Write over the edge of a cliff

“So I have two opposing beliefs that exist side by side—one, that communication is possible; two, that communication is impossible—and I swing back and forth, writing or not writing.”   —Stephen Dobyns, Best Words, Best Order

I’m just going to dive into this post, because if I try to “catch up” with everything that has happened since October, I will never get the job done.

Stephen Dobyns sums up the way I often feel about blogging. The task of ordering my thoughts around the subject matter, and writing them down in the best way I possibly can, takes so much time and energy, it’s almost like having a second (third?) job. And yet, that is the only way to truly communicate something. The point of writing, after all, is to communicate: to take an experience, a thought, a feeling, and express it as succinctly as possible, so that you manage to move that experience or idea (nearly, though never entirely, because everyone interprets words differently) from your own head and into the head of a reader.

If I can’t afford the time and effort to craft a well-written post, then why write at all? Quick, lazy writing—pock-marked with clichés, superlatives, and the sort of fatuous declarations that are thrown around the internet so indiscriminately these days, they have lost all meaning—reaches no one. It does nobody any good and may as well not exist. Poor writing is self-centered and self-serving. It is also disrespectful. It insults the reader’s intelligence, often reveals the writer’s poor grasp of their tools, and it wastes both parties’ time.

Despite all the care taken to arrange words so that they convey something precise, communication still fails, sometimes. Writers are not the only people guilty of being lazy and careless with words. Readers can also fall short of their roles and speed their way heedlessly through words, misinterpreting them or failing to appreciate that someone has, to the best of their abilities, chosen these particular words, and has put them in this particular order, for a reason.

They say writing, as a profession, is dying, and I believe that.

“Literary fiction used to be central to the culture. No more: in the digital age, not only is the physical book in decline, but the very idea of ‘difficult’ reading is being challenged.”
—from The novel is dead (this time its for real), by Will Self for  The Guardian

Forget the debate between ‘dead tree’ vs. ebooks, and how the ease with which anybody can now ‘publish’ a book (because there are no financial risks involved in backing and promoting a lousy writer, whose work is a mere digital file that can be replicated ad infinitum) will make the difficult profession and demanding craft of writing extinct. I believe that even ebooks will die out, eventually, as both writers and readers get lazier, do whatever comes easiest. Any attempts to actually teach critical reading or serious writing in schools will come to be seen as “bullying” the children into learning something that is neither ‘fun’ nor profitable.

The visual image is the real king, these days, because it demands less of its audience. It is instantly gratifying, it titillates with colors and shapes (and subject matter), it does not require an education, a vocabulary, memory (in order to make sense of succeeding paragraphs, one must be able to recall what was said in the preceding ones)…it does not even require knowing a language. It’s wonderful in that way. It will cross boundaries of language, geography, culture, education and class, in a heartbeat. It’s a wonderful thing, the image—quick and easy to take in—though perhaps responding, relating, and consuming only images will be as detrimental to our mental health as consuming only packets of chips and bite-sized morsels of processed food would be to our bodies.

But nobody’s worried about that, because the great thing about this worldwide and systematic decline in critical reading OR quality writing is that if we are ALL uniformly dumber, then we really aren’t dumb anymore, are we? We may have taken a step backward, but we’ve all taken it together, and anything more demanding ceases to exist as something we have lost, or as something to be regained, because we simply won’t be aware that it ever was. The reference point blips out soundlessly, like the tree nobody was around to hear fall over in the forest.

I am on my way out of the devolving world, and the intellectual futures of people who made something like Fifty Shades of Grey a bestseller—with its appallingly bad metaphors, its “sex will make bad writing palatable to dumb readers” strategy, and its author’s (and publisher’s) cavalier abandonment of any standards of quality—is not really my concern, anymore. If anything, I’m merely disappointed by how few of the new and trumpeted books emerging in bookstores and libraries have stolen my heart this year…

But I’ll keep on writing, here and elsewhere, even though the number of people willing to slow down and read a few hundred words with mindfulness has dwindled (and will continue to dwindle). Because I value the act of writing, in and of itself, whether it gets read or not. Because good writing brought me up and carried me through the wilderness of this world. Because I can’t not write.

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A New Year for this Old Blog :)

party bottle

Last night I discovered that the Finlandia vodka bottle has a lumpy, organic surface that catches and distorts its surroundings in interesting ways. I caught my bottle in a festive mood when I put it down on top of an unfinished painting.

