Category Archives: Thoughts and Musings

What I learned from my SimCity

As a birthday present to myself, I upgraded my iPad from second generation to the most recent iPad Air 2. My old iPad couldn’t do much in the way of graphics-heavy games, so I downloaded SimCity onto the new tablet with much excitement. I greatly enjoyed the PC version of the game when it came out many years ago. Being a full-fledged adult now, though, I’m taking a lot away from playing the came.

  Here’s what I’ve learned from my SimCity city, which I creatively called Town.

1. No one’s happy for long. Just when I think I have my populace all figured out, they decide on something else to be unhappy about. I finally achieve total coverage of the fire department, they give me a flurry of green smiley faces to let me know they’re happy, and before I know it, they want waste management and I’m back to yellow meh faces. Then comes their concern about crime, education, transportation, and how close they live to a factory. I tell them they can either have sewers or clean air, but not both, but their angry red thought bubbles pollute my otherwise nicely designed airspace regardless.

2. Maintaining the status quo often means having to grow. I was happy when we had a few skyscrapers, several large apartment buildings, and nice smallish homes. But, if the populace wants clean water, I need tax money, and I have to increase the population to get it. With increased population comes more need for clean water and so on and so forth. Before I knew it, our midsized town is block after block of glassy skyscrapers—and still, not everyone has potable water.

3. Visiting other towns can really bring a virtual mayor down. One way of acquiring the resources needed to build-build-build is to visit other virtual mayors’ towns and buy their extra resources. You get to see what all the other mayors, armed with iDevices of their own, have done with their cities. These cities are sprawling mega metropolises with no eye for city planning at all. Is building a simulated city just all about winning? Does no one want to build a city they’d live in anymore? Honestly, I don’t know what’s happening to our culture.

4. Take care of number one. Early in the game, you get a mayor’s mansion, which I set off in a corner of my plot of the virtual planet, near a lake, away from my populace. When the constant stream of demands, refusal to pay taxes when things aren’t going well, threat of future disaster, widespread illiteracy, rampant crime, the stink of feces, and snarled roads gets you down, it’s nice to get away to a place that doesn’t need any of these services at all. It’s how you know you’re the mayor.

Learning to Revise One Little Piece at a Time

As a writer, revision has never been my strong point. I don’t think I ever heard the word “revision” until I was training to become a teacher and learned about the writing process. In high school and college, I received notes to address in my writing from the teacher (usually in red ink) and I did what she wanted—and I felt proud of myself for pleasing the teacher. That wasn’t—and isn’t—revision, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I’ve struggled with revision as a result in my short fiction writing. I’ve been reading through Gardner’s The Art of Fiction and thinking about how to apply some of his thinking to my revision process, particularly his thoughts on sentence construction and rhythm. I think I may have come upon a technique that is helping me as I edit and revise my upcoming ebook collection Powerless: Stories. 

As I go through the text, I isolate a paragraph or, if the paragraph is super short, a small section by hitting “Return” several times before and after the segment. This makes me focus just on the section because it is the only thing I can see on the screen. The isolation has helped me concentrate more on the language I’m using and apply some of the lessons from Gardner. I can see a difference already in making my prose sound smoother.

I’m not sure why the isolation is so important in my process. Perhaps because the urge to just read on gets put off because there’s nothing else to read on to—at least right there on the screen. It changes my task from reading to revising by working in this piecemeal way. I doubt this addresses the totality of my revision process—or lack thereof. But, at least it is a way for me to start actually revising my work.