Imagination on Vacation (I Blame Television)

Like the vast majority of Americans, I watch a lot of videos of various kinds. Tv shows, movies, and a huge variety of videos (although few actually original) of different lengths and subjects abound all over the internet. And since wi-fi is everywhere these days, you could quite literally spend all of your life, or at least your free time, in front of a screen.

Well, so far I’ve stated the obvious. Now I’m about to sound like your grandparents (or even your parents, probably):

When I was growing up, things were very different. We had a television, of course–everyone had a television–but at my house, we just had basic cable. A lot of people I knew just had basic cable, while many others paid for premium channels. Now, it’s essentially impossible to only get basic cable. They simply don’t offer it anymore. Granted, I don’t know what the cable options are because I’ve never had to sign up for it myself, but I think “basic” cable no longer means the major networks on channels below number 10 and the local access channels in the teens.

I had access to the fancy cable at friends’ and relatives’ houses, and although I particularly enjoyed the golden age of Nickelodeon shows, I never felt like I really needed it. I spend much of my time reading, drawing (badly), or playing imaginative games, often by myself. There is certainly a place for sitting and doing essentially nothing in all our lives. The Italian term “dolce far niente,” although probably not intended to mean being a couch potato, captures this idea nicely. But then, we also need engaging activities that inspire and motivate us–and where is the place for that sort of activity when there are more movies available than we could ever watch in our lifetimes?

I am not denying the artistic merit of some films and shows, or the value of visual storytelling. When it comes down to it, sometimes words are not enough to really capture the image or concept. As a writer, this is something that frustrates me constantly and makes me wish I were able to draw well. So various lengths of cinematic material have their place in quality entertainment. The one thing that is generally true of all movies, shows, short films, etc., though, regardless of their level of either quality or inanity, is that the role of the viewer in the entertainment/observer relationship is passive. In order to watch a video, all you need to do is press play, look at the screen, and not interrupt playback. This is not to say that film cannot make you think, of course. It can.

Reading is an active pursuit. I suppose it would be possible to read a headline or a short phrase by accident, but in order to read a book, a short story, a poem, even a full sentence, you have to make a conscious decision to be engaged in the activity. Your own mind is responsible for picture the words create. Reading cannot simply happen by staring at an open page. You have to make your eyes move from word to word. If you’re reading a physical book, you have to turn pages. If reading an ebook or an online article, you’re often required to scroll, click, or swipe to continue reading the piece. And so, regardless of the quality of the content (or whether the book is better than the movie), the act of reading must be purposeful.

I’m trying to get back into the habit of reading. I do not do it very much anymore. I most often read for no more than two or three hours in a given day. I never stay up late into the night lost in the words of a book. In fact, I rarely read more than fifteen pages at a time without stopping to take a break, most frequently to mess around on the internet. When I was young, I used to spend entire days reading. There were many books I re-read (so I have not read as many books as most people I know who love reading), some many times. I read Lloyd Alexander’s The Arkadians probably ten times in my preteen era.  (I highly recommend it.) I got such a rush from reading. It would spark my imagination. All that I read fed into my store of images and stories, blending together and transmogrifying into new ones, like a personal mythology. When I decided I had to write, ideas would flow freely. Tales would play in my head and I would do my best to copy them down, not generally suffering from any hesitation or writer’s block.

I used to watch a little tv and do a lot of reading. Now it’s pretty much the opposite. It was sometime in my teen years that I really started to watch tv much more frequently, and that only increased as time went on. And since somewhere around the age of fifteen, I have not generally spent so much time working on my writing. As I said, I will not claim that there aren’t good stories to be watched, or that writers cannot get ideas from the cinematic medium. However, I can’t help but notice that when I’m not reading, my urge to write usually disappears. When I do pick up a book, particularly one that is especially creative or simply resonates with me either in its content or style, my imagination comes alive. I think that the active nature of reading motivates me to be creatively active, in a way that the sit-and-do-nothing feeling of watching television or movies just cannot achieve.

If others have had a similar experience, it implies quite a bit about the effects of too-available television and the importance of reading. Of course, this could just be my own weird head’s response to different forms of media. So you tell me: does television give you creative energy? How about reading? I want to know.

Is There A Pill for This? Or an App?

So what have I been doing? Nothing.

My bedroom is a mess. So is my mind. And probably every other part of me.

