Wednesday, August 27, 2014

How do I get rid of Writer's Block?

           I stare at nothing while my laptop burns my thigh and the TV babbles in the background. I could have been sitting there for hours, or even days - I just can't tell the difference between Monday and Thursday anymore. It's all the same to me: a nice and blank Word document on my laptop screen, and my eyes focused on something fascinating...and invisible.
           This has been my worst case of writer's block yet, and I'm not even a proper writer! It's just typical that my inner writer (or whoever so kindly arranges my thoughts into coherence for me whenever I put my fingers on my keyboard) would let me down when I most need her.
            I always thought college application essays would be a piece of cake, but turns out I'm absolutely incapable of writing about myself. After the struggle of thinking of things to say, for some reason my ability to string words together fails me. I write one mundane, choppy sentence after another until I have an entire page...then I delete everything in one quick movement. Oh the agony!

So far my Writer's Block Remedies have been of no help.
  • Free random writing left me with a few scribbled words on paper, and one lousy poem-ish thing. If anyone found that piece of paper, they'd think I was possessed (that's a lot of S's). 
  • Taking Walks, and focusing on other things, has only worsened things. The more I walked, and the more I tried to do other things, the more guilty I became. I'm so aware of the emptiness in my head that every time the wind blows, I imagine it whistling through the hollows of my skull too.
  • Giving myself permission to write badly is a step I've been repeating for a while now.
    Needless to say, it hasn't worked.
What do you do when you're creatively blocked?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quote of the Day ~ John Maeda

           John Maeda, MIT grad and former president of RISD, seems really cool: he’s bringing art and technology together. Actually, the idea of him is so perfect for the world right now (all this technological improvement needs to be balanced by some kind of art revolution).

But I looked at his art, and I was less than impressed. Maeda’s work is supposed to have that crisp, modern, minimalist feel to it: simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful- those are his words by the way.

The first piece of art I found was a computer program that took your sentences and reduced them to words which consisted of the first letter of each word of each sentence (if I didn’t do a great job explaining it, you can check it out here). He’s doing a great job adding meaning…
            Okay it sounds like I’ve targeted him, and will proceed to single him out every chance I get if I’m not stopped. So this is me stopping myself. I will not insult Mr. Maeda’s work- art is art. (On that note, I really liked some of John Maeda’s other works...Check them out here:
            But his words are troubling...subtracting the obvious while adding meaning. He’s making perfect sense, of course, crisp short stories are much easier to keep track of than long winding tales with 70 characters, and 15 plotlines and yet, such stories are the ones that draw in the most people...Game of Thrones is an example- but then again most people would watch anything with that much gore: even if it had just one plotline and a handful of boring characters..- and so is Desperate Housewives, and all those other poly-plot-line-ic TV series’. Maybe it's because simple, short, and crisp is often boring; it consists only of what is useful and meaningful: the facts.

The whole world of minimalism is about sticking to the bald facts- being concise. Somehow minimalism gets away with it, maybe because it has that clean, uncluttered look. But I don’t think it should (get away with, I mean). Facts aren't beautiful, it’s the flourish with which they are presented that makes them beautiful. That's the art. When the facts are subjectified, and interpreted (not distorted, mind you...just interpreted). When there is no interpretation, just a depiction of the truth, that is a kind of minimalism. This is the rage of the modern world; to not put a flourish, and to not interpret or subjectify.

(my version of shouting it from the rooftops)

     To me, art is all about looking at the world from another person’s eyes; it’s very subjective, and very transporting. Minimalism is all about presenting the truth, the bare minimum, with as little embellishment as possible - it's a type of art that just doesn't take me places.
            If minimalism took over completely, then every kind of transporting art would be gone: movies, fiction, paintings etc. Movies, books, and music tell stories; they present the facts with metaphors, and allusions, and symbols.
                Imagine if stories just laid facts on the table - no comparisons, no allegories, just the bare, naked truth. Stories wouldn't be stories anymore. Art is not about communicating a point; it's about communicating a point of view. We don't listen to stories for the actual communication of the truth (we were supposed to have newscasts for that), we listen to stories for understanding, for insight. We look to others' viewpoints so that we may find a similarity, or something we've been missing. Stories are about a person's philosophy, and everyone knows metaphysics isn't an exact science; everyone knows that it has no solid facts.

So even if simplifying your interpretation and the way you look at the world adds to your understanding of the meaning, or your purpose, it does not make it any more beautiful. It's a complex world, and deluding yourself into thinking it is simple, isn't enough. Appreciate the complexity of it all. We're never ever going to understand everything, but let's try!What if it is the obviousness of a presentation, the extraneous details, that makes it all the more meaningful anyway?

