Posts Tagged ‘ thoughts ’

I Write About Writing: It’s Just What I Do I Guess

As I wrote my 750 words this morning, I discovered that there are two kinds of writing that I do when I am my only audience. These two kinds of writing are great tools for me for getting things done and figuring stuff out. 

The differences among these kinds of writing come from what I start out with, and what I want to end up with. 

Well, really, there are three kinds of writing, but really only two. I’ll explain. 

The first kind is reflective writing. This is when I sit down with some event or experience, or series of events or experiences and I try to make sense of them, either by linking them together into what Lyotard calls a “grand narrative,” by sussing out what even happened, or by analyzing why it happened what it could mean. The end goal of reflective writing is to feel more secure or confident, or to learn about myself and others.

The problem with reflective writing, is that I have a tendency, or at least used to have a tendency, to beat myself up. The writing would sometimes devolve into a pity fest. Just long lists of why I’m not good enough or smart enough, or a deep analysis of why I always fail and why I deserve to be unhappy. 

It could get ugly. 

But now, reflective writing mainly works to help me make sense of experiences or current and past relationships, or it helps me locate bottlenecks or roadblocks that cut down on my productivity, or else it helps me figure out ways to get better or improve things, or sometimes just to label my experiences, to give things names. 

This blog entry is an example of reflective writing where I name things. 

The second kind of writing I do that helps me out, I call planning writing. With this, I start out with a goal: sometimes I need to plan a lesson for class, sometimes I need to write a paper, sometimes I need to buy my wife a gift and I sit down and bang out my thoughts on how to get those things done. Planning writing is how I come up with an idea.

Planning writing is invention. 

For me this is where the beauty and magic of writing is the most evident. I try to write and to live by the axiom “You don’t know what you are going to write until you write it.” I don’t what is in my head until I have to wrestle into a sentence, which then holds it in place long enough for me to look at it and figure out how I feel about it. 

It’s for this same reason that I like improv comedy so much: those actors have no idea what they are going to do until it happens, and when it does happen, it doesn’t feel like invention, it feels like invocation or channeling. 

I like that feeling. I like thinking that when I write, it’s not coming 100% out of me, but is somehow distilled from the ether that surrounds me. It’s… exciting. 

The (sort of) third kind of writing that I do is freewriting. This is when I have the simple goal of getting words onto a page for the sake of doing it, or to get rid of the chaff words before I get to the good stuff, or to warm up my brain. But the thing is, freewriting almost always at some point turns into one of the other two types. 

It usually starts with pointless junk like, “I am now writing a sentence that started with the word I, and now I am wondering if I should have gone to the bathroom before I started. My fingers are moving!” It’s kind of like when a fish tank owner sucks the first bit of liquid through a siphon before the pressure equalizes and the water starts flowing, and then spits out the nasty fish water. 

The cool thing is, I can usually actually feel the switch happen from freewriting to planning or reflective writing; it’s when I say to myself, “Oh, ok, this is what I am doing,” and usually comes with a renewed sense of purpose and energy.

That’s also the reason I don’t really count it as a type of writing; it’s a bridge to one of the other two.

 

 

So there you have it, the two ways that I write when I am writing for no one else. 

Try them out.

 

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I Blog for Me

Here’s the thing, blogging is for the blogger more than anything else.

Blogging has often been described as a narcissistic practice, and if we bloggers are honest with ourselves, we have to agree that the critics are right to an extent. Keeping a blog in which the main subject is ourselves requires that we deem our own lives worthy for someone else to spend time with.

Here’s what the blogger gets out of blogging: a creative outlet, a sense of accomplishment, a connection with the world, a time to reflect and make sense of things, a deadline to meet, etc.

The reader gets 5-10 minutes of reading what somebody else wrote, sometimes a social connection, a glimpse into someone else’s life, probably a little bit of entertainment; if they subscribe and read regularly then they probably feel a deeper connection and friendship with the blogger. But that requires a blogger that is consistent in their output.

But all in all, I feel like the blogger gets more out of the relationship.

I also think this is also why keeping up with a blog is a tiring practice. A blogger has to constantly be shining a light on themselves, and for people like me, that’s not always comfortable.

But there is something healthy about being able to publicly display, analyze, criticize, and praise yourself. Sure it’s nice that readers get something out of it, but I feel the real benefit of blogging comes as the blogger bangs out the words and then hits the publish button.

Everything afterward is just fallout.

My New Hat and the Emotional Baggage it Comes With

I just bought a hat to cover up my progressively widening and elongating forehead.

hat

The thing is though, it took me about a year to finally decide what kind of hat to buy.

See, I have this thing against advertising for stuff on my body: I don’t wear anything that has the brand name prominently displayed; I don’t wear novelty t-shirts; I don’t wear anything with a sports team, or band name; etc. I just don’t like anything enough to wear it around all day, or to try to inspire other people to want to like it to. I think I hate aligning myself with any one particular group, or using my clothing to make arguments about who I am and where I belong.

I think the other thing that I hate about turning myself into a billboard is that inevitably, someone will make a comment about it.

There are two things that freak me out about this prospect. The first is that I will have to have a conversation about it; except it won’t be a conversation, it will be a non-conversation that goes something this:

Some dude: Hey, I saw your shirt. Cool. I’m a big fan of X.
Me: Yeah.
(Ten seconds of awkward silence)

These kinds of interactions turn my guts around. I don’t know what to say, the other person doesn’t know what to say. The entire point of the interaction is to acknowledge that we both have positive feelings toward whatever thing is on my shirt or hat, which is something that I (sorry world) just don’t really care about. I already feel the tiny little marxist angel on my shoulder telling me how terribly consumerist and empty it is for me to be wearing it in the first place, and now I have to openly acknowledge to another person that we both share this dark ugly thing where we define ourselves by material possessions that make reference to other material possessions. Eep.

