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Month: April 2013

Empathy And The Need To Get Outside

Empathy And The Need To Get Outside

em·pa·thy [em-puh-thee]

1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

When really terrible things happen, like what happened in Boston yesterday, those of us who are sensitive or predisposed to feel empathy tend to feel things the hardest.  The horrific events that transpired in Newtown last year knocked me on my butt for a month. All the way to the new year, I did not feel like myself.

Nobody I knew was directly effected in either of these events, but just hearing their stories was enough for me. I might not have lost anybody, but I could very much put myself inside the shoes of those that did. Combine that with the feeling of hopelessness, of not being able to predict or change events like these, and it can be quite crippling.

I could feel that same thing rush over me yesterday when I first heard of the events at the Boston Marathon. In fact, I couldn’t get it out of my head here at work. I just hit refresh on my news sites over and over again, wanting to know and also not wanting to know how bad things really were. These poor people were just out, having a nice time, enjoying the day and the absolute wonder of human athleticism, and now everything was ruined.

It felt like EVERYTHING was ruined.

Then a funny thing happened. It was 5:00 and time for me to drive home. I logged off my computer and walked to my car, observing the faces of those also walking to their car or to their next class, or wherever their journey was taking them. Everybody seemed fine. And when I got home to my kids and my wife, everybody was fine there too.

This isn’t to say that everything is fine. My heart goes out to those who did lose someone in this act of terrorism. And to those whose lives have been changed because of this act.

But those of us, the empathetic, who tend to internalize these types of things, I think it’s important to remember to walk away from the computer for a bit. Go outside. Enjoy the gift of life. Listen to the birds. Feel the rain on your skin. Drive in your car. Listen to that mix-tape of 1980s music that reminds you of when you were  a kid. Play that video game.

Turn off the news. It doesn’t mean that you care any less. Sometimes you just need to walk away.

Paramore: Still Into You

Paramore: Still Into You

Paramore, I’m still into you. See what I just did there everybody? Wordplay, yo.

I got into the band Paramore last year, late to the party as always. They immediately grabbed my ears by the,well, ears and haven’t let go. My favorite all time Paramore song is most likely That’s What You Get. I could listed to that song for eternity and never tire of it. It’s just perfect.

Paramore put out a new album this week, and although their sound has matured, it’s still awesome. The first video I posted above, from the song Still Into You, is from the new album. It makes me happy.

Now, I can’t write and listen to the music at the same time. I get too distracted. Especially when it’s music I enjoy. That said, I can certainly listen to this album before writing to get me in the proper mindset. That is a win.

Run Head-First Into The Wall, Or Run Away?

Run Head-First Into The Wall, Or Run Away?

I’ve been working on this novel for over a year. I have nine chapters written. I have no idea what comes next, or to be honest what the point of the whole thing is. This is a very big problem. One I thought I’d be able to fix by stepping back and starting over, using some of the stuff from what I’d already written.

And this is what I did. I wrote what I thought was a pretty good chapter one. Actually, it felt really good, to be honest. I pictured myself at my critique group on Monday, lavished in praise about how good my story was. My confidence swelled. I knew they were going to love the new direction things were taking.

About those nine chapters. My in-person writing critique group has been reading those nine chapters, and always been positive about them. I guess I wasn’t aware how MUCH they’ve been enjoying the book thus far, though. I certainly know now.

It was not quite as good as I imagined. I guess they really, REALLY liked what I had already written. And this new version was not that. I had killed those characters they had grew to love so well. I assured them they weren’t dead, just in a file marked “Version 1”. This didn’t help.

In a way, this is a good thing. I want my readers to love what I have written. I want them to be passionate. They are passionate. Passionate about a story I have no idea how to save.

And so now, I have the choice: run head-first into the brick wall of the plot, or run away screaming in the opposite direction.

Book ‘Em shipments brighten Pennsylvania inmates’ lives – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Book ‘Em shipments brighten Pennsylvania inmates’ lives – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Prisons aren’t just a place of incarceration and punishment. They are meant for rehabilitation as well. So, why shouldn’t inmates be able to receive books.

God bless the volunteers of Book ‘Em, an organization that provides books through the mail to Pennsylvania’s inmates.

Prisoners are low on society’s sympathy list, but their letters reveal the shared humanity of all people who love to read.

“After seven years in prison, I hardly ever get mail anymore,” wrote Jim from a prison that was not identified in his letter. “Then, out of the blue, I not only get mail but it’s books! In addition to that, they are great books. Well, there’s just no words to thank you. Keep up the compassionate and noble work.”

via Book ‘Em shipments brighten Pennsylvania inmates’ lives – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

How Metafilter Brought a Deceased Father’s Jokes Back to Life

How Metafilter Brought a Deceased Father’s Jokes Back to Life

What a wonderful story. I love how the community quickly banded together to help this grieving son.

Reading the article, my writer’s brain went crazy. First of all, the fact that the Dad had a text file with the name jokes.txt and it contained only the punchlines. Why? What did he have planned for this?

Then there is the last line of the article: “your dad inadvertently arranging for your friends to tell you jokes all day long on the day he dies”. What if the file contained something other than jokes? What would that story be?

Two weeks ago Daniel Drucker went to Metafilter with a request.

“My father passed away this morning,” he wrote. “I’m going through his file, and I came across JOKES.TXT … which contains only the punchlines.” Could the Metafilter hivemind work backward and supply the missing the jokes?

via How Metafilter Brought a Deceased Father’s Jokes Back to Life – Rebecca J. Rosen – The Atlantic.