Indifference

“The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.” – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, p. 42.

Both love and hate are a feeling, indifference is the lack of a feeling.

This line in the War of Art struck me. I’d never heard or read something like this.

We so often view love and hate as diametrically opposed to each other, as opposites, and in a way they are. But the opposite of feeling is not feeling, apathy, indifference.

When we love or hate or are angry because of something, we have a feeling. We care about it in some way, positive or negative. If we’re indifferent or apathetic, we don’t feel anything.

In that way, Steven Pressfield is right.

As far as a spectrum of emotions, love and hate may appear opposite.

But they are really rivaled against indifference.

Life Is What You Make It (5)

I frequently think about my life, what I want to accomplish, what I’ve done so far, and how long I have to do everything I dream of. This is a series featuring things I’ve written about such things, both poetry and prose. The previous parts are here.


It’s my anniversary with my boyfriend. We’ve been together a year. A whole year! I can’t believe it’s been so long.

The past is important in shaping us into who we are today.

We live out each moment, each day, each week, each month, each year… But sometimes we forget where we came from, what shaped us into the people we are now.

Our memories are imperfect, sometimes even fabricated.

We’re able to record our thoughts, our actions, our lives more easily than ever before. People post on Facebook, and the next years, Facebook shows it to them again. They get reminded of their memories because they recorded them.

I’ve always loved journaling. For a while I hoped my journal would matter to others in the future. Now my past journal entries matter to me. I have a window into who I was in years past, a clearer view of how I’ve changed. I wrote about what was happening in my life. I might not remember a lot of that otherwise.

I can clearly see because of my recordings how time has passed, how my life has changed. I can track where I’ve been to see how I got where I am now.

We all need to know where we’ve been to understand where we are.

I journal and blog and date all the creative work I do.

How do you remember?

Newly Vegetarian: My First Week

For the last week, I haven’t eaten meat. The last time I had meat was for lunch on Monday December 3rd.

I decided to stop eating meat while writing An Informal Discussion of the Ethics of Eating Meat for Over the Invisible Wall. My research included an article about fish and fishing and a video of a vegan’s thought-provoking speech on eating meat. I did more research on the meat industry.

Monday night and Tuesday I hadn’t fully committed. I thought I would try it or eat a lot less meat. I was eating vegetarian, but thought I would eat meat Wednesday night. I managed to abstain from meat, including bacon. Bacon was the biggest temptation. My grandma offered me bacon on Monday and my parents made bacon on Tuesday. I almost caved. Almost.

Wednesday I thought I’d have a small amount of meat for dinner. I was ready to commit to eating significantly less meat, but was still debating if I’d have any meat. That night I found I didn’t want to eat the chicken. That surprised me. I’d expected it to take longer for me to be disinterested in meat. I was definitely not disinterested in the leftover bacon in the fridge, but I didn’t want the chicken I’d made.

Thursday was harder than anticipated. It was my first day back at work since I’d stopped eating meat. I thought Panera would be easy because there’s a lot of various options. How wrong I was! While making people’s food, I remembered how much I love the chipotle chicken avocado melt and the Cuban panini… and bacon. I was reminded of my love for bacon countless times. I told myself, “Bacon is the enemy,” and laughed at myself for that. I also realized only two of the soups are vegetarian and I don’t really like one of them. I still managed to not order anything with meat.

Friday was the best of the first four days. I had fewer problems with feeling hungry and had an easier time abstaining from meat. I talked with Julianna Carbonare, a member of my Praxis cohort who has been vegetarian and vegan, about my problem with hunger. She suggested that I need more protein, so I made an effort to increase my protein intake. I had eggs twice, for breakfast and lunch. I discovered that the green passion smoothie at Panera is fantastic with basil.

Saturday I had thought out what I’d eat ahead of time. I learned that Culver’s, a burger place, surprisingly has a vegetarian soup and a few salads. At this point, it was already getting easier and feeling more natural to not eat meat. I did not want it, and only craved bacon a few times while at work. I had a better understanding of how much I needed to eat throughout the day to not feel ravenously hungry.

By the end of the week (only a week!) it felt natural. I never thought I would ever be vegetarian, but now I am.

Throughout the week I talked a lot with my friend Justine about food and eating vegetarian. She shared the information she had and suggested some food ideas. At her recommendation, I bought a few vegetarian canned soups from the brand Amy’s. I picked out some other soups while browsing. I made overnight oats Friday night and they lasted through Monday morning. I made protein “cookies” for a portable, filling snack early in the week. That first batch had a grainy texture that didn’t feel like a cookie, but the taste was good. I made another batch Monday morning before work. I didn’t follow a recipe or write down how I made them, just combined ingredients based on my knowledge of baking in general and cookies more specifically. They turned out better this time, but they were a bit crispier than I intended.

