Actual and Perceived; getting at truth

So…I found a book the other day at a bookstore, which I checked out from my library a long time ago. I was given the choice to buy it, but figured I would take another look at the free copy before investing the $15.

This book is The Sixth Extinction, by Elisabeth Kolbert. It’s written in a style similar to another book I own, Savage Dreams, by Rebecca Solnit. Both of these books, like The Midnight Disease, by Alice Flaherty, could be classified as creative nonfiction. That is, they’re writing about things that actually exist, but in a way that is accessible, and which sounds a bit personal. It’s kind of similar to Evolution’s Rainbow, by Joan Roughgarden, in that way.

(And yeah, I’m looking at this now and noticing that all of these writers are female.)

I’m thinking that when a person cares enough about an issue — especially if the work is a labor of love rather than contract — it’s becoming more accepted to write in a style acknowledging one’s investment.

As for how any of this applies to me, I’m thinking that this style of creative nonfiction could be a really good niche for my style of writing. What I wrote the other day, here, (which I’ve set to Private for now), I realized later, could have passed for either reality-based fiction, or embellished nonfiction (when I say “embellished,” I mean that I have chosen a path out of a presently ambiguous situation which may not endure. It’s something one does in fiction, but which can damage one in life). Which, I suppose, is appropriate when it’s difficult to separate the actual from the perceived. Expressing that difficulty and finding someplace to rest, is an extremely strong element in my work.

Speaking of which, I’ve also been putting some of my artwork into frames. In one piece in particular…I find a way forward out of clear realism or total imagination. I think I posted this one a while back, though I disliked it at the time, and I don’t think I showed it in my final portfolio. Let me find it again…

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Fire — cleansing, shaping, life-giving, destroying.

Alright, it’s to the left, there. Apologies for the watermark; this was originally posted a while ago (likely Spring 2016, when I was ending my AA in Art).

This also looks like a work-in-progress, as I hadn’t yet untaped it from the Masonite which was holding it flat.

Anyway, you can probably see what I’m about to mention, already.

In this piece, there are multiple overlays of different elements, some of which look as though they could plausibly be resting in 3-D space, and some of which are flat and 2-D. They appear to be overlaid on top of the 3-D image.

That’s not a mistake. I had been looking for a way to combine the psychological and the representational. The gryphon is something which had special significance to me, as did the incense, the orb, the pinecone, and the acrylic, “gems.” In a way this piece is really metaphysical, kind of overblowing it in that way. Not to mention that the majority of these symbols are personal, which I wouldn’t expect anyone but myself, to understand.

In particular, that orb, the pinecone, and the gryphon are things that I have recognized in the past as important, but which I haven’t perceived as totally harmless. They’re things that I am aware of and find beauty in, though.

If I go any further into this, I may reveal too much about my mental state (then or now); but I’m just noting it as an example — to myself — as a way to move forward. If I did unpack the symbolism of all of these, visually, I could make a series. The problem is that it might be a disturbing series…the content of which, I may not want to touch (I don’t anymore have the mental state that inspired this symbolism).

In any case…I’m thinking back to my freshman class at University where we read, I, Rigoberta Menchu, and discussed whether it was actually biography or not (the author cobbled together a bunch of other peoples’ stories and presented them all as — when viewed by the general reader — her own. But it was normal and accepted in her culture for her to tell these stories and claim ownership of them, as the people these stories had happened to were members of her community, and she identified with them).

The largest issue I have with writing is finding a way to tell the truth, especially when some people whose stories I know, don’t want that. And…yeah, sometimes expressing an emotion truthfully, does mean that the means of expressing it, may not be literally true.

Probably, I should back off of this and get some rest. Maybe tomorrow I can write, or something. I still need to finish my work for Programming, too…and maybe I should just try and get it done as soon as I can, and not rely on the deadline.

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Still bothered by coding.

So…it’s been a few several days since I wrote that post talking about how I don’t think I want to be a Web Programmer. Since then, I’ve completed one Exercise (it works correctly, but it doesn’t meet the requirements) and am well on my way through the third assignment. Problem is, that was due on Tuesday.

Go, me.

