Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Six Semi-Related Thoughts on Reading, Writing, Thinking, Wisdom vs. Information and Other Random Topics

From street kitten to literary felineSometimes when you’re blocked as a blogger, the key is to simply blog. Maybe not publish, but just write and see what happens. Sometimes I’m convinced blocks happen because you want to write about subjects you perhaps don’t often write about in a particular space. But something — self-judgment, overwhelm, lack of confidence, low energy, life — gets in the way. And when you don’t obey your inner prime directive, well, nothing comes out — everything gets blocked.

(It reminds me of a useful metaphor I once read somewhere self-help-ish, about how both positive and negative emotions come out of the same “faucet,” and trying to repress the icky stuff and not deal with it also blocks the good stuff as well. Maybe there’s a writing/creative corollary as well?)

So anyway: one of these things I’d like to write more about is writing itself, but the idea of shaping a mass of thoughts into a cohesive long-form piece of writing kind of sucks the energy out of me right now. Let’s just lower the bar a little and present a “related list,” no? This is just a “state of the union” kind of things I have been mulling over about writing, publishing and creativity in general.

+ Sometimes I really miss writing more critically/whatever-y/essaylike about stuff like music, movies, books and all that. Sometimes I do that a little, here, but it doesn’t feel quite right for this space and I’m tired to trying to figure out a way to make everything fit. Sometimes I think of starting a new Web “thing” — because I LOVE to start new things, it’s a cardinal sign astrology thing, maybe — but then I think, “Does the Internet really need another opinionated person clogging up bandwidth with whatever?”

+ This of course is tied to my general Internet/online/social media exhaustion to begin with. I feel bad, but I don’t read blogs as much as I used to. I don’t really check into Facebook. (Sorry to people whose birthdays I missed on there, I’m terrible at FB!) I feel like all I get from the Internet is information, bits and pieces that just drift through my life and easily drift out of it, like an early winter snowstorm, replaced by the latest meme or byte — and it doesn’t feel like real knowledge or wisdom anymore. I don’t have a real, sustained engagement or relationship with it. I think about that a lot, sometimes — what kind of intellect is possible if you do all your thinking, writing and researching via the Internet?

+ I do think a lot about how something starts as information, becomes knowledge and perhaps transitions into genuine wisdom and discernment: a kind of life cycle of intelligence, perhaps, and I do think about how the medium and audience and “market” (ugh at that word) affects that process. And when you write a blog or website, what role you/it plays in that process. Which is to say, sometimes I wonder if writing a blog in general is a futile thing if I genuinely want to contribute in some way to something quality in this realm.

+ I also think about making a zine again. Like a real zine. I made one as a special giftie for peeps who bought my , and it was fun to make something that I knew would literally exist in material reality. I do so much writing for the Internet, both professionally and personally, that it is a fascinating exercise to write something that you know will only exist outside the electronic ether. And perhaps I am nostalgic for the time when I wrote a “perzine” and felt that wide-open expanse of possibility within that format — you could write on anything, in whatever format, and while the audience wasn’t as wide, they were more engaged perhaps. Or maybe that’s just me flattering myself, I don’t know, or I’m projecting my own type of engagement upon different media. (On a basic level, I tend to remember books and ideas better when I read them on paper.) Anyway: sometimes I think it would be fun to do a zine again, to create a physical object full of writing. I sort of miss photocopying, too, collating, stapling, mailing…

+ I have been writing a lot of short stories recently, but fall means novel-writing, so I’m gearing up for that soon. I stumbled upon the first act of a novel I started a few years ago, read it and realized, “Wow, this idea is fascinating and, above all, kind of that sustainable tension between fun and challenging.” Reading it was like reading something someone else wrote — I’d forgotten I’d written it, in a strange way. Which is in some way the most delicious sensation you can have as a writer, when words you wrote are somehow outside of yourself and you’re like, “Dang, who write this? Me?!” Of course, you can have that feeling in both a good and bad way, and often both at the same time.

