Creating Cultural Worlds

Worlds

Have you ever read a book that challenged the way you saw the world and lived your life? I’m quite sure we all have. For me, a good book like that can tend to make me have a whole host of things that I want to start implementing and changing about myself and my life, but it’s just impossible to do it all at once. Sometimes I let it slip and forget about it after awhile.

Yet inevitably, the kind of calling that is derived from the spirit of the book, or the voice of the author (whichever makes more sense to you), just returns to me in very unexpected ways. Sometimes a huge change in my life frees up resources, or gives me a worldview that enables me to start exploring those thought-provoking themes that drew my attention in the first place. Sometimes it’s during the routine of daily living that I am suddenly awakened to the realities described in some long-forgotten perused-through book.

This may lead to my decision to implement certain lifestyle changes or it may not, but to potentially influence another person in this same manner is one of the reasons why I write.

I see writing as an act of creating an entire cultural world. We may be adding onto another’s world, building bits of our own, or creating an entirely new one, but it is a creation that has so much potential to transform.

What do I mean by a cultural world? Well, just like the normal world, a cultural world contains an entire ecosystem of resources and organisms. Say if we decide to learn a new skill, we are drawing from pools of cultural resources that teach us how, when, and even why we perform it. After trying it out, we realize that this method may or may not be good for us; we write a review, a comment, or a blogpost – and add another bit of substance to that pool. We are the organisms that participate in a growing cycle of resources that contribute to that particular cultural act, and through our contributions, we affect other organisms who draw from our resources too. This cyclic activity is reminiscent of how a world works!

Building on that, a world has different continents and ecologies to go with them. Some parts of the world are more pertinent to the “why” of our actions. For instance, blogposts that explore our reasons and intentions, our foundations for living and doing. Other are catered to the emotional side of us (think art blogs, webcomics, poetry… and plain ol’ relationship or heart-centered content!), and it either directly or indirectly influences our emotions towards a particular “world” of being. There are so many parts (perhaps just one more example; the practical side of things – such as wikihows, to-do-lists, efficiency and effectiveness blogs etc.) to a single world, and each part has its own way that we the organisms may relate to the resource pools. For example, we might be more open to just feeling through the heart-centered “continents” of that world, or maybe contributing to it via our own creative work, while the more practical “continent” would demand that we engage more of our minds and bodies by practicing, engaging, and critiquing.

Once again if you’re a bit lost (pardon my idea-rambles!), a world could be something like “Exercise!” and the various continents could be the emotional side, such as motivational videos, pictures of superfit people doing cool things to get us pumping; the practical side, such as how our metabolism works, what kind of exercises are good for building which part of the muscle; the foundational side, such as why we exercise – to look good, to feel good, or to do good (carrying heavy things around, saving kitties from trees, saving people from fires)? Each of these continents have different ecologies which demand different kind of responses from us!

Finally, just like the real world, cultural worlds have habitats and food chains too. We have to learn how to find our own place to dwell in, and how to hunt our food. Say if I’m learning about drumming, I’ll have to know which skill sets I’m looking to improve, and where I could go about to find these resources e.g. youtube to search for bass-drum techniques? Not all videos are going to be effective for me, so I’m going to have to be more selective, and hunt down only the food that I need. It might take a bit of trial and error, but eventually I’ll probably find a couple of tasty ones and pry off the meat till there’s only bones left! After awhile I’ll learn what are the kinds of resources that are really useful to me (it’ll probably change over time), and collectively, it becomes like a habitat to me, a place where I know I can find food easily, and rest safely while digesting all these tasty information.

So… back to writing! In essence when we write, we create ways to think, do and feel that gives others a platform to develop their own, and also resource, nay, an entire world to share in. The very fundamentals of writing itself in fact draws from the cultural worlds of language, and formatting, and idioms. In other words, we are always interconnected. To contribute to somebody’s ability to see the very world around us, and to act in it – that just feels very powerful and connecting indeed; we don’t write into our little bubbles of thought, but it enters into someone else’s reality, pierces through the veil of disconnect, and transforms them either now, or sometime later. Alternatively, they enter into the landscape and atmosphere of our words and begin to inhabit it, growing their own populations of living, breathing ways of seeing, doingand feeling that makes it very much their own as well.

So next time you write, do pause a moment and think of the kind of powers you wield – we are building new worlds here, you and I!

Seeding – A Way to Build Content Reliably

seeds

Having had many false starts in the past to get my blog up and running again, I realized that I kept getting waylaid by the same problem of a lack of energized, stretches of time. Either I’ll have energy to get something written, but it’s just a tiny chunk of time – barely enough to finish anything, or I’ll have an entire stretch but it’s better used recovering my energy instead of bleeding out words on the screen. So I end up with a number of half-written drafts, or nothing at all. I used to never have to bother with this obstacle until school and work started. Travel time, fixed schedules, and multiple objectives fighting for attention in my mind makes it terribly challenging to keep up a consistent habit of word-production.

Yet I am quite sure that there are many writers out there with schedules 10 times crazier than mine, but they manage to freakin’ publish novels (e.g. lawyer, politician, and author, John Grisham). So there must be a way to grow reasonably good content in a consistent manner, busy or not!

Here is a method that’s worked for me thus far: seeding!

What is seeding? Most of us don’t have the luxury of growing our own food. But the concept of farming has lent us timeless metaphors that can empower our productivity. For one, a farmer doesn’t simply plant one seed and wait for it to grow – that’s a gross misuse of land, time, and potential. What farmers do instead, is to scatter many seeds over a large area, letting the ones that do grow flourish in great numbers when they do. Likewise, jotting down idea-seeds in fair enough numbers will give us more avenues of success; I usually start with at least five (too many can choke the ground too).

