Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lucid Living -- Writer's Poke #148

For Writers:

A number of years ago, I discovered lucid dreaming. Basically, you learn how to recognize when you're dreaming, and then you learn how to control your dreams.

At first, I would get so excited just knowing that I was dreaming that I would immediately wake up. But over time, I learned how to curb my enthusiasm so that I could maintain the dream state. 

I had so many good ideas on how I could use my newly-learned powers, but usually I ended up just trying to have sex. Needless to say, I didn't like the fact that my baser instincts from my reptilian brain were winning out, and I soon quit practicing lucid dreaming.

Recently, though, it dawned on me that people shouldn't be worrying about controlling their dream anyway. What we need to practice is something that might be termed "lucid living." 

What would happen if you began each day by saying "I'm alive!"? How might that change the way you fill your day?

"I don't want to earn a living; I want to live." -- Oscar Wilde

Friday, January 9, 2009

Control -- Writer's Poke #147

For Writers:

Our junior high basketball team was going to State, and three busloads of excited kids went to cheer them on to victory. 

During the game, they must have been offering an all-you-can-drink special, because I remember drinking coke after coke. The teachers reminded us to hit the bathroom before we got back on the bus, because the bus would not be stopping for any reason on the four-hour trip home. 

Yes, I used the bathroom before getting on the bus. And no, that didn't save me. About an hour into the trip, I recognized that my bladder was quite full. I felt the bus hit every bump, and the girl sitting next to me noticed that I had suddenly got very quiet, and about five shades whiter than normal. She quickly evacuated to another seat.

Just tell them you need to stop, some of my friends advised, but I knew they weren't going to stop for me. One of my friends even yelled out that if the bus didn't stop, there'd be a mess to clean up later, but the teacher just scoffed and said, "We warned you to use the bathroom before you got on the bus."

Somehow I made it the entire way without pissing myself. I was sitting in the back, but as soon as the bus pulled into the school parking lot, all of the kids waited for me to get off first. Squeezing my legs tightly as I walked, I got in mom's car and asked her to drive to the nearest restroom. A minute later, I was standing in front of the urinal at Dairy Queen, and although I didn't time it, I'm sure I stood there peeing for a solid two minutes.

Have you ever peed your pants, or witnessed someone that has? Describe the circumstances. 

"Happiness is like peeing in your pants, everyone else can see it, but only you can feel the warmth." -- Amanda Goodinson

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How to Ask for Directions in Arkansas -- Writer's Poke #146

For Writers:

Strange things happen to me in Arkansas.

Here's just the latest example: Driving north on I-55, I was almost to the Missouri border when I noticed this Grand Prix speeding up behind me. The driver pulled up along side of me, and he motioned for me to roll down my window. Great, I thought, I must have a flat tire or something.

This is a rather desolate piece of highway, so other thoughts ran through my head, too, such as: Is this guy going to pull a gun on me and try to make me pull over? But fortunately, all the young man wanted was directions. He asked me how far away the Blytheville exit was, and I informed him that we had just passed it a couple of miles back. This conversation, mind you, was happening at 70 miles an hour.

He thanked me for the information, and then I watched as he sped up and exited the Interstate at the next available off ramp.

What is the weirdest (or most memorable) incident that has ever happened to you while driving?

"You see weird things driving... I never understood log trucks, sometimes you'll be out on the highway, you see two big giant trucks loaded with logs, and they pass each other on the highway... I don't understand it. I mean, if they need logs over there... and they need 'em over there, you'd think a phone call would save 'em a whole lot of trouble." -- Brian Regan

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fill in the Blanks -- Writer's Poke #145

For Writers:

I've always had a fondness for maps. Growing up, I used to study the Rand McNally road atlas for fun. How many kids did that? Without fail, I was always the navigator on any road trip, and I've always had a fascination for seeing new places.

