Wednesday, 28 March 2012

"Invention is the mother of necessity"

I just saw the notice: Blogger is getting a new look in April.  I learnt today that, come March 30, Facebook's Timeline will be mandatory.  When did these tools we opted to use begin to mildly frustrate us as their purveyors push what they think is better?  We could opt out - or could we?  Well, we could, but, we have grown an extra limb or two or three.   Getting through our days without the Twitter limb or - for some - the Facebook limb, seems like a crazy, far-fetched idea.  When the creators of these limbs twist our arms to get us to move in their direction, quite frankly, it doesn't take much effort on their part.  It's pretty much get with it or get out of the way!

You may know of my love and appreciation for Marshall McLuhan's quotes:  "The medium is the message/massage"; "We shape our tools and then our tools shape us" and, a more recent fave, "Invention is the mother of necessity"!  So, there you have it, folks!  Let's just take that all in for a moment, shall we?  (Tangent:  I do like that part of the Bio that says: "He was learning in spite of his professors, but he would become a professor of English in spite of himself."  Not too keen on the "training of perception" idea, though.  I think it bothers me... or intrigues me...?  Not yet sure which. I would have to explore whether my appreciation for these quotes is incongruous with that idea... I dunno.  And now is not the time to ponder this.)   Moving on.

We have indeed shaped our tools and, in turn, have been shaped by them.  Our priorities have changed; our preferences for the way we interact have been re-defined.  There is a tool for every mood; a tool for every kind of message.  The medium that we use helps to shape the (kind of) message we wish to send.  Sometimes you'd rather not call, just text - because, well, you know.  The invention of gadgets and electronic tools galore have birthed the (desperate) need for accessories we had no clue we sooo needed before they came on stream.  We have a gazillion ways to talk and interact with each other, but more and more of which have little to do with the original - face to face.  Not in a Skype or other video chat way, either, but, in the way where we can reach out and touch each other; hug; hold.   Question: If we had an opportunity to get together with all our followers, LinkedIn contacts or Facebook friends, for example, would we?  Or, ok, we might have placed them in categories based on shared interests.  Even then, would we want to be in the presence of all these people of like interests?  I imagine the answer depends quite a bit on our personality but, whatever it is, we gotta give thought to the possibility that, at any given time, there are people with whom we would want to be in touch with physically and there are those we don't.  Also, that there is a time when it's convenient to connect and a time when it is not. And, there is a tool, a medium, for every preference. 

More than anything, however, all this repeatedly brings home to me the distinction between what really matters and what doesn't.  What.  People close to me matter to me.  A lot.  However, a few offline contacts/friends have come to matter, too.  And the joy (the what) that they bring to my life is invaluable - even if just for a season.  So, while we *cough* I *cough* bond with a new PlayBook (thanks for helping me choose @MizDurie), discover new ways to connect online and indulge in reading on the go, I've come to accept a few things:  (1) The fast pace and accoutrements of technology will be around for a while.  (2) The occasional mild frustration is bearable when compared with the thought of a severed limb.  (3) There is peace in creating at my own pace and (4) It's important that I remain grounded and book face time!

Updated: 2012-03-28 at 4:28PM with link to story on FB's Timeline.


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Writers' Heaven

How often do we get the opportunity to occupy our comfort zone? (Not thinking in the sense of Occupy Wall, Bay, Main and other streets now.  Stay with me.)  I mean occupy as in filling up our entire comfort zone  with, and being engaged in, something that is so satisfying, it moves us.  Hmm.  Occupy to the point of being moved.  And, we might have a few comfort zones but, I'm talking about that special one; the one you'd refer to as the zone.  Truth is, depending on our particular situations, we don't get such an opportunity very often.  What to do?  What to do?  If it means that much to us, we have to make these opportunities; make the time to indulge in and bask in and revel in that zone.

I don't know whether this has ever happened to you, but, over the past couple of years - and, more so, in the past few months - it has happened to me.  It's that phenomenon where, you publicly express your desire or preference for something and, all of a sudden, you become aware of like things around you.  Once I finally knocked some sense into my head and woke up conscious to the fact that my not being a published writer does not make me any less of a writer; once I recognized the fact (read: fact) that I had to write or suffocate; once I nodded my head in agreement with my handsome inner editor that I was not in love with the idea of writing (though, what a lovely idea, eh?) but the act of writing - and that the act is hard, grueling, at times frustrating work that might not even be rewarding except in the relief and satisfaction that the words on the page are exactly the words you wanted to get out; the story you wanted to tell...  Once I got all that out, or done, or in, I began to see opportunities to help me on this journey.  Folks around me - beside my sis @MizDurie, my harshest and gentlest critic, and my mother @jawil7, my biggest fan, in whose eyes none of my writing is ever crap (Language! Sorry, mother!) - started talking to me, and getting me to talk, about my writing.  In time, encouragement came from other quarters like Twitter - people whom  I'd never met before, but seemed to realize what my writing meant to me. Imagine my joy when I saw a comment on one of my posts from @grammakaye the other day!  Precious little things like that...

