In the past, I've written about a lack of motivation to complete my musical and photographic projects. I don't feel like tracking down those posts, or trying to find posts I may have deleted. But my lack of motivation to get projects done continues, and I feel like I need to declutter my mind in order to do it.
Plenty of people suggest a big thing: delete your social media. I don't want to do that—I talk to my kids through Facebook Messenger and still enjoy posting my photos to Instagram. But I have noticed that I barely use Twitter and Tumblr, and the greatest suck on my time has been scrolling through Instagram, jealously looking at other photographers' work.
So I've started deleting people I follow on Instagram and Twitter, and may do the same with Tumblr one day. If I don't know the person, I might just not follow them. The FOMO, the envy of their curated lives, is just too strong. That envy of all the people I scan past... I feel that may be a severe hindrance to my motivation.
Of course, the real solution is to delete all the social media, or at least to make it inaccessible somehow. I don't want to lose my numerous "jeffnords" handles, but I don't want to spend time glancing at the social media stuff anymore. It's a tough choice.
Yesterday, I stopped following over 1000 accounts on Instagram, largely so I'd decrease the envy that drives me to go there. It's funny how much it seems I post for "likes;" I'm nervous that all my unfollowing will lead to a lack of "likes" for my photos, which does seem to produce a dopamine hit. I really like it when I get some "likes" on my photos.
But it's not real, is it? I've posted over 1500 photos to Instagram, but it's never really lead to anything but more likes. I haven't met many new people exclusively through the app. I know that's because I'm not being a professional photographer or anything, and I don't need to hustle the professionals and models that might lead to more connections. But when a photo doesn't get many likes, I genuinely feel bad, and then I see all the professional stuff and I feel worse.
So maybe it would be a good thing to delete it all and start over, and break out of this addictive cycle that leads me to spend too much time paying attention to Instagram likes. I don't expect likes from any other social media site; Instagram is the only one that seems to really affect me. So do I let it go?
It's tempting. I'm tired of not getting the motivation to finish my work, to make prints, to finish writing and recording songs, because it's too easy to scroll through a feed.
It's sort-of like how typing stuff online isn't political work, how people feel like they've done something political by posting online, but they haven't done anything to change a single policy. For me, with Instagram, I post things and like people's posts, but it doesn't actually help me do anything genuinely creative. It's a stumbling block.
I may have just talked myself into deleting my Instagram presence.
A few weeks ago I attended a networking event where the speaker recommended reading The Artist's Way in order to break out of a creative rut. "It's self-helpy," he said, "and it's a little cheesy, but it just might work for you." So I'm trying it out.
He is correct; it is most certainly a self-help book. But I think it just might work, at least for a little bit, to get me in a creative mindset again.
At the beginning of the book, Julia Cameron the two main methods for replenishing th artistic juices are "Morning Pages" and "Artist Dates." I don't know about the Artist Dates yet, since I haven't participated in one, but she describes them as "a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist. In its most primary form, the artist date is an excursion, a play date that you preplan and defend again all interlopers." I'll try it out this weekend, but I don't know what it will look like.
But I have started the "morning pages," which she describes as "three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning." It's been quite a challenge, even for my first week, but I think it's been beneficial. I mean, I'm writing this right now, right? Considering that I barely posted a thing over the summer, it's pretty nice to pump out a notes in the weblog for once. And chances are that my ability to write during the days starts with the fact that I've started each day with writing.
I've had journals before. I have a few unfinished ones strewn about the apartment. Sometimes I find old journals, read them, and shred or burn them. I know some people say that old journals show "how far you've come" or "how much you've grown," but I tend to only feel humilation from them, shame that I was such a fool. Perhaps if I was happy with where I'm at in life, I'd feel less shame. But my main feeling when I read my about old journals is simple: the person who wrote them is a neurotic, lonely fool whose ideas are not worth the page he wrote them on. So I destroy them.
But these are a little different. I'm writing them on looseleaf paper and I'm not trying to "be deep." I'm just trying to strew it out there. I'm not good at the stream-of-consciousness focus of this writing; I always write in full sentences and paragraphs. But these feel different than the average journals that I've destroyed before. Despite the paragraphs and sentences and semicolons, I don't think I'll have to destroy these.
Simultaneously, I've been seeing a counsellor who wanted me to "write down all the bad things you say about yourself and your life, then put them away for the day so you don't have to think about them all the time." But I couldn't seem to do it; it seemed to be kind-of out of my wheelhoue and flighty. A few years ago, a psychologist had once got me to write down all the things I was angry about, and that seemed to work at that time; this time around, however, the prospect was unappealing to me.