In any case…I spent most of today avoiding going back to my code. I just didn’t feel ready. But I didn’t want to play around, either. I ended up resting and trying to plan out a strategy.

By the time I did feel ready, it was about 7 PM. I had decided to run some of my downloads through an online utility, to see if they had been tampered with. I got three hits (out of hundreds)…though at this point, I’m thinking they were false positives.

Of course, that’s after using a bunch of utilities to try and clean one program, and finding nothing.

And, of course, trying to rectify false positives, ate up a lot of my time and energy.

I may be relatively good with technology, but the drawback is that it seems things routinely break with no warning or explanation. I know there has to be a reason…it’s just that the reason may be so arcane that it’s not understandable to anyone except people with advanced Computer Science training. And in a networked environment, it’s possible that the error isn’t even on my end.

It’s tiring.

I have some stuff to mention on the topic of writing, but I’ll put it in a separate entry.

Frustrated and tired.

My code is almost working correctly, on the assignment I was too afraid to tackle earlier in the week.

At least it’s looking like it mostly-works. One thing is more rather than less certain, though: I’m more of a writer than a programmer! It is great to hit on solutions, because it’s basically like (“like?”) being given puzzles every week. (It is being given puzzles every week.) At the same time, for me it’s a bit discouraging/frustrating/tiring when the code isn’t doing what is intended, and it’s not clear exactly why, and you’ve been hacking at it all afternoon. (It is nice to see it incrementally getting better, though.)

Of course I would discover this, one semester away from graduation. I didn’t make Web Programming the exclusive focus of my studies, which I’m glad of, now. In this case, it may be a good thing that I did veer back toward traditional Library services in my recent classes.

I took Reference & Information Services rather than Project Management, last semester: broadening rather than focusing my skill sets onto something I didn’t know I wanted, may have been good. At the very least, it helped me meet some graduation requirements. (Project Management was recommended if one wanted to become a Metadata Librarian, which is still a possibility. Even though Cataloging is difficult for almost everyone, including me.)

Reference & Information Services is another type of problem-solving, but having to do with research and interpersonal skills more than engineering (I’m using the term “engineering” loosely, to mean someone who builds things, whether those things are information-based or not).

The section of classwork I’m working on now (custom and nested functions), is said to be a good predictor of whether one would like to take a full-scale programming class. (I kind of wish the Prof hadn’t said that; it would have helped me get to work on it earlier.) I’m not sure if it is because we are now into territory that I haven’t studied on my own before…

No, actually, it probably is because we’re into territory that I haven’t studied on my own before. This section is requiring some cognitive leaps, and I don’t feel prepared for it.

I actually feel like I may have to review the entire first part of the class to get the hints to know what to do on this assignment, as the code we’re using doesn’t exist outside of the training ground. So it’s not like I could refer to JavaScript or PHP manuals to understand what we’re doing, more, except in an abstract sense — and then translate that back over to the training area.

Though actually, given enough time and study, I could do this. Whether I would want to (and whether I do want to), is a different question. There are a lot of people I’ve admired who are into Tech, but the stuff I’ve been into over the past year (HTML/CSS, SQL, Relational Database Design & Implementation, Web Programming) is kind of next-generation.

And although I am a person who likes to have control over things, from concept, through design, development, and launch…in the real world, I am likely to be working with others, and not having to deal with it all, myself. So I have some choices over what areas I can specialize in — if I don’t close those doors.

I feel like I would actually be better at Web Design, at this point, than Web Programming. Information Architecture is also something I’ve had to deal with (I took two classes on UX)…it’s just that people are so unpredictable. I kept running into times when they would click on something I never expected anyone to click on, in my paper prototype trials…but that was actually easier than this. Even if a lot more messy and scary (because, well, people).

Aaanyhow.

My life has basically been made of trying to get this assignment done, today. I’m not sure if there’s something else due before midnight, but I think you can see where my head is at. I’m just…frustrated. I do only have one more week to go, though.

Then, it’s just me, my job, and my portfolio. And anything else I can find to distract myself with. 🙂

Death, and sussing out evidence of Soul

Earlier, I began to read back through my “Blog — Roughs, Notes,” notebook. The sentiments I expressed in my last post are also recorded there, from almost exactly six months ago: January 13, 2018.

