Own Your Interests, but Don’t Let Them Own You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

What interests you the most? Are these hobbies you engage with alone and/or with others? Has anyone ever given you any trouble for having these interests? And on the flip side, have you ever been so dumbfounded by someone else’s interests that you couldn’t wrap your head around how one could be so obsessed with something you simply don’t understand?

Interests and You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

I don’t mean to sound so bleak, but when you stop to really think about it, we really are just distracting ourselves before death, and in my humble opinion, there is a right way to distract yourself and a wrong way to distract yourself. The right way to engage in these distractions is to be so immersed in the experience that the concept of time becomes irrelevant, while the wrong way is using interests to fill your ego and avoid connection with yourself and others.

Interests are a highly personal thing and may mean different things to one person than it does for another. For example, my lifelong interest in video games holds with different motives than it does for others. For a lot of people it’s just a way to relax, turn their brains off, and have a good time. And that’s perfectly fine, I won’t judge them for it.

It’s just that for me, on top of those things I mentioned above, video games are also experienced I like immersing myself in to appreciate the amalgamation of art that they contain. From the graphical aesthetics, the mechanical design, and right down to the music and writing all add up to a cacophony of pleasure, meaning, and inspiration for me. Additionally, I also enjoy them because they are a way to test my capacity for skill development.

Now while there is an argument to be made that skills learned in video games are not transferable to real life, I would normally beg to differ, but for the sake of brevity I want to emphasize the more meta concept of skill development. If not the development of skills, it’s the accumulation of knowledge that comes with learning and researching different interests.

For you it might be a TV show that you’re in love with for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it hits all the right emotional beats you like or it has all the interesting concepts that fire up your imagination. Whatever it is, it is through your interests that you learn a lot about yourself. You learn what matters to you based on what aspects you pay attention to. You also end up sharpening different aspects of yourself through these interests depending on what kind of skills they require to become proficient in.

Sharing Your Interests With Others

The beauty of having your own personal reasons for liking something is finding people with similar interests to share your passions with. If they have different reasons than you, then it only enriches your experience further because they can point you toward other aspects of that interest that you wouldn’t have noticed on your own.

Taking another example from my life, I also like to make music and while I can humbly admit that I’m an adept songwriter, I can even more humbly admit that I have 0 clue what I’m doing production wise. I can write songs with diverse song structures, catchy hooks, and meaningful lyrics, but when I recorded my first EP this past summer, I literally had no clue how to sound engineer it to make it sound professional.

I shared a song with a music producer friend of mine and gave me some pretty good feedback on how to improve it. Little things like recording a second take for my vocals and rhythm guitar could thicken the sound of the production and make it sound less empty in terms of its sonic spacing. Couple that with another friend of mine who has insights on how to equalize the different instruments to make them pop more in the mix, these were all things I didn’t pay much mind to because I’m so hyper focused on the songwriting itself.

For those of you who don’t know much about music, I am hoping I still retained your interest because another beautiful thing about having your own unique approach to your interests is sharing it with others who don’t initially have much knowledge on your interests until you share it with them.

As a friend to diverse group of people, one of my mantras is “your pleasure is my pleasure.” If you have an interest I have no clue about like gardening or bodybuilding, because you are my friend, you can share the things you are passionate about with me because I’m interested in learning more about what inspires you and what matters to you. I’m always equipped with an endless array of questions to get a better understanding of how other hobbies function that I may or may not get into myself.

Likewise when you share you interests with friends who support your divergent passions, sharing those interests with them also helps you understand your interests better because you are forced to describe things to people who are not “in the know” about them. Not only does it help them feel more connected to you–because they get a better understanding of what matters to you and the details you are attuned to–but you also end up developing a greater understanding of your interests because you may not have initially been conscious of what you like about them until you’ve conceptualized them in conversation.

Your Interests vs the Disinterest of Others

Unfortunately not everybody is willing to understand you to the fullest and may even find reason to dissuade you from your interests. Or worse, some people have interests that are so esoteric that it’s almost as if they have them just to affirm that no one understands them. This is quite the pickle because my focus is uniting people of similar and divergent interests, and sometimes there are just people out there who will either hate on you for liking a certain thing, or regard their own interests as something that makes them better than you.

This is where today’s title comes in handy: own your interests, but don’t let them own you.

What I mean by this is while it’s good to have interests your passionate about, you can’t let them consume you and turn into your entire identity. Because otherwise you risk losing yourself in a heap of unnecessary opposition.

For instance, I love listening to Metal and K-Pop. They are the top two genres I listen to and while the music itself is fun and enjoyable, there is something to be said about fans on either spectrum that rubs me the wrong way. I’m talking, of course, about metal elitists and die hard K-Poppers. They are basically two sides of the same coin for me. Metal elitists have it in their heads that only certain types of metal and certain bands can be considered “metal,” and for die hard K-Poppers, you’re not a true fan unless you have nothing but unconditional love for your “idols.”

