Monthly Archives: March 2015

Dry Spells – I’m Guessing They are Cross Cultural?

I’m having a dry spell, as revealed in my dearth of postings recently.

So I’ve adopted an old writer’s trick when in a dry spell or when stuck by “writer’s block” – I’m going to write about not being able to write.

The immediate effect of starting to write about not being able to write is that I have to face the fact that I CAN write as …here I am writing.

Which leads to one point of clarity – the problem is not the ability to write, the problem is something else.

I have a basic belief about myself and most humans in most situations –  if I’m not doing something then I’m not doing it because I don’t want to do it.  I might have very good reasons TO do it but still not WANT to do it, for other good reasons.

Oh that is another part of my beliefs here – all reasons are “good” reasons.  I don’t mean morally good, or good as in helpful, I mean good as in genuine, actual, real, to be respected, worth recognising and understanding.

Sometimes understanding “reasons” helps bring an internal change, but often change does not require insight – in fact there is plenty of research that suggests that ‘personal insight’ leads to changes in our behaviour no more often than any other dynamic, including external inputs such as good luck or bad luck.

Back to my dilemma, I have had a few dry weeks, each time I thought about writing a blog for this blog my “don’t think about that” skills would kick in and a couple of days later I’d notice I had forgotten to start to write.  I’d feel slightly bad for a few moments then go back to not thinking about it for another couple of days.

Clearly I have been avoiding something but I have no idea what I am avoiding.

I’m glad that David has been pressing on with his postings here, that is one of the good things about being in a partnership, being part of a team – nothing rests on a single pair of shoulders and the progress of other team members can help drag me out of my own spot of bogged-down-ness.  Yes, I could have written “inertia” but reading bogged-down-ness has a bit of the quality to which it refers and that is a great characteristic for words.  For word lovers, please note that inertia and bogged-down-ness both have three syllables, at least in actual pronunciation, but one slides off the tongue and the other grabs your tongue and clumsily flails around trying to go back down your throat rather than out between your lips.

Words are cool, a whole world of wonders and mysteries and delights and playfulness.

My basic assumption about myself is that when I’m not doing something I really enjoy doing the most likely reason for my inaction is my fear.

I assume that even when I am not aware of feeling fear and when I don’t have much clue about what COULD be worth fearing in the task or activity.

Fear and death are related, at least in the West, where I was raised and still live.  I’m not going to go off on a tangent here in which I make my argument about fear and death being related in people’s psychology and in social discourse, by which I mean, the things we discourse about only obliquely, in code, or not at all.

I think the connection for me, forgive me leaving out an awful lot of background and details that might make this seem more sensible to you gentle reader, is that death echoes with pointlessness and meaninglessness and whatever it is I fear is probably somehow related also to beliefs or concerns I have about pointlessness or meaninglessness.  It is a kind of circle, which I might unpack some other time or in some other place but not here and now as here and now my only goal is to write about not writing and thus to stop not writing at least for a few hundred words.

As to the title of this post –  I’m pretty sure that all cultures that have written language have the concept of “writer’s block” or “dry spells”, indeed as I think as I write I see that any culture with artists, even without a written language, might have the concept of ‘dry spell’.

We can see that I have ‘assumed’ a psychological explanation for my own dry spell.

That is interesting because the psychological way of seeing humans is a fairly new thing, only about one hundred and fifty years old.  We tend to read our psychological narrative back into things we read from antiquity but just because some of the words look familiar, or can be interpreted with our psychological frame of reference does not mean folks hundreds of years ago were seeing humans the way we see ourselves.

Psychological thinking is really creative storytelling tradition, it has helped us understand ourselves a lot, its a great tool, but it is not “the truth” any more than myths and legends and stories told under star bright skies around murmuring open fires are “the truth”, nor any more than the stories we tell ourselves in our movies and tv shows and pop songs –  all are tools we use to talk about ourselves to ourselves.  None are “the truth”, certainly not the psychology story but it is the story I just jumped right into using as I wrote this blog stream of consciousness style.

