Monday, June 24, 2013

Finding Permanence

Permanence. Legacy. Meaning.

At some point in our lives, we all come to a point where we wonder what mark we've left on the world. What have we contributed to society? How will we be remembered?

The difficult part is eventually coming to the conclusion that at some point in the future, our contribution will be forgotten, no one who remembers us will be alive. So how do we leave a lasting impression when everything we know and do will eventually become obsolete and forgotten?

It's much easier than it sounds.

Step one: realize that people, ideas, and things are impermanent. New people will be born. New ideas will take shape. New things will be made. Your personal permanence will not be found pursuing them.

Step two: recognize that the only permanent thing in this universe is change, flow. No matter how we try to stop it. No matter how much we cling to the past, the future will come to pass. The new will replace the old. Sometimes this will yield productive consequences. Sometimes it won't. But it will happen.

Step three: understand  that you have a role in that flow. Each new person born has a place in the flow of the universe. That place is determined by their individual skills, desires, backgrounds, and opportunity. It is by striving for this place and being willing to allow ourselves to be that person that we find our permanence.

Meaning and legacy and, yes, even permanence, are found in the impermanent, ever-changing landscape of time. Permanence is found in the archetypes, and plenty of them exist for all of us to claim as our own.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Writing What You Know (Part 2)

Last time, I approached the subject of "write what you know" from the perspective of activism. For this post, I want to approach this issue from the perspective of gathering inspiration.

To do that, I'm going to start with a little story.

A few weeks ago, Trevin and I drove six hours to Iowa for a friend's wedding. Despite the awkwardness of meeting new faces and conversing with people who'd been absent for a good amount of time, it was fun. We tried new food and got to watch cable for the first time in at least a year.

Along the way, I learned a few things:

1) Jalepenos provide a perfect balance with tater tots when rapped in bacon and smothered in cheese. This might have become my new favorite junk food.

2) Don't guzzle OJ if you've waited so long to eat that you're feeling jittery. I discovered the body doesn't take to an overflow of food when it's crawling into starvation mode.

3) I'd be fine with living in the suburbs. I've been craving the city life for as long as I can recall, but i discovered living outside the bustle of urban turf and traveling to enjoy its bounty aren't as bad as I'd once thought.

4) Apparently, I have twilight blindness. Bright day and full dark are perfectly fine, but driving at twilight, when the sun hasn't completely left and the headlights come on, is a good way to have an accident.

5) Starers are everywhere. I used to think people only stared when the environment made them feel safe, and thus entitled to do so. I guess hotels are neutral ground.

6) Reuben pizza is a thing. I didn't get to try it, but there's a place in Des Moines that serves a pizza inspired by a reuben sandwich.

But what's the point in all this?

Material is everywhere. It's only a matter of looking around.

Learning is a full time job. Most college students already know this, but it seems once we leave the classroom behind we forget how important acquiring new information can be. This is especially important for creatives. No topic should be considered safe from a curious eye.

- Psychology
- History
- Culture
- Fashion
- Techniques
- Yourself
- Everything

The more you know, the larger the pool of resources you can draw from when creating. Thus, learning increases the diversity of your creative potential.

So: Write what you know, and what you don't know, learn.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing What You Know (Part 1)

Write what you know. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom. But what does it really mean?

I’ve seen plenty of media creators who seem to believe this means you should stick to the formulas you know, despite how harmful those formulas may be. (For an example of this, I can suggest the Tropes vs Women Series )

Considering that many of us have been raised in a culture that claims to “know” that women are less intelligent than men, people of color are more violent than whites, or trans*gendered individuals are just going through a phase, it isn’t surprising that we see these wrong ideas spouted back to us from the media we consume.

Sad, but not surprising.

Part of the reason why marginalization is so widespread is because wrong ideas about individuals who don’t hold privilege have been normalized. In everyday discourse and in media. The insidious thing is that these two sources feed off each other in a circle that requires energy and commitment to overcome.

But that energy sacrifice isn’t impossible to overcome.

As I’ve stated before, the key to rewriting what we “know” is to listen to the groups most affected by these ideas. Listening, truly listening, inevitably instills a sense of understanding in the listener. But that requires us to take the words of our fellow human beings at face value without attempting to validate the information we’re receiving though the lens of our own experiences.

The things each of us has lived through is not the whole of human existence. Recognizing that is the first step to learning.

So writing what you know is only half of the equation. The other is being willing to learn what you don’t.