WOW. I want some of THAT with soda and lime, please…

Hello, how’ve you been? I’m sorry I went away for such a long time.
I’m sort of back, but not quite yet. Internet and power issues on the boat. Same old story. Poor old blog,…it’ll take weeks to clean away the cobwebs and tame the tumbling tumbleweed that rolls across this howling, desiccated wasteland that I ironically refer to as my internet presence.

Bear with me.

In the meantime, have a HAPPY NEW YEAR.

May the organic surfaces of your days and nights distort your surroundings in surprising and beautiful ways, and bring magic into your life.

dead MacBook (again)

Santiago de Atitlan huipil
For real this time. Sat up all day and all night with a dying Macbook, like tending a sick child. Tried every trick I knew to make it go again…flipped it over, opened it up, cleaned the points with alcohol, disconnected the battery, swapped the RAM cards around. Did an SMTP reset, a PRAM reset. Over and over and over. But it will not charge, and even on AC power it often will not start. Sometimes it starts and then, overwhelmed, dies again. Each time the clock is reset to Dec. 31, 2000. I do believe the battery has breathed its last. So that’s it for my laptop, at least until I am in a position to replace the battery. Really I want a new laptop, but that’s not happening till middle of next year, if I am a good girl and go back to work and save my minimum wages!)

No matter. I am calm. I accepted, earlier today, that it was going to die. I have backed it up, have downloaded some music onto my iPod, have de-authorised my iTunes account for this machine, have moved my plane and flight tickets to a USB thumb drive for printing, and I have, well, said goodbye. And I’m saying goodbye, for just a few months, to all of you, too.
hand embroidery in yarn on handwoven fabric
Funny, I don’t feel anything but a mild annoyance, anymore. A small part of me is relieved. I spend far too much time on the internet, and that has always irritated me. I often sit down telling myself “I’ll just check my e-mails”, and then look up 3-5 hours later, eyes watery and brain full of rubbish, and the best part of the day or night wasted on, I don’t know, cat GIFs on facebook, or photos of what my friends are eating.
Worry Dolls
It’s like being drunk…it’s not really that fun, but you can’t stop once you get started. I always know I am drunk on the internet when my Facebook page fills up with a motley collection of meaningless, stupid shared posts…ha-ha political memes, people’s stupid home videos of something their kid/dog/talking parrot/hamster did, and environmental slacktivism memes that everyone clicks the sad face on, before moving on to the video of the elephant that did that thing with its trunk in the next post.
hand-woven cotton shawls
Clearly not time well-spent. I threw the television out of my life 20 years ago, only to let the internet replace it. A useful tool, I agree, if you can stick to the plan, but also one of the world’s biggest time wasters, if you don’t.
hand embroidery in yarn on handwoven fabric
I am looking forward to going back into the real world for the rest of my stay in Guatemala. I will try to get a post up once in a while, if I find a decent internet cafe nearby, but I can’t promise anything. And what, you may be wondering, about that cheap tablet I bought in Venezuela as a solution for the last time this happened? That died even earlier. The battery is 94% full when it dies. It was a waste of money and I was a fool to buy it, all so I could keep this virtual thread alive.
handwoven cloth
I suppose I could try and stretch it on and on…if I open the guts of the laptop a few times, do the disconnect/connect thing over and over again, reset with fancy key combinations, I can get the thing to run on its AC power cord. But every time I turn the computer off, there’s a 50/50 chance that I won’t get it up and running again. It seems more stressful, at this point, to try and keep the internet in my life, than to let it go!
hand embroidery in yarn on handwoven fabric
And who knows what cool things I’ll make in the time that remains me, in Guatemala? When the mind is finally weaned of its internet fix and cleared of the fog, I might sit myself down, every afternoon, and spend those normally blighted three to five hours of Facebook and Twitter and other peoples Instagram accounts, on producing something beautiful! And wouldn’t that be so much better than seeing the video of the little girls dancing that got swallowed up by their own rubber floor mat when the wind lifted it up that I recently shared on my Facebook page, just because it made me guffaw once? Like the television, social networks have a dumbing effect on the brain. I find myself becoming shallow and lazy-brained and insubstantial.
ceramic worry doll pendants
I have my tickets, so the end of this 18-month voyage is in sight, at last. If all goes well, I am set to arrive in Darwin, Australia on the 15th of October. That’s really not so very far away, now! It has been an amazing trip… Thank you for following me almost all the way to the end of it! If anything major-major happens I will blog from an internet café, but otherwise I am taking a break. Go with the flow. Work with what you have. The way out of the problem is through the problem…

Promising lots of goodies when I get back home to Sonofagun!