Some of the sentiments I also expressed in finding self-definition when immersed in a multicultural, pluralist society, is in the same set of notes. The series exploring this is named Cultural Location and Creative Context. The preceding link will send you to Part 3; Parts 1 and 2 are linked at the very end of that document.

I was getting excited; I forgot that 2018 is this year, so I thought I’d stumbled upon evidence from at least one year ago. No, it just feels like it was one year ago.

There’s something about time that’s unnerving. Yes, growth happens, but people (including myself) also age and pass on. When your social circle is largely family, that can be a scary thing (not to mention when you are without solid, “knowledge,” of; or, “faith,” in; what happens after death). I’ve been trying to spend as much time with people I especially love, as I can; because I know it’s limited.

At the same time, I’m supposed to be trying to become more independent. School is part of that, as is work. As is driving, for that matter, and cooking.

Just…sometimes, I lack energy, and it’s hard to actually…well, do things. I think the motivation is there, but fear and anxiety (and then, melancholy) also take hold sometimes and won’t let me move forward. Today was one of those days.

What I seem to have been doing, most recently, is inventorying myself — making notes as to where I am, mentally. Because some of this stuff doesn’t change, even if I want it to. The obvious thing for me to do about that at this point is to write it all down so that I can see who I am, as versus who I want to be, or who I think I should be.

The “psychic” aspect of my personal mythology* has come up again since I restarted creative writing. I’m thinking that the concept of, “time,” is kind of messing with me, though it’s also possible it’s one or another kind of intrusive thought: just the idea of the physical, being all there is.

(And no, I haven’t yet broken into my Sartre anthology, but I’m a bit struck by how he only lived 36 years. That’s as old as I am, now.)

I think that if I didn’t know better, I’d call it a type of demon. But there are things that look like, “demons,” which aren’t, and things that are demons that don’t at first appear to be (or which try to hide their status).

I’m not particularly talking about, “fallen angels.” I’m talking about things that screw up one’s psyche and life in a negative fashion. They do certain things like implant the idea that if you’re creative, people will attack you for it. Because creating is a holy act, and something dangerous to them.

If I’m being honest with myself and with you; the idea of death, out of balance, I do consider rather demonic, in a won’t let you go, haunting type of way. And I suppose…if I learned anything from Tarot (I didn’t learn all that much; the system’s mindset is — or was — kind of alien to me), it’s that each element can be either in balance or out of balance. It’s not death — or change — that is bad, it’s that my relation to it is not correct.

It could be that I’ve opened a gate by being honest with myself. Over the past week, I’ve told people about the, “psychic,” thing twice — although I wasn’t particularly looking for belief in or support of that, I’ve gotten it (to my surprise) both times. It’s just a given that in a certain part of my life, I did believe I was psychic, and in accepting that, had phenomena happen that would not have happened if I had cut the idea off at the knees and refused to entertain it.

So now I’m just dealing with sudden mental images of bodily decomposition. Are they random? I’m not sure. Where are they sourced from? Don’t know. But I do know that I probably shouldn’t worry about or focus on them, if I have a choice about it. One thing about spirits is that I haven’t known them to be entirely that tenacious.

What’s going on is called, “thought insertion,” in psychology — where some thought arises seemingly out of nowhere, and it feels like it comes from outside of you: that is, it is “ego-dystonic.” I’m not sure if being negatively emotionally disturbed by it is a criteria. But writing creatively does open a gate in my mind (a number of issues [discoveries?] arose after To a Spirit, meaning that it’s likely I started processing some unfinished business [or current business] by writing it), so it’s not unusual that something like this should arise.

That’s just what happens when I tune into my intuition.

And…the cost, for me, of tuning into my intuition is that if I talk about it everywhere, I’m just going to look a bit crazy. But I’ve been a bit crazy for a long time. 🙂 For the sake of employment, I’ve been trying to push it down and stop the thought experiments…but if it’s a core part of my identity, maybe I shouldn’t do that. Then I have a couple of choices:

  1. Speak about it with discretion, or
  2. Don’t worry about the opinions of others

Of course, if I go back to an identity as a creative writer, we’re kind of known for being a bit eccentric, anyway.

