Mindsets and Communication

How does one get an idea across?

I feel people place their bets before the curtains are ever drawn.

There was a lot of things I did differently in my previous post. Normally I start writing, start to finish, finish the first draft, then publish it right away. The PUBG post had a bit of planning, wrote the middle first and the intro last, and then… I just put it away for a few days. By the time I published it I had a different way of looking at what I had written than when I started. Not that anything in it would be something I “disagree” with. What I disagree with is the structure as a whole. Or if not disagree, then at least I doubt it.

Part of it was that it didn’t turn out how I originally wanted it. I knew I wanted to have a general first half and a specific second half, with an introduction to the specifics, and generally simplifying the rest so that anyone unfamiliar with the topic would understand the basic idea anyways. Those items are all there, in a sense. But they don’t work together that way at all. All the parts are definitely long enough to understand each particular part, but it came at the cost to the overall essay. It doesn’t work well for someone not interested in PUBG, nor does it work well for someone that is interested in PUBG. It just waffled out in the end with a question; a conclusion that contradicts the fundamental form of the post being one of lots and lots of words. It makes sense to me now that this is the sort of thing that a second draft is supposed to fix – the operator being not “makes sense” but “now”.

These sorts of things can only be found if you’re looking for them. And you can only look for them if you know that it’s possible to look for them. If you think writing is about putting together words in a way which abides by someone’s interpretation of someone else’s formulation of grammatical rules… you’re not wrong. Just like how the camper isn’t wrong that you need to kill the other guy before he kills you to survive. You’re not right, either. There’s more to it. You can’t see it all at the same time, but you definitely won’t see any of it other than what you’re looking at if you think there isn’t anything else. That won’t change no matter how many hours or years you put into it, if you’re not looking for it. I’ve been writing on this blog, and writing in general outside of any school or work assignments, for more than ten years. But I didn’t notice this specifics/nonspecifics balancing act because I wasn’t paying attention.

I probably saw it because I’ve been drawing. Perhaps my brain just works more easily visually, or perhaps it’s because I just really like women and by chance I just happened to successfully trick my brain into equating learning drawing with watching porn – but in general, it didn’t have to be drawing. Drawing just happened to be the first time I willingly spent many hours on something, and actively refused to look to someone else for approval on whether or not I had done an “A” job. The (excessive) number of iterations and the (not so excessive) number of hours spent doing the same things over and over again, trying out whatever I happened to come up with to correct the results, were what showed me the way. What started with looking up to and following instructions and critiques on perspective or anatomical correctness, has now led to the complete dismissal of counts of incorrect punctuation usage or number of bibliography citations or anything else a “language education professional” could come up with as criteria for “good writing”.

I had a vision for what I wanted to say in that post. Thanks to paying attention, and the previous results of having paid attention in drawing, I happened to see that the vision and the result didn’t match. It probably would’ve gotten an “A” if I wrote it for a school assignment, just like it always would. And if it was a school assignment, I would’ve been satisfied, because I would’ve looked for the “A”. This time, I looked for something else.

But, just like the common amateur who to avoid criticism makes the excuse that his vision is beyond his skill level, I’m not really sure about how it should’ve looked instead.

I recently rewatched and reread parts of one of my favorite stories, Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji, and was finally able to put into words what the story was about. The title says it’s about gambling, and certainly the plot and a lot of talk in the story involves huge amounts of shady money with ridiculous interest rates and consequences that clearly would not stand up to any public scrutiny. But it’s not about gambling. It’s not about gambling at all, and everyone who likes it isn’t in it for stories about gambling.

The “gambling” part is just the excuse to set up examples and circumstances.

Kaiji is about human nature and those who attempt to escape from a future of despair.

I knew that. That’s why I watched it to begin with.

But I forgot it every time I tried to talk about it. In that sense, I never knew it at all.

Kaiji‘s composition is a work of art. It says it’s about gambling, but it makes clear very quickly it’s not about anything people would usually think when they hear the word. There are four “gambles” in the original series: first is a modification of rock paper scissors, second is walking across a beam, third is another card game with only three types of cards, and the final one is a raffle from a tissue box. It’s the same with the money that’s being wagered: zero. Kaiji is a completely broke bum. All of these logistics are just handwaved by the fact that the people he’s up against are shady moneylenders from an unimaginably rich corporation. Nearly every detail is made either or both simple and unusual so people focus on the parts which they can easily grasp: how people act with high stakes. The structure of the story itself helps push the audience towards the important parts. The proportion of time actually spent on the gambles is quite low compared to the constant and long monologues about how people think.