I’m sure I’ve done something wrong in my life to get here. I don’t believe in fate, but it doesn’t feel like I am where I’m supposed to be. I can’t go into more detail, because I really don’t know how to explain it.

~~~

 

I come up with anywhere from one to five blog post topics a day, split between this site and The No-Recipe Life, my lifestyle/food/everything else platform. I’m sure some of them are not really worth the time, but I’ve never said I wanted either blog to be perfect, and anyway, that would be a fruitless endeavor. Other posts seem like excellent ideas and I feel that I have thoughts in that area that are worth sharing. If only one other person appreciates my words–or even if no one but me appreciates them–it’s enough to be worth my time.

Lately, I have sat down and typed out none of these ideas. I’m sure many of them are now gone forever. I will never have that idea again. Out of all the possible posts that might have happened, only a few would have really contributed anything notable. But now they never will, and that should make the world just the slightest bit sad.

I’ve been really busy lately. Ok, not really busy. Really stressed. Blogging fell by the wayside, as they say (they being people who use cliches a lot, and me, apparently), because my creative impulses were very low for a while. I can barely feel them even now, but there are times when you have to decide to do something regardless. I have a lot of things to get in order before I can come back to blogging with any regularity, and I’m only starting to make a plan to get things figured out. Not that I ever expect to figure things out… but at least I can attempt to bring some organization to my life.

 

Even though I’m not feeling optimistic about anything, I still have to try. It’s definitely not ideal. It makes motivation very hard to find, for anything.

Wow, I wish this post didn’t sound so depressing. If I’m lucky this will purge some of these feelings from my mind and I will start to do better…

Working Through: Foreword

I must have been wandering obliviously for a while to get here, not realizing how far beyond any signposts or streetlights I’d traveled until it was too late. Now, I feel completely stuck and hopelessly adrift at the same time. I’m treading deep water in the dead of night, went up in a hot air balloon alone and the mechanism to get back down is broken. All the things I want in life are crowding for prominence in my mind, but not giving any clues as to how to reach them. And they’re all angry that I haven’t figured it out by now. Meanwhile I’m paralyzed with uncertainty. I don’t know what to try to do first, and there are no indications of what steps to take even when I do pick something. My best solution is to go back in time and take advantage of opportunities I let slip by me (like studying music on a more serious level in college), but that is not a possibility in any of the alternate universes of my life, since all of them are subject to laws of physics.

Are you feeling confused at all, wondering what I’m talking about? I’m with you. If you think I make sense, you’re probably not reading it right. I have lost my ability to really convey my thoughts on the page (or screen). The desire to do so is hiding, on account of feeling incredibly stupid every time I try to open up and share very personal thoughts or feelings.

This simply will not do.

I think that in order to get anywhere, to take any steps toward happiness, contentment, or …I should just stop now… etc., I have to go back and sort through all the thoughts that are holding my back or weighing me down. I need to de-clutter my inner world, so that I can step back and see a real picture, rather than an overwhelming heap of to-dos and wishes. Thus, I have decided to create this series of posts. Some of them will be very serious and possibly depressing. Others might be more fun or even hopeful. We’ll see–once I can distinguish any one picture from another.

This is not a writing project. This is a human project, expressed in writing. But I think it belongs on this blog anyway.

 

Thank you for reading.

Blogging, Balancing, Organizing–My Latest Failings

I’ve been thinking about my blogs as they exist now, and I’m not liking what I perceive.

For one thing, I get almost no comments, and that isn’t necessarily a sign that I’m an unsuccessful blogger, but it makes me feel silly sometimes. “Well, obviously no one’s that interested in what I’m writing, so why bother?”

Why indeed. I started blogging for ME, because I wanted to, because I think it’s a good way to collect my thoughts and possibly connect with an audience, even if not with the sort of pieces I really want to publish. As time goes on and my view counts stay down, and I can never seem to become a “Blogger” (with a capital B because I’d be recognizable and maybe it would even be slightly lucrative), no matter how long I do it, I get discouraged. No one actually starts a blog because they expect it to be a mega-hit. But my constant lack of visibility is essentially the same as never being picked out of the slush pile.

The metaphor may not be appropriate, because I’ve done so little submitting that my work hasn’t had a chance to actually be in slush piles. But the state of being among a huge amount of comparable blogs and never being special enough to be noticed basically puts me in the internet’s slush pile.

It’s confusing to me. How is it I have over 100 followers and usually get only 15 views or less when I post? (Dear WordPress: please fix yourself so that I actually get views when people read my posts.)

I hate when I end up blogging about blogging. Some people write about blogging for a specific reason and it makes sense for them. I only ever do as an apology, really, to myself and the few people who are interested in reading me, when I haven’t been making good use of my blog.

