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5 Things I’ve Learned Coming Away From Social Media

I am, I believe a few days into the break from Twitter and Facebook, and it’s still amusing and astonishing in equal measure. 

1. The time you have. I get my daily pages done, apply for jobs, read the news and pop culture sites I find interesting and amusing, I walk the dog and listen to podcasts, spend time with my family and all in the same 24 hour period that I used to spend hunched over, refreshing the timeline to see what people were angry/happy/horny/bored about. 

2. Thinking. I have come to believe that you can learn more by having a good think, a dialogue with yourself in such a way that you can test your opinions in the privacy of your own head. Imaginary evocation dialogues are a good thing, especially when invoking or challenging archetypal parts of yourself. I have done a few on here, but away from the digital collective unconscious that represents social media, you get to think what you want to think, free of influence. Marilyn Manson once said, I believe, that truly original art isn’t coming to light because of the connectivity/rush to publish that the internet has produced, which I think has some merit. 

3.  Lack of status anxiety. I used to find that rather than decrease isolation, social media actually made it worse because you could see the raw flow of human interaction, send messages and get no response, which might just have been my experience of it but without it, I am enjoying the relative isolation and the richness of interaction that you get when people have to reach you or you have to reach other people. The corse cost is higher, but the trade off is the reward.

4.  Ignorance. It’s never a good thing generally, but some of my friends on FB/Twitter are either obsessive with particular memes/ideological complaints. I’ve not seen a GIF concerned about boycotting Subway for what is 10% of it’s restaurants serving halal as some kind of imposition of sharia law or a passive aggressive call to show your support for raising awareness of cancer by sharing a poster. It’s wonderful.

5. Focus and concentration. It’s like a digital fast, in that it sharpens your concentration, you’re on, what Tim Ferris refers to as a low information diet. Reading is a delightful experience again because I don’t have that chickenhead reflex to check notifications as they come in. 

It’s produced impressively rich results already, I will go back because it’s useful as a promotional tool, but I will take breaks again and not feel the least bit bad for doing so. Which is odd, isn’t it? Akin to when you meet someone who says they don’t have a television and you get that stab of disbelief before you realise what a cool thing that is. Until you remember the excitement that you felt watching the Breaking Bad finale when it came on Netflix. 

I swear, I am hopeless. 

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On writing

Even when you feel like shit, you must write. The odd day off isn’t going to derail you entirely but any more than that, as Stephen King details, adds a stiffness to the work that’s like a bad cramp and it’s time wasted working it out. As I said. I keep my goals small so that I am not putting myself under any undue pressure about it. It’s not laziness, but a reflection of how difficult writing can be at times. It’s not coal mining or firefighting, it’s draining and obsessive, it’s going to the mat with your insecurities and hoping that someone raises your hand at the end of the match. 

I’m conscious of not pretending to be a Hemingway, and also of revealing too much about myself. I used to do that, part of the overall insecurity that comes from wanting to be liked by people and that might contribute to the ego-driven urge to write. I talk about the mechanics, rather than the underpinnings because if any of you read my written work, then I don’t want you to get any preconceptions, the book is the book is the book, you know? 

Writing has been, over the last few years, the constant. No matter how shit things have gotten, I could still write and if it was crap, I could rewrite it later, and if it was good, I was proud. Seldom are there paths you can take that give you that in life and that’s why I write. 

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On writing – erotica, purpose and ambition

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Meditation, Failure and Determination

Meditation used to be something I sneered at. It felt like an affectation, a practice that was more to do with telling people that you did it and actually doing it. 

Now I feel it’s an essential part of my day. It’s not at a set time, or a set place and I do use guided meditations because there are things that I want my subconscious to focus on, so that I can handle other things consciously. I believe in it because it gives me focus and calms me so that I am more effective in doing things. Also it feels really good, there are sessions that are tough and I come away feeling futile but they’re part of the process. 

Failure happens, but only if you decide that it’s a reason to stop then it actually is failure. I know NLP comes in for a lot of criticism but I found it useful in a few ways, and some of the precepts it has are really useful. I like to look at models of success and achievement, one of whom is MMA fighters, particularly those in the UFC and I was listening to a podcast interview with Brendan Schaub, and one of the things he said was about potential fighters who needed a pep talk, in that if they did, they shouldn’t be fighting. 

I get down about things sometimes, but I know it’s just fear and anxiety making themselves known when I don’t harness them to a particular process. Every day though, I write and I read. I have cut back on television and gaming, more and more as time goes on. I am not limiting myself to culture, but I am developing and honing myself because the better work I produce, the better I feel and as a consequence I find it all the more appealing to write and create. 

So I meditate on my writing, visualising it as my career, I have images and auditory pictures that I visualise as part of that process. I have not written as a view to anything more than expressing myself on the page, it’s not the ‘being a writer’ that drives me, it’s ‘having written’ and knowing that I have finished things that empowers me to keep going. I want to get better at it but I know that I never will master it. If you’re always hungry, pushing at the edge of your fear, then the work you will produce will always reflect that. I used to read and marvel at the magic of words on the page but from there, I know now that I was reading someone who had written vastly more than I had. What I know now is that the work will come if you can keep doing it. 

This could serve as a meditation. 

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Ambition, Recuperation and Pragmatism

Took a day off from the writing yesterday, today was tough and I was easily distracted because it’s close to the end of the book and a degree of exhaustion kicks in, as well as the concern that I have missed anything out. I worry about these things even though I have subsequent drafts to perfect the holes and mistakes. When I was freed by the knowledge that I can and should polish it up, it became more about resisting the impulse to ‘show’ I am writing. I am productive and the work comes no matter what else I am doing.

I feel pleased that it is done. I have a daily goal of two pages a day, it’s low enough to remove the pressure and it keeps me productive in terms of the time I can allocate to it realistically. It causes problems if I spend all day online and it means that I can always be writing. It’s not an original conceit, I read about it in Four Hour Body and it was fundamentally useful in building up a writing practice. The career stuff is something I think about with a degree of pragmatism. How can I get better at saying the things I want to say and build an audience for that material? I visualize, I write and read everyday so I am working on aligning the things that please me in the short term with long term attractions and enticements. The process of having a process, a purpose and connecting that to the things that give me joy. I want to be good, if not great and being competent as an ongoing thing that helps make it happen for me.

Talking about ambition is something that I don’t do very often, it’s vaporware until I have something that you can put in your hands or download to your device but I plan and practice for it.

I am tempted to talk about process, how I read books as a writer, as much to get them out of my head as to talk about them. I know no one’s reading and that’s quite freeing in itself. This is a conversation but I’m not sharing everything with you.