Family road trips generally involved driving hundreds on Interstates. So while I've been to just about every state, I cannot really say that I've seen every state. For example, I've driven through Arkansas many times, but my knowledge doesn't extend much past the I-55 corridor.

And as much as I love maps, it embarrasses me to admit just how little I know about geography. Before moving to Augusta, Georgia, I had no idea which part of the state it was in. Likewise, when I was offered a job in Rochester, Minnesota, I didn't know a thing about southeastern Minnesota. Most people probably recognize Augusta for the Masters and Rochester for Mayo Clinic, but I'm not sure that I even knew that much.

My knowledge of anything outside the United States is even more pathetic. It's often said that every part of the world has been discovered, but if you gave me a globe, I could point out where China is, but there's little that I could actually describe about the blank space within its borders. Does it have mountains, rivers, cities? Of course, but don't ask me to name them.

Think of a place that you've never been. How does your imagination describe it? Now, think about a place that you recently visited for the first time. Was your imaginary portrait of that place even close to being an accurate representation?

"It's not down in any map; true places never are." -- Herman Melville

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Single-tasking -- Writer's Poke #144

For Writers:

For years I wore a size 12 shoe. I always knew that my shoes felt tight, but it wasn't until a shoe salesperson measured my feet and said, "You know, you're actually a 13" that it dawned on me: I should move up a size. My feet have been a lot happier ever since.

That's just one example of how difficult it is to change. We get something in our head, and no matter how uncomfortable we might be, we stick with it, and never consider that change is an option, or even that change is necessary.

Recently, it dawned on me that most people take pride in being multi-taskers. On the surface, multi-taskers seem able to accomplish a lot more because they can fragment their focus to a number of different tasks.

In truth, however, multi-tasking increases stress. And, it's debatable whether or not multi-taskers are more efficient or effective. Just a minor example: for the past few years, I tried to multi-task books, reading five or more at a time. The end result: twenty partially read books stacked on my "to read" shelf.

Most people probably feel compelled to multi-task out of apparent necessity, but a little bit of planning might be all that's required to live a less stressful life. What things in your life would you need to change to live with more focus, still getting everything done that needs to be done?

"Success is focusing the full power of all you are on what you have a burning desire to achieve." -- Wilfred Peterson

Monday, January 5, 2009

Conversations with Satan -- Writer's Poke #143

For Writers:

Some people claim that they've had a conversation with the devil.

Suspending disbelief for just a moment, one has to wonder why anyone would have such a conversation. I mean, can you imagine how awkward that conversation must be? What do you talk about: the weather? Or maybe why the Chicago Cubs have been cursed for all these years? Actually, maybe talking about the Cubs curse would be a good topic. After all, Satan can relate to the idea of being cursed.

I know what you're probably thinking. No one should have a conversation with Satan. Surely to do so would be a sin, no matter what the topic of discussion might be. Then again, even the Bible notes that Jesus and God had conversations with the devil; and both of them, it should be pointed out, could have told Satan to get the hell away, but didn't.

And aren't we supposed to follow their example?

If you could invite Satan over for dinner, what would you talk about? Are there any specific questions you'd like to ask?

"Don't you know there ain't no devil, it's just god when he's drunk." -- Tom Waits

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Words, Words, Words -- Writer's Poke #142

For writers:

I understand the value of deadlines, but what place do deadlines have for the artist?

One writer I know made herself write at least 3,000 words per day. She would say, "I've got three weeks to meet my deadline, so I've got to crank out 60,000 words." On the one hand, I appreciate her effort. She's taken an assignment, and she's broken it down into daily chunks. And assuming she stays on task, she will meet her objective.

The problem I have is this: her objective is quantity, not quality. Seemingly nowhere in her thought process is: "I have to write 3,000 quality words." The objective is just to fill pages, and that's what makes this writer a hack. Her goal isn't to make art, but to make deadlines.

When is it okay to be a sell out? When have you sold out, and did you regret doing so?

"Bad art is a great deal worse than no art at all." -- Oscar Wilde