Living in Lonely World

According to some, we live in a well-connected world while being lonelier than ever. Now I obviously haven’t conducted a scientific study to verify such a claim.  All I have are my observations, and from what I’ve seen loneliness seems to be prevalent.

The internet is wonderful.  It opened new forms of communication, new ways to conduct business, and most knowledge is readily available to the masses.  With our ability to stay in touch with everyone, there inevitably comes a downside.  We take it for granted.  We amass friends or followers on our social accounts, but we don’t invest.  We say we are too busy, yet binge watch our favorite TV show for eight hours.

From what I can tell, there is a social apathy that plagues America.  We want friends and crave to be connected, but at the same time few people want to put in the effort.  Yes, with relationships of any sort comes pain.  Humanity is flawed and unfortunately this is one of the many tragic results.  Some people fear the pain that will come, but the pain is only a small portion and is greatly outweighed by the good as long as the relationship is healthy.

Alone we cannot change the social apathy that is running rampant.  We can however change ourselves.  We can choose to try to spend less time invested in virtual “friendship” and instead pick up a phone and set up something to happen in person.  Despite what we tell ourselves, we really aren’t too busy to maintain a few relationships.  We really do need other people (and this is coming from an introvert) because it is how we were made.  We all need to choose to be better and do differently.  Only then will the sickness of loneliness be cured.


You Aren’t a Slave to Your Feelings

Over the last couple years, I’ve heard/read folks say that we cannot control our feelings.  By extension, what’s implied is that we aren’t responsible for who/what we are.

This is true to a degree.  Genetics and upbringing play the biggest roles in how who we are.  Yet, believing that is the end-all is determinism and something I frankly see little evidence for.  After all, people who want to change can and do if they put in the work.  Not every drug addict is killed from drugs.

I do also concede that initial feelings are not always controllable.  As a person who sometimes struggles with anxiety, I know this all too well.  Yet, I also know that what I feel is driven by my thoughts, especially if there are negative feelings that linger for prolonged periods.

The truth is that you and I are responsible for our actions.  It wasn’t our parent’s fault, not the bully’s fault, or anyone else’s no matter what the context is.  Yes, we can and should control our feelings, at minimum manage and reign them in.  As stated above, initial feelings may not always be controllable, but the idea that we are slaves to our feelings and it’s something we cannot help is utterly absurd and untrue.

It is human to struggle with our feelings; it is irresponsible to completely submit to them though.  Yes, you can control your feelings to some extent.  Not only is it possible it is imperative to become a functioning, responsible adult.

This is akin to the idea that we can “fall” in or out of love.  The idea is that love is something that happens to us and isn’t something we can control.  You can’t control who you are attracted to, but who you are in love with is very much a choice.  Love is action.  Love requires people to chose to wish for the best of their spouse and to sacrifice what they want for the other sometimes.  Being in love doesn’t mean a perpetual flood of endorphins.  True love isn’t a feeling, and it is very much something an individual has control over.

No, we aren’t slaves to our feelings.  Believing we are leads to dangerous logical conclusions.  If we aren’t able to control our feelings (which flow from our thoughts) at all then how can we be held responsible for our actions?  The answer is we can’t.  Justice wouldn’t exist.  We aren’t perfect and never will be, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn and change.  Don’t lean into the untruth that we cannot control our feelings; it will lead to devastating effects.

The Power of Nature

There was a time in my life when I didn’t appreciate nature.  I grew up in Minnesota, and sometimes my family would take drives further north to look at the scenery and frankly, I was bored silly.  I didn’t get the appeal of looking at pines and lakes.  Then I entered the first years of adulthood and things changed.  I realized the power and beauty of nature.

Nature has an almost mystical quality about it.  The purity of it triggers something within the human consciousness, planting the seed of inspiration for those with creative spirits.  I realize that not all are able to enjoy the wilderness, especially in urban areas, however it is worth seeking out periodically.

Nature not only inspires creativity but can help with things such as anxiety and depression.  For me, when I have bouts of anxiety, walking in the woods is therapeutic in ways second to none.

So, take time and appreciate the world around you and its natural beauty.  Emerge yourself it it’s beauty and majesty.  Your body and soul will thank you for it, and if you’re creative then there is one more source of inspiration.