To create your plot of seeds, get a sheet of paper or empty word-processor page, and turn-off your inner critique (well, not too much, just by a bit will do)! Now, just spit out a couple of potentially valuable ideas, and summarize them under 10 or so words. It’s important to keep it short enough to prevent not get sucked into any single idea, but long enough to remove unnecessary ambiguity and shape your direction. Stop when you have 5 or so seeds (the number depends on your ability to manage and juggle ideas). Voilà, your first plot of seed-ideas!

But sometimes just ideas alone aren’t enough; what I do is to expand each seed, and from there, outline a very basic structure to guide my thinking. These structure-points are also seeds in themselves – their emptiness begs to be filled, the words are content-magnets in your mind, and with enough time for incubation, it will attract the raw material it needs to grow. As you continuously return to these points over time, the empty page tends to fill itself up, guided by your structure-seeds.

So what you can try doing after your initial stages of seeding, is to tease open each of these ideas a bit, and pull out a few areas of interest that you can explore and elaborate upon with regards to each seed-idea. Sometimes the elaborative structure is sequential in nature e.g. first do A, then B, then C. Sometimes it’s thematic in nature e.g. what is seeding? And sometimes it’s a debate e.g. A vs B. There are virtually an endless number of forms that can tickle your fancy; choose one that can carry your idea across most effectively and interestingly.

Whatever it is, these forms are the structure points that you can begin to work with. For instance:

What is seeding?
Explain the need to seed
-qwerty
-uiop
Explain how to seed
-asdf
-ghkj
Elaborate on the mechanics
-zxcv
-bnm

Already you can see that guided structure can inspire you to start building content around it. Just like a seed, you need to give yourself time for the content to grow (unless it’s an idea that’s been in your head for a long while, bursting at the seams for want of expression!), so be patient. You may realize that the day-to-day experiences of your seemingly mundane moments of life may start to become fertile collecting grounds for your seed-ideas. That’s when you need to return to your plot of land and begin jotting down points under your structured form. Behold, they grow!

You may discover by now how reliable these seeds can be. You don’t have to finish your entire writing-piece in one sitting, or return to it only to learn that you’ve forgotten what it was that you initially were excited to write about. With all these structured idea-points written down, you are all primed and ready to write at any time, for as long as the moment affords you; whenever you return, you can just pick off easily from where you begin. No hassle, no undue chunkiness, just streamlined seeds of self-growing inspiration.

The seed-ideas even serve as a form of focus that can channel your thoughts – they frame your perspective and outlook on the world so that you can gleam way more information than you usually would without having these guiding points to help you out. Busy schedule? No problem. These seeds grow almost by themselves; it doesn’t take that much effort to have a quick glance at your idea-outline before starting a busy day. Who knows? By the time you get through that tiring session you might have collected enough raw material to get ’em seeds growing! This can work for blog posts, short stories, novels (with a bit more complexity of course), and whatever your writery-fancies see fit.

So clean the dust off your notebook, and start seeding (:

It’s been awhile ain’t it?

So I’ve been going to school, and trading forex on the side, and heck has it been tiring.

My half-finished novel has been collecting dust somewhere in the cloud servers because I haven’t been writing for about 2 weeks, and frankly, I’m not going to start any time soon. Why? Because I feel that I need to sort out my schedule with school first!

Sometimes life throws you too many curve balls (with the up and down of foreign exchange, you can’t ever expect too many), and you need to have something down before you move other things around, don’t you agree?

But I don’t know. I’m actually pulling this out of my ass, and hoping that I’ll go somewhere with it. All I know is that once I’ve settled my study schedule, I’ll be able to see where it is realistic to squeeze in blocks of writing time. And then, and there, I will do my writing.

Is there a chance I’ll put it off until the end of time? Possibly.  But like the clichéd butterfly love advice – let it go; if it comes back, it’s mine. So that’s what I’ll do exactly, for now at least. Because I’ve got a feeling that this writing thing loves me more than I love it, and when the time’s right, I’ll write again.

Soft Muse of Old

Sit next to me,
soft muse of old,
your voice is ever-young.

Warm my frosted
fingers, without catch for
so, so long,
wriggling through
all the world’s
word-spun ether,
in search for worthiness –
worthiness that inspires
ink to spill.

Yesterday’s parchment
peel dry in your absence,
and today’s crumble
in thirst.

Come dip
your genteel feet into
those black pools
and dance upon the sheets-

Until the crusty papyrus
is washed,
until upon it, life itself unfolds
unfettering-

Sit next to me,
soft muse of old,
and be so ever-young.

Fighting for the Dream

When people say that they are fighting for a dream, most would imagine a pro-athelete, training hard on the field so that he would bring his team to glory one day. Or an actress who waits part time while running for auditions at night, so that one day she’ll be big-screen material. Or a team of young entrepreneurs who left their comfort zone to strike it out in the corporate world.

But with the advent of crowd funding and self-publishing material online, a new brand of dream warriors have emerged. These brave souls brandish weapons mightier than swords, and fight monsters greater than the dragons of ancient legends. They hold in their hands a mighty pen, and everyday they fight the beast of Resistance – every word written, every book finished, and every completed story shipped is one dragon slain.

Cristian Mihai is to me one of the most respectable, young dragon slayers out there. He has faced the abyss, braved the resistance, and now paves the way for a whole new generation of writers/publishers to make their mark on the world.

Do visit his campaign page here, and find out more about the struggle of a self-publishing writer here.

Now, I don’t normally publish posts on Sundays, but this is something worth posting about. Once again, I’m not receiving any benefits whatsoever for reviewing this, but I always believe that good things are to be shared 🙂