Just Browsing

I like going to electronics stores, because I enjoy looking for new gadgets and possible accessories and add-ons for my existing gadgets. It’s also a one-stop shop for movies, games and the like.

The problem with most electronics stores here is the high density of salespeople in the store. I cannot walk around without a minimum of 5 sales assistants popping up to say hello. Some of them, thankfully, chirp a cheerful greeting and then leave me to do my thing. Others go on to ask if I need help with anything, and the rare few take note of what product I’m looking at and start spouting their spiel about that product, or others like it. Usually, it’s just something my eyes happened to be focused on at that particular time, and not something I was even considering for purchase. So I’m left with two options. I can either listen to them drone on, thank them for their assistance, and then try to get out of their line of sight as quickly as possible. Or I can attempt to shut them down altogether, which is sometimes tricky to do without getting rude about it.

Once, I was looking at some sort of digital pen at the end of an aisle without realizing the sales rep for that device was lurking just around the corner. He launched into an extensive sales demo, talking about the various features of the pen and the special notebook that came with it. I got sucked into that vortex and couldn’t get out. So I had to put on an elaborate show of considering different aspects of the pen before thanking the sales rep and telling him that I’d consider it for next time.

For the most part, though, I only have to deal with the ‘helpers’, who can be shooed off with the simple phrase ‘just browsing’. Of course, there was the one guy who asked if I needed help finding anything and, on being told that I was just browsing, responded, “Well, surely you’re looking for something specific?” No, dude. I’m really not. But thanks for the help. Maybe dial it down a notch next time. I’d just like to look at stuff in peace. And if I need help, well, obviously there’s no shortage of people to flag down.

Why do I need to be greeted by two separate people in the DVD section? Good thing they don’t have a sales assistant per genre. If I’m looking to buy something, I usually do my research online, then go to the store to pick up exactly what I need/want, and leave. If I’m hanging around and examining stuff, that usually means I’m not going to buy anything. I’m just browsing. So stop pestering me.

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Peak Time

I’ve lately started participating in more writing challenges and events as a way to draw in more traffic, invite more feedback, and meet other great writers from around the web. I’ve submitted a few short stories that have attracted a fair bit of praise, and that’s led me to grapple with a feeling that I’m sure all writers have faced.

What if this is it? What if I’ve already done my best work? Maybe that little horror story or that funny poem is the very height of my storytelling abilities. Anything I do from here on out will just be a sad attempt to match that. Any attempt to better that might just leave me out of my depth, revealing to the world that I’m not a good writer, but just some dude tapping away on his computer, hitting all the right keystrokes occasionally.

Damn, that was melodramatic. Okay, so it won’t be quite so bad. I’m sure there are people who’ll like my future endeavors just fine. But the problem is, you see, I’m an overthinker. So whenever I write a story, I constantly question if it’s good enough. There’s a lot of my work that I’m not entirely satisfied with. But there are certain gems in my collection, stories that I’m proud of for one reason or another. I just hope they’re not the only ones to look back on in the future.

Praise is also a double-edged sword for me. I love it when people enjoy my work, or it speaks to them on some level. It’s a real confidence booster. But….I also feel pressured to deliver on that level again. My next work has to be at least as good, though ideally better, than the last. It makes me second guess myself and can hamper my writing process, letting doubts creep in over a piece that might be fine as it is, and forcing unnecessary changes upon it.

Fortunately, that hasn’t been a major issue so far. I haven’t completely butchered a story to please some unseen critic. I’m just hoping that as I wade deeper into the waters of writing challenges and critique groups, I’ll be able to keep my head afloat.

Just Say No

Why won’t people take no for an answer? I don’t get it.

Whenever someone offers me something or makes some sort of suggestion that I’m not interested in, it’s never enough for me to say no. I either fall into a Q & A session about the reasons behind my refusal or people become more insistent that I should follow the suggestions anyway.

How about I said no to something because I just wasn’t interested in it? It’s not something that I wanted to do, and I couldn’t be bothered to expend the time or energy needed to do it. That’s all. If I refuse an idea you present to me, that doesn’t affect my opinion of you as a person, nor does it necessarily reflect on the integrity of the idea itself. It’s just not something I’m interested in.

