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Writing 101 in a Digital World

Sometimes I forget that you don’t need an internet connection to write.

Yesterday I had some time to write before meeting a friend for dinner, and conveniently had my laptop with me. However, I experienced slight panic for a moment when I realized that there wasn’t a WiFi connection to hook up to.

That’s pretty bad. 

I grew up in the late 80s, early 90s. My family had a telephone attached to the wall. We didn’t even have a TV for a time. I know that one doesn’t need a computer or smartphone to write — a pencil or pen and paper will more than do the job (even a brow pencil… true story.) 

Yet lately I’ve found writing sessions to be fueled in part by the need to immediately publish something — in line with the philosophy of a tree falling in the forest, I guess you could say. However unintentional, having such a mindset — a reflex of powering up to write down — has definitely impacted how often I write, greatly inhibiting my range of artistic motion. 

In my defense, technological convenience is something we’ve so grown used being there to the point that the physical act of writing can feel like supplementary behavior until one can get to the perfect moment in which to fully flesh out an idea. 

But if our world was to enter apocalyptic status today, right now, there’d be nothing to connect to, no immediate spread of ideas. All works online would cease to exist. If we were lucky, some publications would have survived any fires, floods, blasts. But we’d truly have to rebuild and create a future on a physical, tangible foundation with our selves doing the thinking, not our beloved machines. 

I used to think that being in front of a computer was my perfect sit-down moment — and it still is, in most ways. However, it might be time to redefine the line in the sand, with a pencil or pen and paper, and whatever’s swimming inside. No tabs open, and nothing to reference except for, perhaps, a physical thesaurus, encyclopedia, or other source of study. Back to basics, in the interest of preservation.

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The Problem with Needing to Be the First to Report the News

“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet” — the new and now longstanding credo du époque. 

What happened to actually reporting the news?  Pressure from conglomerates happened. Ratings, sensationalism, virality happened. The internet and social media happened, and I’d argue that we’re all to blame in some way, simply by demand and consumption. 

With the internet being the world’s main and largest source of information, and social media making it available and accessible by the literal second, it is a bit tough to escape the matrix — but tough doesn’t have to be impossible. 

On Monday, October 2nd, reports flooded in early in the day that legendary singer, songwriter, and musician Tom Petty was taken to the hospital in a state of unconsciousness following cardiac arrest. His condition was updated to having been taken off of life support, to dying. This was reported by hundreds of verified online publications, until it was acknowledged that confirmation had, in fact, not been obtained. 

Following a statement from the LAPD denying their prior confirmation, reports were quickly retracted to Petty clinging to life until his spokesperson released a statement hours later that he had passed away at 8:40 pm PST.

This need to be the first to report breaking news is now regularly causing once-reputable news outlets to shoot themselves in the foot while it’s still their mouth, while other websites — essentially RSS or reblog feeds — pick up the story and further spread the contamination. 

Was this the LAPD’s fault, or was it the fault of the new school of journalism? Was it our fault as the public for how easily we’ve adapted to wildfire? 

I would answer: all of the above.

As a result, Petty’s final hours were tinged by the unfair and unwarranted stress of infringed upon privacy, personally experienced by his family, friends, and bandmates. Fans around the world were either propped up by false hope, or thrust into a position of waiting for him to die. There was no good publicity to be garnered from it — just a media circus. Just vultures circling around, waiting to strike. 

It begs reminding that it is the job of journalism to report and document the news through an unbiased lens, with integrity to the profession. It a position worthy of dignity and respect, one with huge responsibility. It is far more than cents-per-word or exposure-only employment. And, it is not at all about the journalist. Journalism is our history in motion.

In forgetting this, devastating events surrounding the first two days of October 2017 have fallen under the pay-per-click umbrella, where “everyone is a journalist”, at an ultimate cost to the subject. 

We should all be ashamed.