Growth Through Change

What is one of the best ways to grow?  Try new things.  Do you want to be better at writing?  Try a new genre, story-length, or style.  People love comfort.  We know intellectually that going beyond our comfort zone is necessary to grow, but we often don’t process that knowledge emotionally.

If you are like me and writing is where your heart lies, then you’ve tirelessly worked to polish your books and blog regularly.  You may have a book or two self-published, but realize that it is even more difficult to break into writing than you imagined.  After spending a few years patiently working at it you realize it’s time to change it up.

Substitute writing for any career choice and apply the same idea.  Many times, change needs to occur.  Some people simply don’t have what it takes to self-publish for example.  That doesn’t mean they cannot write well, but they do not have the savvy marketing abilities.  Outside help is needed in those situations whether the writer seeks a publicist, advice from a friend, or another publishing route.

If you aren’t making much progress in your goals after giving it ample time, don’t despair instead change things up.  Try a new avenue, and don’t give up.  Eventually you will find a formula that works.  Writing is filled with trial-and-error.

The Unexplained: Phantom Calls

*The Unexplained is a weekly series documenting strange and unusual phenomenon that inspire my writing.

It is a bright sunny afternoon, as you sit at your office desk getting work done.  The phone rings, the voice on the other line greets you by name in a merry tone, but that doesn’t alleviate your sudden onset of anxiety.  It is the voice of your deceased mother.  When the confusion clears long enough for you to ask follow up questions, the line goes dead.

There are several reports of people swearing they received calls from dead loved ones.  Those making such claims range from average Joe’s to famous people, notedly author Dean Koontz.  There are several accounts that can be found online from people claiming to have gotten calls from the dead.

phone pic

This phenomenon, like all things paranormal raise questions.  If the dead are communicating, why use a telephone?  Why aren’t more dead people calling to reassure their loved ones?  Is a phone easier for them to utilize?  More importantly, if these are spirits, how do we know they really are deceased loved ones and not something malevolent?

I would hope that I have conveyed that I am open-minded to the topic of the paranormal.  I can believe its possible people got calls from otherworldly beings.  It is also possible that some of these stories are pranks too.  With things like number spoofing and a person with a decent ability to imitate another’s voice, the prank option is a viable explanation for some of these calls.

As I’ve mentioned before, when dealing with the paranormal/supernatural it is impossible to know for sure what you are dealing with and its intentions.  Am I suggesting all these calls are made by demons?  No. I’m simply pointing out that it is impossible to know for certain.  It is known that a tactic demonic forces use is to disguise themselves in order to gain a foothold into someone else’s life.

Stories about receiving phantom calls are interesting and makes one ponder and the possibilities and questions they bring.  What’s important is what YOU think.  Have you received a phantom call or know someone who has?  What do you think they are?


I Don’t Wanna Write!

Do you always feel like writing?  I would guess the answer is the same to the question, “do you always want to eat chocolate?”  There are probably moments where writing is less attractive than others.  Nothing we love doing is appealing 100% of the time.

Some writers have more attraction to the art than others, but there comes a time when we need to put the manuscript, short story, or blog down for a moment and do something else.  If you’re like me and take your craft seriously this might induce guilt.  After all, if we are writers we need to perpetually write, right?  We need to crank out 2,000 words per day no matter the quality, no matter how we feel just to continue to hone our skills.

This is partially true.  As I’ve said before in previous blogs, writing daily, or at least very regularly is key.  Pursuing a goal often means doing something we don’t want to do or don’t feel like doing.  We need to learn how to push through our “I don’t want to do it,” feelings and write anyway.  We cannot wait for inspiration to come to us.  Sometimes what it takes to find inspiration is to open a Word document and start typing.  However, there is a balance to that idea.  Someone who has found motivation and regularly writes can take a break, even if that’s for an entire day.

The problem with taking writing breaks only comes when the break is extensive, and the writer is waiting weeks or longer for inspiration to just magically arrive.  If you claim to have “writer’s block” for six months, for example, then it’s more likely writing isn’t as big of a passion as you tell yourself (and that’s okay).

