For most of my life, the only time I’ve reviewed anything is when I really didn’t like it. In fact, I had to not like it so much that I felt it was my duty to steer people away. This didn’t happen often.
When I thought something was great, I was never motivated to suggest others buy, use or visit whatever it was. Not unless I was asked. Then, sometimes I wrote a positive review just to be nice.
Basically, this means I don’t understand reviews. Or reviewers.
I should have reconsidered my plan to follow-up 6 nights camping at Burning Man with two long days of driving. Last night I woke up twice in the night thinking the place was filling up with dust. An inch or more of the flaky grey coating on everything gave the room the look of something out of a horror movie, until I turned on the lights and saw there was no dust at all.
The second time it happened I knew I needed a little more decompression time.
Today my music keeps getting interrupted by Google Maps. The app is experiencing ongoing frustration because I have chosen to take a slightly longer route and not drive through Chicago. Nothing against the windy city; it’s a great place but I don’t want to drive through it.
“We’ve found a route that is 19 minutes faster,” it chirps as soon as I’m on the highway. “Touch screen to accept.” It continues to try to route me through Chicago for the next four hours. An algorithm apparently cannot comprehend why I’d rather drive a few extra minutes to enjoy rolling countryside and less traffic.
Fiction provides a sort of veil between my raw emotions and a make believe story while it allows me to delve deep into issues that might never surface in something more contained like a journal. Creating a plot has a certain non-linear element of surprise to it that can take me exactly to the places where I least want to go.
The reason for writing that is hardest for me to admit? I write to be cool. To be admired. To be praised. I write for the little bump of status it sometimes gives me even while thinking I’m above such things and don’t care what others think of me. Because of course I do care, as we all do. What varies is how much we care, and how much we let it control our actions.
How is this working out for me? When it comes to writing, the highs are high, but the lows are plentiful. If I really was doing this for love and admiration I would be far better served adopting a puppy.
Not sure why I keep getting hit with heart attack ads but it is a little creepy
The idea of time and attention as a new form of currency rings true. Note the way online ads compete for your attention. The whole thing with Face Book has made us all painfully aware that we are the product being sold by companies on the cutting edge of technology. Just today, I had to click my consent to new terms for Yahoo. Basically the terms said I understand they will use all content I provide in any way they please.
Why do they want this data? It is not that I am inherently interesting to Yahoo, Google or Apple. They want to use the data to place specific content where I see it. They want to sell my attention to their advertisers. My attention is worth money, it turns out, if I have demonstrated an interest in the advertiser’s product.
It is a reasonable question. I recently started participating in writer’s groups again and much about them has got me thinking. A women well into her second novel told me of an acquaintance who has made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. Wow. Something to be in awe of, of course. My critique group-mate is also in awe of the woman’s process. To paraphrase, she read the top ten fiction books at the time, analyzed what they had in common, and wrote the perfect hybrid book, designed to succeed. And it did.
All I could think was “what a miserable way to write a book.” That brought me round to the essential question of this post. If I’m not writing to make a best seller list, what am I doing? I tried to be brutally, unflatteringly honest and I came up with seven reasons I choose to spend most of my free time on my laptop creating books. Some of them are pretty stupid.
This post is about the first answer that popped into my mind. It may not be my biggest reason, but it may be the one that keeps me writing novel after novel.
Rescue workers the world over had come to know Olumiji as the tall, thin Nigerian man who showed up after earthquakes, mudslides and tsunamis to offer assistance, and who had an uncanny ability to find barely alive souls in the wreckage. He stayed out of their way and asked for nothing in return, so most wrote him off as a harmless oddball. Some speculated that he may have lost a loved one himself long ago in a natural disaster. In a way they were right.
But hope wasn’t quite the word I meant, any more than peace and joy had been with the first two books. I was trying to talk about refusing to let go of fears and animosity from the past, and refusing to give others a chance based on old experiences. And I was talking about the belief that humans cannot change, that they cannot learn to be, or choose to be, better.
One problem is that we stick this poor five letter word with so many meanings. There is lack of armed conflict (armistice). There is quiet (silence), there is inner peace (enlightenment), there is lack of argument (agreement) and there is actually getting along (harmony). Do we all want peace. Of course we do. What kind?
“What do you hope your daughter studies?” I asked.
The question seemed to make him sad.
The U.S. presence in Kenya
“She won’t have so many options to choose from,” he told me. He’d been careful to keep most of his opinions to himself as we traveled, and this is probably a wise thing for any travel guide, anywhere, to do. But for just a moment he spoke from his heart.
“It doesn’t bother me that you don’t appreciate all the opportunities that you have in your country. What bothers me is that you don’t even recognize that you have them.”
Politically, it is my observation that the GOP tends more towards short term thinking, and the current administration takes this even further. Jobs today. Money today. Battles won today. And these are not bad things.
I, and those with whom I share my politics, tend to look more towards tomorrow. Funding quality education for all yields a happy and capable workforce. Universal health care yields a healthier one. Peace negotiations and developing understanding yield a region that stays at peace, ideally at least. I’m more willing to sacrifice now for a better tomorrow, in my own life and in the choices I would make for society. It is one of my core values.
We need both sorts of thinking to survive and thrive.
I can give you a long list of things I do not believe in, and an even longer list of kind-ofs to which I can add many qualifiers. But today, I’m forcing myself to make a short list of simple virtues in which I firmly believe. Virtues that can shape my everyday actions, you know, Wonder Woman style.
Is a shrinking world a good thing? We now feel the pain of distant events in new ways. The sorrow they cause is difficult, the increased desire to help is laudable. I was searching for a video of a song to convey that feeling, to stand in contrast to the various videos of “Far Away Places” that I posted on my other blogs.
I found this instead and realized that it was perfect. Maybe that’s because it’s about the way the world could be. Or maybe, it’s about the way it really is and we just tend to forget.
Along with the many tragic aspects of this incident is the side effect of how it serves to further separate the people of this world. No society exists on this planet that does not have its crimes; larger countries have more. Crowding, poverty, stresses from modernization and the integration of different cultures adds to volatility everywhere. But when the awful event occurs in the back yard of somebody else who lives far away from you, it is easy to think “Oh, that’s the way they are.”