In either case, it’s unnecessary gatekeeping that can prevent people from the outside get into either genre, let alone accept them as things that people enjoy. Throughout my life I’ve been bashed for liking bands that weren’t heavy enough to others, as well as being called a fake fan because I don’t like a few songs by one of my favorite K-Pop groups.

It’s basic tribalism at its core. So while it is nice to find a group of people who share your interests, be wary of those who might put up certain barriers as to how and why you’re a “real fan” or not because this could be dangerous. This could cost you that interest if you’re around people who soil it with their hyper criticism and self appointed authority on that interest. Some people may know more than you and have more experience than you, and can put forth how and why you should like something, but in the end it is always entirely up to you how you engage in an interest.

If anything, avoid these people at all costs.

Avoid the kind of people who think you’re weird and unacceptable because people from your fandom, so to speak, generally give that interest a negative impression to those on the outside. Avoid the kind of people who are on the “inside” as well, if they are the type to try and dissuade you from liking something the way you want to. They may have more knowledge and experience as to what makes that hobby fun and interesting, but in the end it’s entirely up to you how and why you engage in it in the first place.

And last but not least, avoid the people who have esoteric interests that either have a high bar for entry and/or the people who have simple interests that they approach in a very esoteric way. Like art snobs, basically. People who approach their interests in the most abstract and esoteric way that even they can’t comprehend or conceptualize what they enjoy in a way that entices you.

I have the nagging suspicion that a lot of people out there have “unique” interests not because of their genuine enjoyment of them, but rather the sense of individuality it gives them above others. The kind of people who if you ask them about their interests, they can’t even give you a straight answer to your questions or describe them to you in a way that intentionally alienates either of you from feeling any sense of connection.


How Many Times Did I Say Interest in This Post?

In conclusion, hobbies and interests are a good way to learn about ourselves and connect with others. If you’re not developing your skills or expanding your knowledge with them–or at bare minimum feeling a sense of immersion with them–then be wary of whether you’re taking up a certain hobby to feel like you belong or feel better than others. And likewise be wary of those who may show signs of this intentional misunderstanding that could lead from sharing divergent interests with others.

But all in all, our passions should be the result of our genuine fascination with them, not a desire to be a certain kind of person because that’s seeking a false sense of status and superiority over others. These are things that can give us insights on how we operate and how others operate, and in turn make the world a better place.

To harken back to my seemingly bleak outlook at the beginning of this post, being interested in a variety of things throughout our lives is one of the many ways to stave off the abyss. Have your interests, but be careful not to let them accelerate your descent into the abyss. They are meant to strengthen and unite individuals, not alienate and demean them.

What is your relationship to your interests?

Have you benefited from connecting with individuals who share the same interests as you?

Make sure to like this post, follow Your Write to Live, and answer these questions and more in the comments below!

Movie Montage Motivation

Training montages are a staple for underdog movies like Rocky, which features one of the most epic montages of all time. It’s so epic that I presume it’s the film that popularized training montages in the first place. When Eye of the Tiger queues up and we see Rocky training for his title bout against Apollo Creed, we can’t help but feel hyped up for him because of all the hard work he’s putting into preparation.

Today’s post is all about those long grueling hours of preparation that we put into a moment of time that has a much shorter duration than the actual training itself. And that’s the interesting part about training montages in movies. They condense a huge passage of time into just a couple minutes for however long the hype up song will play for, but when it comes to the main event, that scene is what gets drawn out and dramatized.

Unfortunately, real life works the opposite. UFC fighters can train for months on end only to be KO’d under a minute in the first round. Or even if they do go the distance in a championship match, the 25 minutes they spend fighting in the octagon still does not compare to the endless of hours, weeks, and months of training.

In a montage, all that quick cutting between training activities is super exciting, but if you watch all that in real time without the hype up music backing it up, you would probably get bored real fast. After all, no one has time to spend months in the movie theater watching Rocky jog around Philadelphia for an hour and then go punch a speedbag and some frozen meat, and get punched himself, for several more hours.

So while montages may gloss over all that extensive training time for the sake of retaining viewer retention, you as a person working toward a goal, must actually retain your motivation toward training in whatever field you’re attempting to master. It’s not as fun and exciting as having all your training time summed up in 3 minutes to a hype track, but that’s what makes it even more important.

Real life training is long, hard, and messy.

Motivation can only last so long before resistance and discipline begin to rear their ugly heads. When natural motivation begins to wane, the doubts start pouring in, making you think twice about whether or not you’re on the right track. You hit plateaus in your capacity to learn and retain new things, you mess up on things you thought you’ve mastered, and worst of all, you might even experience imposter syndrome where you can’t even believe you can achieve such great things.

