Why Do I Write?

I wish I had a full sized Matisse… And a desk… And a quill pen….

Why write?

Why write when you are pretty sure no one is reading?

Why write when it gets stressful to keep pumping out posts?

I ask myself those questions sometimes. It can get crazy trying to manage real life and keep up with a blog (or two or three). Sometimes it’s a strain to come up with ideas about what to write. Sometimes I write a complete dud. I had a friend once who wanted to do a podcast with me, like I have time or energy for that! No, blogging is enough.

But why do I do it?

Once upon a time I wrote poetry. Loads of it. I had enough teenage angst to fuel all kinds of creative output. I was published a few times in some random youth anthologies and school lit mags. It was fun, but with age came a dwindling of talent.

In those days I even wrote songs. A few were recorded by my wife’s (then girlfriend) guitar instructor. He hated me. At least the recordings were okay.

Growing up, I was fairly political. I had tons of opinions. I made bumper stickers for my car, some of which I am now greatly ashamed of. My university had a well-read paper and I put my political thoughts and writing skills into innumerable letters to the editor. Some were published, most were not.

After college I went into a bit of a writing hibernation. I had written so many papers and reports that I was spent. It took several years before I started to write randomly again. It was mostly political, but after some prodding I started my first blog about my exploits as a homesteading parent. It was a short lived blog.

Giving up on the blog, I holed up in writing commentaries on social and political subjects. All of them were saved as Word documents, pointlessly hidden on my hard drive.

Knowing how much I enjoy writing, my wife encouraged me to start a new blog. Thus was born Drip Torch Press. It has not always been an easy thing, but I have tried to stay fairly consistent in posting at least once a week. It’s certainly helpful to have the ability to schedule posts out weeks ahead of time. If you ever notice that the posts have stopped, just know that I died weeks ago.

So why do I do it? The big reason: catharsis. As someone who struggles with anxiety it is imperative that I have an outlet for my jumbled brain. The benefit of having a place to dump my thoughts and collect them into little piles is immeasurable.

Having this project is also a perfect way to increase focus. With anxiety comes a frequently scattered brain. It is healthy to have a place that distracts the mind and focuses it on one thing at a time. Learning how to focus here translates into learning focus elsewhere.

Writing to an audience, big or small, is also an ego boost. If I didn’t have a blog my narcissistic tendencies would probably channel themselves into destructive and annoying habits. At least here the recognition is deserved, not just expected.

And last but not least (until I think of another reason) I write for money. I try to impress people into buying my photos and paintings (it hasn’t worked). I post all of these posts on Steemit, which over the course of a year and a half has allowed me to buy into the cryptocurrency markets. It’s a slow trickle, but a trickle nonetheless.

One day I will be able to buy a cup of coffee and say “I earned this from doing something I love!”

That is the goal…

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Inky Blackness

I’m sorry, is my negativity showing?

Sometimes I lie awake in inky blackness, wondering why I can’t seem to get it right.

Which buttons do I push to get this whole thing to work?

How much do I have to grope around in the night?

Sometimes I wish I was an optimist.

And not just a long term optimist, but one who knows today is OK.

I want to be the optimist who knows he won’t forever be swallowed by a suffocating and inky blackness.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? That’s not a tall order once you are done tackling your anxiety.

Once you kill the thought that everything is not OK. Once you put to death the belief that your needs will not be met.

When those wicked thoughts are in their graves, then comes the optimism, right?

I am optimistically hoping so.

Stop Fearing Your Own Voice

Kids aren’t afraid of their own voice.

I got an email the other day about writing in your own voice. We grow up being told in school how to write, and writing in your own voice is a big no no. You must write through a filter, just like good speakers talk through a filter. I can’t tell you how many “great” speakers truly grate on me with their speech patterns (Hillary Clinton and Obama both have a cadence that runs me up a wall).

It’s much the same with writers, there are some bloggers who I read once and think “never again.” Sometimes it is because they are too long winded. Sometimes it is because they are too stiff and formal, sometimes they are just trying to sound too fluffy for my tastes.

That article really got me thinking though. I filter a lot. (My 12th grade English teacher would kill me for using “a lot.”) I hold back so much out of fear. Mostly fear of the audience and what they might think, but also just fear of really being myself. (And “really”… she really hated that one.)

Whether it is writing or painting or picking a picture to post (don’t get me started on my guitar playing) I hold back. I don’t put my all into anything, I am afraid of it. I am afraid you will see me for what I am. You will see my flaws, my lack of talent, my lack of ability, or my ignorance. I fear that you will chuckle at me or walk away confused by me. I fear you will think I am a fool or a dork or any number of other pejoratives.

Perhaps I am all too aware of my flaws. Knowing them makes it all the more difficult to show my best. I am not the aloof kindergartner who actually believes his recorder playing sounds good (it never sounds good), I am a grown man who knows what he is trying for and exactly how far off the mark he is.