I can’t stand those conversations. (I think it has something to do with being a blue personality and desiring intimacy above all else. And these conversations are the opposite of intimacy; they are sharing time and space with a person that I will most likely never connect with.)

The second thing, is that I feel like, by wearing the name of something on me, I have to be willing at all times to advocate for that thing, like I’m some prosecutor doing my dangdest to defend that band Y really does make the best music in the world, or brand Z is better than it’s competitor. Or if not that, that I really am a member of whatever group pertains to the thing I am wearing.

When I was a sophomore in high school, my brother bought the latest Method Man cassette Tical 2000: Judgement Day, and, when he left it in the car, I would listen to it, a lot. One day, I went into Hot Topic and found a Johnny Blaze (AKA Method Man) hat on sale, and I liked it, and I had the expendable cash. So I bought it and put it on right away. Ten minutes later I was at Sbarro ordering a slice of cheese pizza, and the guy serving me, a black guy, looked at me with disgust, and said, “What you know about Johnny Blaze?” and then slid me my cardboard pizza slice carrier across the sneeze guard.

I say, “Uh, oh, I uh, I like him,” and feel white and excluded because of my whiteness, probably for the first time.

That moment did something to me that I still wear deep inside. My failure to belong to the group I was advertising for, and the failure to defend my belonging to the group, on top of the shock of being forced to defend my belonging, left a mark on me.

So now it’s really hard for me to buy a hat, even though I am getting balder by the minute.

I finally decided on a baseball cap because it seems the most forgettable to others, and it’s an ASU cap because I didn’t like blank baseball hats, and I go to and teach at ASU, so my belonging there is pretty undeniable.

Sheesh. I think there are people out there that can just buy a hat. How do they do that?

Having Kids is the Worst Thing to do With Your Life Aside from Everything Else

I am attempting to write this at home with my life happening all around me. I have put a coffee table up on my bed to act as a standing desk because I don’t have an actual desk that is mine in our little two bedroom house we rent. I just listened to one of my sons give me an inventory of his toys that he has decided to store in one of my dress socks. Before that, I changed a diaper on a seven-month-old with diaper rash who looked at me as I changed him like I was jamming needles under his fingernails. I am a family man. I am a 30-year-old PhD student with a wife and three kids. 

On top of making it harder to write a blog post, deciding to have kids as young as we did has made my wife and I part of a steadily shrinking minority: young married adults who are fairly highly-educated and who actually chose to have children on purpose. The secretaries at the doctor’s offices we visit look at us askance when they find out that yes, I, the man who is here to support the woman and children, am the legal husband, and, yes, I really am the father of all three children, and, no, I don’t have drug problems and, no, I do not pay child support to any other family. Just by being who I am, I have caused a few women named Kathie to do a double take. I am like a giraffe with two necks and heads or something because I am clean and educated, and love my wife and kids enough to go with them to the doctor. 

Now, this is the place where some people will moan and gripe because the good ol’ days when men and women knew their duty and got married and had kids because that’s just whatcha did are long past and our whole country is feeling the tingling warmth of hell fire because of it, but that’s not what I am going to do. Sure, the minority that I belong to used to be the majority. If I had been born thirty years before I was actually born, I would be a baby boomer, and my life would look similar to most of the people around me. But now, especially being an academic, I am one of very few. My closest colleague with children of similar ages to my kids at the last university I attended was my thesis adviser, a man fifteen-ish years older than me. But I am not going to say that because everyone else hasn’t made the same choices as me society as a whole is going to collapse.   

Sure, all sorts of “evidence” exists to show us that our decision to have kids was a mistake. We aren’t financially stable; we don’t have everything planned out; we haven’t always been able to buy birthday and Christmas presents every year; there’s a good chance I’ll still be paying off students loans while my kids are going to high school; I have “given up” on a lot of “dreams” (really just made smarter safer choices) because I have a family that I have to take care of. I have lost out on a lot. 

But I’ve gained a lot too. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go tuck my kids in bed and read to them before grading a stack of papers into the darkness of night. 

Thoughts are like Armpits, Everybody Has Them, and Unless You Write Them Down, They Aren’t Worth Anything

I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately and trying to figure out what success looks like in my life. I came to the conclusion that the most (and probably the only) successful things I’ve done in this life are maintain a healthy marriage, procreate three times and keep those children alive and learning, I have earned a Master’s degree, created hundreds of successful daily lesson plans and taught them, made quite a few YouTube videos that I feel capture the feeling of the moment I tried to capture, and (maybe) written some papers that have some good thoughts.

The world (especially meaning the people who sign checks) don’t see the things that I consider to be successes in my life to be successes, or at least they don’t see them worthy of giving me money for them. I am starting to get the feeling that, aside from the YouTube videos and the papers I’ve written, my successes don’t involve the creation of something that can be enjoyed asynchronously outside of my presence, which seems to be a defining characteristic of a successful creation. 

I was blessed with a brain that does a lot of thinking. And every once in a while, like how a virus or cancer can mutate out of sheer volume of reproductions, I think a pretty good thought. But the only people I have that I can share my thoughts with are my family, my coworkers, and my students, none of whom are cutting me any checks for them. So if I want my thoughts to have a wider audience, and if I want other people to benefit from the thoughts I have, or if I want my thoughts to turn into something tangible (i.e. $) and asynchronous to me, I have to write them down, and put them in a public place.

In other words, I have to write, and I have to make that writing public. 

In other other words, if I want to be successful, I must write. I must make writing my life.

So here goes.