Days or moments will come when you just don’t have it in you to write much or at all.  Sometimes a manuscript needs to breathe, and it helps if we come back to it the next day.  If you need a break, take one, there is nothing wrong with that.  This is especially true if you’ve already learned the discipline of writing when you don’t feel like it.  Honestly, you are the best judge of when you should or shouldn’t write (again within the context of one who is disciplined).

Make “Someday” Today

Do you have a goal, yet tell yourself “someday?”  As the days and years go by you still cling on to the “someday” but never make any real progress.  Using writing as an example because it’s something I can relate to, many people I’ve met who say they like to write never finish a manuscript.  This is something that applies to any goal or passion.  We need to stop telling yourselves “One day it will happen.” Instead we need to work toward making it so.

I understand not everyone has the time to sit and write for hours on end every day.  This is a fact of adulthood, however if you want to one day get published, you have to persevere.  This includes finishing the first draft, revising, editing, and marketing.  Otherwise in the end the “someday” will never happen.  Perhaps deep down that’s what you want, we all go through that in some areas of our lives.  Yet, we let fear controls us.

It’s important for us to look at what we really want in life and do something about it.  If I only wrote a few times a year and had an unfinished manuscript, can I really say I’m a writer?  Can I say that I’m working toward something?  If I want to do it, I will work on it.  It’s that simple.

Do you want to lose weight?  Do something about it, even small steps such as eating fruit instead of cookies for dessert. The point is to grow and progress and learn.  No one loses weight overnight and no one attains their writing goals in a day either.  Sometimes we need a “cheat” day in order to relax or eat those cookies we held off on.

What you can do is make “someday” happen today by deciding right now to devote a little more time daily to your goal.  If that’s sounds unappealing, then perhaps you don’t want it as much as you tell yourself.

Are Clichés Always Bad?

The first topics I started blogging about were clichés.  As a young and idealistic writer, I saw them as bad things that should be avoided at all cost.  Now with a couple years of age and experience under my belt I don’t approach the topic as black and white anymore.  I still stand by the fact that storytellers should be as original as possible and that too many clichés detract from a work and end up making it boring.  I was thinking today, many things that happen to us in life could be considered “clichéd.”

Have you ever watched a paranormal documentary?  If so, you will start to pick up several key similarities between stories.  All of them from a storytelling perspective are clichéd.  However, it is that consistency that lends any credibility to their stories.  If we are to write ghost stories then, in order to make them believable we should model them after those that supposedly happened.

Do you have irrational and bothersome neighbors?  I have dealt with them in the past.  One neighbor who lived in the apartment across the hall from my family would yell at her boyfriend at 3:00 AM.  When I confronted them, they just blamed the other person and encouraged me to call the cops on each other.

One should try to avoid clichés, but they are impossible to eliminate.  After all, over-common recurrences are what make clichés.  Some things in life are repetitive.  The trick is to not bog down a story with them so that it becomes uninspired.

I Hope Everyone Had a Happy 4th!

I hope my fellow Americans were able to recognize and appreciate the liberties we share yesterday.  We live in a time of revisionist history and all historical figures are controversial, and there is a deep political divide in the country.  However, I hope we can all take a moment to be grateful nonetheless.

The founding fathers of America and those who explored the New World were flawed, in some cases deeply flawed.  Their wrong doings shouldn’t be forgotten, but neither should what they accomplished.  A balanced approach is sorely lacking in these times.  Historical context should always be used to frame these figures.

We should keep in mind while judging the founders that we Americans are benefitting from the fruits of their labor.  We did nothing to contribute to the creation of our Republic, one which offers freedoms that most places do not have, and some freedoms not anywhere else in the world.

Some reading this might think, “Well what about what this or that founder did?  They were racists!” That may be true, and racism is never okay, yet again we should keep in mind (again) that we are benefiting from their sacrifices.  These men were not gods and as a result were like you and me, flawed.  We all have done, currently do, and will do, unsavory to downright evil things.  You may not have been a slave holder, but you have done something despicable in your life at some point though.

The political divide has grown so much that appreciating our freedom is seen by some to be only an Ultra-Conservative thing.  This is tragic.  Gratitude doesn’t require any sort of political view.  It requires humility and reason.  So, if you haven’t already, take some time and be thankful you live in the land of liberty.  America isn’t perfect, but no place is, yet we can appreciate many freedoms we have that others don’t.

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