Posted in Thoughts on Technology

My Love/Hate Relationship With the Digital Life

iStock_000020654306_SmallSometimes the digital world just doesn’t work for me. The damn remote with its sleek face has created nostalgia for a past that was full of easy to manipulate buttons and knobs. A knob is a deliberate turn. Click. It’s either on or off. A touch screen is fraught with the danger of accidently brushing over something that you don’t want to happen. “No, wait, I didn’t want the DVD player. No, not that, I just wanted cable news. How did I get into Netflix?” All punctuated by a deep exasperated groan.

 Addiction Weary: I’m an addict. I am addicted to 24/7 digital accessibility. In the good old days, the first thing that I used to do in the morning was to read the newspaper and have a cup of tea. The last thing I did before bed was to read a few chapters in a book. Now I am addicted to checking email, texts, Instagram and the dreaded energy suck, Facebook. Even when I don’t post on social media, I feel like a troll, looking into so many lives– a voyeuristic view of other humans–the new millennium version of a nosy neighbor looking out the kitchen window in case the Smiths start fighting again.

The Longing for Human Touch: I liked the days when I called family on the phone, or they called me. I loved when my great niece Nancy Ann would visit from college because there was no Facebook yet, because we didn’t have Internet/email. We met. And I cherish the memories of those visits when we sat face to face on the couch, our shoes off and our feet tucked under us, sharing the dreams and the plans for our lives. Now I have to be content with a “like” or a comment on Facebook which will never be as satisfying as being able to look into her eyes.

Technology Is Eating My Soul: Even with the best of intentions, I can’t seem to ignore my devices for terribly long. I never go anywhere without a phone and a couple of days ago, I was in the middle of the woods when my phone chimed, as sweet little Zen like chime, and I actually pulled it out of my pocket to see who was texting me. Whether I answered the text in that moment or two hours later was not going to impact my life in any way. Note to self: if your going to bring your phone on your hikes (good idea if you’re hiking alone) then turn the ringer off!

 What I Can Live Without: I can live without social media for stretches of time. I am hard pressed to believe that anyone really cares about what I ate for dinner last night. And while photos, replete with captions about hubby, dog and self make me feel like I have a zillion friends, all thrilled with the fact that I just climbed to the top of Mt. Ashland; I notice that articles and blogs over which I have labored get little attention. It takes too much time to read, and isn’t that a sad commentary on the state of things?

Someone reading what I’ve written is a thousand times more important to me than someone glancing at my picture and “liking” it. It’s just that one gets you validated and one gets you ignored. I feel like we all go on autopilot when we’re on social media. We become zombies, seduced by cute, light and irrelevant — the kind of emotionalism that makes advertisers lick their lips and come in for the kill.

I Am So Over Marketing Gurus: Do I really need to promote my self as much as the marketing gurus say, or do I just have to keep writing and keep working at getting better? Will 3,000 “likes” make me a better writer? Probably not. And yet the push for “create content” is the mantra of so many like myself. I don’t just want to create content, I want to write about stuff I actually care about. And with that comes some thoughtfulness, which takes time.

Bah, Humbug?: There are times when I enjoy social media, but I know that it’s not a substitute for the face-to-face connection that I long for in my relationships. There are times, when I appreciate the convenience of having a phone I can carry around with me. Still, constant access to a phone often pulls me away from interactions with live human beings, because I tend to feel important, or maybe I get some kind of chemical surge when I check my phone to see who is trying to reach me.

But I Love My Computer: Every day, I get up and write, so everyday I’m grateful to have a laptop that allows me to type faster, spell check, cut and paste, save drafts and send pages electronically. I’ve never felt a longing for the loud, enormous Correcting Selectric IBM that was once the tool of my craft.

It’s a love/ hate relationship that I have with technology and I don’t think I am alone in this. If you know me and are reading this, in spite of being connected digitally, if you live in my town, just come on by and let’s hang out like we used to before we relied so much on technology to do for us, that which is innate in our own hearts — connect.

What is your relationship to technology? Love it? Hate it? Please share with me in the comments section.



Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Inspire or Perspire, Thoughts From An Old Determined Rookie

istock_000017878764xsmallThere were lots of Facebook messages this birthday. I enjoyed each one of them. It was part of the celebration, a veritable cyberspace party. And, I was surprised when I read that someone thought I was inspiring. Obviously they had just run out of verbs and that was the only one left. But then a couple more people wrote, “You inspire me.” Inspire? Me? Is this because I’m old or because it’s my birthday? It certainly can’t be because of some level of attainment. What is it that I do that inspires you? It got me thinking about where or how I might be inspirational in my life.

My writing journey is pretty inspirational, at least to me. For the past four years, I have been doing what musicians call “woodshedding,” the process of locking yourself in the woodshed and practicing until you can’t stand yourself anymore. That’s what I think it takes to become a good writer, and in my case a good novelist. I probably threw away more than half the words I wrote last year. So, is this what people mean by inspiring? Or is it possibly the definition of crazy? But I digress.

In January of 2016, I signed with my first ever-literary agent, and a really good one too. I thought, piece of cake. She’ll sell my book to a publishing house. My book will be released to thrilling accolades. Tom Hanks will call me and want to do lunch and I will wash, rinse, repeat and move on to my next novel.

It didn’t happen that way.

