Don’t Call Me And I Won’t Call You

I really hate talking on the phone. It might just be my least favorite form of communication.

The whole idea of talking without engaging my other senses in the conversation drives me crazy. You’re fully there with a person when talking face to face (unless you just text while the other person’s talking to you and respond with the occasional ‘uh-huh’, in which case, please walk into a tree while gawping at the screen), and even instant messaging or texting requires some sort of active engagement.

But a phone call? It’s just your voice. You could be washing the dishes or cooking dinner while on the phone, and personally I’d rather just do that than have the distraction of someone yapping in my ear at the same time. The other option is to forget about other distractions and have a phone call. That’s a nightmare. To just sit down and talk and talk and do nothing else. Again, that’s not really a problem when the person’s sitting right in front of you. But I have no interest in spending hours, or minutes even, with a disembodied voice on the phone.

It’s why I always try to keep my calls as short as possible. Hello, how’s it going, the point of the call, goodbye. I don’t want to hear about how your day’s been or how that guy you saw in the grocery store kind of looked like Asian George Clooney. Save that for when we see each other, or just text me about it.

My favorite kind of phone call? Ordering takeout. It’s so simple. You call the restaurant, they take your order and you’re done. No additional conversation, no meandering monologues. Conduct your business, then put the phone down and move on.

I wish it were always so simple.

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Bombast and Grandiloquence

I like big words. They make me sound smart.

This has affected my writing to a great extent. I’ve felt compelled to show off my knowledge by using words that would have people diving for the nearest thesaurus. It’s something that has often affected my speech as well; I do sometimes get quizzical looks, or a ‘What did you say?’ because it’s more important for me to strut around like a linguistic peacock than have an actual conversation.

A few years ago, I came across another useful writing axiom, once again attributed to ‘anonymous’: Never use a 5-dollar word where a 50-cent word would suffice. You are, of course, free to use the currency of your choice in that metaphor. That really made me re-evaluate my descriptive writing, and pay closer attention to how my favorite authors use descriptions.

It’s tempting to describe someone’s eyes as ‘azure’ or ‘cerulean’, but I could just as easily say that they were the ‘deepest blue, as if vast oceans were hidden behind them’. It’s a much simpler use of words, but it creates an image for the reader without causing any confusion. Now, reading’s a great way to increase your vocabulary without a doubt, but it detracts from the experience if you have to consult a dictionary every sentence. If a character’s eyes are really that exotic, sure, I’ll throw out ‘azure’. But just describing a pair of blue eyes? No need to get so fancy.

Ultimately, you want to take the reader on a journey. Try to minimize the bumps along the road.

On Writing

Probably the best writing advice I’ve ever come across is ‘write every day’. I can’t really attribute that quote to anyone in particular, as I’ve heard it from various sources. To me, the most useful version of this axiom is ‘Write something every day’. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be a story or just a sentence, whatever keeps the ideas flowing.

Fortunately, it’s something I get to do on a professional level. But I’ve been trying to do that more consistently on the personal front as well. Because of my love of fiction, most of my writing’s been focused on my fiction blog. I’ve been posting a small story there daily and, lately, I’ve added a daily haiku into the mix. It’s a lot of fun putting stories together, and sometimes I find inspiration in the most unexpected places.

Unfortunately, this blog’s been a bit neglected as a result. My posts have been fairly sporadic, and I’ve even had to turn my weekly humor feature, Conversations With A Strange Mind, into a monthly one because I was struggling to post something every week. Granted, writing humor isn’t easy, and I can only use so much mindless, random banter to keep a reader’s attention.

However, there were plenty of topics for me to write about on a daily basis. I just wasn’t doing that. So this week, I’ve been attempting to address that issue. I’ve been feeling a bit ranty of late, though whether that’s something in my temperament or because the blog’s a good ranting platform, I don’t know. Expect to find a few more posts on my pet peeves in the coming week.

Whether fiction or non-fiction, it feels good to write something every day and engage the mind in that process. I encourage anyone that reads this to write something today, even if it’s a simple little phrase. And if you’re so inclined, please share that in the comments. I’d love to see what pops out of your mind.

Introversion

I can be kind of an asshole.

There are no doubt people who would disagree with that assessment and rush to point out my nice qualities. Very kind of them, but I know the score. Sometimes, I’m kind of an asshole. I don’t really mean to be and, once the wave of assholishness passes, I’m mortified by my attitude and behavior. But I’ve got to face facts.

I spend an inordinate amount of time in my own head, lost in my thoughts, planning the rest of the day, dreaming up writing/drawing ideas and grappling with my various anxieties. As such, I tend to set the world aside, the way one might have a movie playing in the background while doing household chores.

This often reduces people to pieces on a board, moving around so that I can make my way across unobstructed. And if one of these pieces should end up in my path, I can rarely see past my own inconvenience. It tends to be about how I’m being delayed in getting somewhere, or how my plans are being held up or derailed. Needless to say, I’m not happy about that, and make my displeasure known. Now, I’m not one to scream and shout or throw tantrums. Instead, I tend to give people the silent treatment. In part, it’s because I know that should I open my mouth, something unpleasant will fly out of it. I’ve got awareness enough, I suppose, to avoid slinging unnecessary barbs.