And what could I do, if I opened those gates?

*What I mean when I speak about “personal mythology” is stories we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to make sense of our lives. They may or may not be true, but often it is difficult or impossible to change or eradicate these core beliefs, even if we know they are not accurate to reality.

Aging artist?

I’m experiencing doubts. About the value of continuing to be creative, as regards the arts and crafts. Somewhat, as regards writing too, but like it or not, writing is something I’m always going to have to do.

(That doesn’t mean it’s ever easy.)

Of course, I know the doubts aren’t true. Arts have a way of guiding or prompting people to consider viewpoints other than their own. And as irritating as it is, I wonder how much of the present-day relative acceptance of gay and lesbian identity in U.S. cities has to do with early 2000’s mass media which presented stories of multifaceted (human) people experiencing homosexuality. (I’m thinking of Glee, by the way.)

I am old enough to remember that episode of Twin Peaks where two female people kissed and…that was the first time same-sex sexuality had been seen on U.S. broadcast television. It was incredibly controversial.

I’m old enough to remember Ellen DeGeneres’s coming out on her show. Again, incredibly controversial. Even though innocuous, as I think most people would see it, today. (Or maybe I’m giving America too much credit.)

Today I’m writing about this because I’m literally wondering why I am a creative person, if I am a creative person, what the worth is of being a creative person, whether to continue to be a creative person.

But I think every creative person who isn’t a constantly-inspired genius (read: pretty much everybody), deals with this.

And I think pretty much every creative person on the Internet has had to deal with people trying to shut them down.

No matter what someone says, someone else is going to have some issue with it. No matter what is made, people are going to judge it and have something to say about it. No one on the Internet is immune from random abusive people trying to make it seem like the abuser’s problem is their problem. Someone’s always going to be offended by something, regardless of the offender’s intent. On top of that, no one knows everything, and creative expression often involves being wrong in some way — of necessity — because if we waited to be experts on everything we imagined in order to increase its “realism,” we would never imagine anything.

I realize I universalized a lot — or all — of that experience (gained from having grown up with a large online component to my socialization), and that itself tells me it may be wrong. It’s why I’m leaving it that way.

Prior to writing this post, I realized that there are a number of words which come to mind about being “out there” as a creator (at least as a creator of ideas), which everyone has to deal with:

  • Attack
  • Judgment
  • (Destructive) Criticism
  • Abuse
  • Wrongness
  • Offense

Given this, it’s amazing anyone makes anything. Or anything new, perhaps I should specify.

But then maybe it’s like my job, where most people are appreciative and kind, and then there’s a small percentage who are just “off” (and there’s no one way to be “off”). If I concentrated entirely on what to do about (or how to “solve” my relations with) the approximately <2-5% people (though actually, today it has felt more like approximately <1-2%) who either can’t or won’t behave appropriately, there is no way that I would even consider pursuing a front-line career in libraries.

There would also be no way I could work a service job at all…which would shunt me into the 20% of U.S. jobs that were either manufacturing or agriculture (the service sector is said to make up 80% of all U.S. jobs, though I’d have to revisit what I viewed in order to try and understand what they meant by “service”).

But the rewards (including the internal reward of not treating people with bias because of what I may be tempted to assume about them, which actually makes me feel pretty good, given my history) are greater than the annoyances.

And…is the reward of being creative, greater than everything I have to go through, in order to create? I think it is, though I couldn’t easily tell you how. I should probably start a file demonstrating the rewards of creativity, as well as the setbacks. Maybe you all could help contribute.

I have a tendency to focus on the negative, meaning it is going to be harder for me to describe these. The only reason I know that is that I’ve dealt with depression, in the past; and I know that sometimes it is literally not possible to think positive thoughts and (initially) believe them.

What I know is that artists and writers are both, as groups, more tolerant of personal irregularities than the general population. I think it’s because neither group can avoid confronting their own irregularities in the process of creating. Both, as groups, are also familiar with constructive criticism (as versus destructive criticism: criticism designed to destroy the author or artist or craftsperson).