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Objective Critique of the College Application Process

I know that the title is a bit essay-like, but trust me on this one: the college application process must be criticized professionally or else I'll sound like some whining kid (which I, most definitely, am NOT)

August brings in the smell of fall, new shoes, and curriculum. Romantic isn't it? 
For seniors, this month also brings in the monster that we've created in the college application process
           What with the nervous energy created by looming future, and the overwhelming nostalgia, Senior Year can be an emotional roller coaster! It can't be made worse by anything other than the fact that it is also a pivotal year which decides the next 4 years of your life.

I've created a useful (at least I think so) timeline of senior year based on observations and experience...

SUMMER (June to September)

What they're supposed to be doing: 
  • Creating a College List (complete with estimated costs for each college),
  • Visiting Colleges ("While you're at it...why don't you stay for a week?"),
  • Creating Rough Drafts of our Applications essays (it's best to be prepared right?),
  • Volunteering in activities that will help the community (and, more importantly, look good on our applications),
  • Being a leader at some extra-curricular activity we are passionate about, and
(This one's the clincher...)
  • Having fun too.
The demands are...well, they're quite crazy. 
Of course, being passionate, and helping the community while also being on top of the applications process by writing 7-8 essays about yourself and your wit, knowing exactly what you are going to do with your life (and where you are going to spend it) for the next four years, and also having extremely easy! 

That is, it's easy if you are the kind of person who enjoys:
  • trying to sound witty on paper (but end up sounding tacky...wit on paper is always tacky, take it from the expert); 
  • volunteering at non-profits not because you like the cause, but because you want to add another item to your weighty college application; and
  • researching about your future, and trying to cement one thing you're going to do, when you're barely 17 years old, and have no idea what you want to do with your adult life.
The idea that we have to fake volunteering in the community, and be a "leader" at extra-curricular activities we "enjoy" is so forced to me. If a person is truly passionate about a cause, they will volunteer at events, and rise to positions of leadership because of their passion. If a person is just doing all these things because they want to go to college, they don't really deserve the credit  they get. These people aren't passionate about the cause, they're passionate about themselves and their prospects at college.

FALL (October to December)

What we're supposed to be doing:
  • oh, and don't forget (not as big a deal though..)
Suddenly the fun isn't even a part of the agenda. All that needs to be done is the college application process. Having fun is an added bonus, and one must be grateful if one even get's a hint of it. First semester/first quarter of high school studies are isn't really the priority right now. 
         Writing, writing, writing. That is all that is being done. Everyone's trying to be funny, and charming, and creative; they're exaggerating, and finally wielding the full power of the influence of those high test scores. The words "You are more than your test scores" fall on distracted ears, as anxiety brims up in every heart whose SAT score is less than a 2200. 
         We're high school students, we're supposed to be studying, learning, not finding new ways to portray ourselves to trick colleges into taking us in. 
All the advice is about how to make yourself look good; nothing is about how you are already good enough...the thing is to find the college that is right for you (all How To Find The Right College For You articles and advice columns are suddenly disregarded - Harvard, MIT, UCLA, NYU, and Yale are flooded with applications). 
           I'm drowning in the fake-ness and the advice that forces us to be fake. I wish someone would just stand on a high school rooftop, and yell for all the seniors to write what they feel like. I wish that someone would tell seniors to be themselves, to not exaggerate, and to do nothing they aren't really interested in. 

WINTER (January to March)

What they're told to do:
  • Have fun! Go on a fun spring crazy, and wild. You're teenagers!
  • Oh yeah...don't forget to study (Grades are important)
      The two things that nobody cared about in the fall are now the only things left to do. This is when Senioritis sets in. It is the unique disease that high school seniors develop after the submission of their college applications; it is a form of laziness, and exhaustion so extreme that the most the infected can do is trudge out of bed, and get to school...and of course have fun.

Symptoms include:
  • Late Nights
  • Afternoons spent hanging out, and chilling instead of volunteering at events they were soo "passionate" about.
  • Slightly drooping grades
Now all the pretentiousness is gone, and the seniors admit that they deserve a break. They finally start doing what they want to do, and are relieved that they no longer have to put up the act of a "responsible, community-minded individual." Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, they do deserve a break, but a 6 month break from ones passions shouldn't be considered as a break, but as a letter of resignation. 
           For a while, all is well, seniors do what is absolutely necessary: they reminisce about high school; they hang out with their beloved friends, knowing that this is probably the end of all things familiar; they make some final memories; they laugh and cry and laugh again. Prom season is in the air and all is well

SPRING (April to June)

What they're supposed to be doing:
  • Calmly awaiting their acceptance letters, and
  • keeping a sleepless vigil over their grades
There ends the beautiful mirage of what senior year is supposed to be like. When these people look back at their senior year of high school, they don't remember the enervating application process; they remember the nervous energy: the needless giggling, and the fake excitement about any and every thing, of waiting for the acceptance letters. The air is slightly strained, but nobody admits it. All seems well on the surface: spring break trips to the beach, and happy pictures are everywhere (Especially Facebook), but the acceptance letters are swooping down like bats in a dark cave. 
         This is the time for religion, and prayers, and hope. The nerve-racking end for an overall nerve-racking year...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Quote of the Day ~ Vampire Weekend

            Sometimes there's just one line in a song, a line that sticks with you even if it only lasted for a couple seconds.

