Blank Screen Blues

There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who don’t.

No, wait. True, but not the bifurcation for which I was searching.

There are two ways to approach a blank computer screen, staring at you, demanding to be filled with information, riveting information, information that will change the lives of readers and the destiny of nations and the course of civilizations: fear or eagerness.

Despite the last sentence above, I see a blank screen as an invitation to dive in and begin creating something, anything. Nature abhors a vacuum. (Much to the dismay of the Orek people, who keep having to replace Mother Nature’s vacuum system almost every week.) I abhor a blank screen.

If you’re the type who sees a blank screen and immediately your fingers begin itching for a keyboard so you can start filling that screen. . . We’re good. You can come back next time. Class dismissed for you. Go out and do something. Get some experience so we can strip mine that little memory, rip it into its constituent engrams and rebuild it into a story worth telling.

It’s the rest of you I want to talk to today. The ones who still are fixated on the whole blank screen sentence up above. Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey, you! Down here. Right.

Breathe.

Breathe.

Good. That’s good. Time to let go of the panic (at least a little bit) and concentrate (at least a little bit) so we can get to writing (at least a full page). (What? You thought I was going to advocate for only writing a little bit? We’ve got a lot to learn about each other, friend.)

So, the idea of a blank screen fills you with fear? Makes you quake in your Joseph Campbell high heels? Makes you tug on that full, manly beard and mumble about doing the dishes? (Hopefully one or the other because Joseph Campbell doesn’t make shoes big enough to fit the beardy types and no one likes to write with sore feet.)

There’s no need to fear a blank screen. The odds are very low that it will bite you or otherwise do you physical harm. The only damage that’s going to be done to you is by you. Or, more accurately, by your poor frightened brain.

People afraid of a blank screen are a little like my oldest son, Sarcasmo (Names changed to protect the not-so-innocent-but-still-likely-to-complain-incessantly) when faced with a roller coaster. He hated the things when he was younger. He would start to build up the idea of the roller coaster in his head until it was some massive monster, barely slapped together with dry chewing gum and goblin spit. Taking him to an amusement park was a waste of money because he was not getting on anything that moved fast or had the possibility of intentional loops.

Until the day he went with friends and they teased him into going on a roller coaster. (I didn’t say they were good friends) Forcing himself to step forward one foot after another, Sarcasmo climbed into the coaster car and prepared for the worst. Which never happened

He later told me he kept expecting to be torn apart, or feel like someone was trying to twist his brain around in his skull. And it never happened. The roller coaster wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d built it up to be in his head.

Now, insert you for Sarcasmo and blank screen for roller coaster. It’s the same deal.BS flag

People will build up the idea of a blank screen so much, they begin to fear it. They begin to fear it because they believe they must produce deathless prose the moment fingers touch keyboard. They must outwrite Shakespeare, out copywrite Don Draper each time they see a blank screen.

That’s a load of . . . bunk. Throwing my bunk stuff flag on this one.

Precision and nigh-perfection come with rewriting. And rewriting. And rewriting some more. Before you can get there, though, you have to write. And that does not have to be perfect. Or pretty. Or even likable. It just needs to be there so you can work on it later.

In fact, let’s make this formal.

You, hereinafter known as “the writer,” are formally given permission to produce sucky first drafts. It’s what you do with the sucky first draft when you’re done that determines your worth as “the writer.”

When faced with a blank screen. . . type. That’s it. Just start typing. It doesn’t matter if it’s any good, or even on point. Just type. Sort of like what I did to start the post. (Which was kept in there as an example that I could point to from down here.) I typed out a stupid joke and that enabled me to get warm and start warming to the topic from there on out.

melting iceThat’s all you have to do.
It doesn’t matter what you type, as long as you begin to type away. Once you’ve got some words, that fear will simply melt away.

Let’s get to it.

First published at Writing Lifea new blog by yours truly that examines how we can use our memories to create compelling personal essays or memoirs.

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All Greek To Me

Η ανεξέταστη ζωή δεν αξίζει να ζει. – Σωκράτης

The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates

The above quote is attributed, as you can probably guess, to the philosopher Socrates. To me, the idea behind his words is that we should all look deeply into our lives and try to determine if we are doing that which makes our lives better. Are we enriching our lives?

Are we living? Are we existing?

And, in this age of social media, are we busy telling anyone about that life?

The idea behind this blog is to work together to understand the best way to produce essays (or tell stories, if you prefer) about your life. I want to work together to craft highly personal stories that still reach out and offer meaning and insight to others reading our words.

Even personal stories aren’t all about me. Or you, for that matter.

So, what do you say? Get to it?

keyboard

The goat? Not a simulation. That, my friends, is a real goat.

 

First published at Writing Lifea new blog by yours truly that examines how we can use our memories to create compelling personal essays or memoirs.

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Notes On The Care And Feeding Of Teenaged Boys In The Wild

In his natural habitat, the teenaged boy is normally a sullen, yet somehow docile creature. He seems bent on quietly sleeping away as much free time as possible.

When spotted outside his designated sleeping area, sometimes known as the Pit of Despair or the Garbage Dump, the teenaged boy typically is attempting to sulk through the larger familial environment, speaking only when forced to do so, interacting to the least extent possible by a physical being, and foraging for food. It is this latter activity, consuming almost as much time as the teenaged boys’ attempt to sleep, which takes up the most time during the day.

