Monday, August 29, 2016

Create > consume

I've identified several directions for my personal compass (act > think was the first one I wrote about here), and the one I'll highlight today is create > consume.

I've written several times about this topic; it first started seeping into my consciousness at the end of 2014 when I was making resolutions, and has come up again and again—most recently documented on the blog in April with my attempt to go a month without Twitter.
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Monday, August 15, 2016

Calligcast #2: How to become Batman

Episode: How to become Batman
Podcast: Invisibilia

Tonight I listened to the third episode from "Invisibilia"'s first season, which is an awesome NPR podcast about the invisible forces that control human behavior (i.e. ideas, beliefs, assumptions, emotions).

The particular episode I listened to had to do with how others' expectations affect your ability, and featured a neat story about a blind man who can see.

Here's the episode description from the site:
In "How to Become Batman," Alix and Lulu examine the surprising effect that our expectations can have on the people around us. You'll hear how people's expectations can influence how well a rat runs a maze. Plus, the story of a man who is blind and says expectations have helped him see. Yes. See. This journey is not without skeptics.

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[Life list] Riding Segways in Aveyron

Last week Saturday, I headed to Rodez for a visit and canoe outing planned with some Rodez friends that Sunday. When I got to Damien's, we were going to go pick up something to eat—but first he had to make a quick phone call. He was confirming the time for something, and I clearly heard the word "Segway."

What?! Then he said he had a surprise for the afternoon—but, you heard on the phone, right?

Yup, I heard, and boy was I excited.

It's been on my life list (and is now crossed off!) for some time to ride a Segway.

We drove about 40 minutes to Saint-Geniez d'Olt and rode Segways for an hour with the owner of Gyrofun12—Aveyron's first (and only, at this point) Segway tour company—and it was awesome! Completely surpassed any expectations.

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Action vs. thoughts: Getting hung up on what would make the greatest impact

One of the things I struggle with again and again is that my mind seems to always be so concerned with efficiency when I have an idea of something to do.

For example, after some blog reading yesterday, I'm pretty convinced that it would be really good for me to do a 100-day project. Meaning I want to do a 100-day project, but I haven't yet committed to a start date nor what I would do. I did calculate though, that if I start on September 23, 100 days will take me through to December 31. (Here I go again, thinking, thinking, not doing, doing.)

The "project" isn't about making one final product, but rather choosing one action to do every day for 100 days. It celebrates the process, making, and showing up every day.

And there are lots of cool options that I think would bring me closer to the person I want to be. Here are some quick, rough ideas:
  • Meditate 10 minutes
  • Write three morning pages
  • Write a quote in calligraphy; share
  • Create a piece of flash fiction in 10 minutes
  • Make something for English learners
  • Take a walk and take a picture
  • Make a 1-page handwritten -something- and share
  • Ask a certain question to a stranger
  • Create and send a postcard
  • Get rejected (rejection therapy)
  • 2 minutes of confident superman pose + reading affirmations
  • etc.
Plus a whole bunch of others I haven't come up with yet.

And then I get stuck. I wonder:

Which would be the best for me at this point in time?

Which will bring about the greatest results?

If I choose x, what will I be missing out on by not having picked y?

These ideas of "greatest" and "best" make me freeze.

I want to feel good about my choice, to know "yes, that's the one for me"—but there wasn't a single option that jumped out at me right away.

And even though I think all of these things would be beneficial, there's no way I could do all of them each day. I would never even consider that, though, because it goes against the very idea behind the project; it's just one thing, 100 days. I know this single focus is important—that choosing just one thing is a great way to make progress. So I do want to choose an action to do for 100 days.

Logically, I also know that my hesitations are completely ridiculous. I know that no matter which 100-day project I were to pick, if I actually stick to it and do it for 100 days, I will learn something and be a different person on the other side. No matter how small, and no matter which "thing" I choose, all will be well, and I highly doubt that I'd have any regrets about having done the project. In fact, I think I'll be very pleased and thankful that I'd stuck it out.

This is just a small example of this phenomenon. One hundred days is a decent chunk of time, but pretty small in the grand scheme of things. I'm usually thinking of this idea in the realm of:

How can I best use my skills to make the biggest positive impact in the world?

Man, over the past 8+ years this has been a constant question that reappears over and over in my thoughts. Now that I'm seeing it typed up here, it's pretty intimidating! No wonder it's always scared me away from taking any action. Instead, I usually sit back and consider things like:

Do I get certified to teach, and teach at a public school somewhere in the US?

Do I help English learners online?

Do I learn about prison systems and try to change America's for the better?

Do I try to improve the quality of public education in the states?

Do I help immigrants and refugees?

Do I inspire others to listen to their curiosities and to not let fear win, so they can go on to make positive changes as well?

Do I try to share the health benefits of a whole-food plant based diet, and the dangers of processed foods and industrial farms?

Do I teach students about foreign languages and cultures?

Do I volunteer through AmeriCorps?

Do I get more involved in the secular community, and fight for separation of church and state rights?

Etc. Etc.

I think, think, think about all the possibilities of what I could try to accomplish, but have never been able to answer my terrifying question (which is appearing more and more like the very wrong question to be asking myself).

And once again, logically I know that taking action towards any of these things will create way more of an impact than me simply thinking about them in my mind.

I don't have a solution yet to this personal conundrum, nor a specific strategy at this moment for working around this mind block (suggestions very welcome!), but it is on my personal compass to act > think as I soon embark on a new chapter of this life.

That equation, act > think, doesn't mean that one should always take action and never think; it's merely a reminder to myself to take more action rather than festering in thoughts.

As I added to my quotes book last year after reading Elizabeth Gilbert's "Big Magic" (and I apologize, I'm pretty sure this is just a summary and not a direct quote—but I haven't been able to verify yet):
When you take action, you learn, you build skills, you get freer. When you stay still, your doubts fester. Everything is progress. 

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Sunday motorcycle ride through Aveyron

I have a couple of day-outings from the past two months that I have yet to write about here, one of which was a Sunday motorcycle ride through Aveyron with Damien back in July, the day of the Euro finals.

I think I mentioned that back in April, he bought a motorcycle. This was my first (and to date only) time riding with him. I met Damien's best friend's mother earlier in the week in Montpellier to pick up her son's helmet, jacket and gloves to borrow. So on this hot July day, we were both wearing jeans, riding jackets, gloves and helmets. Bring on the sweat!

We were mostly riding, rather than walking through and visiting, so that's why this will be so picture-heavy. So, leaving Rodez, our first quick stop was in Salles la Source, in front of this little waterfall:

Salles la Source

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Witnessing magic at a flash fiction writing workshop

This past Saturday morning I participated in a creative writing workshop.

It was my first ever.

As you know, I only ever write non-fiction here on the blog (and elsewhere online). Actually, now that I come to think of it, I probably hadn't even written fiction since elementary or middle school.

Seeing this as an awesome opportunity to try something new and stretch my creativity (and comfort), I gladly signed up.

After a partner introduction warm-up activity, we then used these neat "story cubes" to make a ridiculous chain story, one sentence at a time until we'd gone all the way around the table.

Next up was the main event: flash fiction. (Side note: I'd actually only heard of flash fiction before because of this lovely post of ways to get in French reading practice without cracking open a book (#3). Flash fiction is a great idea for reading and writing practice in any language!) After learning a little bit about it and hearing two published flash fiction pieces read aloud, it was our turn to write. Everyone wrote one word on a slip of paper, put them in the middle, and then drew a word that would spark your story. I put the word "flood" into the pile, and ended up drawing the word "escape." (Not a bad prompt to get, eh?)
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