         Isn't that life? Every moment of every day is spent trading youth for experience, for wisdom. That adds a kind of desperation to it: the more you live, the more you know about living, but the less time you have to live. Obviously you want to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible, but the cruel thing is that such things can't be rushed. You learn when you learn; there aren't any crash courses in life.
          It seems like a trap; the only way to learn is to gradually not be able to use the knowledge. Maybe it's a way for the world to preserve its secrets (What fun would it be if the elders spelled out the secrets of life -the ones that we are yet to unravel- long before we even thought of them?).      

But it can be looked at from another angle: the more you learn, the older your soul, not your body, becomes. A single moment of significant revelation ages you more than 10 years of blissful ignorance. Maybe this is a soul thing. Maybe a soul can be wise, and old, even if the body is young. (Why do we correlate wisdom to old age? A wise soul's thoughtful, deliberate, and experienced movements are like those of an aged body. Even a young wise soul can appear quite wrinkled with so many abandoned idealist thoughts, and dashed hopes, and knowledge of the ways of the world).
          Only, what is the highlight of being young? The energy? The beauty? The heightened sexuality? I think it's that cheerful, idealistic outlook on life; something more to do with their souls than their bodies. It's always the 20-something year-olds; they're ready to be the change. And they always are. Every generation has seen the rise of its youth (hello 60's hippies), but then when the youth are no longer young, they settle down. Why do they settle down? So the age of your body can influence the age of your soul, just like the opposite view.

I've talked myself into a circle, but what I'm trying to say is that trading youth for wisdom can work both ways. Literally, you do learn more as you grow older (simply because you have more time to learn). But wisdom also makes your soul older; you can learn much in a few seconds, and feel your soul, rather than your body, grow older. Sometimes you trade youth of your mind, and outlook, for wisdom, while at other times, you gradually trade the youth of your life for wisdom.

Monday, August 4, 2014


             A rare sound drew me to the family room- the angry buzz of a perfectly groomed news reporter (yes, I knew he was perfectly groomed before I saw him; it was something in that abrupt voice). I walked in cautiously (a rare event like this required as many precautionary as possible) to find my silent parents on the couch: my mother once again had a lugubrious air as she sighed over and over again; my father was frowning at the screen, and was muttering things that would make him seem smart and informed.
            I gaped at them; since when had we ever gathered our news from a television newscast? I glanced at the screen, and saw that it was projecting repulsive images of dead children, and bombs going off in a distance, and a woman who looked like she was trying very hard to appear grim. The only thing I grasped from my quick glimpse was that she was accusing someone- the government perhaps?
       My mother looked up and stated that this is the apocalypse. My father quietly wondered what the world was coming to. The television was now flashing a colorful advertisement for insurance, or mattresses, or some other mundane thing.
        A week later, the TV went silent again, and the family room was as abandoned as ever. With no more plane crashes, apparently there was no need to keep up with the news anymore. 

I think it's because of people like my parents, who switch on the television to sigh, and worry- who switch on the television for the drama- that the media sensationalizes so today. Anything tragic, that looks tragic, and involves the direct deaths or injuries of people is just as good as any exciting TV series today. Ooh and an added benefit is abusing the government (which was elected by the people). The whole television news media has turned into a giant tabloid!
          I think it's because of the fact the news channels now have to compete with the likes of TV series' like Scandal, Game of Thrones, and Devious Housemaids(I think that's what it's called), that they try to depict news so darkly, so war-like, and so iniquitous. People like scandal, and they will only watch something that is slightly scandalous. News channels have to add those sexual, gory, and scandalous elements to their shows to get people to watch them, to get advertisers to fund them. 

Media sensationalism is an old story. Actually, it's been hyped just as much as death has been hyped by the media. The way to solve it is what we're supposed to be thinking about.
How can we stop the media from sensationalizing?
Option A. Make people more sensible (highly unlikely)
Option B. Make a news channel that is not for-profit (hence, preventing the whole incentive of viewership bringing in money from advertisers.) Like BBC.
Option C. Make news channels like CNN, and FOX, and NBC use another channel for scandalous TV series' like well...Scandal, and provide unadulterated news. I realize that they all already have side channels, but they simply don't seem to get enough of the drama!
Option D. Balance all the sensationalism by also giving an unadulterated view in another show.

I'm sure a lot of people would watch if they knew that the news they're watching is absolutely trustable too  :)