I don’t like the way things are with my blogs right now, both this and the No Recipe Life, and it’s making me feel like creating a brand new blog and starting over. The thought of actually doing so is almost sickening to me. I don’t want to start over yet again. So I am trying to think instead of how to arrange things on my existing blogs so that I can post about whatever I want on whichever platform seems to fit best, and it’s giving me a headache. Many people, I’m sure, would tell me to hire a consultant, but there are several reasons I don’t want to. One of those is that I can do it myself.

Listen to me. Rambling on and on with no point. As always. I’ll end with this, so I don’t just write myself off the end of the world:

Please, readers, keep some faith in me. Don’t unfollow (unless you legitimately don’t like my blog–then it isn’t beneficial for either of us, so by all means, go on your way), don’t skip my posts. Give me some constructive criticism. I care if you like this blog, and my other one. I will get it together. It won’t be today or tomorrow but if you wait a little longer maybe I can create something people will care about.

P.S. Regarding Five Things Fridays–I started doing them with the intention that they would be a way for me to wind down from the week, and attempt to get the writing ball rolling (or something) for the weekend. It turns out Friday nights are not a good time for me to plan to blog regularly, because it’s often a social night for me. In addition, all the cool ideas I had, like posting five flash pieces or five awesome literary quotes, always seem to get sidelined in favor of me complaining about random things from the day or the week. Basically, it’s not serving its purpose for this blog. Thus, I’m going to stop using that form, and I’ll try to come up with another regular post day that will actually focus on writing. I might start FTFing on the other blog, which you should go check out if you want to read my thoughts on food and random stuff.

MORE SNOW?!!!!

Did you hear? Another storm is coming. Ugh. I’m not impressed. I could look on the bright side, I guess, and say that at least it’s not going to be ass-numbingly cold again, but I’m morally opposed to snowstorms.

But it seems like a good time to direct you to my Featured Short Story page, where I wrote a rather low-maintenance piece about snow. I suppose you could call it slipstream or speculative fiction, or even fantasy if you want to go that far, but, I don’t know what I call it exactly. I’d love your input on that, though. So if you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and click over. It’s right there under the blog heading.

Since I update the same page with new stories, it might make more sense for you to comment on this post if you have any thoughts about the story. I would be glad to know anyone’s opinions. Constructive comments are always the most desired.

Five Things Friday: January 31, 2014

It is 2014. A whole month has gone by and almost the only thing I’ve done all month is wallow and stress. I’m failing at 2014.

1. I have an eye twitch right now. It’s really annoying. It’s almost always my left eye. Anyone have thoughts about this? I think it’s interesting that it’s usually the same eye, and it’s always just one of them. It happens at the most random time, too.

2. I forgot momentarily that the breakfast sandwich I got has bacon on it, so I was like, hey, surprise bacon! (The otom from Cafenation. I resisted the urge to get a red chili tea latte, because I should really wait until after I have my paycheck to buy more lattes…)

3. I just watched the most recent video release from Within Temptation’s new album. The song. I don’t like it. It sounds more like Nickelback-style pop-rock than their usual sound, which is at least close to metal–I know some metalheads argue that they aren’t metal, but, they are. It’s disappointing and makes me sad. Listen, I know they aren’t musical or lyrical geniuses or doing influential new stuff,  but I’ve mostly loved their sound in the past and so when they make a song I really don’t like, it’s sad. Everything else I’ve heard from this album so far seems much better than this one song, but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll just go back to listening to The Heart of Everything again…

4. I really need my money, so I can buy groceries, so I can eat real meals again. Nevermind about the bills and stuff, I just want to afford food that I’ll actually eat. Surprisingly enough, I am not really a fan of peanut butter and jelly or tuna sandwiches, and in the morning I really need things I can just grab easily and take to work with me, because who has time to eat before they get to work? Not me.

5. My habits and/or actions in the last… &$%^ years (unknown) suggest to me that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a writer after all. I have so many ideas and I am good at writing, but I have no motivation anymore, I never actually write. Plus, I don’t think I have the stamina for all the rejections writers supposedly get.

I’m awash in a sea of personal crises.

Like vs. Silence on Social Media

Deva Jasheway:

I’ll use this as the reasoning for why most of my posts get no comments and very few likes. In all sincerity, though, this is a good point. Sometimes a “like” does seem like an odd way to express your feelings about what you read or saw.

Originally posted on bottledworder:

I have never seen the Taj Mahal awash with moonlight on a Full Moon day. Or the Great Pyramid in the desert rising in grandeur in the yellow sands in front of me. I have never heard the lion’s roar in the wild. Nor can I remember what it must have been like to have seen the ocean for the first time.

But I can imagine what some of it must feel like.

It must be sublime. It must be spellbounding. It must be a moment so full of wonder that it must be the most difficult to express anything at all at the moment.

Now imagine that the Taj is virtual with a discreet like button next to it. Also imagine that you are a virtual tourist on your way to another site of attraction.

Would you pause a while spellbound in wonder at the beauty of it all…

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