In these times of struggle it is important to take stock when you get stuck. My examples so far have been bleak, considering how Rocky actually ends, along with what I said about a UFC fighter getting KO’d in the first round. To turn things around, I want to posit that even if you “lose” despite of all your training, it really does come down to that cliché where life is all about the journey, not the destination.

Even if you try and fail, at least you’ve developed the discipline to strive for what you want. And while a lot of hard work and persistence may not amount to much in the end result, at least in the final analysis you’ve put your best foot forward and built your life brick by boring brick.

Everybody wants to get on stage and sing their song, but not many people out there are willing to take music lessons, lug their gear around, and commit to endless hours of rehearsals and soundchecks. By dedicating yourself to your craft every day, you are already ahead of the curve. Better yet, removing the unproductive concept of comparing ourselves to others, we are already becoming better than our past selves when we make the decision to develop our skills.

On the brighter side, while I can’t guarantee you succeed in achieving your goals if you dedicate yourself everyday, I can at least say that you are increasing your chances of success tenfold by simply putting the work in. In fact, I’d even argue that the end goal should not be the goal. Rather, the goal should be whatever you have ahead of you for that day in particular.

So say you’re a writer like me and you want to write and publish a novel. It’s a daunting task to say the least, but the thing about goals is that they comprise of a subset of mini goals that lead toward it. While the end goal is to have a novel published, the daily goal could and should be something along the lines of 500-2000 words a day, or whatever amount you’re most comfortable with.

Make the montage, the training, the goal itself. Approach it with all the enthusiasm you can at the beginning, but don’t let the initial loss of motivation stop you because then that’s when you’re being tested as to how well you can adapt these activities into routine habits that you just do as part of your daily life.

Simply put; success is a lifestyle, not an end goal.

Blooper Reels and Humility

woopsI don’t know about you, but I personally love watching blooper reels from TV shows and movies. It’s nice to see the imperfections in performances before the piece gets polished up into consumable perfection. But while it is enjoyable to watch highly skilled and highly paid actors mess up their lines, break character, and fumble over their words, it is often hard to look at our own mistakes with the same amusement.

Why is that? I think I’m starting figure out what it is about blooper reels that make them so appealing, and before I shed my thoughts on that that, allow me to share the process that sparked my revelation.

Today, I am trying to edit my BSBS Review for The Girl on the Train and the whole recording process took about an hour and a half to do last night. This includes me gaining momentum in delivering my point, only to lose steam, delete the recording, and start all over again. The more I record, the more I have to edit, and I often fear that process.

It’s the same almost every time; I feel like I need to get it right the first time or I shouldn’t keep the recording. Then I eventually  tell myself that this is what I have editing software for! To cut through the awkward pauses between my points and compress them together in a deliverable format. Even then, it’s a battle between getting it perfect and getting it done.

When it comes time to editing, that’s where the real fun begins. That’s where I can create the illusion that I am a coherent speaker who can stay on point and deliver my message clearly and concisely–when in reality, everything that happened in between some of the cuts is anything but concise, clear, or coherent.

The more mistakes there are, the more shame I feel about it. I have all these thoughts and opinions about a story locked up in my head, all begging to be expressed or it’s going to bug me for not being able to share it. Having difficulty in conveying my thoughts adds to the pressure of wondering if it’s even worth doing these reviews considering that my videos have had hit or miss engagement in terms of viewership, comments, and likes.

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Did I Really Just Say That?!

After an hour or two of editing the initial recording and cringing at my mistakes, I eventually start laughing at myself for not only the bloopers, but also laughing at how stressed out I get from them. I know it’s horrible, but I often compare my moments of impeded speech to the way that Jimmy Valmer kid from South Park stutters when he speaks. Sometimes to the point of taking a whole minute to say a simple five word sentence. And Jimmy has it worse!

When I’m finally done experiencing all this creative mania, I relax and decide to just get the job done.

It’s not about the viewership, the likes, or even the comments–though of course, these are things I would greatly appreciate. It’s more about me having fun with reading these books and giving myself the treat of watching it all play out on the big screen. Not to mention  the chance to goof off on camera and deliver my thoughts in a place that doesn’t remain stuck in my head are huge pluses.

Sometimes…

  • The first recording gets edited to completion and uploaded anyway. I realize it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.
  • The first recording gets edited to completion, but it still sucks despite my attempts at polishing it up. I see it as a rough draft/rehearsal to show me where I can improve in the re-recording.
  • Right away, I see how horrible it’s going to be. At least I don’t have to fear messing up THAT badly again, and I can jump back into the studio with much more confidence! I know I can do better, so I’ll do better.