That being said… there is quite a lot of time spent on the details of how the protagonist gets through the gambles. Even if it’s less than half the screentime or panel count, that’s still an absolute number of hours that passed, spent on details of games people are never going to play themselves. In that sense, those parts probably feel unnecessarily longer or appear more prominent than they really are.

And yet they have to exist. They must exist. No one cares about essays, and even those who do, they want examples. Even if they’re aware that in the end all words that exist came out of somebody’s mouth and are thus someone else’s opinion, they want to see at least a claim on how it existed in, if not the real world, then at least a fictional world. So Kaiji uses a story with made-up gambling. For my previous post, I used PUBG. And because such specifics must exist, there is always the risk of going too far into them, in proportional or absolute terms or both, and losing sight of the original message.

I didn’t finish the job. After writing all four mindsets out I thought I’d make up a few scenarios where they’d be pitted against one another and what each one would be thinking. In retrospect it would’ve improved it, but at the time, I was only starting to doubt that there was something wrong with how it was written. What I saw was ‘The specifics section is too long, but the non-specific section can’t be extended.’. Which I still think is true, in a different sense. The problem wasn’t the specifics section wordcount so much as its prominence due to lack of connection back to the true non-specific: how people act with high stakes. Such an extension is probably a necessary move. A gray canvas with a black blob next to a white blob looks really gaudy. But the solution to that isn’t ‘stop adding black/white’, it’s to smooth the transition between the two – a result which requires more brushstrokes and more pigment. In writing, this probably means either replacing or adding words. In any case it definitely doesn’t mean “stop writing”.

That being said, it could just not work at all.

I don’t think there’s too terrible a problem with the previous post’s general opening section. But I can easily imagine how it is. It’s too general, too lacking in examples, too passive of a voice, like the author is so self-centered and pretentious they actually think they know everything about the world to speak as though the words themselves are the truth. It’s probably due to overcorrection on my part, so we could simply say that it’s my bad writing skill, that’s not the whole picture. There’s plenty of extremely popular people out there I could easily pick on who do exactly the same thing, especially those of the Facts and Science kind. Why would people sometimes be okay with relationships that are top-down preaching of a holy truth sometimes, but not others?

Could be any number of things. Could be people like listening over reading, like fancy video editing of high quality stock footage with simple graphic designs to text with some lewd anime woman in the background, social proofing of 10M other “subscribers” to who the fuck is this kid writing like he knows something on not-even-a-custom-domain… or something I can’t imagine at all. I could write in such a way that’s appropriate to my social position or something, whatever that means I don’t know. But I don’t. That I don’t know is part of it too; I might be able to find out if I cared, but I don’t. I had something I wanted to say, and that’s what happened to come out. Noboyuki Fukumoto had something to say, and Kaiji happened to come out. Kaiji happened to work for me. It hasn’t worked for a lot of other people for various reasons, the primary ones being 1) it’s about a bum going gambling, and 2) its art is garbage.

Kaiji and its sequels have been running for two decades now with not one iota of art improvement. I’m guessing Kaiji is also still a bum. Kaiji has gone off the deep end in the specifics/non-specific ratio past the first series, but apparently it’s worked. For some chunk of the population that marketing of the series successfully reached, it really really worked. Not many manga, stories, or anything in general get to go on for this long.

Yet, even with examples like this, what do we get about how to draw or how to write?

Anatomy and grammar lessons.

Those things aren’t wrong. But they’re also not right. Unless you want to become an art or language teacher, then sure, those things are right. But otherwise, it’s not right. These are the stock examples, but it applies from every theory to every piece of advice.

It is, more than anything else, a grandiosity.

And maybe that’s just the way it has to be. There’s just too many possibilities in the individual preferences of people, both the creator and the audience, then multiply those by the communication paths which work or don’t work for each person. You can stop and smell the roses, but no one who isn’t completely mindbroken or an “autist” will ever bother to smell each individual rose. You have to assume something at some point because if something is going to get done, you are going to start doing it sometime, and when you do, you are going to focus on something, at the necessary decreased relevance of all the other things. Maybe you pick the wrong combination. Oh well. It had to be done, and it might as well have been today. Do better next time.

There’s no guarantee you’ll ever stumble upon the “right” combination, ever, let alone be able to recognize it when it passes, even if you are paying attention. On top of that, most of “your own” ideas were probably picked up from people around you in some way, or are innate, and no amount of time or attention will change that.

Perhaps that’s why, in the dominance of science and evidence, market research and study groups, controlled and computerized optimization, we feel refreshed whenever we meet someone who acts based on their gut instinct. A “fuck it, I’m going anyways”, a “time to go boys, make a decision and stick to it”. A sense of charisma.

If you’re probably going to be wrong anyways, why not just call it “right”, and see what happens?

The operating concept isn’t “right” or “wrong”.

It’s “see what happens”.


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