I’ve spent the past year learning to revise and rewrite my novel so that it is better. During that year there were some members of my writing community who told me “if the agent doesn’t like it this time, you should just stop.” But I couldn’t stop. How can you turn down the advise of someone who has been in the business for thirty years when you’ve just walked through the door? So I slogged away. I wrote, rewrote and revised, painstakingly correcting the rookie mistakes I’d made in my book. By the end of the year I was exhausted, but the last round of revisions finally made the agent’s cut.

I sometimes get frustrated with this culture of instant gratification, quick results and “it’s good enough” mediocrity. I think there is a special place in hell for self-help gurus whose only success criteria is money and things. And while I have never been a particularly patient person, I scoff at promises to write and publish your novel in 90 days, replete with revisions that take us mere mortals six months to a year to complete. What’s the old adage? Anything worth doing, is worth doing well, and I will add to that, to do it well, you need to slow the fuck down. 

And you know what I find really inspiring? The determination to be a viable writer at 65-years-old; making writing a second chapter career and coming face to face almost daily with 30-somethings who can get up earlier than me, write longer than me and have twenty years a head of them to work out the kinks in their craft. That being said, I’ve just started another novel.

Having mulled over the you inspire me comments written on my birthday timeline, I have come to this conclusion: We are all inspired by hard work, tenacity and the striving for personal best, regardless of age or anything else. I will never be a savant. I’m one of those poor schmucks who have to earn every page, every scene, and every chapter that I write. I don’t often get things right the first time, it takes me several. I’ve had to learn to be humble in the face of the competition, become a perpetual student and keep an upbeat attitude of gratitude throughout. Is it the positive attitude juxtaposed to unrelenting hard work that is inspiring to others?

I find deep satisfaction and purposfulness in doing the work of writing to the best of my ability and then pushing myself to do better work. Either I’m a masochist or maybe that narrative is what is inspiring to others.

What’s your take? Do you inspire? Does it happen by accident or is it deliberate? Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Memoirs Of A Telephone Wire

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

Julia’s family was not the first in Elbert to get a telephone, but when they did she was amazed and even proud. It was, for her, a utility– a functional thing that connected her to important news about the family or community. You used it in an emergency. It would have been foolish and wasteful to see the device as something to enhance her social life. There was little time on a farm for such frivolity, and communities were built around the help they gave to one another and not around free time filled with mutual entertainment. Until the day that she died, an old black phone sat on its own table in the living area. Her daughters called her frequently, but she didn’t like to talk on the phone. It was still, in her mind, a device with a purpose and if her daughters wanted to talk, they should come to visit. Julia was born before there were cars, before people had phones. Her life traveled from that to watching a grainy picture of a man walking on the moon on a flickering television screen that underscored the breadth of her experience.

Cleopha was my mother. She used to ride her horse for miles out onto the eastern plains, find a tree and sit in its shade with the horse grazing nearby–surrounded by endless space, the sky stretched tight across the horizon. Once she found a magazine that had blown onto the land and she sat for hours looking at the pages of a modern life that eluded her small Colorado ways. Dreams of cities and dancing with handsome young men clung to the sound of train whistles and the almost imperceptible rumble of the rails in the distance, coaxing the edges of youthful dreams forward. Years later, when I knew her as my mother, someone snapped a photograph: a thin and stylish woman in a cocktail dress, holding a martini glass, smiling at the camera.

She bought me stationary when I was little and taught me to write thank you notes; encouraged me to write her letters when we were apart. When I moved away from home, I would sit on the floor in the hallway of my little apartment and talk to her on a phone that was connected to the wall and would not reach anywhere else. I listened patiently to her scratchy voice from a thousand miles away, as the edges of the life that I dreamed pushed me forward and the tide of her life pulled her back into the sea.

My first love and I called each other and talked on the phone for hours while I walked around the apartment with my extra long phone cord, pouring soda into a glass with the headset cradled between my head and shoulder. It was a princess phone. A phone that rang like a doorbell. I wrote him poetry in silver ink on blue paper and he told me that he had to hold it to the light in just the right way to read the words of my heart.

I was tethered to my world by phones that plugged into the wall; by stationary and stamps; by stacking stereo units proudly displayed on bookshelves made of boards and cinder blocks. I did not long for the open space of my mother’s youth and instead lusted for trips down Pacific Coast highway in the Keith’s Mercedes convertible talking to each other all the way to Santa Barbara.

When I was in my thirties the man who I worked for had a phone installed in his car and it meant that he called the office incessantly, expecting to find me at my desk doing his bidding. It was the end of extended lunches when he was away, or slipping out the door 15 minutes early all because of the damn phone in his car. It was the beginning of the unraveling. No more telephone wires tethering us to desks and walls. In the next few decades I would own computers and lap tops, begin a relationship with the internet, get an email address, purchase cell phones , dip my toes into social media and witness a progression that moved through us  as we all became connected by electronic communication.

On 9/11, final calls were made, last messages spoken into voice mails, the preservation and markers of love, because of technology.  The human story is all about connection and our relationship to one another. You think that a text, a tweet or a voice mail will never take the place of gazing into each other’s eyes or smiling at each others words, that touch is the balance to all of the technology. . .but those messages, those precious messages made with gadgets that had unplugged us from the wall…

Much of my life is about wanting connection, trying to tell the stories with words on a page, with whispers in the night. Thanks to Cleopha, I still love pretty stationary and hand written notes. Thanks to Julia, I’d rather visit in person than talk on the phone. And thanks to Steve Jobs I sit in the early morning hours tapping keys on a laptop that will magically send my stories into an ether meadow, waiting to be picked by someone who is also looking to connect. Oh, brave new world…