On reflection, it’s easy to see how I would have handled things differently, more tactfully. There’s a famous saying about hindsight that eludes me now. I always resolve to be better, to show more understanding, more compassion. Yet as soon as something goes wrong and someone ends up inconveniencing me, a black cloud forms around my head again, and I shun the offender until the cloud dissipates.

I’m getting a little better at that. Once upon a time, I might have ignored someone for a day or two for some minor offense; now it’s down to a few hours. There’s also a bit more consideration on my end for the other person’s situation, and how that might have contributed to the problem. I’m trying to step out of my world a bit more, but old habits are hard to break. It’s a process.

Side note: This post is just about 400 words, without having to trim anything. Brevity achieved!

In Brief

I’ll keep this short.

That’s usually what I say to myself when I sit down to compose a blog post. Something in the region of 300 to 400 words. Nothing more than that, unless I’m talking about a really major or personal topic. And yet, when I start typing, my fingers develop a mind of their own.

Paragraphs later, I find myself staring at a 900 word behemoth, looking not so much to lure in the reader as smother them with verbosity. There are certain topics, such as my fitness history, that were only meant to cover one or two posts, but turned into mini sagas. I just like including details when I tell a story. Small details. Unnecessary details. To me, they help set the scene, to build up the world.

It’s especially difficult to be economical with words when talking about my history. Perhaps because I haven’t discussed my past in so much detail before. I’m not much of a conversationalist, and when telling a story, I always feel like I’m droning and that the other person is fighting to stay interested (or feign interest, as the case may be). Writing seems like a better outlet for discussing my past because my readers don’t have to deal with my boring voice, so I can pile on the descriptions without any inhibition.

The end result weaves together a richly colored tapestry (I hope), but what should have been a wall hanging ends up a mural. Take this post, for example. I had wanted to write a 100 word post on brevity, and how it’s something I intend to practice in my future writings. Yet here I sit, almost 300 words in, refusing to give up the keyboard.

It’s probably best to wrap up now before things get too unwieldy, and focus instead on my next post.

I’ll keep it short.

Acceptance

I’ve always fit the definition of what you might call a ‘nerd’.

Math and the sciences were among my favorite subjects in high school, I was basically a teacher’s pet in my English classes, and it was probably easier to teach a fish to tap dance than to teach me any sort of sporting activity. It didn’t help that my older brother was a bit of a sports superstar, something various relatives never hesitated to remind me of, and which only pushed me further away from the ballpark. I’d much rather have my nose buried in a book.

Like any kid, I loved me my cartoons. Adulthood has done little to change my opinion of them, even if the spooky mysteries of Scooby Doo are laughable for the wrong reasons now. At some point, I discovered the world of comic books. I’m not entirely sure what led me down that path, but there I was. They were fun to read and a good way to pass the time; I never expected them to become a lifelong hobby.

As a child, I remember walking into my brother’s room as he and his friends were watching Batman (the Tim Burton film). It was near the climax, and I just remember this eerie looking guy in a black bat mask and outfit fighting a purple-suited clown. I was hooked right away. That image remained mostly forgotten until Batman Returns came out, and I was intrigued to find out more about this ‘Batman’ guy. He seemed quite alright.

My childhood love of fairy tales (I never got tired of reading Jack and the Beanstalk) instilled in me a lifelong love of the fantastical and the surreal, and set me on the path to being a sci-fi and fantasy junkie. I was glued to the TV on many an afternoon watching Star Trek and Lost in Space, and though I haven’t watched Star Wars (what?!), I’m very familiar with Star Wars trivia, almost as much as any diehard fan.

These were the foundations of my formative years. But, as I discovered growing up, such pursuits were looked down upon by the cool kids. Science fiction, fantasy, comic books. These were the domain of nerds and geeks, the weirdos that nobody invites to parties. Nobody wants to be a pariah, so I downplayed my interests to try and fit in. During early adulthood, I let the mask slip a bit, letting people know my interests, but I still kept it quite low-key.

However, I think it’s time to accept who I am now, Earlier this year, I attended my very first comic convention, the Middle East Comic Con 2015, and I was thrilled! It’s the kind of thing I would have shied away from in the past for seeming too nerdy, but it’s time to let that banner fly proudly. I’m no longer in the business of trying to impress people by putting on a ‘respectable’ front.

This, for example, is what my closet currently looks like:

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Yep. About three quarters of a shelf dedicated to clothes, and the rest for my assorted action figures and memorabilia. There are a few bookshelves around the house that are also guarded by my toys. I’ve got a long list of video games I intend to play this year (such as Arkham Knight, coming out Tuesday!), and there are many more collectibles that will take up more space than I can hope to provide right now.

That’s me, in a nutshell.