But just because I am not quite on the mark does not mean that I can’t show off my progress. I am getting ever closer to the mark, when I put in the effort. Whether it be in painting, in writing, in taking pictures, in playing music (that one’s in a holding pattern) or any of the dozen or so things I attempt to do in life, I am progressing.

Not sure if better…
Or just a change in style.

I need not fear my own voice or my own hand, for both are bound to improve with exercise.

And neither should you.

Judging A Book

Oh no, it’s that long haired hippie freak and his beard again…

What does your style say about you? Can someone really tell much just by what you wear or what you listen to? What do the various decorations you put on say to the world around you?

I walked into a country western store the other day. Everything in there was country, from the boots to the hats to jeans and the accessories. They even had redneck wine glasses. There was a guy in there with his son and they were both dressed to the hilt with rodeo garb. Needless to say my sandals, t-shirt, and long hair didn’t exactly fit in.

My wife works with a guy covered in tatoos. If you didn’t know him you would probably make an assumption that he has spent a bit of time in prison. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a hard worker who loves his kids.

I crossed paths with two guys in Wal-Mart who could have been drug dealers, but the well put together type. They were nothing but cordial when one of them almost ran into me. Definitely not the kind of reaction I would have expected if I had been judging them by their looks.

Even in church you meet some wiley looking characters. I grew up in a fairly well-to-do area where people dress up for church, and our church at “home” is filled with good-looking, tan, well dressed folks. It was a bit of a culture shock attending a mountain church. Mountain people live in a rough area, and they look the part. People come to church in jeans and graphic tees. They have mullets and scruffy unshaven faces. Some of them even smoke (gasp) in the parking lot. Yet they worship with sincerity and love God with all their hearts.

I love all these folks, from the tatooed characters in Wal-Mart to the well dressed folks in my home church. I may feel very conspicuous around many of them, and they may not always know how to talk to me, but every one of them is a person, created in the image of God, and worthy of love.

When we start judging people or expecting people to be just like us we risk alienating those who most need love. Christians stop spreading the Gospel. Imagine if Christ had avoided some of the people we do.

Now, this doesn’t mean we embrace sin. We shouldn’t be “inclusive” for the sake of political correctness or trying to make our church bankrolls bigger. Outright unrepentant sin should not be accepted by any true church.

But judging people by how they look and by their style is something no one should do.

On Being Boyish Or Girlish

Someone tell my daughter she’s too brave…

Brave, strong, energetic, fierce. What do you picture when you read those words? Rather, who do you picture? I dare say the person in your mind’s eye is a male.

Why?

Likely you have many reasons. Fairy tales, action movies, perhaps you even read the book “Wild At Heart”. We assume men naturally have these characteristics. And that these are positive traits. Men that lack them seem like less of men.

But girls that have them? Do they become less girly? No, quite the contrary: they are well recieved.

We actually value these traditional “male” traits more than traditional “female” traits like humility, quietness, meekness, and delicateness. Characteristics that can be considered “weak” are looked down upon in our “only the strong survive” culture.

We have so over-emphasized self-reliance that any trait that seems dependant on another person, like empathy or compassion, has become a flaw. Femininity, or rather what we have chosen to define as femininity, is weak. To be feminine is to be demure and vain.

Therefore, we are more than willing to accept a “boyish” girl. She is strong and self-reliant. She will not be a burden on our individualistic society. She will contribute to it by being in the workforce and producing independent, strong children (who she will give to the State to educate and raise, but I digress).

We can accept girls who don’t exhibit those traits. After all, they are girls. We can’t expect all but the most exceptional of them to act strong and independent. Girls who aren’t “boyish” are okay. They make good wives to the more “manly” (read: brutish) men out there.

What about boys who don’t exhibit those traits? What about ones who actually exhibit those feminine traits?

We have gotten to the point where it is just assumed they are probably gay. We have actually gone back in history and labeled many historical figures as such. Men who expressed deep love for other men and wrote passionate letters to them (not sexual, just passionate) must have been homosexual. I’ve even read theories that Jesus and John were a couple.

Apparently straight men are incapable of anything other than brutish vulgarity and everything they think, say, or do is basically sexual. If he is brutish and aggressive the man is straight, if he is gentle and passionate (yet restrained) he must be gay. Or at best asexual.

And gay, like feminine, is weak.

Why can girls be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? Because we are phobic of “weakness”, that’s why.

Boyish and Girlish

Oh look, a butterfly, so girly!

My wife sent me a link last week knowing that I would just have to comment. I have written at least three posts about the subject after all. I didn’t ask this exact question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”?

Perhaps that is the wrong question. The more pertinent question is: How do we define what is “boyish” or “girlish”?