I’ve had to be more conscious of what I’m eating and putting in my body. I pay attention to foods that contain protein, because that helps stave off hunger between meals. I did some research to make this easier and now have a list of 36 plants or plant based foods that contain protein.

It’s been difficult starting out, but I feel good about what I’m eating and that I’m not harming animals.

Why I Committed to Daily Blogging

I could have written this post when I started my blog back in July. The reasons for my commitment are the same. Now, though, I have over 140 blog posts since July 2 and over 60 days of daily blogging.

I’ve had times in the past that I committed to daily writing. Every time I eventually missed or skipped a day, and that made it hard to start again. I wasn’t writing publically, but I was writing.

I haven’t let that happen to my blog.

I write every day. I’ve made it non-optional. I am obligated to myself to write a blog post. Every. Single. Day.

The internal motivation is just as important as the results. If you can decide to do something and come through even when it’s just for you, what could you do for others?

I said on Twitter at some point, “I set out to write every day and I stopped doing it. Now I’m going back to that habit. I’m not a writer if I only write when it’s easy.” There will be hardship and trouble. I have to be willing to stand up and push on when that happens.

I have read a lot of writing advice, blogs, books, watched videos, etc. The one piece of advice I’ve seen the most in the last seven years is to write every day.

The best and quickest way to see improvement is to write every day. There’s no way around it. That daily practice applies to other art forms as well.

To demonstrate the improvement, compare my early post Struggling to Organize my Poetry Manuscript to my more recent post Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned. The first is not a great blog post at all, and not great writing either. The second is a better blog post and better writing more generally. I picked those two posts because they are on the same topic, making them easier to contrast.

I’ve made improvement just over the last few months, as you can see. Other Praxians found marked improvement in their writing just from the beginning of the 30 day blogging challenge to the end. This isn’t just my experience, it’s the experience of Praxians and of the authors you know and love.

There were promised benefits of daily writing from the creative writing communities I’ve engaged in. Writers aren’t joking when they say if you want to be a writer you need to write every day. The most frequent complaint is that doing it every day without fail makes it feel like work.

Anyone who is seriously pursuing art will have to work. It is work, it will feel like work, but it is the most rewarding work I have ever done. Anyone who wants to have a shot at making money doing their art probably has to practice every day. The only writer I’ve heard about that made a lot of money and didn’t write every day is F. Scott Fitzgerald. He’s the exception, not the rule.

If you want to be any kind of artist, practice your art!

 

What I’ve experienced:

More inspiration more often — ideas and motivation for writing. Spurts of energy and artistic genius that are fleeting. That’s actually how I started this post. I read the Praxis email welcoming me to Module 3 and just knew, I needed to write about why I committed to daily writing.

Greater ability to write without inspiration. It’s not always bad, but I sometimes go into my blog posts without knowing what I’m going to write about that day. Sometimes I’ll get struck with inspiration, other times I have to fend for myself. It’s harder, but I can, better than before.

More ideas for blog posts and creative writing. By committing to daily writing, I’ve had to find ideas when I didn’t already have any. I’ve drawn on Recap posts for this, but I’ve also set out to write those intentionally. There are so many potential ideas, I just have to find something to unlock a new idea in my mind. Sometimes it’s for a story, other times a post for my blog, or for Over the Invisible Wall. It’s gotten easier to write when I didn’t go in with an idea.

Increased sense of productivity — not because I was being unproductive before or that it allows me to excuse wasting the rest of the day. Writing every day has encouraged me to do more every day. I started blogging daily, I should revamp my daily poetry writing. If I can do that, why don’t I work on other projects every day? It escalates. The more you consistently do every day, the more you can do every day. As soon as I gained some efficiency in daily blogging, I found myself with more time and wanting to write more.

Clearer writing — it’s easier to follow my topics and I’m better at keeping a blog post focused. Instead of ultra-casual topic switching like a conversation with an old friend, I have a focused discussion with the reader on the topic at hand. My recent series on self-publishing is a great example of that. I stay on task, keeping the post exactly where I intend.

Clearer articulation of my thoughts. I can more easily express what I think about a given topic. I had a lot of trepidation, but I wrote and posted Why I’m Not a Christian. I had an on-the-fly, unexpected conversation about religion with a co-worker yesterday. I was able to eschew fear. I’d already publicly shared my position anyway. I’m in the middle of writing a tough post on eating meat for Over the Invisible Wall. I have to write down exactly my line of thought so I can refine it into a cogent argument. It’s hard, but I’m getting there.

 

Some notes on it:

I knew going in that my writing would improve. I’d read about other improvements as well. Now I’ve experienced them. Every experience I read about from other people who did the 30 day blogging challenge had this in common. Without fail, writing every day improved the quality of writing.

I chose to go into an endless daily blogging challenge because I am a writer. I want to turn my passion into my career, and I have to improve as much as possible. I have to treat it as my job even now when I make no money. Sure, I’ve sold 3 copies of my poetry collection, but I spent more self-publishing than I got back from that.

