To Not Sleep, Perchance to Create

Standard

I used to have worse sleeping habits. It’s a side effect of other medication that I can fall asleep pretty well now. When I had insomnia I would mostly just lie in bed at best in an absence of anything – no tiredness, no comfort, nothing but awakeness. At worst it would be related to inexplicable pain in my limbs.

Now, I can usually get 7-8 hours in on weekdays, and on weekends I lie in bed as long as I please, coming in and out of sleep for a couple of hours each morning. Rest is important, as scientific studies confirm and confirm again. But through the posting of thoughts and interactions publicly on the internet, I can see how much is passed around by insomniacs. There’s more to contemplate and more to create outside of a daily schedule. I’m not around when the good things happen, all because I’m getting a healthy sleep.

Beyond posting inane dribble on Twitter, there are the chances to interact with others in constructive dialogue. There’s the surge of ideas that can come with sleep deprivation (or can be the cause of it, chicken/egg) that can be put into action by creating something. I’m missing that time and those conditions in my life.

I’m sure if I were still an insomniac I would be thinking along the lines of Hamlet, with much smaller problems mind you, that I hope death, if not just pure nonexistence, is eternal sleep. In the winter months especially, approaching as the sky stays dark into the start of my mornings, I long for hibernation and sleeping for three months in exchange for longer waking hours for the rest of the year. Despite the obvious benefits to my health, I want to reject the standard schedule of balancing sleep and waking time in favour of extremes.

My thinking is clear, but my ideas are worthless when I’m well-rested and functional. If not the creative process itself, a lack of rest at least instills the delusion that my bullshit deserves to be put out there, that my opinions matter, and that my writing is good.

Advertisements

Theft of Message

Standard

I have written in the past about what it feels like to have my work spread without credit – i.e. stolen. As insignificant as a poorly photoshopped pop culture pun may be, it was still something I did. It was a joke I made – and I probably wasn’t the only one – and put it into visual form. By principle, I argued, I should be tagged as the source.

Something happened to a person I’ve become a huge fan of on Twitter, @jaythenerdkid. A tweet of hers was posted by someone else on Tumblr as a screenshot and reblogged tens of thousands of times. The screenshow included her avatar and Twitter handle – valid citing of the source, not the ideal form, but still not stealing.

Yet, as she’s tweeted about so many times since, other people have posted the exact same thing under their own name on Facebook or Twitter. As her and her friends call these people out on it, they get defensive – it’s just Twitter, saw it somewhere else, lol who cares. The appropriate response would be “I saw it [wherever] and didn’t know where it came from. I’ll delete my tweet and retweet yours.” Or “Sorry, and thanks for letting me know! I’ll add to that with a link to your tweet to give you credit as the author.” Or if you are reluctant to buy into the tweets-are-intellectual-property argument (which is true: see #9), ask “Why is credit so important?” and hear the original writer’s side. Say “Hmm, that’s a perspective I didn’t consider. Thanks for enlightening me to that side of things.” Then go back and credit the original. (She has written many, many tweets about this in the past several days, so read through her timeline for succinctly written points.)

What this may take away from you is people thinking that you are so good at expressing things so well. If you are, you should have enough good written work of your own to demonstrate that. If you’re not, there would be a disconnect in style and discerning eyes will notice and hopefully expose you. If you copy/imitate others so much that it appears through the veil of the internet that you are an insightful writer, you are a fraud and will hopefully never get exposure or amount to anything based on the work that you steal. If you do get exposure, you will be brought down and fall apart.

One of the many, many reasons I hate internet memes is because they are often just the theft of other people’s creative property. They’re not necessarily a violation – they most likely fall under the parody clause of fair use that’s common in most jurisdictions’ copyright laws. But parody still requires accrediting the original source, and if it’s not a well-known creation (as Han Solo is widely known to be property of the Star Wars franchise) it is not implicit in the image itself from whence it originally came. Please do this. Do this with respect. If you’re inspired by something or someone, you will get more discussion and mutual appreciation if you credit the original. You can demonstrate your own wisdom by participating in discussion, not stealing words that aren’t yours. The idea can be shared. You could’ve thought the same thing or said something with the same message. You could’ve cited it and elaborated on it with your additional thoughts.

