Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Miscellaneous Post #213

I've got a little story I'm working on.

I'm not going to tell you anything about it -- it's not remotely time to start telling anyone what the story is. It's a tiny little embryonic story that still needs a lot of protection. But every time I write on the blog and ignore the existence of the story, I feel like I'm leaving out something important.

There's no prose yet. There are notes, and for now the notes are still roughly generalized -- not much more than a few first bits of framing. Mostly I'm just thinking about it in the scraps of empty time in between other things, in the bath, on the train, while falling asleep. Especially while I'm falling asleep. The abstract consciousness I fall into when parts of my brain have already begun to dream but others are still partly aware has become one of my most productive states. I've sort of passively nurtured an ability to hover in that state over the years, and to exert a certain amount of control while I'm in it. I can recognize and analyze my half-dreaming thoughts, even remember them accurately if I put some will behind it. And for someone like me, who tends to get quickly tangled up in self-criticism and second-guessing, removing my critical functions from the process helps a lot.

The basic idea behind the story is something I pulled up quite consciously in response to something else I read. The cool thing has been how it's begun to fill in during my dreams -- not just once, which has happened a few times before, but night after night. I can tuck myself in at night wondering, "how does X happen?" and if I can hold the question in my mind, that half-dreaming state will quite often start answering it for me. I'll wake up again briefly and think, "oh, right, of course," jot it down, and come back to it the next day.

The rule I gave myself about not worrying what happens to it after it's done has done me a lot of good. Not thinking about whether anyone will ever read it, or like it, giving it (and myself) total permission to suck if that's how it ends up, is something I think I needed badly. Fear of failure always fucks me over if I let myself worry about being judged; simply not giving a shit whether anyone else ever likes it seems to be the main thing that keeps me from smothering it, the way I do with so many other things.

This is the first time in years when creativity has just felt straightforward and fun and good.

It also occurs to me that I'd really like to add some breadth to the things I know. My college education has proven to be useful for exactly fuck-all so far -- which is fine, I'm all in favor of education for its own sake. But if that's the case, then why is there always so much pressure on narrowing the field of expertise? Why are we always learning more and more about less and less? Even at my cross-disciplinary little liberal arts college, the whole last two years were intended to be spent focusing narrowly on one well-defined thesis. It was like going to a buffet, spending one year tasting everything, another nibbling at maybe half a dozen different things, and then spending the next two years eating just the one dish you decided you liked the most. I left with a decent body of knowledge about my subject, but also with a fair amount of regret over all the things I didn't get to taste again.

Why do we always do that to ourselves?

On a similar note, I've been seeing evidence that our society is becoming increasingly autistic. I don't mean that individual people are becoming more autistic -- individually, I expect we're probably about the same as we've always been. But collectively, it seems as though we're becoming more easily obsessed with increasingly narrow, pointless activities. Like this kid who stacks dice, or this kid who stacks cups, and this kid who is a fucking badass with a yoyo. Individually, these kids are probably pretty typical, albeit with an unusual degree of achievement in their own quirky little niche. But I watch them do what they do, and while it's cool, having spent a few minutes on it, I leave feeling like the time I spent watching them was mostly wasted. And then I think about the amount of time they spent getting that fucking good at whatever it is they're so fucking good at, and the mind does begin to reel a bit. So much energy, so much effort spent becoming almost super-humanly good at something so completely, utterly useless.

Which all sounds pretty dickish -- the kids obviously derive pleasure from what they've learned to do, so I'm not about to say they shouldn't do it. And I'm sure that with single-minded dedication like this, these kids are all capable of doing very useful things in the future. There's definitely a place for obsession in human endeavor. But this, like so many other things we do -- obsessive involvement in WoW, for instance, or celebrity worship/torture, or all of reality television -- starts to look awfully similar to the deranged, repetitive, pointless pacing of animals tightly confined in a zoo. Our lives have become so cramped and insular, so devoid of meaningful contact, and our energies so frustrated, that they're erupting weird, obsessive, useless actions.
2:33 AM ::
Amy :: permalink