But now, with these "artist pages," I'm doing exactly what the counsellor ordered. And that feels good.
I'll post now and then about my progress with these, but so far it seems like this is the best journalling method I've ever used. So here's to hoping I can create some good stuff out of it.
I don't jive with memes. I remember back when people showed me the "I CAN HAZ CHEEZBURGER" memes a decade ago, but it took me quite a while to "get" them. For a while, I enjoyed them on Facebook or Twitter, but now when I see a meme-like image with a quote on it, I just scroll past it. They're not worth my time or mental investment.
However, my current English 11 class has confronted my habits and bias head-on: they are deeply involved and invested in meme-based thinking. Their quips and inside jokes are largely meme-ish. The class has pushed my mind into deeper thinking about how memes work and why I seem to sluff them off so much. I've found myself saying to the class, "Memes stop deeper thought," or "Memes end a nuanced conversation before we can get to the meat of it," or "Memes put down a flag before you've even reached the field," or "Memes make an in-out group mentality where it's not useful." I don't know if this sort of thinking really works, but it seems like my thoughts coalesce around "Memes stop thought."
While reading the print edition of The Globe and Mail last week, I saw an article that made reference to the following book, Memes and the Future of Pop Culture, by Marcel Danesi. It looks like it's gonna' be a good book.
The article from The Globe and Mail, "Malls, bowling alleys, and the places of our youth are disappearing. Where do we go for a nostalgic place?" by Odessa Paloma Parker, describes part of Danesi's book like this:
Danesi is the author of the recently published book Memes and the Future of Popular Culture, a work that explores how “meme culture” could bring about the end of pop culture – movie theatres, etc. – as we know it; he describes popular culture as “an experiment that may be coming to an end as we shift away from real spaces into virtual spaces.” If you think about what nostalgia means to a millennial, he’s on to something. Ferrao explains that the younger staff at Superflux have a twinge when it comes to older technology, much like she would catching a glimpse of shag carpeting or another symbol of a certain generation’s collective youth. Those even younger, under 20, might not even know how to ascribe a parallel set of emotions to a tangibly familiar place as to an evocative one, as Ferrao has done with the Barbican.
Hm. I wonder, perhaps, if my tendency to dismiss meme-thinking stems from my pop-culture stewardship. As I read the part of Danesi's book that's available through Google Books, I couldn't help but think "I get that," over and over again. But meme culture is something new, something that follows different rules, that exists in a temporal space different from my pop culture conditioning.
The thing is, I have no interest at all at playing with a culture that aims to score points by stopping conversation for a laugh, or for virtue-signalling points. So perhaps I don't belong in meme culture. I look forward to getting a copy of Danesi's book somehow.
And I have yet one more piece of data to support the following statement: I'm old.
I appreciate this article from Education Week, titled "We're teaching consent all wrong,"
The key idea from the article is this:
Instead, researchers and educators offer an alternative: Teach consent as a life skill—not just a sex skill—beginning in early childhood, and begin discussing consent and communication in the context of relationships by 5th or 6th grades, before kids start seriously thinking about sex.
I like this because I see it both as a parent and as a teacher. As a parent, I often see my children test one another's boundaries and do things to one another without the other's consent: one might arbitrarily take control of a video game, or dump leftovers onto someone else's plate at dinner, or drop something in the other's room that they don't want anymore. At school, students take one another's books, or write on one another's pages, or talk to another student when they clearly want some peace and quiet. None of these issues are sexual, but nonetheless they're matters of consent. If someone doesn't want that food, or someone doesn't want you writing on their page, the perpetrator is breaking trust and consent.
One of the issues I've seen in the consent conversation, however, is crossover with other terms: "Bullying," for example, often gets used in situations where no bullying is taking place. Perhaps people are doing things you don't want them to, but they're not inherently bullying the other person. Conflating "nonconsensual" and "bullying" muddies the water too much to be useful. The Venn Diagram crosses over—bullying cannot take place consensually—but they're far from one and the same.
Does a parent bully when they need to get their child to attend a family gathering for example? The child may not want to do it, and the parent may need to coerce them, but it's not quite bullying, not quite a matter of non-consent.
Just as we often conflate non-consensual actions with bullying, we also conflate it with coercion. I think we need to be a little careful about that. Somebody can do something without consent, but also not necessarily participate in coercion. Many non-consent stories, it seems, don't involve coercion as much as they involve terrible communication.
Consent is always complicated. We'd like to think that there are little cues we can take to make it simple, but it's always complex. It's a continual process. It demands good communication. It gets messy as we reiterate it in our memories. Whether in parenting or education or in sexuality, there's always more nuance than any maxim can handle.