I’m also starting to wonder if we’re just wired differently, but obviously I’m not a neurologist. Trying to read about cognitive function is also not easy. Right now I’m at the beginning of The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain by Alice W. Flaherty. It’s reading like a textbook which is also partly creative nonfiction…

But yeah…it’s difficult. I guess how do you describe the actions of the temporal lobes without introducing the overall structure of the brain…

Not to mention, just maintaining a creative practice, is difficult. Right now I don’t have any regular practice time set up to draw or paint. Generally I write at nighttime, before I go to bed. I did come up with an interesting twist to help me out with one of my stories, which helps it feel more legitimate and real…and human. It actually makes one character seem genuinely caring, as versus predatory or parasitic, and it shifts the narrative away from the main emotional problem in the story.

I’ve been going through some culture earthquakes recently, as a follow-up to some relatively recent posts. It’s probably because of my age. But someone I spoke with mentioned that my experience, being surrounded and influenced by so many cultures, as mentioned in backposts, sounded much like…an “American” experience (as versus a fragmented, complex, nameless mix of influences). I’m not quite used to the term “American” not being used as a conservative buzzword, but what they said felt accurate.

And it is odd for me to be called “American” without a qualifier, kind of like I didn’t expect that could be the case, I realize now. But what I’ve been reading about at work…is showing me that in some way, I am culturally American (for instance, in dealing with things like Freedom of Speech, freedom of inquiry, tolerance of dissent, and recognizing the existence of an educated public as essential to democracy).

Maybe what I’m dealing with now, is wondering about the possibility of my intended career, becoming more important than my art or my writing. As versus…just being a Librarian to survive, and having my main drive be my art and/or my writing.

I probably won’t be able to solve that problem, tonight, though.

Getting a little harried with anticipation.

Today marks another day in which I haven’t worked on my portfolio, or read anything (offline) for pleasure. I did successfully write a bit of code, which was great when it worked out, and when I could understand why — though this took a bit of retracing my steps.

The big thing right now is learning to define functions from within other functions (I just built my first custom function, today). As I’ve been introduced to nesting code via XML, I’m thinking it shouldn’t be too hard. Still, though, I’m writing here instead of doing that.

I needed a break. Especially as the next couple of assignments are meant to show me whether I want to be a Web Programmer.

I don’t particularly want to go back to working on my Master’s for at least another couple of hours, though. I got up late again, today, so I’ve been dealing with life for four hours, max., right now. It feels like most of that was spent on homework. Certainly, most of the use of brainpower was spent on that.

In lieu of homework, I’ve gotten the idea to paint…but it’s getting harder to get ideas of what to do, away from the computer. This is another reason why I was sewing, yesterday: it does not have to do with logic.

Though as regards linear, step-by-step thought: I could postulate that it does. Which gives me an idea for one of the Discussion assignments I skipped over. I’ve sensed that working on the computer is about linear inputs, even when CSS formats these posts to insert an image or video…a reason why journalling offline, in an unlined journal I can draw in, is a good idea.

I guess it’s easy to get tired of this stuff. Like: homework that requires analytical thinking, reading for information, my job, my portfolio. Right now my life ideally would be circling around my future employment, with school as a component of that, but I don’t want to be working on that all of my waking hours. It would feel different if there weren’t additional work stress, but there is.

Also, I had to trash my first portfolio version because it didn’t adhere to school standards, and now I have to rebuild it. Ideally, I would have been building it over all the time I was in classes, but I did not have the foresight to do that. So I have probably about a month and a half to get a jump start on my capstone class so that I’m not overwhelmed and rushing to get everything in by the end of the year (as well as complete my other two classes).

I really don’t know how they expect everyone to keep records of everything for two to three years. But anyhow.

Maybe I’ll go and try and draw. The worst that can happen is that it doesn’t meet my expectations. Maybe I should lower my expectations…

Worked on Folkwear #112 some more.

At this point, I am wondering if I should have taken a Digital Libraries class over the Summer as well as Fundamentals of Programming, which is straightforward enough to leave me a lot of time. Which …I should be using to develop my portfolio.

