When I want to be creative but can't get the words going, drawing is always a good backup activity.
Now I just need time to get good at it again.
"Death Stalks Kettle Street" is one of my favorite novels for many reasons. Chief among them is an idea captured in this quote:
There were lots of so-called able-bodied people who were more 'disabled' than she was simply because they chose to sit around, letting their health suffer, watching television or playing videogames twelve hours out of every twenty-four. How many people couldn't write a coherent sentence, not because they had learning difficulties, but because they just couldn't be bothered to learn, and were content to have the only book they owned be the Argos catalogue?
~ Death Stalks Kettle Street, 211
I remember this on days I'm being too lazy. Not making proper use of my time to do something meaningful is wasteful, bordering on cruel to myself.
I have an idea of the stereotypical Saturday night, likely from media I've seen and anecdotes I've heard. The night where friends get together for drinks and laughter while they can.
On a saturday night, some have nights just like this. Some get drunk at bars and eat pizza. Some go to wild warehouse parties and stay up well past midnight. Some have private fun with friends. Some chat with far-away lovers.
On a saturday night, some stay inside and enjoy their solitude. Some are content to read or play video games. Some take walks outside alone. Some have wine for the taste, not to cover up any loneliness.
On a saturday night, some are stuck working. Some catch up on overdue paperwork. Some are stuck in a busy food line. Some serve drinks to patrons they nervously watch drive home. Some have peaceful shifts where families dine together, or horrible ones where fights tear them apart.
On a saturday night, some are withering away. Some are suffering heartbreak. Some are mangled in freak accidents. Some look in a mirror silently before shattering it with their fist. Some are watching their loved ones die in a hospital. Some are dying in that same hospital.
On a saturday night, every conceivable good or bad event is happening.
On a saturday night, it's like every other day and night. Some nights it's both harder to, and more important to, remember that.
I got a surprising tweet in my mentions recently.
It's surprising for two reasons:
- A major front-end blog, CSS Tricks, found my accessibility article worth sharing.
- A university professor whose class I took as a sophomore still remembers me over three years after graduation. My graphic design skills then (and likely now) weren't getting into any galleries.
But I do remember Professor Davis from my time in Newhouse. Mostly from a Newhouse event where someone mistook her for a student.
As great as the conversation at #TechCurve has been, the best moment so far was Deb Davis's beautiful reaction to being called a student— Tom Charles (@tcharles411) March 27, 2014
I recently spoke to someone who, even though they're an atheist, is unsure about their beliefs about reincarnation. After the death of a loved family member, this person took their lessons and ideas to heart. In a weird way, they felt like a reincarnation of their loved one. Other family members even commented on how their actions, ideas, and even mannerisms are similar. Was it reincarnation or just their memories?
I don't believe in literal reincarnation myself, and told them so. But I believe their actions are a way to keep their family member alive. Remembering this person's positive influence means, even indirectly, they're still affecting the world like before. Their family member still exists, even if it's limited to their memories of them.
Isn't that, in its own way, a form of reincarnation and immortality? Carrying a loved one with you instead of waiting for them to reappear?
One of my worst habits (other than trying to make soup in an Instant Pot) is making side remarks just to get a laugh. Funny comments themselves aren't bad - but doing it mostly to get a laugh is.
Why, you supposedly ask? It's bad since it needlessly gives power to others. People can (and usually do) ignore my remarks or say they were annoying. Sometimes they're just being honest, other times they're jerks. The result is the same either way - The more validation I want, the more it stings after.
The lesson is it's better to listen, rather than pepper discussions with needless snark. Plus if I'm putting that much importance on snarky remarks, I have bigger problems. Problems with my self-esteem and the amount of TV I'm watching.
When I'm feeling aimless, this poster always nudges be back on track.
The common themes I see for successful people I see? Flexibility and gratitude.
A common criticism I've heard of Christine Blasey Ford amid the Kavanaugh hearings, as well as other women speaking about their sexual assaults, is they're "doing it for attention." It's not the most common dismissal, but is the most idiotic.
If these women just "wanted attention," the easier choice is being the simple sex object many men want them to be.
- They'd dress themselves up for men they don't know.
- They'd avoid saying anything too intelligent or opinionated to offend men with fragile egos.
- They'd put up with men catcalling her to humiliate her and exert power, doing nothing but smiling and waving.
- They'd prioritize a man's pleasure over her own, even men she barely knows. Even, and especially, men who'd get physically violent without the pleasure they felt entitled too.
This is the way much of society wants women to act, and would gladly give women attention for it. Attention without the public shaming, personal attacks, and death threats. Attention met with that condescending "thank God you're not like those other women" sneers and a pat on the head.