And, bigger things, too!  I long ago signed up for alerts to communications courses organized by my workplace.  Imagine my delight when I saw one for Creative Communicators! I registered. The long and the short, turns out I had registered for writers' heaven!  And I didn't have to die or anything!  It was a glorious day spent occupying my comfort zone.  And, people who "get it"; who get "this writing thing" were there.  Do you know how much of a relief it is not to have to explain the wherefores (read: whys) of yourself as a writer?  It's surprising how light that makes you feel. The facilitators, @imruthwalker and @gwynnscheltema, gently helped me discover, hitherto yet unknown (to me, anyway) abilities within.  (It was like that time I went to audition for that ad, and the casting director asked me to convey a particular emotion.  It was not until that moment that I knew I could cry on cue!)  So, there we were, in writers' heaven.  It was a mixed group - folks at different places on their own journeys.  We shut the doors; shut out the rest of the workplace - and the world.  We locked ourselves away and made ourselves at home.  Home.  Just looking at that word, knowing the weight of the meaning it holds in relation to my writing, brings tears.  I have a bit of a reference to a Robert Frost's poem on my Twitter account.  But, the desired quote from "The Death of the Hired Man" says, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in."  I live in writing.  It's a haven for me. (The Lord knows what I mean; He gets it.) It's that place where, if they don't take me in, I'd be homeless...

I'm glad they've taken me in.  Who's "they"?  Doesn't matter.  At this moment, though, "they" just might be my alter ego which has an alter ego - which isn't me!  The little voices in my head must be them plotting how to get out.  Periodically, I pay them some mind, introduce them to my handsome inner editor, and, as soon as we transcribe their stories, they go quiet again.

'Til next time.


Thursday, 8 March 2012

No Mad Rush Required

Ever get the feeling that we're all flying about in this social media sphere, occasionally bumping into each other?  That each of us is trying to say something profound and original, while kinda knowing, deep down, that, if we have thought of it, somebody else, somewhere on this planet of seven billion plus people, must have thought of it, too?  That the race then becomes, who can get to put it out there first, in front of the widest audience - and be recognized as the author or creator.

I get that feeling.  Sometimes, that's exactly the kind of race in which I find myself.  There's so much information at our fingertips, it's one thing to rummage through the sheer pile of it all to find a gem.  It's another to be the creator of that gem!  This brings to mind a few lines from that piece I "discovered" and studied for my dramatic monologue for the audition for the part I got in the ad the other day (may I buy another "for"?)  The piece is from George Bernard Shaw's "Man and Superman" (ACT I, 182) .  Tanner is speaking to Tavy (Octavius) about the raging tension, if you will, between the "artist/man" and the "mother/woman": "Our minds are nothing more than this knowledge of ourselves, and he who adds one jot to such knowledge, creates new mind, as surely as any woman creates new men."  Who would not want to add to the body of knowledge that now exists? Now.  Now.  (Get it? Moving target.)  It is a challenge with which doctoral and other students grapple.  A lot.  Heck, it's not just a student/scholarly thing.  In the world outside the classroom, that desire to add to the body of knowledge among human beings is most times simply referred to as "making my mark". 

And, these days, it is way easier to do that.  (For the purpose of this post, never mind the kind of mark.)  And, if we can do it - add to knowledge or make our mark in such a way that we receive (almost) instant recognition and, quite possibly, reward, well, it certainly helps to explain the mad rush to do so.

But, oh, how tiring.  And, what do we give up in the pursuit of this goal?  It has taken me a while to learn - everybody doesn't learn at the same pace - that the joy is not in finishing first and standing out and and and...  But, instead, in being courageous enough to create, and being aware that God has blessed each of us with that something already unique to each of us - our unique selves.  That, if we simply be ourselves and let Him help us discover our talents and gifts and use them, we can - and will - exceed our own expectations.  And, be happy.

No mad rush required.