Explosive Growth

Part 6 of Fuck the Muse @ The Operating System

It’s always useful to remember where you are in the overall creative process. Here’s a refresher:

  1. Define: What’s the idea, question, or hypothesis?
  2. Explore: Reasearch, gather, and create the materials.
  3. Organize: Outline the structure, or impose one.
  4. Draft: Compile a complete first draft.
  5. Revise: Consider, critique, and edit as needed.

We’re still following up on Step 2, which we started last week by compiling our curiosity shopping lists. We need to push out from our seed in every direction, and the list is there to help guide us.

Now it’s time to go shopping.

Surround Yourself with Material

It’s time to get your hoarding on

The goal of this phase is to collect all the material you might possibly need to create your piece. It doesn’t matter what genre or medium you will use at the end, right now you want everything. You are building your shitty pile of shit that will get organized into a draft down the road.

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.

—Mark Twain

You need to fill your head (and your notebook) with possibilities. You need to start understanding the world you are creating — not by thinking about it, but by surrounding yourself with it. Your creative mind works by copying, transforming, & combining — so the more ideas you put into your head, the more you can get out when it’s time.

Research » Steal » Create

The first instinct of most artists is to sit down with a blank paper and stare at it until the muse strikes. Fuck the muse. Start with material that already exists. Use your shopping list as a guide and follow your curiosity. Explore your list of “things that will inspire you” — use Wikipedia and Google to follow one hyperlinked thought to the next, and add more inspirations to your list.

When you read/see/hear something you like, take it. Clip it out of an article, take a photo, make a playlist, or just take notes. When ideas start to merge and you are inspired to say something, then say it.

Cut it up. You can put it back together later

Ebb and flow with the cycles of research, theft, and creation. Let your inspiration drive you back and forth between exploring what’s there, and creating what isn’t. If research isn’t working, make shit up. If you can’t think of anything to make, find something to steal.

For Example

Following up on my list from last week, I spent time reading about Hermaphroditus & Mother Clapp. I started to see patterns around social gatherings, betrayal, and water. I copied and pasted large sections of pro-anorexia websites, wrote down important lines from Lou Reed songs, and wrote about my own memories of body and sexual experience. I even pulled from old email conversations that seemed relevant.

I used NaNoWriMo to get through this phase with a massive pile of 50,000 shitty words, along with a number of images and songs. Some are stolen, and some are my own, but all of them will be useful when I come back to start drafting.

Checking it Twice

Look back at your list. focus on researching the “things that will inspire you,” and stealing or creating the “things that need to be gathered” so you can cross them off your list. Add to the list if you realize something is missing, but focus on exploring each item in extreme detail, and following where it takes you.

There are several interesting tools you can use to help push you along when you get stuck — both as a solo artist and in collaborative settings. I’ll go into more detail on some of those next week.

50 ‘post’ episodes


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.


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.


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.”

More CSS Charts, with Grid & Custom PropertiesCSS Tricks

Inspired by Robin Rendle, I demonstrate some of my early experiments combining CSS Grids and custom properties to create dynamic layouts and data-visualizations.


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.


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.




Fuck The Muse @ The Operating System

a series of articles on creative process

Collaboration & Queer Art @ Boulder Writers’ Workshop

interview with Richard Wall of the Boulder Writers’ Workshop