“Love Can’t Touch Me Now” by Dragonette

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Short and sweet post about how anyone and everyone needs to listen to this song. EDM lover? Pop music fan? Have a brain and ears? You must listen to this now. 

I came across Dragonette when listening to suggested artists on Amazon Music a couple of months and have been hooked on this particular track ever since. Not only is the production great, but the lyrics are something I think most listeners can chew on and relate to:

I’ve got these big heavy stones and I’ve been piling them up In a circle round my heart, in a circle round my heart

I will be happy alone, I swear I say it out loud
With the circle ‘round my heart, with the circle ‘round my heart

I’m like a statue now, I’m not afraid
‘Cause I don’t feel a thing, and I can’t break ….

Just try to hurt me now, I’m not afraid
‘Cause I am made of things that you can’t break

Your love can’t touch me now

The idea of self-preservation in the form of figurative protection in place may or may not be healthy but it’s something worth pondering about. How much can be felt with a buffer and filter surrounding such an absorbent part of being? Who wants to live like that? How many people do, just so that they can live?

It’s fascinating just how much can be felt from such great heights in an effort not to fall. I  find myself wanting to both tear down and build up the wall with her.

Plus, this song is pretty awesome when driving  or working out. That’s a given.

“Love Can’t Touch Me Now” is off of Dragonette‘s  “Royal Blues” LP released in 2016, and — again — if you don’t know who they are, I recommend that you do yourself a solid and find out. 

Check out the track below — would love to know what you think:

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

 

Why Words Are Not Enough 

My boyfriend and I don’t really say “I love you” to each other. 

During the first couple of years in learning about each other, I thought that there was an order of things to model after. But instead of going down the “first comes love, then comes marriage” speedway, we took the scenic “first comes sharing snacks, then comes some awkward dance moves” route. 

Respecting the fact that relationships require time and work, I would like to think that this detour has contributed to a mutual familiarity and understanding beyond words that has kept us together for nearly seven years. Still, I remember having done so much research on the subject, because “I love you” meant so much to me. In sharing with others in longer relationships — including my parents, married for 39 years — I was able to realize that relationship advice isn’t relationship gospel, that one size daren’t fit all, and that words mean everything as much as they don’t. 

Recently, I learned about the neural phenomenon of semantic satiation. A concept of study since the early 20th century, it was defined in 1962 by psychologist Leon James as the temporary inability to process the meaning of a word after hearing or reading it multiple times in succession. 

It really got me thinking. There are plenty of words that I myself overuse or hear overused in conversation — “love”,”hate”, “ridiculous”, “crazy”. There are surely better words to use that aren’t completely expunged of meaning and turned into mere intensifiers.

But if all words have a tendency to lose their meaning, exactly whose fault is it? Our brains for letting it happen, the words merely for existing, or one’s intention? Is it even that big of a deal?

Are you confused yet? Welcome to my world.

I just need to shut up sometimes. We all do. We need to read more, write more, learn, and listen. Turn off our brains for a second and not force or rush through a moment. You know, the simple stuff that’s not at all simple. Then maybe we can finally know what it means to understand and love each other.

All I know is that when I hugged my boyfriend  this morning after learning we’ll soon be proud parents of the SNES Classic, he held onto me just a little bit longer — and that was all the “I love you” I needed. 

Me, Writing for The Past Few Days

I have a three blog drafts lined up to complete and post here, but it has taken a while because they’re not fun topics — which seems to be what people want, right? Entertainment is all about the escape, crafted with the goal of carrying the recipient somewhere that matters. 

I realize that I’m totally working to reason with myself. To be honest, the topics aren’t even that out of the ordinary — but in a sea of beauty/vegan/lifestyle bloggers, they dive into complex territory that even I’m not sure I’m comfortable with. 

Still, as much as I lack the desire to visit and revisit dim places in the name of clarity, it’s imperative in writing, creative or otherwise. Life is just one giant functional, resistance training session that hurts and weighs heavy. But humans were built to acclimate, and there’s a lot of good, even beauty, to be found there. Blessed be the buffer of self-deprecating humor. 

