Sunday, November 13, 2011


I found a wistful story in the New York Times Magazine about a man who ultimately felt compelled to withdraw from Twitter. The writer notes that he accumulated some 25,000 followers, but is there any way to verify the veracity of such a number? And from his description, his tweets were like drive-bys. Did he share useful information? Did he attempt to build something of a community through retweeting, conversations, support others he met and sustain online friendships offline?

I can't tell, because the fellow evidently deleted his account.

Certainly I identify with his one-time obsession.

As in real life, ongoing Twitter engagement takes time, away from other activities. Reading through my follow list I saw people I was interested in enough to include, but gradually it becomes overwhelming, to read all the tweets, never mind the blog posts. And I want to know. At some point, though, I had to stop, or level off. I wasn't getting my work done. Neglected analog relationships and obligations. Slowly trying to reconnect.

Because so many in the Twitterverse, more than I can name or recall, sustained me through particularly difficult times with the messages and examples that I needed to read and hear and read and hear again. This morning there was a thread called #spiritchat, in which I read: "Grateful that the internet brought twitter so that I may share and learn from other spirits across the world." Agreed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My favorite story

This may be my favorite story.

I heard it in January 2010 at a storytelling event held at the Monti in Durham, North Carolina.
Scott Huler, an author of several books, talks about a time when he was "so thoroughly unhappy," "exiled to the state news desk" at the News & Observer. Why was he unhappy? Because journalism, at least what was expected or required of him, moved from telling stories to providing information ("Get statistics and write stories in the passive voice.") Through the experience, closeness with the escaped chimp, and writing the story, he discovers how he needs to change his life. He's just doing his job and doing it, figures out it no longer feeds him. The warmth, the humor, the surprise, the unexpected conclusion, all make it continue to resonate with me. Mixed in are some horrifying aspects, the prospect of an escaped chimp on the loose in Charlotte for a week, the roadside zoo in light of the recent tragedy in Ohio, the chimp biting the cameraman down to the bone, the chimp chain smoking. I forget these shocking details as I feel the storyteller's anger when the newspaper truncates the story which described an amazing day shared by many people. I like his description of how he checks his version of events with what others' experienced, it's a community storytelling, not something he feels possessive about.

What about me? Do I have a cage to break out of, or is it self imposed, like Blake's mind-forg'd manacles? Maybe that's an illusion, as Belle shows us. It's love and service. And gratitude. And doing what's worked before and may work again.

And what about what I call "my story?" An illusion too, maybe, just signifying the parts that I can recall at this moment, forgetting that I'm part of something greater?

Friday, November 4, 2011

OK, computer

When you are writing, do you prefer to use a pen or a computer? (#NaBloPoMo prompt)

I generally type on the computer when I'm writing. It hasn't always been the case. I wonder, yet, if in doing so I hide what I've written, file it away and forget. If I carried a notebook instead, perhaps I would read and reflect more, not to mention capture the little inspirations and thoughts that arise without my knowing it.

I spend most of my day at a computer. I'm trying to break up the consecutive time, at Michele Thebirge's suggestion. From Michele I learned about a meditation timer for the macintosh and downloaded it. When I remember, I activate it, a little chime that gets me away from the repetitive screen staring and typing, pausing and being aware if only for a fraction of a moment (whatever that is.) It's a sharp sound that makes me think of liquid metal or one of those beads rolling in a maze or something like a clock, not like the clapper against an otherwise empty bell.

Mostly I write on and when I reach 750 words I stop, feeling pressed for time or lacking in fortitude, endurance to keep writing. And forget about going back and reading what I wrote before. Maybe you don't forget but I do.

When I was younger, I didn't eagerly learn word processing. Eventually writing out college papers in longhand and then typing them proved to be onerous and editing them as I went using the software saved time considerably. Before that I filled a number of spiral bound notebooks with my daily thoughts. It was as if I was trying to record every event in my life I could think of. And I would become frustrated when the next day came and I hadn't finished telling the story of the previous day. This was especially the case in college when I was more likely to go out drinking rather than write a journal entry. In high school, I had a curfew and journal entries were a welcome way to delay homework.

But I couldn't tell you what I was doing at any time. What I was trying to say or understand. Those notebooks, wherever they are, most likely they are hosts. Fragments echo in my mind that probably have scarcely any connection with the actual events.

