me

Keep it up. by Will Ringland

I first started writing poetry in 7th grade. It was an English class assignment, the first one I'd ever had where I was aware enough to have read any poetry. It was the first time I'd ever encountered writing flow where I went from idea to full text very, very quickly. It was a brief flirtation with bliss.

Until, a week after turning in the assignment, my teacher read it to the whole class. Mine was the only one he read. My mind exploded. You could, like, be recognized for poetry? People could care about these little half-sentences? These tiny paragraphic stanzas? These words of deepest meaning to even a rotund, bespectacled, nerd in middle school?

Yes, please, I would like some more of this existential satisfaction, if you would. Just plop it down like buttery mashed potatoes with a thick, meaty gravy.

I wrote maybe two dozen more poems in the next few weeks, turning each in to my teacher. He, not really grokking the gravity with which I bled on to these pages, accepted them with a nod. He read them and, occasionally, offered some feedback with the bright red pen or a kind word between classes.

"Keep it up."

I did. I wrote off and on through high school for myself when I wasn't too busy with theater or studying for AP exams. I know, knew to the heart of my existence, that I needed to do this. I needed this to survive.

Losing the horizon

As high school progressed, I fell further into the rigors of Succeed and Achieve and started looking to college and padded pages of extra curriculars. Who had time to write? I had theater productions and AP exams and girls and... something. Something not right.

I sort of saw it coming, that first depression. I was filling my life with classes, college resume goals, girls that were really uninterested in me, friends that kept me around because they looked better around me. I recognized they were not in it for me but the invited me out, just enough, to convince me that I mattered. I was their somebody.

I stopped writing and fell into a deep, dark pit. I nestled in, drew blankets of dirt and earthworms about my shoulders, and settled in for a long winter of snow and sleet and cold pelting me while the world around saw sun above.

My little pit of deep, dark, comforting petrichor kept me in some weird stasis. High school happened; my fiends had dates, dances, and parties; I had earthworms, cold sweats, suffocation. You can't write with a mouthful of dirt.

I chewed through it.

Oddly, in that I didn't expect it but it makes mountains of sense today, writing saved my life.

In 1998 I started writing on OpenDiary.com. I wrote god awful poem after poem after poem. And slowly, thimble by thimble, I dug myself out of my pit. Each stanza was a worm here, a stone there; I cleared my way through dust and settling sediment and shouted, hoarsely, "This is not okay."

Writing gave me perspective. It was a way for me to remove my mind from my body, to excavate the deeper Things entrenched in cavernous unknown holes that were churning, building pressure like lava under mantle. In that time, I met some nice internet people nearby that pulled me up onto a more positive level. They shook off a little of the crusted dirt and reminded me that, yes, you have value. Keep exploring, understanding, writing what matters to you.

“Keep it up.”

And I did.

And I found a college that respected, if not expected a little weirdness where I could study poetry and writing and… learn something else that would actually pay he bills.

It is cliche, sure, to say that writing saved my life but I do think it did. The great expanse of green hills and flowers that the internet can be drew me into a world where I learned what friends could be which threw, into stark contrast, the lack of support, the subtle cuts, the occasional direct shovels of dirt in the face I received from my other friends. I understood what it was to be who I was without caveat.

And that is what I am finding today.

To you, Reader.

Do not think, O Reader, that I am lost in some fantasy of Great Writing. I am not. I am blowing off the dust from a machine I had previous kept well oiled. My mind, bolstered by little pills printed with edible ink and a constant stream of creative writing, has reconnected with a veritable mountain range of ideas.

But. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve done this with regularity. I’ve blogged, sure, but poetry… what a different thing. I do not know strong from feeble, stout from brittle, good from bad. And I’d like your help.

I have created a feedback form (also found under the Specific Things menu) to which I will link from posts subsequent. It only asks for the title and your comments and does not track anything else. I want to know what you think. Was this entry or post or poem or picture good? Bad? Something specific worked really well for you? Something fell flat?

Should I keep it up? Should I keep it up?

Well… really… I’m going to keep it up irrespective of what you say.

But! Let us both endeavor to make it better. Let us make a mountain?

On Masonry by Will Ringland

What I write about when I’m not writing about writing.

Something in my brain shifted recently, both literally and metaphorically. I started seeing a therapist; rather, I started seeing a therapist again.

Perhaps I should back up a little.

Two years ago, I saw a therapist. At the time, I was depressed and had been for a long while. Not the marbled, rich and red depression, the one I am too familiar with from ages ago before I was a well-formed human being. No, this was the low-grade, mealy and gristly sort of depression that lets you get just so close to success or completion or a breakthrough before you get a mouthful of sinew that forces you to put down the fork and walk away.

I wasn’t really taking great, consistent care of myself. I sort exercised. I sorta ate right. I sorta avoided alcohol. Except it was all half hearted. Not much exercise, not much good food, too much alcohol too many nights. The therapist told me that, well, you really need to get the basics in order first. Sleep. Exercise. Diet.

Yeah. she was right and I knew it. You have to do the basics first, get your ducks in a row, before you can really say you have something worth diagnosing.

Dilapidated House

The last two years

I got my ducks, have them cute hats, and kept them all in a line. The last two years, I have exercised more consistent, eaten so much better, regularly skip the booze in favor of water.

And yet. I’m still flirting with that rich, red depression and keep knocking holes in the wall. It’s always there. Like I know I can keep buiding but I expect it, just down the road a little, to punch through a stud and the wall comes tumbling down.

So, when I went back to my therapist after two years I described all the things I hd done, all the objectively good things in my life that… That I just didn’t care about. That if they vanished, I would slump my shoulders, and say, “yeah, I probably didn’t deserve it anyway.”

Which is a problem. You start working with bricks adn cement, you expect the house to last.