Everyone can contribute. Some just choose to steal.

Does My Phone Make Me Less Creative?

Standard

Does My Phone Make Me Less Creative?

First, I’ll establish this: the biggest factor in my life that hinders my creative energy is my job. My job is particularly uncreative, only letting me take refuge in my own imagination when it’s slow and nobody’s around. The Tumbleweedtype of tasks I do, the amount of mental energy I dedicate to them, and the time they occupy are all reasons why I don’t doodle like I used to, back in class in university or in crappier jobs in the past. Combined with other general responsibilities like errands and cooking, turning into a financially stable adult has distracted me from creative hobbies more than anything else.

When I do have free time, I don’t have to sit at a table or a desk to check things on the internet, so I’m not in a position conducive to using a pen and paper. My creativity tends to be sparked by boredom, but it takes a certain level to build up before that spark is lit and playing with something on my phone can nip that in the bud to a detriment. There are some ways, then, that being able to use something so easily (although when it malfunctions all the fucking time, not so much) may hinder my creative motivations and quality of anything I do still put out. Fair assessment.

But writing and drawing by hand aren’t the only ways I can be creative. I can get inspired at a keyboard just as much as with a pencil. I used to make comics using Paint (sometimes still do) and lately when sitting at my desktop, the scanner so conveniently attached makes it much less work to doodle and post something somewhere online.

And where do I post this? Mostly on Twitter. Being a short-form medium that’s both an outlet for creativity and a source of information/entertainment, it’s interactive with much more immediate gratification. What other people post can be very inspiring and spark passionate dialogue or silly thoughts or both at the same time. As long as I can contain each segment of a thought in 140 characters, I can put out a lot of inspired pieces of wit. This is (nearly) just as easy on my phone as it is on a computer. The convenience makes it more accessible for me to translate my stream of consciousness into the written word. Are my tweets creative? People can argue this however they like. Are tweets in general creative? It’s a huge sphere of communication; of course some of them are going to be and a lot of them are. People wouldn’t use Twitter for anything less creative than they would want to do if it weren’t around, unless they drew and wrote and painted works of art that they never intended on sharing with anyone – in which case, what would be the original point?

So no, I don’t think my phone makes me less creative. I think it nets positive, even if there are losses out of laziness. That laziness is something I have to take personal responsibility for, but it’s also completely voluntary that I contribute thoughts and ideas and bad drawings to a universally accessible vortex of stuff. For my personal well-being, that there’s an outlet that I can throw terrible and good ideas into at all hours in all places should encourage me to do this more. For the most part, I think it does.

Selfish Thoughts on Remembrance Day

Standard

The Bureaucratic Imagination of a Child

Standard

The other night I ran into (almost literally – I was on my evening jog) a couple of friends and conversation led to the topic of our city being a creative industry hotspot relative to our modest metropolitan population. One of these friends is a graphic designer and the other is an engineer. Since I have an administrative job I assume most creative people (if not most people in general) would consider that to be dreadfully dull and without any chance to use the imagination – as, say, graphic designers or even engineers who generally create by calculation instead of creating by aesthetics. Writers, photographers, architects, and advertisers are some among the many of more creative professions held by people I know. They would probably cringe at the very essence of rigidity and bureaucracy associated with this sector, and think it’s for those who never had imagination as a child, who don’t see the beauty of the forest past the trees or the potential for change and alternatives becoming adopted into a fresh way of seeing and being.

It might surprise some of the people who knew me as a child that I am holding this kind of position, when I wrote a lot and created very elaborate and inventive stories during play time. But I also used to pretend that elementary school was actually a paying job and my bedroom was an apartment (with a communal bathroom, alas, and a lifestyle that required eating out all the time in the restaurant in the lobby that was the family dining room). In high school I expressed my unique individuality by wearing suit jackets and carrying my books in a briefcase. I never accepted the modern employee-employer white collar bureaucracy as a concrete fact of existence, but as a game to play pretend in – a farce, a fantasy world, a game in which people don’t know they’re players.

