Selected Shorts aired Corddry's reading of "Customer Service at the Karaoke Don Quixote" this weekend. You can listen to the MP3 here.

On October 12 (this Wednesday) is the other Selected Shorts performance! If you are in New York please go and let me know how it went!