+ I really do think people underestimate and misunderstand the role of “fun” and play when it comes to writing, especially long-term projects. This was an insight I came to late during my MFA program, and I really wish I had learned it much earlier on — I would’ve saved myself a lot of time, money and heartache, perhaps. I could write and make very serious, weighty, dramatic stories in a short format — a short film, a short screenplay, a short story. I could experiment with dense, intellectual ideas, both in form and subject, in short formats. But when it came to longer work, I found writing that intensely sad, fragmented post-colonial family saga, for instance, to be a horribly awful experience, both for me to write and perhaps for others to read. The material colored my existence, made me sad and pessimistic and writing became a chore in a way it normally is not for me.

Sometimes I believe that how you feel about the process of writing is just as important as how you feel about what you write about — and how you feel as you write it, perhaps. (I’m convinced that feelings about self, life, whatever seep into writing in this effable way, which sometimes makes it hard for me to finish work these days by lauded, “good” writers I’m convinced are total douchebag assholes, simply because the ineffable asshole vibes somehow waft off the page.) Anyway, I wish someone had told me early in my MFA program, “Sure, experiment with that crazy intense story for a few shorts, but when you buckle down to making real sustained work, write something you enjoy on some level.” But of course, I think this is different for everyone. There are some people who create as a kind of catharsis, a therapy, an outlet for pain and trauma and simple suffering of mere human existence, and they need to write crazy, intense stuff to get something out and God bless them for that. I think those writers are so compelling and dazzling in their honesty and courage. I guess I don’t write from that space, though: my demons are small fry, really. I write because it’s fun for me, because I like being transported, and I like the potential companionship that a good story provides. But it’s nice to know the space you’re coming from.

+ Anyway, writing about writing gets tiresome after while, so I’m going to wrap this up and get home and make some soup and tea. Because sometimes there is nothing better than soup and tea after a nice intense writing session, after all.

Gratitudes + Beatitudes: Odd Things I’m Grateful For

So, I guess Jupiter entered my astrological sign this fall. Astrologically, Jupiter is the planet of expansion, philosophy, higher learning and just that exciting energy of absorbing and growing and learning. And boy did I get all Jupiteresque in my life this fall: I decided to take a novel-writing course, ramp up my riding lessons, join a Monday-night bowling league…and now I decided at the last minute to do Nanowrimo! Where did I get my crazy pills and why did I take them all at once?

It’s all tremendously fun, but the Nanowrimo-ing is definitely eating into my blogging time. So, in honor of November, I decided I would “focus” and do a series on gratitude, in honor of my favorite holiday feast of the year. People on my Facebook are giving thanks every day leading up to Thanksgiving, and while that’s all cool and I like reading them, I can’t really deal with Facebook so I’m doing it here. Some will be expected in their earnestness, and hopefully other gratitudes will be eccentric and unexpected. Anyway, onward and upward…six things I’m grateful for, one for each day of the month so far.


A car is a strange thing for me to be grateful, because I’m really all for public transportation and have been for much of my life. I didn’t even have a car until this past year. But now I am thankful for my wonky little white Grand Am, not just what utility it provides in my life, but because it’s my favorite place to hear music, and it’s kind of become my other room where I can store my riding things, gym bag, old clothes and weird things that don’t fit in my apartment. But more importantly, my car was given to me by one of my sisters, so every time I drive it, I try to remember that it’s also a symbol of my family’s generosity with one another, which is always a good thing to remember and be thankful for.


The other day in the mail I got a check, a letter, a free book via Paperback Swap, a magazine and a postcard. I felt very much like “Score!”, which is always a good feeling to have in your everyday life, and one that I think we’ve lost over the years, now that everything is electronic. If you think about it, it’s kind of amazing that mail service even exists in the first place, bringing you objects from all over the world right to your doorstep. So, mail service, thank you for making it like not-Christmas-but-kind-of-Christmas every now and then, and for being the conduit for many odd, sometimes marvelous things, including weird coupons, trashy catalogs and misdirected mail that makes me indulge in odd speculation over the hobbies of my neighbors.


It’s fun being the crazy auntie because your nephews and nieces aren’t scared to ask you the questions they’re dying to ask but other adults around them avoid. Questions like: “When you die, are we still related?” or “Does God watch me when I’m pooping?” or “Why are people scared of boobies?” I’m thankful for the opportunity to drop some serous concepts on them, like reincarnation, the panopticon and patriarchy, well before they’re old enough to really get them. It also allows me to indulge in my odd fantasy of writing children’s books on feminism and post-structuralism, with titles like “Don’t Be Scared, They’re Just Boobs.” Mostly I just give them straightforward answers to their queries, and then I get into trouble later. But that’s kind of fun as well, because then I get to explain the ideas of panopticon and patriarchy to their parents!