The other realities of adulthood, with paying rent and bills and having to make my own meals and do my own laundry, have moved some of that sense of absurdity to the back of my mind. I do get wrapped up in the artificial reality of the tertiary sector when I’m in the thick of a problem or even when it’s just the middle of a busy day and both the beginning and end of it are fuzzy concepts. Work time isn’t play time, but that doesn’t remove the theatrical aspect. All the world’s a stage.

What we think of with the term “imaginative person” is the creative type who doesn’t fit standard schedules or procedures or observe traditional rules of dress and conduct. But I dare call this the “conventional creative”. People who think of unique solutions to needs or problems, or suggest innovative ways of change, are not confined to artistic endeavour and most are perfectly competent at structured work as long as they can apply their mind to it. The schism between arts and sciences, creatives and analyticals, that we were socialized into believing in our youth was total bullshit. We all have some overlap of these ways of thinking, or potential in these ways of thinking, spare perhaps people with missing pieces in their brain. Computers in particular are the biggest evidence that there is a bridge between creative vision and logical framework of thinking that is fundamental to both sides.

In a way I am living out my childhood fantasies, and within that I could argue that I’m achieving my dream. Much like my early 20s goals to graduate from university only to get a shitty underqualifying job and live in a shitty apartment, I’m right where I planned to be as long as 20 years ago – an undetectable actor in the grand-scheme theatrical prank of 20th-21st century business. How much more creative and artistic can you get than keeping a straight face?

Squeezing the Ink Out

Standard

I can’t tell if I feel more creative – or rather, write better – with a keyboard or a pen. If I’m writing to share, writing for here, starting with the latter clearly has to end with the former, and transcribing has a meditative zen to it. That’s probably the best way to go. To hell with killing trees.

In university, back when I found both the time and content to write three Live Journal posts a day (the quality of the content reflects the general quality of Live Journal overall), first on paper as I waited in the campus halls for class to start and then typed up either at home or the university computer lab. Technology and its culture have changed a lot since the early aughts and I don’t have the idle time from being hyper-punctual and having to wait for classes. (I’m still early at work every day but my attitude is more along the lines of “Fuck it, let’s get this work done.”)

Writing by hand and then having to physically write it over again is also good for the editing process – even typing something up on a computer away from my main one and sending it via cloud or email is a lazy copy and paste. Typing it straight into WordPress requires thought be put into the content, but honestly the physical setup of that particular computer is not conducive to typing. Poor posture. No flexibility in the distance between keyboard and screen. Couch not very encouraging to working.

Call me old fashioned. Give me puzzled looks for even considering pen and paper anymore. I’m not at the hipster level of dressing like an old fashioned professor and using only Moleskine notebooks with a fountain pen. I’m just my peculiar limbo self – in a void between old school and new generation. I like to have it all. I like to have none. I’m fond of things. I don’t commit.

Those characteristics apply to so many levels of self.

Creative Therapy

Standard

Sometimes you just have to drop what you’re doing and write. Or draw. Or take narcissistic self-portraits. The first two are even possible at work if you have enough isolation around your working area. The last one is also possible at work if you’re a genuine unashamed narcissist oblivious to the personhood of others around you. But that one’s not me.

What is it like for people who work in creative fields? How often do you just want to throw whatever tools you’re using to create something with words or images on the floor and switch to another art form – or even something blandly numerical?

As my basic profile to the right of this post says:

“I work with numbers by day, so to compensate I play with words by night. And photos. And drawings. And sometimes puppies, when I break into other people’s houses.”

But I sometimes can’t wait until night. I need to take a break. Being anti-social, averse to mundane conversation, and having a different lifestyle than the predominant workplace culture that surrounds me, those breaks aren’t spent chatting in the lunch room. They’re spent writing, or drawing, or reading, or crying about my paralysis in any of those things as if writer’s block really mattered in my life. It’s bad enough I have to repress so many of my sexual urges. My creative urges are more fundamental to me as a person. If I can’t put them to use the Doomsday Clock of my own personal sanity clicks a minute forward. I’ll give myself credit and say it moves from 11:45 to 11:46. Others may disagree and say it’s 10 minutes slow, but I think I’m a little bit more reliably stable than the thought of Iran developing nuclear weapons. But I digress; the advance of military technology and the domineering of other nations’ politics by the United States is a subject far from my own personal bouts of inspiration.

…or is it???