I’m building up my body of work. The more I have made, the more I have to draw on later, and the stronger a signal I send that I can deliver. I write and publish every day. I have some work that took longer to make, and I’m open about how long it took to do it.

I’m teaching myself that I can do it. I’m giving my brain a lot of positive experiences. I wrote a blog post yesterday, I can do it today. I finished my poetry manuscript in two weeks, I can make another poetry collection in that time. The more I do this, the more I can beat imposter syndrome, the more I can conquer harder, more daunting projects.

Practicing my craft every day is the most valuable habit I’ve built recently.

The Nature of Inspiration

For day 50, I started a new series Behind the Scenes to give a look into what inspired my fiction. That post was about The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (that links to part 1/3), my recent novella.

For Praxis this month, not only are we blogging every day, but we are reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It is a collection of short essays on the resistance everyone faces regarding their calling in life, how to beat it, and part three is called “beyond resistance.” After I finish the book I will write a Recap post on the book.

I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration lately, in part because I’m reading The War of Art, but also because of Inside a Writer’s Head and drafting a piece about why I blog every day.

I frequently get random, sudden ideas for a piece of writing, new or in progress — this is what I call inspiration. I have little control over what ideas it gives me or when it presents them.

What I do control is my response. I either accept or reject the idea. Then I either use it, lose it, or record it.

I’ve gotten ideas from shows, movies, video games, advertisements, research, books, short stories, articles, blog posts, conversations, and more. My brain takes the input and says, “Hey, we could use that combined with something else or modified in this way and write about it!” for fiction. Or it says, “We should respond to this, or share this information, or write something combining this with the other information we have on this” for nonfiction.

It can be really messy sometimes. Sometimes I have the skeleton of an idea and no clue how to flesh it out.

Based on my experience, inspiration seems to come from my subconcious working to connect things and when it finally does, it feels sudden and unexpected. Because I’m not conciously working to connect, say, elephants, time travel, and romance, inspiration strikes when my brain does connect them.

Inspiration is usually an idea, but sometimes it is a sudden overwhelming desire to write. It’s a compulsion to sit and pound out words.

I felt this very strongly after the first Praxis Wednesday I attended. We met with Rob Goodman, who co-authored A Mind at Play, a biography about Claude Shannon. I recommend this post from Jimmy Soni, his co-author about their experience writing the book. I was inspired by Claude Shannon’s life and the focus he had on his work. I felt compelled to get to work on my writing.

This is a more infrequent form of inspiration for me, but it does happen.

When I get inspired, I’m infrequently able to write at that exact moment. That or I recognize that I shouldn’t start a new piece of writing yet. I have a lot of stories that are in progress. Too many. So often, when I get a story idea, I shelve it for later on.

Overall inspiration can be complicated and unreliable, but it can also be really helpful when I’m feeling stuck and need new ideas.

Effective Writing Critique

I’ve been part of writing groups, both in person and informally online. The best way to improve your own writing and be able to read it critically is to learn how to critique other people’s writing.

It’s easier to find problems in other people’s writing, because you experience it as the reader rather than the author.

I’ve grown as a writer through working with Justine on Over the Invisible Wall and having a consistent exchange of writing. We’ve been reading and critiquing each other’s work since the beginning. That helps both of us to see what we’re doing right and wrong and point that out to the other person.

This is the blogging month with Praxis, and we write a post and comment on two other people’s posts everday. Not only are we practicing writing itself, but we’re also practicing writing critique.

I’ve made a point of noting places the post I read was confusing or distracting or any other problems that seemed to be in how the post was written.

But I’m not overly critical of the piece, and my approach is important. If I only provide negative feedback, that will bring my cohort down.

I can’t just point out what’s wrong, I also have to point out what’s right and what I like about the post.

Having that positive feedback is not only encouraging, it also makes it easier to take the criticism, to realize that it’s not an attack, but intended to be helpful.

With my experience of giving critique in the past and practicing it now, I’m improving my ability to look at my own work critically. I get quicker at recognizing the problems in my own posts, my own writing, and learn how to fix them.

Writers can’t improve in a vacuum. Writing practice will take you far, but critique can multiply the benefits for you and your fellow writers.

Unrealized Dependence

I thought this morning about how much we rely on electricity and wifi in our day to day lives. Most of how I spend my time is on the computer.

I write on my computer, I talk to people on my computer, I go through the Praxis curriculum on my computer. When there’s no power I can’t do any of those as well. When there’s no wifi I can’t do them at all.

I was going to shower this morning after breakfast. The water was freezing and wouldn’t warm because there was no power. I decided to wait until this evening.

I was going to have tea, but couldn’t heat it in the microwave or on the stove. When the power came back on I eagerly made a cup.

It’s so easy to forget how dependent we are on things we always have. Until they’re gone.