On writing, or lack of it …

May 31, 2010

photo by Matt Namin

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.   I read constantly, I make my living selling books,  I am immersed in books, literally. Boxes of books totter over my bed threatening to collapse on me. I’m sure I’ll end up as one of those stories in the paper some day, ‘Recluse found dead under mounds of books’.  But for all the ingestion of the printed word over more than half a century, not much has been produced in return.  Occasional blogs, memoirs on the computer for my kids to find some day when they try to figure out who the strange person was that raised them, aborted stories and novels that never see completion.  It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say,  I’m a very opinionated person on almost every subject (though I do tend to change those opinions frequently).

So why aren’t stories and articles and scripts pouring out? What strange writer’s block has constipated the creative process for decades? I’m beginning to suspect that I have to stop reading much to start writing.  I think that the literary tunnel to my psyche is so flooded by the torrents of writing coming in,  that the struggling creations trying to work their way upstream to the outside are just swept away.

So to test this theory I am going to try to stop reading much.   This will probably prove to be much harder than giving up cigarettes or heroin, I have been reading probably an average of a book a day for most of my life.  I can’t envision what a life devoid of literary input would be like.   Has anyone else had these thoughts and tried to stop reading? Are there support groups where we can go and say “Hi, I’m Roger and I’m a reader”?


Why are virtual chores fun but real chores a drag?

February 6, 2010

   

I’ve pondered the question many times of why people gladly spend endless hours performing virtual tasks that in their real life they avoid like the plague.  A recent post by @fjfonseca over at BitRebels touched on the subject, and as I have a 14-year-old daughter who has her virtual Facebook farm and aquarium and other examples too numerous to mention, I really started to think about it. Why does my daughter so gladly do these virtual chores in Farmville, but avoid helping take care of our real pony, dog, cats, and fish? When I try to get my kids to work on our garden every year it’s like pulling teeth, but her virtual garden is award-winning.

     Perhaps one reason is the feedback system involved. In Farmville she reaches levels, gets awards, and her accomplishments are sent over social networks to her friends. With her real garden she gets a ‘job well done’ from me, and far down the road some vegetables to eat. Maybe I should be learning from the virtual chores, I need to supply awards and badges, positive reinforcements and recognition of achievements. I guess calling her friends to tell them when she’s finished projects wouldn’t be appreciated by my daughter, though.

     Seriously, I would like comments on your take on this, it’s growing exponentially over on Facebook, and is just the beginning of a greater phenomena. Other examples are ‘games’ like the Sims, or the programmed pets that die on you if you don’t care for them properly. Can we learn lessons from their success in engaging people to apply to real life interactions?


Top 10 Strangest Top 10 Lists

December 26, 2009

This time of year we are deluged with Top 10 lists. Many are the predictable music, movies, celebrities, sports, news stories etc.  But there are the slightly more obscure and stranger Top 10 lists also. Here are my picks for 10 of the stranger ones!


Is Twitter a highway to nowhere?

December 13, 2009

     The question here is that talking about Twitter on Twitter might be a lot of fun, and that’s okay. But if Twitter is to be taken as a serious medium, where are you going on the Twitter highway? Are you delivering any fresh content, whether it be recipes or philosophical musings? A large amount of social media seems to be navel gazing, recursive discussion of social media discussing itself. This resonates across all forms of social media in different but related ways. I focus here on Twitter as it is my preferred type of social media.

     In the early 1960’s Marshall McLuhan had many remarkable and prophetic insights in the fields of communication. Among these was the concept that media was as or more important than the content it delivered, summed up in the famous statement ‘the medium is the  message’. He had many startling conclusions which don’t seem quite as strange to us now as they did then, although a few still are a little unsettling. For example, he said the effect of television as a medium was the same whether it was delivering children’s shows, or reports on violent crime. 

     So on Twitter, is it just the  tweet that’s important? Or, as I hope, does the content still have some meaning. Twitter can be a road leading somewhere. As a tool for businesses to analyze their brand and communicate with their customers, as a means for people to mobilize for social causes and charities, as a way to find people with shared interests for discussion and involvement.


The Blue Sun and Other Tales of the 1950’s

July 29, 2009

bluesun

Back in the 1950’s, the pressure to conform, which is always present in society, was much more above ground and unified. And to make things even more fun, Freudian psychiatry was the hot thing.   I was no six year old James Dean, but I had my own quiet rebellions. I was forever getting in trouble for being different in simple ways, I used to hold my scissors differently for instance, and believe it or not, this drove my teacher to distraction. But the big blow-up happened when I colored the sun blue.

I knew how to read long before starting school (hey, I’m a bookaholic!). This in itself caused problems, my teacher would not believe I could read, the other kids couldn’t read, and when I tried to demonstrate she would always say I memorized it. I had a children’s book at home about astronomy, where it explained the sun was just a star, and stars came in different colors. So when it came time to color in the sun at school, I colored it blue (in truth, probably being a show-off). The teacher had me stand up in the front of the class with my blue sun, and carefully explained to the class, that the only permissible colors to color the sun were yellow or orange. As I stood there subjected to the cruel laughter of those six year old clones, I tried to explain to them about the sun, and stars, and that there was more to the universe than yellow suns. And of course, was sent to the office to see the school psychologist.

Back then it was the popular thing to have a school psychologist to even out the bumps in the otherwise smooth student body. Ours was this very patronizing woman I loathed. She had a doll house in her office, single floor ranch (we all lived in fairly identical houses like that in the suburbs) with no roof. She had me sit in front of it, and gave me small plastic figures, explaining “this one is your father, this one is your mother, etc”.  Then she asked me to put them in the house doing things they would normally be doing. Was she kidding? Did she really not expect me to mess with her head? I put my mother in the bathtub, my father upside down in the chimney, can’t remember what I did with my siblings, but I’m sure it was something twisted. Then the questions started, did my father drink a lot (my parents never drank), did my mother ignore me, etc. She finally called my parents in. I don’t really remember exactly what happened then, but the next year we moved away from suburbia to a rural home in a small town full of eccentric people. I know in part my parents did this for me, I love them very much for always letting me be me in a time when that was not the norm.

I always hated coloring after that. I think this dislike even extended to animation, I never really liked cartoons though I loved TV. My friend @CTK1 was trying to get me to color something for a coloring contest, and I actually found myself still pretty much blocked almost 50 years later. I told her my sun story, and she urged me to write a blog about it. This is it. I just colored the blue sun at the top. Thanks Tina!