Oh my god, can you imagine trying to blog BY HAND? Or freaking typing out a novel on a typewriter? Or doing Nanowrimo with just a pen and a spiral notebook? Imagine how long it would take to validate your word count! Seriously, though, every time I want to throw my computer out the window because it’s pissing me off, I try to remember just how much in my life computers have possible: art, friendship, communication, jobs, kitten videos. I’m still pissed off, but it keeps me from inflicting extraordinary levels of violence upon inanimate objects.


I remember my first memory of a hot tub. It was the 1980s, and I was over at my friend Becky’s house. Becky lived with her divorced father without any brothers and sisters, which I always found a rather mystical, interesting, almost glamorous situation. Becky’s dad had a Tom Selleck-like mustache, and he was fond of popping the collars on his polo shirts, which I also found really strange yet fascinating. (Wow, I was easily intrigued as a 7-year-old, wasn’t I? I must’ve been more sheltered than I thought.)

Becky’s dad installed a hot tub in their basement, and I remember we went down to look at it once. It was surrounded by empty bottles of wine coolers, and a bikini top was strewn off to the side. Becky held it up and we went “Ewwwwwwww!!!!” and ran upstairs and threw it in the garbage. I mean, we didn’t know what happened down there in the hot tub, but WE KNEW. I could never really look at Becky’s dad straight in the eye after that, and hot tubs became associated with divorced-dad-having-a-midlife-crisis sex in my mind for a long time. Which is kind of ewww-inducing, and ever since, it’s been like, “You’re a divorced dad? My ovaries just shriveled up!”

Luckily I got over that. Now I’m grateful for hot tubs, especially the ones at my gym, because they’re nice stopgaps in between massages, and I swear I’d have shoulder and neck problems if it wasn’t for hot water jets’ relaxation powers. But God help me if I ever go on a date with a divorced dad who tries to wrangle my bikini top off while plying me with Bartles & Jaymes.


Okay, parents are not such an odd thing to be grateful for. I mean, how can we not be thankful for the people who give you life? My parents raised me, made sure I didn’t die from stupidity and somehow love me in ways both perfect and imperfect everyday, even when I am a knucklehead. They also let me use their laundry machines, feed me copious amounts of food when I come over, take my car to get its oil changed because I’m scared of talking to mechanics, give me bowling tips from their heyday as champions of the sport in the 70s, hug me when I am sad, re-pot my plants and guilt me into various things that I know I should do but avoid. In all my teenage arrogance, they once seemed to me to be really boring, but now I realize they are the humblest, wisest, gentlest people I know, with extraordinary compassion and acceptance. What would I do without my mom and dad? A lot, probably, but only about 40 percent of it would be anything good.

A Life Away from the Big and Little Screens

A bit ago my niece got me hooked on making friendship bracelets. She got a little kit, and being an auntie, I got roped into making a bunch with her — and then I couldn’t stop at just one. Though I knit, sew and do a few other handiwork kind of things, I’m not really much of a crafty person. I sometimes enjoy those things, but since film school and full-time work, any of those potential hobbies has fallen by the wayside — almost all my free time outside of family and loved ones is consumed by writing, publishing, blogging or other literary-oriented pursuits.

But there’s something comforting and relaxing about the weaving of thread, the picking of colors, and the fact that within about an hour’s time, I have a tangible object to show for my labors — something that has a beginning, middle and end. I like most that I can’t be on a computer to do it — I like the break away from glowing screens. I like the fact that it has nothing to do with words, nothing to do with writing or editing, nothing to do with electricity. Working with my hands, with a physical medium — it’s such sweet relief, relaxing yet absorbing, and so satisfying when I finish. I’m pretty much on the computer all day due to the nature of my work, and then for hours longer because of my novels and essays — and I’m realizing it’s just not healthy, all this computer time.