Cut! Action! Print!

movie-production-clapper-board_249x201I’ve been doing BSBS Reviews for 9 months now and this is how it’s been for me. Today, I resolve to accept it as all part of the process. As much as I would like to get it all right the first time, it is incredibly rare for me to record a 15 minute video with not much editing required vs the usual 30-60+ messy minute mania.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to deliver my point without any editing and master this lip flapping, tongue slapping, noise making device installed in my face. Until then, I’ll keep practising and polishing up my craft.  I will accept that this may be my process for now or forever.

This is what made me realize why blooper reels are so fun to watch. There’s humility in showcasing some of the mistakes actors have made before post-production. It’s to show that they’re human too and just trying to find their way through the scene.

After all the missed cue lines and involuntary laughter, they eventually get it done. And more importantly, even though there is work to be done, the production can still have fun in the process. It’s nice to hear laughter erupting in the background from the people who are off screen, along with the ones on screen, because that signals to us that it’s okay to make mistakes and try again.

We just have to keep working at it until we get it right. If we care enough about what we want to create in our lives, we push through all the difficulty and learn from our mistakes. After all, every expert out there was once an awkward novice. No one is born skilled. Talented maybe, but I agree with Will Smith when he says talents are useless until you practise to turn them into skills.

The final product may be close to perfect, but the process doesn’t have to be. Creation is usually a messy experience, but that’s where the fun is at!

The Four Pillars of Fiction Part 2: Characters

Your story’s objective is only as powerful as the characters that convey it.

Each member of the cast must represent opposing sides of the main argument, thus providing several different angles to perceive your story’s philosophy.

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I’ve already written a couple of other posts about characters, both of which you can check out here for more:

Crafting a Character Series

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

–but for today, let’s focus on why characters  should be as extensively explored as I have in previous posts.

Me, Myself, and Who Am I?

Fundamentally, every story’s main character is on a quest to achieve self-knowledge. This goes for both putty characters and pebble characters. Think of throwing a pebble at a wall, the physical structure of the pebble remains the same, whereas throwing a blob of putty will cause it to reform.

That’s what characters experience; being thrown against a wall, so to speak, and they either change or don’t change throughout the course of your story. Either way, their purpose remains the same; to argue for one or several sides of the objective.

I know that there’s a plethora of stories where morality is ambiguous (and that they’re usually much more interesting), but for the sake of simplicity, let’s take the basic concept of Good vs Evil to illustrate how characters argue for each side. And by argue, that could mean verbal or physical combat, or in just the way that they conduct themselves.

Generic Good Guy is a law abiding citizen, doing some good for his friends, family, and community. Everything he does in the story is for the benefit of others or for himself without hurting anybody except possibly…

The Typical Bad Guy whose sole purpose is to watch the world burn. He causes destruction everywhere he goes, expressing his preference to be evil and not care about hurting others because it’s what he intends anyway. Generic Good Guy may hurt other people unintentionally, but he usually owns up to it, while Typical Bad Guy has no remorse for the pain he causes.

In this basic story dynamic of Good vs Evil, the argument is (usually) that good triumphs over evil, all the time.

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Who Would You Be Without Adversity?

To convey this, Typical Bad Guy will have to test Generic Good Guy on the grounds of his ethics, philosophy, strength, and integrity by throwing obstacles in his way. Perhaps Generic Good Guy’s objective is to a safe and adjusted life, but TBG is getting in the way of that by hurting GGG’s social circle and disrupting his day to day life.

It is through adversity where Generic Good Guy will discover or grow into a force for good. If he’s a putty character, maybe he’s a weak underdog type who has to train in order to defeat the almight Typical Bad Guy. Or perhaps he’s a pebble character that has strength and prowess, but hasn’t had the chance to exercise any of it because he hasn’t been challenged yet.

In either case, the end result is the same. The character has developed some level of self-knowledge by fighting for what he believed in, whether he won or lost against his opposition. He now knows what strength he’s capable of, or made himself capable of it through hard work and determination.

Pouring Some Sugar in Generic Brand Oatmeal

Now, that was a very very basic example I had to keep simple in order to elaborate on a more complex concept. Stories these days have many more layers in their examination of the objective, and even more layers in their characterization.

Ultimately, characters are meant to represent several sides of an objective, and they do that by trying to express their personal preferences, only to have them attacked or dismissed by the other characters.

The key ingredient to conveying Objective is having characters disagree with each other and fight over who gets to assert their preference, or if any common ground can be met between them in less black and white type of stories.It is through disagreements between characters that we are given the opportunity to passively experience different sides of an argument–and decide for ourselves which characters we agree with, if any at all.

Stay tuned for The Four Pillars of Fiction Part 3: Setting…