Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lost art of conversation, or just eye contact?

How could the great sc-fi writers of the 60s and 70s (and even the 80s) have known how prevalant cell phone and social networking would become? They sorely underestimated the digital age, that's for sure...

Okay, wait, let's not go into an indirect, fact heavy commentary about this. Let me explain my thoughts with a story.

"Welcome to Story Time, with your host, AR Norris."

A friend and I stood in line at Starbucks, waiting to order our coffee. While we talked my eyes did a cursory scan of the room, and saw a sea of scalps. Blonde, red, burgundy, brunette... heck even one a medium shade of green.

People in line or waiting for their drink orders, groups at tables, couples at the cooshy chairs. Almost everyone had eyes to screen. I pointed this out to my friend and we began "the discussion" about how cellphones and social networking have ruined society.

Yet, as we nagged the topic to death, two teenagers waiting for their drinks caught my attention. One giggled and the other elbow jabbed in return. Watching them, I had a moment of clarity (of sorts).

They both leaned against the counter facing out away from each other. Both of their heads were bent down over their cellphones and fingers typed furiously. But they didn't type at the same time. One would type. The other would laugh, chuckle or smile then type. The first would then facially and/or physically respond before typing. They didn't once look, or share these reactions or expressions with each other.

They were having a conversation same as my friend and I, but nonverbally and without eye contact. My friend reached the order counter and I took another, closer, scan of the room with my new eyes. 

The couple sat doing something similar as the teenagers but by their occasional hot glances and gooey grins it was a more romantic conversation. The group of friends at the table were doing a more complex version and occasionally sharing their screen with the person beside or across from them.

Maybe cell phone and social networking isn't killing our ability to be socially connected, but rather killing the art of face-to-face dialogue.

The digital age may be transforming the way we communicate with each other, not ending it.

Now, I don't know what this means for the future of humanity. It is too early to tell and too new a change to judge in my book.

I do know that we're reaching a tipping point where we'll either continue down this path towards a less direct mode of human interaction, or future generations will turn away and seek the more direct form of human connection.

We've seen both happen to various cultural and social precedants. One example is the children from the 80s and 90s who grew up in the work, work, work, era... becoming the "Latch Key Kids". They felt it, and the absence of family and values behind it. Because of this, as they've grown they've leaned back towards the quality of life over the quantity of life.

With this, though, our technical gadgets continue to change our everyday lives. We haven't pushed back yet. I think it's because it's still too early in the evolution. We haven't hit that proverbial fork in the road.

The scary part for me, who grew up in the pre cell phone/social networking era, is... what will the world at the fork in the road look like?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Just a thought (or two)

I was reading an article this morning about what makes -- or doesn't make -- someone a writer. I love these articles for the most part because it's like a moment of "Writers Unite!"

It was well written and the points were spot on to the traditional stereotypes of a writer from a writer's perspective. I laughed and snorted as the weaknesses and strengths were called out.

Yet, by the time I'd finished I felt oddly disturbed. I couldn't pinpoint it other than this general feeling of shame and discouragement. The feeling was so profound, I was almost embarrased someone would find out I'd read it.

The root cause didn't become clear until I read a post on Facebook later in the morning. A long time friend of mine was calling out a journalist who was basically skinny shaming some music artist for needing a size 0000 or something or another. My friend pretty much summed it up as ridiculous that no matter what body size or type you are, there's going to be individuals out there who will try to shame you into feeling bad about who and/or what you are...

And then it hit me.

This article about writers I'd read earlier in the morning was a shaming of sorts. It basically stated that if you didn't fit these "prestigous" characteristics, you weren't a "real" writer (whatever that means).

Since I hadn't made the cut in their eyes, I believe on the characteristic about not liking a certain part of the writing process, I somehow wasn't a real writer.

I call bullshit. (Sorry to my profanity shy friends.)

So what if a writer thinks about writing more than they actually write? Or they truly hate the editing phase but still do it because it's important to the writing process?

How does that make them any less of a writer? Yes, they probably won't ever earn a full living off it, but who cares? Is that all that writing is about? (No, not in my opinion at least.)

If they get the same amount of joy from the idea and their little bit of writing as those who spend every free moment putting finger to key board, or pen to paper, then that is still an added joy and value to their life.

When did we as the writing community become the judge on quality and value in someone else's life?

It was a slap in the face. It felt the same to me as if somehow the weekend painter was suddenly stripped of their artist title just because they weren't painting 40 or 50 hours a week or earning a living off of it.

Can't we just enjoy the community of writers, where no matter your style, dedication or ambition we all enjoy writing on some level or another?

Friday, July 4, 2014

New love affair

*Sigh* I'm beginning a new love affair. It's so beautiful and perfect and shiny.

There's no arguments or maddening formatting, structure, or fact to get in the way of my creative juice. There's no tantrums from the characters.

No, no, my characters are whispering and passing mental notes to me, urging me to outline and create their universe. They're excited to jump in and follow my outline and promise to behave "the whole time".

I know, I know. It won't last. My antagonist already has a diva glint in her eye. My antagonist has chosen a profession I know little to nothing about other than what I've seen in the Indiana Jones movies. That alone will grow into a bitch of a research/detail editing process as Indiana, thought a badass by right, is not really good at his job.

But for now, yes, for now I'm in bliss. I'm in writing heaven and enjoying every wonderful, enjoyable moment.