I like computers today. Can't imagine doing without one to check email or Facebook or Twitter and follow the resultant links via the browser, but writing something substantial on one, that I can't claim to do.

Maybe I give up too easily, throw up my hands and say I don't know. Something of me prefers the darkness. I read a quote in a library book from the gospel of John, that men preferred the darkness to the light. Maybe so it is with me. I'd rather not get too deeply into whatever it is, avoid the effort of facing the facts and having a choice to solve my problem(s).

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Today's #NaBloPoMo prompt: "Can you listen to music and write? What song did you hear today?"

Often I listen to music and write, or type, I suppose. I shuffle my iTunes library or hit Genius and listen to the same songs over and over again. At first Genius's response was pretty limited; I thought it more appropriately should have been named "Nimrod." Nevertheless, Apple has consistently improved the product.

But right now I'm not listening to anything except the revolving soundtrack in my head. Something's always playing there. Right now it is the last strains of John Fahey's instrumental "Orinda-Moraga." Before that it was Sonic Youth singing a chorus "you better not waste away." Most of the time there's no particular reason for the song. Other times, however, it would be good to keep silent. Why do I have such a hard time being with myself? The iPhone cranks for the duration of the car ride. Wouldn't it be good to listen to a conversation such as in a Podcast? Or nothing? What is a song, anyway, or notes, or sound? (Or silence, thinking of Cage's 4'33 or the prisoner who made a wooden piano and played the silent music on the keys.)

And at the same time, I agree with Jessica, who writes "Music is so important in all of our creative journeys as well as in our own personal soundtrack of life," and she shares a song every Lyrical Friday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Last meal

Sorry to vegan and vegetarian readers. I'm omnivorous. My response to the #NaBloPoMo last meal prompt would be something of the steak or roast beef variety, though I wouldn't turn my nose up at a serious southern barbecue, pork ribs, collards, hoppin john or corn pudding, sweet potatoes, top it off with pecan pie.

My ex and I used to eat at a barbecue purveyor quite regularly when we were young. I'd finish my plate and then I'd finish hers. "Now you get to watch me stuff myself," I'd say between mouthfuls and she'd roll her eyes.

I am prone to gluttony, never been one to pause and enjoy each mouthful, but put as much as possible in as a preventive measure. I'm a greedy person and something of a completist, had to buy all the jazz records in my younger days, want to read all the blogs and everything on the internet today. Must be some kind of anxiety. When will it be enough? When will I be enough?

Fortunately, the day will come, perhaps without my knowing it, when it will be too late, the last meal will be served, I want to believe I would savor it, but that's doubtful.

I haven't reflected about this too much, perhaps as little as I reflect about what I eat. Why do I eat?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The best thing about writing?

Inspired by my friend Rachael, I decided to give the #NaBloPoMo a bash. What is my favorite thing about writing? I love and I hate to write. Maybe my favorite thing is stopping. And then the distance and time, or in the form of time, make what I've written more palatable and even afford me some discovery. What was I thinking? What was I doing? Because lately I've taken scarcely any time for reflection. Twenty years or so ago I kept a journal for a brief time. Some time later, reviewing what I'd written, I was surprised to discover what I'd said, which I don't remember and the book is long gone or packed away.

Thoughts come and go. I can scarcely remember what I was thinking about this morning, although, recalling a dream where I'd put my name to a book that I had not, in actuality, written. A prompt such as this is a gift. I have learned recently or had to learn again that once I have stopped writing, it is hard to begin again. Jacques Barzun in the Modern Researcher remarked that it required the strength of Samson. He also said that unlike the alcoholic who cannot touch a drink again the writer cannot stop for a day.

I have been asked why do I want to write, and I don't have a very good reason. Certainly there is a desire, but I lack compulsion, practice, structure, technique, knowledge of rhetoric, I don't know what I'm doing and I find it hard to answer a simple question. Yet I know that when I don't write, something is missing from my life, there's a longing. It was simple at the age of 6, writing and drawing, about a neighborhood like mine, about events in my life, like the woman I thought was a witch, though maybe that's what an older boy told me. "She's not a witch," my grandfather said, "she just doesn't like people trespassing on her property." I don't remember if it was after or before then I made "No trespassing" signs of my own.

And maybe none of it matters. And maybe it matters to me. I don't know. I do know that by writing it, it is something, whether it is what I thought I was thinking or not.