I’m going to try to keep it short, today, because I want to get back to writing and editing my fiction, especially Solitaire. Apologies if this disappoints anyone.
It’s frustrating how little time I can find in any given day to get done what I want to get done. I doubt that I’m the only one with this lament. And yet, when the weekend comes, I find it hard to force myself to get up and write—or even to get up and edit—first thing in the morning, as is my goal. This was why I decided to write my Iterations of Zero posts on Tuesdays: I found that my intention to write them on Sundays rarely panned out, even when I had something important in mind that I wanted to get out there.
Instead of lancing those intellectual boils I often ended up just letting them fester, and sometimes I lost the urge to address them at all. What happened to the underlying infection in such cases? Perhaps it went the way of all overextended metaphors and faded appropriately into nothingness. Or perhaps it will recrudesce in other places and other times. Maybe that’s a good test of how important such subjects really are to me.
When I used to go out shopping with my kids, and they saw some random item they wanted, I told them say that we would wait a week. If they still wanted the thing—without having to be reminded of it by going past it again—then I would get it for them. If not, then we would consider their desire a momentary impulse, and not worth the money.
This worked out pretty well. They didn’t feel absolutely stonewalled; I wasn’t saying that they couldn’t have this thing that they thought they wanted. There was no angst such as might be present if I’d just said, “You aren’t getting that. Full stop.” But, as will surely come as no surprise, most of the time they forgot about their impulse completely. On those rare occasions when they didn’t forget, I was true to my word (if memory serves).
Maybe that’s a good rule to follow with respect to writing. If I feel a burning urge to comment on some issue—some momentary, outrageous flash in the social media pan, for instance—I should step back and consider well, for a while, what I might want to say. If the topic fades out of my mind after a relatively short time, then it’s probably not that important.
It might even be nice if everyone on social media—and perhaps in all other media—followed this precept.
It boils down to the principle of not feeding the trolls. If some meme or statement on social media arouses your ire and makes you want to comment—especially if your comment doesn’t really add anything new to the conversation—maybe you should count to ten…ten hours, if possible, but at least make it ten minutes. If what you want to say is really important, then you’ll surely still feel the impulse to say it after a mere ten minutes has passed.
This is not to say that, if someone asks some factual question, like “what the heck is a black hole, anyway?” and you think you know the answer well enough to satisfy them, that you should wait to reply. But if you see some post riddled with emotionally provocative imagery and/or information (especially without any references to confirm the truthfulness of statements made), it might be wise to hold off responding, especially if your response would be something like, “This is why I hate those kind of people,” or “This is why our society is doomed to destruction,” or similar ventings that add nothing to the discourse, but which do encourage people to post more such memes, and make your life a little angrier.
Trolls only have power over you if you give it to them. Real issues, real concerns, real dangers, will not go away if you briefly ignore them. This is one of the great tests of whether something is “real” of not. If you can kick a rock even when you aren’t looking at it, then that rock is really there.
For the time being at least, I’m going to try to follow my own advice. I’ve got three memo sections in my cell phone full of potential topics for discussion, and I’ve already written about some of them. Many are real, legitimate concerns to which I will almost certainly return. But I don’t need to go read through those notes periodically to try to inflame myself anew on their subject matter. As the Tao te Ching says of the Master, “Things arise, and she lets them come; things disappear, and she lets them go.” I’m a long way from being a Master, and I doubt that I have world and time enough to achieve that state, but it’s a target worth keeping in sight.
In the meantime, I’ll try not to feed my internal trolls, and I’ll try not to buy too many impulse items, literally or metaphorically (this is hard for me with books, but I’m getting a little better). I’ll trust that those matters that are truly important will stick with me and will inevitably come out either in my nonfiction or someplace hidden in my fiction.
A subject doesn’t have to be steeped in outrage to be interesting, after all. I’ll try to save my own outrage for situations in which I can’t seem to escape it. Maybe that’ll make me a happier, more light-hearted person. At least it will make me less subject to the whims of trolls, both external and internal. And that has to be a good thing.