The article in question discussed several points like clothing preferences (colors and sparkles) and personality traits like compassionate or caring vs agressive and aloof.

To the first: preferences like these are almost completely cultural. What one culture considers feminine may very well be masculine in another culture. Pink and blue are not inherently gendered. A flashy man is not a less masculine man. There just happens to have been a movement towards dull drab colors on men in our culture over the past 120 years or so. If your son likes rainbows and flash he is not less of a boy for it, he just likes something less boring than the current culture would like him to.

To the second: what makes character traits feminine or masculine? Sure, there are definite hormonal and physical differences between males and females that result in slightly different personalities, but these are hardly universal. And they aren’t even that big of differences when we really look at them. My sons are definitely different from my daughters, but the differences are so subtle I couldn’t tell you if it was gender or simply their personalities.

Why this cultural push to make gentleness and compassion a strictly “female” trait? Why assume that a gentle man is effeminate? Why assume a woman who is strong and courageous is “acting like a man”?

Personally I think we are a culture much too obsessed with sexuality and gender. Since when are people narrowly defined by who they want to have sex with? Since when does gender dictate every character trait and personality quirk?

It’s gotten to the point where people even worry about their sexuality in church. Someone was complaining that worship songs in their church sounded “gay” because they call God “beautiful” or express a sentiment of wanting to be with Jesus. While I could agree that the theology of these types of songs is usually lacking and they are usually set to fru fru tunes it is ignorant just to lay them out as “gay”. Are those sentiments incorrect? Was it “gay” when Jesus washed His disciples feet or when we are told to greet one another with a holy kiss? What is it about expressing love in a gentle fashion that is “gay” or even “unmanly”?

Back to the first question though: Why is it that girls can be “boyish” but boys can’t be “girlish”? For that answer you’ll have to wait for next week.

Hang-Ups

How do you handle your hang-ups?

Kids and hangups? Ha!

What is your biggest hang-up?

For some it’s their body, for others it’s social interaction. Maybe you have bedroom hang-ups, or food hang-ups. I’m sure we are all aware of something that we just can’t quite get over.

But what about unconscious ones?

What hang-ups are lurking in your sub-conscious mind?

I took medications for years for a painful back. Very rarely did they help, and they came with the unpleasant need for blood work every six months or so just to make sure my liver was handling the stress. These days it’s difficult to take even herbal remedies (which I have found to actually work) because somewhere in my mind I am expecting nothing.

Like many people, marriage led to weight gain. I gained over 35 lbs after tying the knot. Diet, lack of exercise, stress, parenthood, there were so many factors it was hard to fix them all. It wasn’t until I switched careers to one that made me work out that I began to see a downward movement in my weight. Even then it took a drastic change in diet to get back to what I was on our wedding day.

Well, guess what my new hang-up became?

Carbs.

I got so good at counting them that I became almost phobic. And when you cut back on carbs you start eating less in general. Which leads to losing more weight than you really wanted to. In the month I have been on this mountain I have lost ten lbs. I am way more active than I am at home and I am sitting at 9,000 ft. My basal metabolism is higher, my activity level is higher, but my calorie intake is lower. I have gone too far.

It is really hard to tell yourself “eat more” when you remember what that extra 35 lbs felt like.

Hang-ups are trained into us. For years my wife suffered debilitating depression, and I adapted my behaviors around hers. I changed my personality, my habits, and my speech. My thought patterns were molded by how I expected her to respond. My very being was changed.

College psychology class was full of boring lectures and seemingly crack-pot ideas about how humans behave. But from what I have observed, people really do react and adapt to stimuli in sometimes bizarre ways.

Now that she is not depressed my brain is having a fit retraining itself to respond properly to her new and different stimuli. I expect her to be one way and act accordingly, but she is so different now my predictions hardly land correct.

There is so much I avoid doing or saying around her, all because of the training my brain endured for eight years. These hang-ups are hardly ever conscious. Like Pavlov’s famous puppies my body and behaviors have simply learned to respond according to what my mind expects.

What do I do with these hang-ups?

Well, the first step is realizing that I have them. As so many of them are subconscious it usually takes a secondary factor (like ten lbs of weight loss) to realize they are there.

Then it takes discipline and concious effort to change the behavior that results from the hang-up. Eat more, eat carbs, eat when you aren’t hungry but know you should. Talk to your wife, tell her what you like about her, pinch her butt, kiss her in public because you want to, ask her to do things you need. Take your medicine, even if you aren’t sure it will work, don’t stop taking it when you discover it does actually work (this will make it stop working, dummy).

You won’t necessarily be able to get rid of the hang-up. It may still lurk somewhere back there, whispering lies, trying to keep you locked up in it. But by changing your behavior, conciously and consistently, you will break it of its power.

How do you handle your hang-ups?