It is thought by many, this author most definitely included, that teenaged boys have a hollow leg for storage of foraged foodstuffs. While not evident in most contemporary medical imaging technology, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Don’t test me on this. I mean it!

So, yes. The teenaged boy can use his hollow leg (It is there! It is!) for the majority of his time as a teen. Over time, the hollow space gradually withers away, becoming a vestigial, nearly invisible line between several leg muscles.

This, however, is what happens in the teenaged boys’ natural habitat. Despite their best intentions, family members will astonishingly forget previous experiences with forcing a teenaged boy out of this natural environment and into new, strange places which work against his natural tendencies. In other words, teenaged boys do, on occasion, get taken on vacation.

Often it is not a smooth week during the vacation time.

Some parental units will expect the teenaged boy to show excitement at the prospect of traveling to an exotic destination, there to interact with people different than himself, eat unfamiliar foods and attempt to sleep in beds that do not have mattresses conformed to his shape. These parental units are often the most disappointed following the paying of the cost of travel and accommodation for the vacation.

These parents, as many prefer to be called, face further disappointment if they expect the sullen teenaged boy to rise early, be excited and friendly, then go out and enrich themselves with cultural activities not available in its home range.

The typical teenaged boy will face the prospect of cultural enrichment with all the excitement and anticipation a normal person would have for a blunt-edge, sledhammer-assisted leg amputation.

While the idea of strange food normally is met with loud and repeated calls of, “This stinks! I hate this stuff! Why can’t I have a cheeseburger? Everybody hates me. I’m going to my room. Oh, wait. That’s right. I can’t go to my room, can I? Fine. I’ll just sit here and starve to death in front of you.”

Interestingly, at least interestingly to those not intimately involved, these exact words are repeated on an average of every five minutes while teenaged boys and parental units are sitting in a restaurant. Which is much more persistence than showcased by teenaged boys when forced to do, say, homework.

The frustration level of the parental unit will only increase when the teenaged boy decides that he will continue sleeping as late as he wants, no matter the distraction nor the din of people getting ready around him.However, the author of this paper believes he has come up with a method that could be useful to parental units forced to bring a teenaged boy outside of his natural habitat.

For starters, it is recommended that parental units adjust their expectations before leaving for the trip. Understand that teenaged boys have, at least in front of their parents, one facial expression that seems to be used the majority of the time. Teenaged boys spend a lot of time practicing that expression. However, this author has it on good authority, that actual human emotions do percolate beneath that stone-faced exterior.

Which is good, really, because you’d never know it to simply go by the exterior.

So, once parental units understand that smiling is a thing of the past and the future, but not the present, for teenaged boys, it enables them to move forward with their plans without suffering disappointment, frustration or anger. At least about the lack of a smile.

On a recent trip with his own teenaged boy, this author discovered what seemed to be the key to a successful temporary transplantation of a teenaged boy to a new environment. That key being disinterest. In this case, the author’s own.

Many parental units will pack a vacation chock full of wonderful events, fantastic sites and educational exhibits designed for the teenaged boy to enjoy and find elucidation. When these activities are met with surface disinterest by the teenaged boy, parents suffer.

The key, this author has found, is to use that disinterest to the parents’ advantage. While the teenaged boy insists on sleeping very late indeed, it is possible for the parents to go out into the new environment and seek out those stimuli which he or she enjoys and do so without the constant drag of a sullen teenaged boy.

Then, at a time agreed upon earlier, the parents simply return to the temporary sleeping territory of the teenaged boy and wake him up. As is the case with most wild animals, the first thing that should be done upon waking the teenaged boy is to feed him. This should take place as soon as possible.

Having been out enjoying themselves earlier in the morning, the parents will more easily have found a place that serves food they like and that still serves a breakfast-ish food for the teenaged boy. Once the food has been absorbed and the teenaged boy begins to reapproach what might, on a stretch, be called civility, then it’s time for the joint activity.

This author found that having one activity, outside of meals, per day to perform with the teenaged boy worked out just about right. Mostly because this author made sure there was another activity in the neighborhood of the first. That way, when the first activity was finished, it could be said with the appropriate degree of surprise and incredulity, “Oh, look. It turns out that (fill in the blank of another activity, this one less attractive to the teenaged boy) is right near here. Why don’t we just head over there for a couple of minutes? Wow. Isn’t this lucky?”

Admittedly, the author’s teenaged boy began to look at the author semi-suspiciously after the author repeated the above verbatim four days in a row, but it still had its desired effect. However, this could be something to watch out for on other vacations.

Finally, after the exhausting day’s events (exhausting to a teenager because it normally wouldn’t involve more sleeping or television) are finished, it is time for the next important step.

Once more feeding the teenaged boy. As this normally would be the dinner meal time, it is best to eat at a restaurant that is more filling for the parents. That way, when the teenaged boy begins the evening feeding frenzy a few hours later and begins turning every adult-aged stomach in the vicinity, the parents already will have eaten and can simply put in the earplugs purchased for just this purpose and turn away for the duration.

Oddly, this author found that being earplugged and facing away from his teenaged boy made for a remarkably enjoyable reading experience. As long as the author kept his eyes focused away from the carnage happening near the previously purchased snack foods.

It is hoped that this author’s travails with his teenaged boy can help other parents survive any temporary relocation of their own teenaged boy.

First published: On Charlotte Parent website.

April 14, 2015 8:33 am
Written by: Richard E.D. Jones


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