I have these fifteen minute breaks when I’m working at the library, or when I’m walking the dog around the block when everything could be really boring, or…
I could take a picture.
Often, the inner critic says, “Nobody gives a crap about your picture of El Cerrito on a sunny day or a crow sitting on a telephone pole.”
Au contraire my fine lad!
I posted a picture of El Cerrito on a sunny day this very morning and, randomly, the editor of the El Cerrito Journal retweeted it. I don’t know him, and he doesn’t know me, but we both write for newspapers in the same town. Coincidence? Nope. I shared something I thought was interesting, using Instagram (fun, easy, quick) and someone else appreciated it.
Another thing that is fun to do is look at pictures my friends have taken on the feed (just like a Facebook feed, only with pictures and short text descriptions, and you can link to Twitter and Facebook, BOOM) during their day.
Highlights today were my friend in Australia’s anniversary cupcake, fresh swiss chard growing in her garden, and a priceless picture of her holding a 101-year old woman’s hands.
I’ve read in a couple of places about how, if you get stuck–shucks, Mark Twain advocated this himself–take a break and do something else.
Stuck on getting that writing done? Go take a stroll through the park. Tired of strolling through the park? Play your guitar. Come back to the work and voila. Here, I’ll give you the Mark Twain quote I read this very afternoon, in my writer’s dayplanner (it was on sale. Don’t judge.)
“When Mark Twain found himself blocked in the middle of Tom Sawyer, he had a realization. ‘My tank had run dry. It was empty.’ He set the book aside for (gasp!) two years. ‘And it was then that I made a great discovery, when the tank runs dry, you’ve only to leave it alone, and it will fill up again in the time you were asleep, also while you were at work on other things and are quite unaware that this unconscious and profitable celebration is going on. There was plenty of material now, and the book went on and finished itself without any struggle.”
This was Tom Sawyer, by the way, if you didn’t catch it. The same thing happened for him during Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Another highlight in the picture feed today was the following, of a dystopian street performer with a sign saying, “Fuck semiotics,” taken by Caleb Olson in the subway, from what I gather of his text description, “I’ve seen a lot of things on the L train but this is the strangest by far.”
I can’t even begin to describe how happy this picture makes me. If I had a tumblr account, it would be in my feed.
All this to say that adding the picture-taking element to my life as of late has made me feel more connected to (random) people. Modern times make for lonely times often, but through pictures, words, media, we’re able to share the little things that we seem to have lost, like standing side by side with a friend, pointing at the sunset blasting across the sky in three shades of red and orange, or pointing incredulously at the strange masked street performer maneuvering bizarre-looking stuffed animals in concentric circles.
I was an early adopter of online technology (compared with some of my peers), starting with chat rooms (Prodigy circa 1991) and message boards, moving on to Livejournal, then Myspace and finally settling on Facebook. I railed against Facebook for quite some time, worried that if too many people found me, it would lessen the ability to be myself and would dampen my friendships.
Not true at all. I’ve made more friends and deeper friendships through the aid of Facebook (although I don’t use it as the only means of communicating with my friends). Saying that hurts me a bit, because I was such a snob about it.
“Oh Facebook pshhh, substituting real friendships everywhere,” I would say, as I surreptitiously updated my status on my iPhone.
I did find an article today talking about how Facebook users will perceive you negatively if your posts are too negative, so watch out. Wouldn’t want to have less friends! The horror!
I forget that one of the best parts of being a writer is the research. Quickly jotting down overheard bits of conversation, photographing your surroundings, capitalizing on a recent outrage or tragedy by selling an article on the subject…
I decided the other day, being stuck in an idea generating black hole, that it is of utmost important to read news, articles and stories pertaining to relevant issues and topics. How else to write about something that you’ve only passing knowledge of?
So in honor of our curious street performer, fuck semiotics. Whatever that means. I’m not sure if the street performer has been transported from the set of a new adaptation of Blade Runner, where he plays a bit part in the background, or if he might better belong in a scene from 12 Monkeys, but he makes sense to someone somewhere, if only himself.
Art. Protesting signs and symbols in subway tunnels. Making nonsense interesting every day.