I’ve been struggling for quite a while about what to write to reintroduce this blog. I want whatever I post to be the perfect statement of what I want this blog to be.

That’s the problem.

Like many Americans, I am addicted to the notion of perfection, especially with what I create. I want it to be right to my eyes the first time without fail, and as anyone who is honest with themselves knows, it’s just not possible.

Many of my creative undertakings suffer from this malaise. I think about them often and agonize over how I can somehow belt them out perfect in one go. That’s just not possible.

Instead, writing, and all other forms of creative acts, are a process in motion. They take time and most often miss the imagined mark. Yet, that does not mean we should not attempt them or even take the time to expose them to public scrutiny. Criticism is how we grow, and when it comes to philosophy, it is how we craft our thoughts into a better, more cohesive whole.

So, here it is, my first post reintroducing my philosophy blog, Difficult Things, with a post indicating the reason it has been silent for so long. This post is not perfect. My thoughts are not perfect. The blog itself isn’t even perfect. But I have returned to the road of writing about what I think, perfect or not.

My goal here is to present topics that I think about, struggle about, and that I want to develop further as part of honing my own thinking on myself and the world around me. I hope you will join me on that journey and that, along the way, we can grow into something more than we now are.


Can we talk about pocket computers for a bit?

So, here’s the thing… I know most of us think of that digital leash we carry as being a “phone”, and I guess, in some way, because of how it was manufactured, it is in some way a phone. Except, really, it’s not.

I know some people still talk on it, but if you look at the vast majority of what most people do with that thing we call a phone, the fact is it’s really a pocket computer hamstrung by the fact we keep thinking of it as a phone.

We need to stop that.

I know it’s a radical transformation in thinking, but we have these incredibly capable devices, connected to the entire world in multiple ways, yet we insist on continuing to think of it mostly as a more sophisticated version of the thing we had hanging on the wall in the 80s.

It’s not.

In fact, it is so much more than just a phone that calling it that refers to the function that is almost an afterthought compared to all the things it can do. It’s a camera. It’s a GPS. It’s a wireless messaging device. It’s a word processor, game console. video conferencing device, shopping portal…

In fact, it’s a computer. One you carry in your pocket.

If we stopped thinking of this device as a phone and started thinking of it as a computer, I suspect the way the technology would develop would be freed from the fetters of when it was only a phone and become a companion, or maybe even a replacement, for the thing sitting on our desktop or in our backpack; a device geared toward connecting us to the world and allowing us to create in ways we can only imagine right now.

Can we do that? Because I’m ready for it? Are you?


Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Liberty, and Choices

Over the past several weeks, I’ve seen a lot of posts from a lot of people on the idea of shopping on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Online Monday, all all the other money spending days before Christmas that have come to represent our holiday season.

I respect the sentiments of the people who want to salvage holidays and redirect the money spent on those days to other things. I also respect the liberty people exercise when they choose to work and shop on those days. Whether or not I choose to participate is irrelevant to what anyone else decides to do, and everyone should be at liberty to make their own choice.

But understand, that whatever you decide to do, you are making choices. Powerful choices.

You see, the most democratic action any person in the world engages in is how he or she spends money. In spending money, each person decides what, how much, and to whom his or her money should go. That choice reverberates with every person who touches every dollar someone spends and echoes around the world.

I could selfishly try to persuade people to spend money the way I think it should be spent, but the fact is that persuasion is just my opinion. Sure, I think people should shop as locally as possible, select merchants that treat their employees fairly and their customers honestly, and use their money to help their neighborhoods, communities, and states before anything else. But, I realize that opinion is just one among many.

I don’t care all that much if someone does or does not decide to shop on a certain day or a certain place so much as I care whether that person thought through what they were doing before they did it. What I want during this holiday shopping season–and during every other time anyone spends money–is for people to be aware of what their money is doing. As surely as I want people to vote with a full view of the consequences in mind, I want them to spend with the same way of thinking.

I suspect that, if people thought more about how they spent their money before they spent it, the world would look quite a bit different than it does. So, I challenge you: prove me right or prove me wrong. Think about it and be content with your choice.


Writing: NaNoWriMo Preview: Finding the story

One of the questions people who don’t write yet tend to ask people who are already writing is, “Where do you get your ideas?”

Frankly, there is no answer to that question because the process is different for every writer and, at least for me, different for every idea. While I can’t answer that question directly, I can answer it tangentially, and partly by issuing a challenge.

I think one of the things that differentiates people who write from people who don’t is a specific kind of world view. People who write, in my experience, tend to pay a lot of attention to what is going on in the world around them and tend to be–this is even true with fiction writers–realists and pragmatists. I think the source of a lot of writers’ ideas tend to be events happening around them changed through the filter of their own creativity.

Writers tend to achieve this state of realism and pragmatism by being deeply connected to the events of history and of their own times. Writers tend to be the most voracious readers, tend to be deeply involved in politics of one sort or another, and tend to be willing to learn just about anything that happens to come along. In my experience, it is not unusual to find writers who are also engaged in a dozen other pursuits unrelated to writing.

This connectedness serves as the engine for creativity, constantly exposing the writer to new thoughts, new ideas, and new ways of doing things. Inevitably, these new things will periodically create an idea strong enough that it becomes the basis for something the writer will write, mostly because that’s what writers tend to do with such ideas.

So, if you want to find your own ideas, the first step is to get connected. I probably spend 3 t0 4 hours everyday just reading through my regular cycle of weblogs, news sources, and social media connections, and that does not include the books I am reading. Because of the amazing tool of social media, I conduct dozens of conversations a day about things that catch my attention.

I’m guessing, because I’ve never really kept track, that this behavior is good for at least a couple of new ideas a week. Now, most of those ideas die young due to disinterest or lack of follow-through, but I probably commit at least 3 or 4  ideas to some more formal status every month. That’s 36 to 48 ideas a year. Of course, most of those ideas won’t go much further, but a few of them will, and those few ideas that do move forward is what writing is all about.

For a new writer, I recommend carrying a notebook around. Granted, you can use a smartphone or a tablet, but I find that writing ideas by hand adds an extra level of intimacy for new writers that helps them see how their ideas come into being and how they can develop them. Down the road, every writer develops different styles for developing ideas, but everyone has to start somewhere, and the notebook works for a lot of people.

Once a new writer has some ideas captured, he has to think about them. By thinking about them, I mean actively mulling them over in his head kind of thinking. I find that this idea of active thinking is one of the hardest things for most modern people to comprehend and achieve. Most people don’t actively think about things. They feel. They react. They don’t think. If you want to write, you have to learn to think, actively and intensively and extensively. I have sometimes been accused of being lazy or distracted, and I can assure you that what I was doing during those times was thinking.

Finally, once a new writer has developed an idea by thinking about it, he has to act on it, but that action does not have to be good. I can assure you that most of my idea development is crap, but within that crap are the gems from which good stories will come. Frankly, if a writer never puts out the crap, he never gets the gems either.

So, at the end of all of it, I guess ideas come from life and being connected to it. From there, ideas are what the writer does with them.


Read more at my Writing weblog…