“Yes, that’s not normal,” she said. “You are doing everything right; you have a great baseline now.”

“It shouldn’t work this way.”

Cathartic

Having someone else verIfy that you are not, in fact, a complete screw-up of a human being, is an amazing thing. I had spent, essentially, my entire life assuming I was doing something wrong. That my lack of regular, consistent happiness was not my own fault. Getting that validation for someone else, someone not in my head, was so… freeing,

So freeing. Like opening the windows in spring, I felt, for days after.

Fresh air.

So. She referred me to a psychiatrist who, very quickly, said precisely the same thing as my therapist after a fairly short discussion. I certainly have a family history of depression and bipolar disorder; my father, in particular, exhibits much the same behavior that I do and i likely inherited some imbalance from him.

Wellbutrin

The psychiatrist started me on a low dose of wellbutrin and it’s been a few weeks now. Having seen my therapist again since starting, she says things are Different. Whereas I, ever skeptical, think things are only different.

As in, I have noticed some additional awareness of and resilience to the spinning, gnashing, destructive cycles my brain manufactures (because they are figments) like an aging house. I cannot see when the foundation first cracks but I sure as hell can tell when that wall starts leaning the wrong way and the window gets stuck, god damn it.

And I right it. And let in fresh air.

The little things that lead to a big thing

It’s much of the little things I notice that lead me to believe I’m heading towards that capital “D” different. Like, I am writing more (like constantly, almost every day) and, what really amazes me (really) is that I’m editing more. That may not be much to many but it is new to me.

When you use writing as a way to feel something, expose something, to remove something from yourself, you cannot bear to re-read and re-view and re-work that thing; it is too raw, it is something to be shed.

Now, rather, I write these things to capture a moment or idea or emotion to let it stand as representation of this thing. It is something to craft rather than expunge.

This feels monumental to me, about me. The desire to do justice to that which I make, to get it right rather than get it out.

It’s hard to describe.

But I’ll try anyway

It is like I had a foundation, lots of bricks laid out, but they were misalignment. Anything placed upon them was tenuous and, though you could get that structure pretty high, it wasn’t going to last. The last few weeks, I have straightened out the rows, added mortar, and am keeping those lines true as I go.

Staying longer at better

I’m feeling better is what I’m saying.

I have the beginnings of a room of my own. I’ve put a comfortable chair in there and I’m thinking I may add a table.

Not too soon, mind.

But soon enough.

Controlling Distraction by Will Ringland

If you can’t rely on yourself, upon whom can you rely?

Committing to little changes, day to day, is exactly how you build personal integrity. You teach yourself that, yeah, you can do the things you intend to do, accomplish the projects you build for yourself. And getting to the point where you know implicitly that you have the capacity for these things is a long journey.

The first task in the Focus Course is to give something up for the duration of it. It has two-fold intention: 1. Take the time gained by giving something up to do the course. 2. Building trust in yourself that you can meet personal commitments.

It’s the baby-steps to ensuring you complete the course and start to trust yourself.

Reducing Distraction

I’ve chosen to reduce distraction in my life. I have pretty serious organizational requirements for my phone home screen. The apps on the home screen are the ones I use every day and need to be immediately in reach. Everything else I access via search and should, for the most part, be things I don’t use too much lest I get annoyed with the extra steps required to access them (unlock phone> pull down home screen> enter search text> tap on up> instead of unlock phone> tap app).

Here is my home screen before (left) and after (right) reorganization. for the Focus Course.

Before

Before

After

After

It was pretty tight to start, in that I try to be clutter-free with my devices, but my home screen included two of the most distracting apps (two that I thoroughly enjoy) easily to accessible - Twitter and Instagram. Now, I have moved them to the Distraction folder and “promoted” Omnifocus (1) to the dock, re-added Vesper (2) and Reeder (3) to the home screen, and created workflows (the black custom icons) to do things I do everyday with my phone faster.

But how will you tweet (4)?

I am not abstaining from Twitter and Instagram; rather, I want access to them to be more deliberate. Before, when I had any idle moment or just pulled out my phone to do something, I’d end up checking either for updates, umping into Facebook soon after, and losing a few minutes to them (at best); or, at worst, bouncing between them for more than a few minutes in some sort of brain-dead social zombie app shuffle that ended with me forcibly shaking myself out of the daze.

In the grand scheme, not so bad; I mean, I still get work done on time and with good quality. I just want to avoid the idleness cycle that pulls attention into un-useful tasks. If I’m going to “waste” time, I’d rather do it with Reeder where I’m reading and acquiring some new knowledge, than seeing yet another cat photo.

Directing boredom

Boredom isn’t a bad thing. It can be useful to be bored if you handle it directly. And by that I mean, embrace the idle moments with intention If I’m bored, read and article to enrich myself. Or take a sinful moment in a line to let my mind breath between moments.

Really, we spend so much of our lives racing to get stuff done that we don’t need to race through our leaner moments. You’re not missing out.





1. Omnifocus is my GTD app. I switched to it last month and have felt way more in control of my time. I still can't quite get recurring tasks to work as desired in my perspectives - that they appear every morning and drop when checked. It seems you can't have a recurring due task that doesn't always appear because of its due status.

2. Vesper is where I've started keeping snippets of poems, journals, anything creative that occurs to me. Like I think of a phrase I like the cadence of so I jot it down for later review or usage.

3. RSS reader. Ostensibly Reeder contains beneficial content, stuff I want to read to learn something or get news. I don't think anything I read regularly is fluff but I also don't know how I would define fluff…

4. If you like discussing the manner in which creative people work, you should listen to Cortex. This sentiment occurred in the first few episodes and the way CGP Grey and iMyke talk about work and distraction resonates with me like crazy.