But what gives way? I need to make money. I need to write. I can blog a little less, but then I hear the dreaded “should monster” — I should be building a platform, I should be researching agents, I should be taking this webinar or that webinar about publishing, I should be blogging, I should finish my newsletter, I should be better at social media. Should, should, should! Nothing kills a passion more than the should monster! I have been thinking about what it means to be a writer in the 21st century, to constantly hear advice about what we should do, and sometimes I follow it — but it takes me farther away from what I truly love: writing. As much as I enjoy Twitter and blogging, I don’t want it to be a replacement for writing stories and essays. I don’t want to feel a sense of boredom and dread when I turn on my laptop to write, simply because I’m fucking sick of sitting at my computer — I want instead to feel excited to play with my characters and plotlines and language.

(I don’t mean to sound anti-technology, because without it, I wouldn’t have a job, I wouldn’t be so lucky to not work in an office, and I wouldn’t be a working writer. But you can go too far the other way, and while I think the whole idea of “work-life balance” is a unicorn that doesn’t exist, I do think you need to strike a balance with technology — because otherwise it is a vampire that can suck your soul dry. But maybe I’m just feeling a little melodramatic.)

I don’t know if this means blogging less, blogging shorter, writing a novel in longhand, writing it on my iPhone, blogging on my iPhone, tweeting less, focusing more on my newsletter and less on my blog, saving up all my juju for future e-books or chucking it all and disappearing entirely off the grid. (Trust me, the idea is highly tempting.) I’ll figure it out, and figure it out again — I’m sure this is a regular cycle for any active writer. In the meanwhile, I’ll keep weaving threads and knotting string, corralling all the threads until they form a solid, connected strand. In bright, pretty colors, of course.

On Clutter, Digital and Otherwise: Part 1

I sometimes wish so hard to be one of those minimalists that have, like, five perfectly chosen books, 25 pieces of beautifully curated clothes and one exquisite piece of jewelry. I have lived with a few minimalists and marveled at their self-possession and self-sufficiency; I’ve envied their elegant asceticism, taking it as a sign of higher consciousness or something. But I am not this kind of a person myself. I attract piles. I fight clutter constantly.

I’m not a hoarder, and my approach to matters of adornment, decoration and ownership is simple and straightforward, actually — but simplicity and minimalism are not the same thing. So I still have my little bete noires when it comes to Stuffness, as I like to call it. For some reason, I like to hang onto clothing hang tags. I like to read, so I have piles of magazines and books sprouting in my bedroom like newly emerged archipelagos. Being my mother’s daughter, I clip coupons and forget to use them (unlike my mother). My Salvation Army pile tends to hang out in my closet until I can’t ignore it anymore, and then I must schlep it to S.A. to get rid of it. There’s a hoard of mini-fragrance vials, perfume pens and samples in one of my medicine cabinets. Perhaps I’d be more clutterific if I hadn’t moved so much and been forced to pare down possessions relentlessly. That might be my only saving grace, actually, because at this point in my life, my physical clutter and I are at peace, at a pleasant detente. It builds up and then I “manage” it, but it’s not onerous at all to deal with — maybe 5-10 minutes a day keeps it okay.

Alas, though, there’s another level of clutter altogether to deal with: digital clutter. Digital clutter is my true enemy.

You Know What I Mean By Digital Clutter

Bookmarks, e-mail, Delicious links, RSS feeds, contacts, old texts, Twitter favorites, Tumblr favorites, Facebook messages. There is so much electronic information to manage now. I feel guilty because I know I contribute to the mess in my way, but I’ll save that for another post. In this one, we’ll just talk about the effluvia, flotsam and jetsam I find from others. You don’t even realize you’re collecting it because it is virtual — there’s no mass or weight to it in the physical world. But it takes up so much space in your mental world.

My lightbulb moment about digital clutter came one day after scrolling up and down my browser’s Bookmarks bar looking for a link. Stupid link, I thought to myself, where did I put stupid link to something minute yet somehow so consequential to my thought process that I cannot proceed with the outline of my next novel without it! I finally realized I had spirited it away in some obscure folder within a folder. After 15 minutes. 15 MINUTES OF LOOKING FOR A STUPID LINK. How many seconds did I waste scrolling down my Bookmarks? How did that add up, day after day? It was too depressing to contemplate. Did I really want to spend more time wading through digital clutter? No: I had to deal with it like I had my real-life stuff.