The fact that women like Professor Ford have known this all their lives, yet speak up against their assaulters, shows their bravery. It's easier to fit into the silent, sex object role American society carved out for them. But it damn sure won't lead to change.
No matter how good something seems, I always find something better shortly after. A book that looks immersing later looks boring compared to another. Coding tools or frameworks I see one day soon becomes obsolete next to others.
It's an endless cycle of want disguised as need. Ending that cycle means truly appreciating what I already have. Never forgetting the value I saw in it from the start.
For new things, if I only feel a "need" something once I learn about it, chances are I don't really need it. The things I actually need, I probably already have and just need to remember.
This note brought to you by an hour after work wasted browsing Nintendo Switch before realizing it was an idiotic waste of time.
Whenever life is going well, I'll ask myself one thing: do I deserve any of this?
The most likely answer I can think of is, I probably don't. Maybe I never will. But the bigger point is that regardless, I have what I have. I better make good use of it. In some way.
Because if I don't, these feelings of guilt and undeservedness won't just get worse. They'll be justified.
When your main thing is writing, it's easy to get too caught up in reading and neglect the actual writing. It's true whether one wants to write code, blogs, or stories. Reading examples helps, but my best progress comes from actually writing.
It doesn't matter that writing's for a detailed post, or random thoughts in my pocket notebook. Writing is a muscle to use each day. It's is a habit I use to get through each day. It's not something to turn on-and-off when I think enough people are looking.
I've based a lot of my happiness around my environment being consistent. I hate it when my car needs repairs, my posters fall off the walls, or my furniture gets too dirty. My brain wants these things to be constant, so I don't need to worry about them.
Reality doesn't agree. Something always breaks and must be fixed or replaced. My environment is never "as it should be." Whenever things seem smooth, something always goes wrong.
One response is not bothering to try. There's always something wrong I could use as an excuse to not do what matters to me - to write. The lazy, scared part of my mind is drawn to them like gravity. I think all human minds are. It's a cheap, effective way to lower stress.
But it's not about things "feeling right" before I do something. It's about working around what's wrong so I can do what I want anyway.
These "it's not the right time" excuses aren't right, they're just easy. And the easy path is rarely meaningful.
I've liked television shows like House, and recently Bones, since they make me feel smarter. Part of my brain has said I shouldn't waste time watching them. I rationalize that worry away by thinking about the show's intelligence. Shows based around critical thinking, puzzle-solving, and science can't be all bad. Right?
That rationalization has gotten weaker once I began accepting a few truths.
- Of everything I'd supposedly "learn" from shows like this, how much did I remember instead of it just washing over me? Little.
- Of the info I remember, how much of it is accurate, instead of being polished or simply wrong to increase the drama? Little.
- Of all the accurate info, how much did I critically think about in context, instead of being handed it as I unthinkingly down a plot path handing me answers? Little.
Ultimately, shows that make me feel smart are still shows. As almost any show does, they make me dumber, not smarter. It's the same for medical dramas, mysteries, and late-night comedy shows going over the daily news. They're made to entertain, not teach. It's why my brain's drawn to them more than articles or documentaries.
When it comes to my mental strength, I consider those shows honey traps: tempting, but better avoided. Resisting all that free nectar while watching others gorge is never easy. But it's ultimately better for me.
The book series "Feed" features two adoptive siblings and their team blogging about their careers covering political campaigns and vast government corruption...around the time zombies walk the earth.
Between each chapter is a blog post or some other written communication by one of the characters. They range from articles they wrote, private letters to others, or unpublished glimpses into their streams of consciousness. Sometimes the writing is brief and lacks substance out of context.
For some reason, reading any of those posts inspires me to write more than anything. I think it's less about the content and more about the characters' clear purpose in what they write and why.
Do I often struggle to find blog topics since I'm not sure what my main purpose in writing here is? If so, I should at least have the same underlying purpose Feed's characters have in writing their blogs: finding clarity and meaning through writing.
If you're not using your own blog for that, then what are you using it for?
An insight I sometimes remember comes from an unlikely place - the Hello from the Magic Tavern podcast.
It was at the end of an episode with the homonculus made of bodily fluids (again, don't judge). Someone dealing with a chronic illness said the podcast's humor helped her through much of the pain. Even something as silly and pointless as an improv comedy podcast left a positive imprint on others.
Maybe it's less about finding something new to help others, and more about helping others with what you already love. If people pretending to be, among many things, a drunk wizard, a passive-aggressive shapeshifter, and a bitchy talking flower can do that, can't we all?
Seriously, don't judge.