Today…I could really feel that I had taken medication way too late, last night. I wasn’t really up and active until after 2 PM, but that’s because (for those new to this blog) my medication is sedating and I took it at least three hours late. Sometimes it will knock me out until around 5 PM the next day if I take it at 1 or 2 AM. (For some reason, it affects me for around 17 hours when it’s late, less than that when on time. I think it has to do with Circadian rhythms.)

The good thing is that, due to tracking when I actually do take it, I’ve realized what happens when I try to stay awake by not taking it. If I don’t have anything I have to do the next day (like a class meeting or work), that day is often wasted asleep. Which…then, causes me to want to stay up and again delay taking the medication (if I’m finally awake at 5 PM, I hate to re-take that stuff four hours later and get knocked out again in an hour and a half). Which causes the next day to also be a wash.

Kind of a vicious cycle. On the bright side, when I take the stuff at 9 PM, immediately get ready for bed, and go to sleep when I’m tired, I end up waking at like 5-6 AM…so the loss of having a day only 5.5 hours long is basically…better than the alternative. And I guess I have a tendency to wake up earlier, too, though I can’t really predict that.

Having to do that is one of those things that will make me feel disabled for real, though.

I did see someone today I hadn’t seen in a long time, though I wasn’t up for talking, much (unfortunately). In lieu of working with the new leather project (on which I’m basically still in the design stages), I opted to go back to the trial garment (or toile) from the Folkwear 112 pattern (monpe). I did get a good amount of work done, though at this point I’m questioning why I’m doing all this by hand when we have a sewing machine.

Of course, in the finished garment, I would be using backstitch for my seams, not a running stitch. Backstitch is actually more satisfying for me to do, but I don’t really know why, except for the fact that it actually takes advantage of the fact that I’m hand-stitching. It could also be superior in a way to machine-stitching, in that it’s more elastic.

I’ve also realized that I was premature in cutting down my pattern pieces: one step of the pattern (the one I’m on) says to take different seam allowances for the different sizes — AFTER having cut out different size pattern pieces.

Since I’m sizing this up to a 16, I’ve had to go beyond what the pattern has written (if the instructions are accurate)…and now have no room for a seam allowance on the outsides of the legs. Even though I already added 0.5″ to the edges of the pattern pieces (which stop at Size 14 — I have the old version of the pattern). That adds a total of 1″ in diameter. The seaming instructions would add another 1″ in diameter, making an additional 2″ in diameter, total.

I do have one option, since this is just a toile, which is to just whipstitch the edges of the fabric together (or something), then try the thing on and see if it fits. The only reason for me to be making a toile is to learn what is being asked of me and to fit the garment, that is. It doesn’t have to look nice. Or last.

Speaking of which, I found that a certain stitch I was using on a patch pocket in lieu of machine topstitch only works to catch the edges of the fabric (I can’t remember the name of the stitch right now, and am too tired to look it up: the needle travels for about 1/8″ in a fold and then catches a few threads on the other piece of fabric, then goes back into the fold for another 1/8″). I would need to work back around the edge of the pocket with something more secure, even if it’s embroidery. Otherwise, that pocket is not going to stand up to use, as it’s being held in by tiny stitches.

That same stitch, though, is fine for things that aren’t going to be stressed (like the hem at the top of the pocket).

Also, somehow, I messed up one of my shoulders. I don’t know exactly how that happened, but I have been typing in some weird positions lately, causing pains in places I’ve never had them before. (I thought I might have had appendicitis, yesterday, but the pain isn’t here today. The day before yesterday, the small of my back hurt on the other side of my spinal column.)

I also helped unpack bins at work yesterday. That could have something to do with it (it’s possible that this activity has injured others). But I was also doing a lot with that arm, including lifting and holding heavy stacks of books, which could also be the cause. It just feels like before, when I lifted something heavy and then turned my elbow outwards, and then at certain angles, it felt like my arm would fall off.

Speaking of injury, I’m also getting good enough at hand stitching that I only hit my left thumbnail twice with the needle today. Unfortunately, one of those times was enough to split off the upper layers, but I’m still mostly intact! Without the thimble!

And…I think my brain just stopped working…