Like when being offered food, for example. I find that some people just can’t let it go when you turn down an offer for food. Saying ‘I’m not hungry’, or even just a simple ‘no, thank you’ just doesn’t cut it. Either you have to eat the food, because it’s food, or there must be some good reason you’re not eating it. Do you not like it? Are you allergic? Are you on a diet? You’re probably on a diet. From now on, you’ll be known as the ‘health freak’. Because, come on, nobody turns down food just because they don’t want to eat it at that particular time. That’s crazy talk.

It’s exhausting, because there are times when I really don’t want to do anything except just sit down with a good book or spend a little time with my thoughts. If someone asks me if I want to go grab dinner or go watch a movie, I might say no. Just because. That doesn’t mean we can never have dinner together or watch a movie. It simply means I’m not interested on that day or at that time. But I have to justify it somehow, because simply declining won’t do me any good. There has to be a compelling reason for my refusal, otherwise I’ll just have to go out in order to not seem like an ass. And who knows, maybe, just maybe, I’ll end up enjoying it. Or maybe I won’t. That’s besides the point.

The point is, I shouldn’t have to go somewhere or do something (or, dammit, eat some random snack) if I don’t want to.

Just say no. Isn’t that enough?

Blogging 201: Off-Course

A little over a month ago, I had started the two-week Blogging 201 course. The first assignment required us to lay down three goals for ourselves that we hoped to meet in the near future. I had set three goals that I expected to achieve in the span of a month. Neither the time frame nor the goals themselves seemed unreasonable, and I thought I’d be sitting triumphant at the end, ready to push those goals even further.

So how did I do? Not well. Not well at all. Here are the goals:

  1. Double the number of followers on both my blogs by the end of August.
  2. Develop a story bank, mainly over the weekends, so I’m not scrambling to write and publish a new one every day.
  3. Create a weekly or monthly feature within the next 4 weeks that I can consistently deliver on.

And here’s what I’ve achieved so far:

  1. Followers:

    On this blog, I had about 85 followers a month ago. Currently, I have 101.
    On my fiction blog, I had about 145 followers. I now have 173.

    So not really close to double on either count. I’ve started participating in more writing evens of late, both as a means to keep flexing my writing muscles and as a way to build a stronger community. But still, progress is slower than I’d like. There’s something I’m missing here. On the plus side, both blog now have triple digit followers, so there’s that.

  2. I have not developed a story bank. It seemed like a solid plan, and a relatively easy one, but it hasn’t really panned out. I’ve got some stories in the pipeline, but I haven’t really written them yet. They’re more ideas, or concepts. For the most part, I still write stories as they come to me and publish them straight away. However, I have chosen to take a day off, to prevent idea overload. I think that’s been working for me.
  3. I have no idea what to do for a regular feature. I suppose I could run some sort of weekly flash fiction challenge, but that’s still undecided. I had two regular features on this blog when I started. There was a weekly humor piece that slowly turned into a monthly piece and was eventually buried. The sort of off-the-cuff humor I was going for was getting harder to write, and it seemed like I was repeating myself or relying too much on very silly jokes. The second was a weekly art showcase, where I published one of my little doodles. Those were consistently my lowest viewed posts, so I dropped that idea.

    Now I’m trying to figure out what to do for a feature on this blog, or if I even want to do one anymore. We’ll see what, if anything, develops.

So there you have it. Blogging 201. A short course full of some useful lessons that I haven’t quite been able to capitalize on. About the only worthwhile thing to come out of it is finding a theme and look for my fiction blog that I’m satisfied with. So there’s that.

Turbulence

It’s been a weird series of ups and downs lately, with smaller peaks than troughs. Writing about it is a new experience for me, and I’m hoping it’ll provide a good outlet. Of course, that hasn’t been easy, because I’m not really sure what to write other than, “My body’s broken out into a cold sweat and I’m trying to take deep breaths to keep from completely freaking out.”

I’m reminded of a particularly nasty bout of panic I suffered for most of 2004, particularly in the summer. I had never had such a severe case of anxiety before, and I haven’t had it since. But 2004 was a bad year. It all started off with a flight.

I was headed back to the US after spending Christmas break at home. It seems a bit crazy to fly halfway across the globe just to spend a week and a half with family, but I did that up until graduate school, and it’s one of those trips I really looked forward to. With the break coming to a close, I boarded a flight on a wintry (or as close to wintry as it gets in Dubai) January morning, bound for Paris. From there, I’d take a connecting flight to Newark (or was it Philadelphia?) and then make my way to Penn State by bus.

