Ordinary Tools of Thought

Part 2 of Fuck the Muse @ The Operating System

Kirby Ferguson argues that the three basic techniques of remixing (copy, transform, combine) form the foundation of all creative process. He refers to these techniques as the “Elements of Creativity”…

Creativity isn’t magic. It happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials.

—Kirby Ferguson

It seems I can’t dive straight into the five steps of creative process — my content wants to take a different route (more on that later). Instead, let’s start by establishing some broad themes that will resurface regularly along the way.

The Elements of Creativity

Kirby Ferguson’s fantastic video series, Everything is a Remix, argues that the three basic techniques of remixing (copy, transform, combine) are actually the foundation of all creative process. He refers to these techniques as the “Elements of Creativity”.

I won’t go into the details of his argument, but you should. My goal is to pick up where he leaves off, turning creative theory into creative practice.

Go watch the entire series. I can wait.

(Pause.)

I’m serious. Consider it homework.

Spark & Slip

Douglas Hofstadter, a writer and professor of cognitive science, makes the same argument in his book Metamagical Themas. He talks about creativity as a process of “sparking & slipping”:

There is a way that concepts have of “slipping” from one into another, following a quite unpredictable path… An example of such a slip is furnished to us whenever we make a typo or grammatical mistake, utter a malapropism… or confuse two concepts at a deeply semantic level.

This isn’t just technique, this is how our brains work — sparking off ideas and slipping towards other ideas — copying, transforming, & combining into new ideas.

The Art is Inevitable

I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work… So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable.

—Henry Ford

Art is no different. Like inventors and scientists, our job is to facilitate the process of experimentation and transformation, then capture the results.

These can be difficult skills to master, but they aren’t magic, and there are tools that can help us. It’s nothing new — conceptual artists and remix artists have been honing these tools for years, and we’ll borrow from them regularly — but I want to show that the conceptual/remix process is essential for every medium and every genre.

50 ‘post’ episodes

2019

Design Systems & CSS @ Views on Vue

We start by talking about design systems and design tooling – how they differ, and the problems they solve.

CSS Custom Properties @ Smashing Magazine

Pushing past the “variable” metaphor, CSS Custom Properties can provide new ways to balance context and isolation in our patterns and components.

Has CSS finally come of age? @ Creative Bloq

Steve Jenkins interviews me about the state of CSS, and what’s coming next for the language – from Intrinsic Design to Dynamic CSS.

Dynamic CSS Interview @ Thunder Nerds

Thunder Nerds interview me before her talk at VueConf US 2019.

2018

Fonts & more @ Views on Vue

The panel and the guest talk about grid systems, fonts, and more!

Ethics, ES6 in Practice, and Dynamic CSS @ TalkScript

On Episode 18, the TalkScript team continues the live-ish at JSConfUS podcast series with guests Myles Borins, Tim Doherty, and Miriam Suzanne. Listen in!

Rejecting Maleness @ Journal of Mennonite Writing

The Journal of Mennonite Writing asked me to submit for their queer issue. I don’t identify as Mennonite, but I did grow up in the church, so I asked my friends what to write about. They suggested the common question: In a world without rigid gender roles, would anyone need to be trans?

Chosen Family (Thank You)

Yesterday, I shared an article about my impending surgery, and a request for help – both social and financial – as I go through this. I was embarrassed to ask, and not sure what to expect, but your response has been swift and overwhelming. I can’t thank you enough, but I’ll keep trying.

Mia’s Medical Upgrade

Denver Health has started offering vaginoplasty in addition to their other trans medical services. While I’ve been on the waitlist for various surgeons around the country, Denver Health called me this week to give me a date: September 10, less than two months away.

2017

Sex, Love, & RomancePS I Love You

“I don’t have many guy friends, but my guitarist is one. Parting, I lean in for the cheek-kiss but he plants a good one right on my lips.”

(Mis)Gender

At the family vacation in Moab, everyone is doing their best. It’s not enough, and my day is peppered with the wrong name and pronouns. I hide in my room through dinner so they won’t see me crying.

Shifting Nouns @ Twined Fragments

“I’ve seen myself in the mirror. I find me… disorienting. What do they see that I don’t? Why aren’t they laughing at me?”

Mothers, Fathers, Husbands, Wives @ Twined Fragments

“Mother finds me at her wardrobe, in her pumps and pearls. What are you doing? Being a mommy. Are you, then? She clips on the earrings (they pinch!), reaches for her lipstick.”

Fun with Viewport UnitsCSS Tricks

Viewport units have been around for several years now, with near-perfect support in the major browsers, but I keep finding new and exciting ways to use them. I thought it would be fun to review the basics, and then round-up some of my favorite use-cases.

Body & Gender Fragments

I wasn’t born in the wrong body. I was born, a body. Without my body, I don’t exist.

Getting Started with CSS GridCSS Tricks

It feels like CSS Grid has been coming for a long time now, but it just now seems to be reaching a point where folks are talking more and more about it and that it’s becoming something we should learning.

Justice [Under Construction]

I’m still reeling from this year of insults,  a traumatizing campaign turned traumatic election. I’m not sad about a contest lost, but what those results mean for real people around me. 2016 is over, but 2017 is going to be even harder.

2016

Some Clarifications on Trans Language

There’s a lot of language that gets thrown around, but much of it comes loaded with over-simplified baggage and misconceptions. Here are a few that have been on my mind – from gender identity to biological sex, transition, passing, and visibility.

Some Kind of Resistance Tour

It’s been a month since our country pseudo-elected a bigoted blow-hard for president. I’m heading to DC to protest his inauguration in January, visit friends, and go on a mixed-media resistance tour…

Loops in CSS PreprocessorsCSS Tricks

No matter what acronym drives your selectors (BEM, OOCSS, SMACSS, ETC), loops can help keep your patterns more readable and maintainable, baking them directly into your code. We’ll take a look at what loops can do, and how to use them in the major CSS preprocessors.

*Beyond Pixels Profile @ Net Magazine

Miriam Suzanne creates experimental experiences with her band and her fellow developers.

An Interview with Miriam SuzanneCSS Tricks

Chris Coyier interviews Miriam when she joins the CSS Tricks team as a Staff Writer. We talk about gettting started in the industry, name confusion, fouding OddBird, building Susy, and more.

Versioning Show, Episode 8 @ SitePoint

In this episode of the Versioning Show, Tim and David are joined by Miriam Suzanne, best known for Susy, a responsive layout toolkit for Sass. They discuss going from being a lurker to finding your voice, the importance of writing about what you’re learning, stumbling into fame, approaching new projects, and unit testing in Sass.

Miriam: A How-To Guide

There are some questions that come up again and again if you are trans. A few of those questions are terrible, but most of them are well-intentioned. I’m lucky to have a supportive community around me, so I thought I’d write down my most common answers to help ease your stress about getting it right, and ease my stress about answering the same questions over and over.

2015

2013

2012

Fuck The Muse @ The Operating System

a series of articles on creative process