  • Skillshare courses, first of all (I was personally invited—I’d never have thought I had something worth teaching, otherwise—though anyone that wants to can create a course on Skillshare)
  • Fresh art for my poor ol’ Society6 shop. (By the way, to whoever did her Christmas shopping early and bought all that stuff from me…THANK YOU!)
  • My ETSY shop will re-open, full of things inspired by my travels.
  • Plans for an exhibition, when I finally have the space to paint freely again.
  • I’ll be back at some of Darwin town’s bigger craft markets, too…
  • AND I made up my mind, this year (thanks to your comments, reactions and encouragement) to finally get cracking on my writing…when I was younger I thought I would be writer, and then literary criticism (as well as the realisation of just how truly painful and difficult a line of work it is, if you want to be honest and keep high standards) scared it out of me. I never quite let it go, though, and it has been on the backburner all this time. I think I may even have something to say, at last.

So long, for now…three months will pass like nothing, you’ll see. I do hope you’ll keep me at the bottom of your Inbox until I get back…it would be very sad to pop back up and find nobody, nobody here at all. 😦
just arrived in Chichicastenango
*The photos are of some of the things I bought during our two weeks of backpacking in the Guatemalan highlands, and me on some steps in Chichicastenango, fresh off the chicken bus…

aside: fullscreen photos

Just a quick blogging note: I needed to put a sidebar in, as too much information was being left out when I used to have full-screen photos. But I have finally figured out how to set things, now, so that if you leave the homepage and visit an individual post, by clicking on the post’s title, the sidebar menu disappears and you can, once again, view photos that take up the width of the screen. This is not an issue with iPads or phones, I realise, it is just a thing with laptops and desktop monitors.

Is this important? Not really. Aesthetics. It just looks better, I think, when the photo is large and wide-format.

That’s all. Tweaking things, while I still have a good internet connection.


 

By the way, the good ship “Kehaar” departs from Kingston, Jamaica, tomorrow early. We’ve been here a week, only stopped because we were low on food and water, and I didn’t take many photos (the few I took were accidentally deleted when my crappy little Quo tablet formatted the SD card without even asking me! Aargh.)

It will be 3-6 days from here to Colombia…next you hear from me, we will hopefully be in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

Streetsofcartagena.jpg
Streetsofcartagena” by Cbrough – personal computer. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Hasta luego, mis panas!

The End of The World is a Butterfly

Estamos en Venezuela!

“What a caterpillar calls the end of the world we call a butterfly.”
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

I had better get this post out before you all do something crazy, like raise $12,000… LOL

Thanks to everybody who offered to send money, one way or another, for a new laptop. Money is not so much my problem (I just got ALL my tax back from last year…woo hoo!) as there is simply nothing to buy here.

I don’t want to spend good money (mine or other people’s) on some stop-gap device that I wouldn’t normally buy…when I eventually replace my laptop, it will be with another Macbook, I’m afraid, as I am most comfortable with that, and need to think of my work and graphic arts stuff for the years to come, and not just the remainder of this trip. There are no Apple shops in this country, because the rate of inflation sets the local price for a Macbook at 3 million Bolivares, and NO ONE in this country can afford such things…and I would feel criminal buying one, for that money, anyway. That is what one person earns, on minimum wages, for THIRTY YEARS in Venezuela. You get the picture.

Aaand, the crappy tablet works! So long as I keep it plugged in (and, fortunately, I have the gear to charge it, even on the boat, via 12volt and solar panel) so I will make it work. I mean, I will work with what I have. I don’t mind so much…so long as I have e-mail, and a way to deal with urgent things like banking, government notices, news of family and close friends, and so forth, I will be fine. No reason why I shouldn’t keep on blogging, if I can do these other things.

Thank you again, you’re fine readers, and generous to a fault…I can’t believe you feel so strongly about a blog! Its not as though I put as much work into it as, say, brainpickings!

I promise I won’t just “drop out”, though there will be long periods of silence (and you get those, anyway, when we’re at sea).

I don’t know how to explain this, but I do not feel right, calling for help and depending on others to provide me with something so First World as a new laptop! Nobody dies if I don’t blog, after all. 🙂

I don’t even know you, personally! Yet, here I am, sending you my love and a hug,
Nat