As a child, I loved flying. Soaring through the sky, looking at the tiny cities below was a source of joy and wonder. I especially loved getting close to landing, when little toy cars would materialize on the streets and whole neighborhoods would look like homemade dioramas. One of the tragedies of my childhood was that we couldn’t really afford to travel much, so every summer I’d find myself lost in daydreams about flights to far away and exotic destinations, while surrounded by boring reality.

But that one flight to Paris was the roughest I’ve ever had. Up until that day, all of my flights had been relatively smooth, with just enough turbulence to shake things up, but nothing worrying. I hadn’t heard of, or ever experience, air pockets before. So there I was, on the redeye flight, chatting up a pretty girl next to me (who was headed to Houston) and then drifting off to sleep until landing time. Or at least, that was the plan.I was jolted awake by the plane jumping in mid-air. The plane. Jumped. That didn’t seem possible. Some people were murmuring excitedly and I panicked. The gentleman sitting on the other side of me said I should relax. It was just turbulence. He may as well have been speaking in tongues for all that did to reassure me. Despite all the bumps, the plane landed in Paris safely and, exhausted from all the panicking, I slept quite soundly on my connecting flight.

The damage was already done though. That instilled in me a fear of flying that I haven’t gotten over as yet. It also doesn’t help that the past couple of flights I’ve taken were also in fairly rough weather and had me fearing for my life. If I never have to set foot on a plane again, I will be a happy man.

Panic Button

Panic attacks are always so exciting. Especially when you can’t really pin down the source of them. I’ve been prone to occasional bouts of panic and anxiety attacks for as long as I can remember. On average, these spells would last about a week. Just one week of freaking out over anything and everything, unable to find comfort in even the smallest of pleasures.

When I was a kid, they usually happened some time during the first month of summer vacation. Most likely it was due to some mix of not seeing many of my friends for a few months (most people jetted off some place for summer, while I was home) and starting a new school year. Plus, the reality of finishing the previous year really sunk in by then. When exactly did it start? I don’t remember. I don’t know what exactly caused it.

I do have a vague memory of myself as an eight year old, bursting into tears while playing a board game with my brother. Apparently I was really upset that in the year 2000, I’d be an old man. Needless to say, other than the odd creaking joint, that hasn’t happened as yet. But this was a big enough concern to reduce me to incoherent blubbering, even though my family assured me that I had nothing to worry about. Why did that thought occur to me and affect me so strongly? I think I may have seen something on TV about the year 2000 or the future or something and it scrambled my impressionable young mind, but I cannot say for sure.

In adulthood, these attacks were much less frequent, but still showed up now and again. And I’m currently going through another round right now, triggered by some unknown source. As always, I expect this whole thing to last a week, after which things should go back to normal. I’m trying to speed up the process, of course, as I always do, but things usually play out in their own way.

Write Anything: The Perfect Morning

So there I were, sitting in front of me computer, wondering what I could possibly write about. I feel like certain topics have been floating around at the edges of my thoughtspace the past few days, but they retreat from my grasp as I try to pull them into a post. What to do then? Along comes Writerish Ramblings and her ‘Write Anything Wednesday’ feature. Aside from encouraging people to write on any topic they so choose today, she also throws in a few prompts to get the ideas flowing, which is a godsend for me today.

I’ve settled on her last prompt: Describe your perfect morning.

My most perfect morning? That would start some time after midday, really. Any morning that lets me get in a whole day’s worth of sleep sound just right.

That aside, my perfect morning would be a productive one. Waking up to golden sunshine, having a nice strong cup of coffee and a homemade breakfast (some combination of eggs, sausages, bacon, along with pancakes or waffles…make that pancakes and waffles) and spending some quality time doing the things I love. Reading, drawing a picture or comic, writing a great short story, building something from scratch or doing some origami. A workout wouldn’t be out of the question, though I’d probably save real physical exertion for later in the day.

Ultimately, my perfect morning would be one where I was completely carefree. Not concerned about anything related to my job or errands or housework. No emails or chatting or phone calls. Just me and the world, hanging out together for a few hours until lunch.