I often tend to express the sentiment that writers need to trust their readers and not make decisions for them. That is very important as both contributor and recipient, so that’s what I’ll work to do. New post soon, I promise.

Thanks for reading.

Transformation Tuesday (Or, How I Stopped Bitching and Learned to Love the Hashtag)

There’s this holiday-themed Fruity Pebbles commercial from the mid-80s l that I would drop everything to watch when I was a kid. As we were more of a Grape Nuts, Cream of Wheat, and Quaker Oats family, the draw was less about the product and more about the strong sense of family and the magic of the Christmas season (and, of course, Fred finally letting Barney have the cereal).

No lie, that commercial is still fun to watch as an adult. But being an active, sometimes unwilling participant in consumerism, I have developed a little bit of a Grinch complex, particularly towards the over use of hashtags in social media and digital marketing. Considering their overall purpose and that they’ve only been clickable links within the past decade, I can’t really be too critical of them. Within the social media framework, they only serve to further connect people and ideas, whether for good, bad, or worse. And when you think about it, SEO and hashtags are merely yester-era’s catchphrases and slogans. The only difference between :more traditional” forms of media (i.e. print, radio, and television) is that this still relatively new media is available on demand, 24/7.

Anyway, with this realization, I’ve decided to shut up about the whole hashtag thing and learn to love the monster for linking the world together. Marketing means consumerism, which means a potential boost in both local and global economies. Even further, the fact that notable messages, ideas, causes and projects have the potential of receiving substantial exposure outside of an echo chamber is huge. 

Finally, because this type of media is still so new in comparison to others means that there are still plenty of uncharted avenues in which to employ it outside of the standard, excessive, and sometimes annoying. Independent creativity, meet wave of reinvention?

I can feel my growing heart three sizes already.

More Writing Tips From Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They’re Doing

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(An unintended continuation of this post.)

The Emmys are tonight, which is super exciting and everything. This is an obvious opportunity to celebrate another year of brilliant television. There have been some amazing productions this year on both network, cable, and streaming services. The game is being changed, and it has been amazing to observe, to the point where reception has been, at times, delightfully overwhelming. This must be praised, as quality programming, like other forms of artistic expression, needs to be recognized, talked about, and experienced — because when it is, even more stories get told (especially those that probably wouldn’t have otherwise).

However, yet another year has gone by where I don’t feel like I even have an idea to flesh out. (Yes, I’m making this about me.)

One day I’d love to write something worthy of recognition on such a level. But to do that, I’m going to have to keep writing.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles my whole life, so the star-studded aspect isn’t novel to me. What is novel, however, is seeing people you know do things that you could only dream of doing. In knowing these people, I know first hand that they have the same 24 hours in one day as anyone else. They’ve periods of discouragement and laziness, like everyone else. But they keep moving.

This weekend I was able to go through some old stories and poems from college. Not to toot my own horn, but I wrote pretty damn well. But I was a bit stubborn and, due to writing more for the grade rather than the passion, present-day me could really sense the loss of drive and focus within each piece. It’s no wonder why I refused to read or write during the year following graduation.

The drive has definitely come back, though, almost to the point when I first started writing as a young teenager. I remember writing so much then, even performed at open mics and submitted my work to publications. I wasn’t afraid of saying or doing something. I wanted to contribute, and truly felt my work to hold as much weight as others’.

I’m not sure if that’s exactly the case for me now. If anything, I’m much more conscious about what I put out there, probably due to the saturation of ideas on social media, and how quickly information can be dispensed, digested, and transferred. The pressure to make an impact is very much there, as is the desire.

Like anything else, the view just needs to be scaled back a bit.  I need to go back in my personal history and touch on what’s been pushed out of memory. I need to ask myself difficult questions, especially in relation with others, and experience the breeze every once in a while. I need to write what I know, and be endlessly curious about what I don’t.

And, I need to keep writing.