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”?


Twitterverse Magic

February 9, 2010

     As much as I’d love magic to exist in our ‘real’ universe, I have long ago filed it away with so many other things I wish were true. Sorry, Harry Potter. But a recent exchange on twitter has opened my eyes to the fact that there are other universes where magic might truly exist. One such is the twitterverse.

     Now the twitterverse has its own fundamental laws and particles, tweets and RT’s, links and follower bots. They interact in strange and mysterious ways, which our social media physicists are still trying to put into a grand unified theory. But at this point in the development of the twitterverse, I think we see things as being caused by forces we don’t understand (magic), perhaps we are at the beginning of an alchemical approach to it. So for now, we can just act like things operate here by magic, until somebody has an apple fall on their head and begins to really understand this stuff.

     My thoughts on this started when I was telling a friend on twitter how I had tweeted the name of a certain brand of coffee and I was immediately followed by a bot from that company. I was then contacted and I started getting free samples. She sounded skeptical.

But shortly thereafter she tweeted that  it was working and that she was being followed by friendly bots.

So wishes can come true in the twitterverse. I’m not sure if you have to tap your heels, though. And not sure if the ‘Only three wishes’ rule applies here.


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!


Business Exposure/Helping Charity – A Win-Win!

September 25, 2009

Are you a business or organization trying to get more exposure through social media, particularly on Twitter? As social media evolves, so do the ways people try to use it.


#12for12k is a great group of people trying to raise money for a different charity every month. All money is channeled directly to the charity and everyone involved is a volunteer. This month the charity is Doctor’s Without Borders, and #12for12k is trying the idea of a sponsored tweetathon on September 29th, with our own @HennArtOnline tweeting for 24 hours, with associated activities taking place on the #12for12k site.  Businesses and organizations can get an incredible amount of exposure on Twitter for a very low investment, the spots are being auctioned off on Ebay in one hour time slots. This is a global event, with people involved from around the globe.

This is great exposure and will garner great goodwill from a large segment of the Twitter community. Please check things out here.


Don’t Let Anyone Tell You How to Act on Twitter!

September 7, 2009

twitter     How often have you read in the twitter stream or in someone’s blog what you should or shouldn’t do? It’s constant, all these self-proclaimed Emily Posts of twitterquette will tell you; don’t followfriday, don’t thank for Retweets, do thank for Retweets, don’t try to sell yourself or products, the best way to sell yourself or products, and on and on and on. You know what? Do what you want, Twitter didn’t put them in charge of what Twitter is all about.

     Twitter is many different things to many different people. That’s what’s so wonderful about it. There is a simple solution built into twitter if you don’t like the way someone tweets. You just don’t follow them. And if someone is persistent enough to bother you anyways, Twitter has another solution. You block them. That’s it. It’s really simple. Do what you want with your tweetstream, don’t let yourself be limited by what others decide you ‘should’ do. That’s it, and feel free to ignore this advice too!


My Grandmother, Old Ironsides, and Immovable Objects

August 23, 2009

My grandmother passed away a few years ago, in her 90’s and still the terror of the rest home where she was living. She was an amazing woman, when my grandmother met an immovable object, it moved! I loved her very much. There is much of her stubborn resistance in me.

I was probably around ten years old when these events took place, I had a younger brother and sister spaced out at about two year intervals. Every summer we’d go to Grammy’s for a week or so in the summer (we had a grandfather, but he’d given up arguing with her years ago, and my main memory of him is sitting back in a corner wreathed in cigarette smoke, doing crossword puzzles, and hardly ever speaking).
Part of the visit every year would be a cultural trip to Boston, which always included walking the Freedom Trail around downtown Boston. She would also pick a couple of other things to see, such as the Art Museum or the State House. This year she had decided that we were going to see Old Ironsides.
My grandfather would always drive us to the end of the subway line in Natick, gratefully drop us off, and head home for some peace and quiet. He was too wise a man to want to accompany us. The system was; Grammy would hold my hand, I would hold my brother’s hand, and he would hold my sister’s hand.  We must have looked like a team of mountaineers roped together. This formation would be held whenever we were on the move, which was most of the time.
My grandmother, who was a rather small elderly woman, got us off the subway somewhere in the North End, and we marched down streets until we came to a military gate with docks and ships visible in the distance. A  sailor in uniform with a rifle was standing guard beside a small gatehouse. Without stopping, my grandmother (with us in tow) started marching past.
“Ma’am, stop ma’am!” He was very young and obviously not used to dealing with determined grandmothers, though I’m sure he could have stopped Soviet spies and such without so much difficulty. She kept onwards paying no attention, so finally he interposed his body with the rifle held across his chest to physically stop her. She finally stopped and informed him we were going to see Old Ironsides. He then informed her that this was the Coast Guard Base, and that it was over at the Navy Base further around the harbour. Poor man, he thought this would end the matter. He did not know my grandmother. With a yank on my hand, forward march again! The sailor jumped in front of us again and repeated what he’d said, sounding more panicky as he realized he was losing control of the situation. My grandmother didn’t stop, but plowed right into him as he tried to stand his ground.
“I’m a taxpayer, and you work for me!” she exclaimed (probably one of her favorite lines) and pushed onwards. Somehow, to this sailor’s credit, he prevented her from pushing past him without actually having to shoot her or anything. She didn’t admit defeat, but off we went back up the street, with me trying to be rational with my grandmother, explaining Old Ironsides wasn’t there. She was furious, and next thing I know she drags the human train of us into a Navy recruiting office she’d spotted. She always carried a huge purse on expeditions, and as the astonished recruiter sat behind his desk where he’d been eating his lunch, my grandmother started stripping all the wall racks of pamphlets, taking every one of them and stuffing them in her purse.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but ….” before he could figure out quite what to say, my grandmother had finished and glancing around to make sure she hadn’t missed any, started marching out the door.
“I’m a taxpayer and these all belong to me!”  She had had her revenge.

The next year she decided we were going to tour the governor’s mansion, which had tours of public parts of the building like the White House. We were in our usual formation following behind a tour group, when my grandmother suddenly veers off and through some door on her own. “Grammy, we’re not supposed to …” and was met with her usual admonishment that we were taxpayers and this mansion belonged to us. We passed through several rooms that were obviously not intended for public viewing, they looked more and more like rooms people actually lived in. Finally we came to a large living room, with a somewhat elegant woman sitting on a couch. My grandmother marches up and sits down beside her.
“Hello, I’m Ruth Ward, and these are my grandchildren” and started reeling off our names and ages. I was mortified. The woman turned out to be Mrs. Peabody, the governor’s wife, and she was very nice about the whole thing. In fact, her and my grandmother exchanged Christmas cards for many years after that. There are many more adventures with my grandmother, I’ll probably write about some more of them sometime.