So I support the idea of teaching consent as a general life skill. Even when it makes life harder.
For the last few months, paring down my possessions has been on my mind. I've always liked having stuff, and I've always carried a lot of things with me in life. But lately, the sheen seems to be dying away on some of my collecting habits and I actually catch myself thinking to myself, "Maybe that... or that... or that... I don't need it anymore."
A few weeks ago, I went through loads of old documents I'd been carrying with me and I shredded loads of them, saving only the things I thought I might need in the future. I had bought a loveseat a few months ago, but it filled my space too much and I sold it this weekend, not thinking to replace it with anything. I've found myself looking at certain "collectibles" and wondering why I've collected them. What insecurity led me to think these Funko Pop figurines? When will I ever watch these DVDs? When was the last time I looked through these hockey cards? It's a classic list of male-collector stuff.
However, to be honest, these aren't the things that really cause clutter. Most of these collections are sorta' packed away in one way or another. The Funko Pops and DVDs are in drawers; the hockey cards, coin collections, and stuff like that are in bins; the CDs and records are on dedicated shelves; the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 are in bins, waiting for a time when they can have their own dedicated space. These collections, the classic things that would be "easiest" to get rid of, aren't causing the mayhem in my life. And I really enjoy having them in my life for now (except for the Funko Pops. I feel like I really gave in to a consumerist craze to pick those up. I think... I think they need to go.)
My lack of desire to throw things away was a tension in my marriage. I didn't think we had too much stuff, but my ex thought we did. It was a constant battle between us in regards to the messes that would appear in the house, since most of the "stuff" could be linked to me. And I still think back on many of the things we disposed of with a little pain in my heart, mainly because I felt I often had to re-buy the item later on, usually at a lower quality. However, this was largely a matter of the circumstances of how we were raised: she moved around constantly in her childhood, so she got used to disposing of things; I spent the first two decades of my life in the same house, so I expected to put something somewhere and return to it in a couple years if it was useful. It made it so we both looked at the same types of objects with different eyes. And as we moved from house to house, many of those objects never found a tidy place. I still carry some of them with me, and still they haven't found a tidy place.
There are odds and ends, things that I acquired with the intent to use them, but they never found a place: a small television antennae, for example, or my heavy duty rain gear, which I haven't used since I moved into an apartment. There's the seasonal stuff that sometimes goes without use for a season or two: a basketball I bought when I coached basketball in my first year of teaching, for instance, or maybe my squash and tennis racquets. There are things that simply won't be used as long as I live in a rented apartment: decorations for the walls that haven't been mounted since our first house, for example. And all the odds and ends that a junk drawer can handle. Chances are a lot of these things could disappear without me hurting too much for it.
The most discouraging clutter is the stuff that I love, but it doesn't have a space to "belong:" the darkroom equipment, the musical instruments, the tools. These collections of objects are things that bring joy to my life, but in my one-bedroom apartment set up for a family of three, they might as well be clutter. One day, I might have a hobby room for them to belong in, but for now they live in easily accessible, yet cluttery corners of the house: my bass tends to sit beside the stereo; there's an accordion beside a bookshelf; the cameras sit in a tote bins on the makeshift pseudo-pantry shelf. What I'm saying is, the things I love the most, since I want them available, and since they don't have a space of their own, are the things that cause the most untidiness in my living space. What's up with that? What makes that fair?
The zeal to clean up our lives has Capitalist consequences. Some people can make loads of cash off of our desire our simplify our lives. This article describes a television show that capitalizes on it, and programs like Hoarders use shame and disgust to make people feel like they have too much stuff.
But sometimes minimalism, no matter what the gurus tell you, no matter what the meditation apps and Instagram-ready aspirations tell you, is more a product of your class than your state of mind. If you can afford to store all your stuff in the places where they would belong, if you can afford to rebuy things down the line, if you can afford to upsize and downsize as you need to, then you can be happy.
Now that I think of it, though, it's a matter of the space you have. I look at all the "stuff" I have right now and I realize that, if I had a typical three-bedroom place for a three-person family, my home would look barren. I have three people's worth of stuff in a one-bedroom space, and I don't have a storage locker for tools and nicknacks. And I won't be able to afford higher rent any time soon. So I need to come to peace with a bit of the chaos that I already have.
I don't have an aspirationally-friendly home: my bed sits in the living room and there's a wall of Rubbermaid totes. But for me, well, it works.
At the same time, though, there's certainly some junk that can just... go. Maybe even today.
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