The trick to cutting back on my social media addiction is to avoid social media. Yes, that’s trite! It’s the sort of facile blurb that graces a thousand self-help books, and I apologize. But it’s a shortcut to a discussion about habits and the way simple, bullheaded repetition can make and break them.
I read a piece by John Scalzi about his difficulties writing since the 2016 election. I get it. Despondency over the state of the world (or one’s own chunk of it) is hard to overcome. We have leaders in government and in all media who are masters at creating distractions from all manner of creative work, much of which is, by nature, formed in sensitive communion with an artist’s inner swirl of thoughts and emotions. We can easily give in because those things are urgent, or terrifying, or ruinous to creation.
I’ve tried to be an inspired writer and artist, creating when I’m ready. But my realization came very late: I might never be ready. If that’s the case, I have to make a decision about the things I say I want to make. It becomes important to take a stand for my creative philosophy: is it better to agonize about making the best things, or just to make things?
I mean, objectively, who knows? The world doesn’t lack for new media. At all. I considered this, and if I should shut up (extending that metaphor to my fingers poking at whatever medium they tend to) and wait to distill the Big Important Thing.
But maybe there is something the world can gain from my tiny offering. I can’t know the difference from this distance. It’s possible no one will know until after I’m gone. It might be nothing. But you know, it could be things I didn’t think were Big Important when I made them.
I was already thinking about the struggle of activism and making, that is, the time sucking angst of the former and the willingness to distract ourselves from the latter. I read an article this morning (on Twitter, of which I’ve got an alarm on my phone to remind me to get off it, so, yes, there are probably myriad posts to come fretting over my surprisingly intense social media addiction) about Pennsylvania Trump supporters who were touting his goals and promises as reasons to vote for him last year. Currently, however, it isn’t the lack of accomplishment or abandoned promises that has lost their support. To the contrary, his hardcore fans (and voters) don’t care about those things. They believe he represents them and their values, and so it doesn’t matter what has changed or been altered in policy or goal.
Regardless of my personal depression over such revelations, the connection between that and my attempt to overcome my own barriers to creation is that passion is an important tool in making things for the world. It drives us toward something. I’m not a fan of positive thinking. Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided comes to mind. It’s okay, no, it’s important to feel your feelings, to own them, no matter what they are.
But in the case of creation, a fire for getting something made because we believe in what we are for might trump (hah?) the anger over what we’re against. Distilled: a fervent stand for something beats a stance against something because there’s a reason out there, and meaning to be found in heading for it. We’re stirred by what we don’t like, there’s no doubt. But without things to like, without things to be for, it’s shouting into the void, empty and impotent.
I’ve been listening to Shearwater’s monumental, epic (and is there any other way to describe any other Shearwater release?) album Jet Plane and Oxbow. It’s an album fraught with distress and fretting about the U.S. and its place in the world. Perhaps more accurately, it’s focused on Americans and our perennial desire to turn inward. The recent election and desire among a large segment of our population to repudiate and reverse course from eight years of (in the eyes of some in the center and on the right, at least) leftward tack is throwing the lyrics of most of the songs into sharp relief against the backdrop of an unabashed move to metaphorically wall up more than our southern border.
It occurs to me that I’ve been misusing my blog, here. I’ve been treating it as some special, or precious, stone upon which to write only the most essential of commandments. That’s probably arrogant. I’m given to flights of fanciful indulgence in social media, which tend to pass before the eyes of friends and followers (usually they’re one and the same) like dandelion seeds. Swoosh. Here and gone in a blink. Blogs are much more interesting to me when they offer glimpses into the minds of their minders. Kottke.org is a lost pastime that I’d much rather try to emulate than any artist’s portfolio page.
But back to the inspiration for this post, my plan was to write my ephemera here, and let other platforms be themselves, in turn. If there’s a long form native to the interwebs, is it not the blog? Long-form journalism had its beginnings in traditional print, as did the essay and even serial photographic reporting. My personal dismay at what I view as an authoritarian turn to the country of my birth led me to sustained bursts of anger, which are often fed by the ability to share outrage and the borrowed outrage of others with one-click speed. But it isn’t very good at exploring or rumination. Outrage is fleeting, and all the quicker when it drops into a swift-running stream of endless blobs of other insistent voices. Some of those are so loud they carry millions of us along with them to amplify the discrete thought of an idle moment between bouts of simply being famous.
There is a deep sincerity to Jonathan Meiburg’s brooding, heartfelt disconsolation. It mirrors what I’ve been feeling for a couple of years, now. I’m simultaneously tired of my country and in love with its land, people, and promise. I despair at its failings and cling to its hope. I’ve been planning to go abroad to grad school, and that may be the best thing for putting all this anxiety in perspective. What if I need to get away from my country to return to it? If I don’t want to, was it mine? Do I belong somewhere else, if anywhere?
Ah, but here’s a link. And here’s hoping I remember to write my ephemera here more.