Things to do instead of write:

The internet is made for lists and self exploration. So if you, too, need just one more reason to procrastinate, read on:

  1. Think about writing.
  2. Read a book about writing.
  3. Oh my! How the dishes have stacked up!
  4. Should probably do some laundry. And sort it. And organize the closet by color, ROYGBIV style.
  5. Fantasize about your long-lost elementary school crush.
  6. Try to find crush on Facebook. Despair that “AJ Foster” is such a common name, and 5th grade was so, so long ago.
  7. Same re: your long-lost middle school crush / science teacher, because “Tom Davis” might as well be John Doe. (Oh, I said it! Weird thing about this situation: He was probably younger in 1997 than I am now. There’s some fun mental territory to explore.)
  8. And since you’re already on Facebook, might as well take time to read that Atlantic article that looked interesting, even though you know it will most likely ignite some liberal rage.
  9. Have a snack. Liberal rage makes you hungry.
  10. Nap.
  11. Snap a photo of your cat, doing same.Jenksie cat nap
  12. Go for a run. Knock off those cobwebs.
  13. Energy! Clean all the things!
  14. Wonder for a minute whether it’s any less annoying and unoriginal to use the phrase “all the things” if one owns and has read Allie Brosh’s book. (No. It’s not.)
  15. Phone home.
  16. Phone a friend.
  17. Wonder for a minute about the fact that these two simple phrases are now ubiquitous pop culture references. Is that something? (No. It’s not.)
  18. Netflix.
  19. Netflix.
  20. Netflix.
  21. Think about writing…

 

There’s no “I” in Thesaurus

I’ll be 30 in 100 days. I know this because I have a countdown widget on my laptop dashboard…and I happened to look at it yesterday while I was using my thesaurus widget, which is also a thing I have. (I think about synonyms more often than I think about my birthday, for what it’s worth.)

I get to spend a significant portion of my workweek thinking about words. Things like:

“What rhymes with ‘fries’?”… (Answer: so many things!)

“How can you say ‘delicious and moist’ without sounding pervy?”… (Answer: you can’t.)

So I spend a lot of time with my thesaurus. And rhyming dictionary. And lists of idioms. I fancy myself a lucky girl.

I hopped on Facebook to say something about this Countdown to 30 milestone today, but I couldn’t come up with anything that I felt was worth saying. Maybe because I’m a little sheepish about it anyway, but also because today so many people are posting some pretty serious things.

Gay friends. Straight friends. I-haven’t-asked-and-they-haven’t-told friends. One friends. Two friends. Red friends. Blue friends.

And I wanted to say something, too, but I wasn’t sure what. I don’t engage in debates on Facebook…religious or political or Thin Mints® vs. Samoas®…I just don’t dig conflict, in general. And so Facebook conflicts tend to go from zero to “BITCH, PLEASE!” too quickly for my taste.

But I want to say something. Here’s what I got: I looked up “marriage” on my thesaurus widget, and one word stood out: union. This issue is so divisive. It feels like the opposite of uniting. Some people in my life, very close-to-me people, probably disagree with me when I say that gay people, straight people, red people, blue people — all people should be able to get married and make a legal commitment to one another and start a family and make a life together if that’s what they want.

C’mon. The jig is up, homophobes. Find a new issue to care so passionately about. There are so, so many.

What I mean to say, in a less divisive way (see?! Zero to “BITCH, PLEASE!” in 2.5 seconds!!), is this: if you look up most anything in the thesaurus, you’ll find  a list of other ways to say that thing. They don’t all look the same or sound the same. Some might even have different meanings to me, depending on what my life experience has taught me about those words.

But their essence is the same. You have to admit that they’re the same-ish.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about people in my 30 years (minus 100 days) of being one, it’s that under all our differences and preferences and protective barriers and bullshit, we are really very much the same-ish.

Even Grumpy Cat is on board. The jig is up.

524082_633519380010852_1922152711_n

This is good writing.

At work I get really excited when a 3-line photo caption says exactly what I want it to say. Not too many words; not too few. Some nugget of info not found in the story. A little extra something to make you say, “hm. I’m glad I read that.”

We live in content. (Even those of you who don’t make content for a living.)
Think about it: emails, blogs, Facebook, magazines, TV, newspapers, papyrus codices and the like…, we absorb a lot of content every day. And how much of it makes you glad that you read it? Probably not a whole lot. Much of web content (and some print, too) seems rushed and spewed and unconsidered. Surrounded by so many sloppy words, I feel more and more how much good writing matters.

A few weeks ago I read a little review of The Mountain Goats’ new album, written by NPR’s Stephen Thompson (who also introduced us to “Lovin’s For Fools” in February, you may recall). His description of the lead singer showed me that well-crafted thoughts aren’t always containable in 140-characters or less.

“Once a wild man whose shouted white-knuckle screeds could barely be contained by the crummy boom boxes on which he recorded them, Darnielle has aged into a singing poet whose words still hit like punches.”

I read this sentence over and over and over. I loved it so much, in fact, that I wanted to tweet it, but it’s too long.

Aha, I said.

Our culture needs NPR (and PBS, and AmeriCorps, and Planned Parenthood, but I digress) for moments like these.

Beauty and truth and wisdom take time. They take resources. They are WORTH IT. They are nourishment. Our culture is truncated without them. I don’t want my mind to inhabit a purely 140-character world.

After the Oscars, I struggled to find original writing on the web. So much blogging is recycled re-reviews…even from good sources. The Week quotes The Atlantic quoting The New York Times in Oscar coverage, and I’m left feeling unfulfilled.

Taking a break from social media is a nice detox for my mind. Resetting my filter for content that matters and content that I can afford to miss. To quote a phrase I no doubt heard once upon a time in youth group: abstinence makes the heart grow fonder.

Dear Facebook & Twitter: I miss you, but I’ll come back soon. And when I do, please just point me toward good writing that’s worth my time. xo