I wonder what narratives, what frames of reference, what explanations, other cultures use to explain a creative dry spell?



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Wife Or Wifi?

I had a few days without wife or wifi  last week. The former had to go to Holland sadly because of a family bereavement. The latter was refusing to talk to our computer devices.

So which was the biggest miss? Well, we are all married to our connectivity these days. But I’m on the road back to fully appreciating the value of real, concrete, touchable connections. So, don’t be offended Miss Internet, but the truth is that the woman who was a part of my life before you  is still the one for me. If only because she would have known where the spare keys were when one of my boys locked himself out of his flat. She also happens to be softer and more cuddly, and has been known to laugh at my jokes. No, really.

It is hard to believe that the internet has only been around in our lives since the early nineties. Many of us are a part of the unique generation who remember the before and after. The internet is a truly fantastic invention that has transformed, and will continue to transform our lives and our world. But to be frank, apart from not being able to write this blog, and to send a couple of emails, I didn’t miss being “online” at all. I think if that particular kind of connectivity ever got taken away permanently I wouldn’t cry for too long, although I would miss the opportunity to bump into new  friends whom I could never have met otherwise and to maintain some long distance connections.

But if the internet failed there would still be planes. And if planes no longer flew there might still be trains. And if trains got derailed there would always be the bus. And if those wheels stopped turning then we could surely walk our way to new worlds and new possibilities. Like in the old days.

In truth we are in the very early days  of learning to use, rather than be used by, Wifi.  Personally I am feeling the need to draw back a bit from it’s all pervasive influence. I want to establish and be sure of  my own physical connections and personal priorities. The potentially limitless Cyberworld  would be a meaningless, rootless, heartless, souless hall of mirrors if it wasn’t grounded by a real world, geographically centred sense of community and belonging. I don’t want to get disconnected from my physical body. Or yours. It feels like an important part of being human.

David Fee

Ed. Here are two more in depth articles, which I read shortly after writing this short blog, about our relationship with internet technology. (They also provide a lesson in the importance of an alluring title…I know which one I’d click first, but they are both worth a read):

The Future Of Loneliness

When Apps Are Driven My The Market Place There Is Only One Winner

Middle Age 10Krisis

I decided a while ago that I would mark my upcoming 50th birthday by running the Mull of Kintyre 10km race just before I reach that particular milestone. There was the choice of doing the award winning MOK half marathon too. But I’m not the greatest fan of running  long distances. So the 10k it is. I’ll be running on the Sunday morning after playing at the brilliant Kintyre Songwriters Festival on Saturday night. I’m hoping to persuade some of the dirty stop outs at the festival to come and cheer me on the morning after. You never know…

Anyway, joining me on the race will be three of the boys, Daniel, Samuel and Joel, who are all looking forward to showing their old dad the worn tread  on the back of their running shoes. Oh, yes, it will be nice to jog along behind them for the duration…

Well, I say that. I’m actually, secretly, or possibly not so secretly, a bit of a competitive beast. I do harbour ambitions to beat at least two of them in the race although beating the third is probably a bit of a long shot. But, hey, I’m training smart, and they don’t really know. Shhhh!  So maybe I can spring even more surprises, and show the young whipper snappers that life isn’t over just because they think I’m an old man.

Of course, I may be decieving myself.  But, as Captain Sensible says, if you don’t have a dream…how you gonna have a dream come true. However, at the end of the day, the main thing is simply to begin my running career, finish the race, and then retire…

…gracelessly, if I lose to those little, ok, not so little, buggers.

Not that I’m planning to retire from anything really. It’s made such a difference to my life simply to start doing all the kinds of things that I haven’t done since I was a boy. Like sprinting. LIfting heavy objects. Balancing on walls. Jumping over relatively high obstacles. And practising the requisite amounts of schoolboy humour (alright, you caught me, I never got out of that particular habit).

I recommend carrying on doing, or rekindling the habit of doing, “Things You Did When You Were Young”. If you’re not still young that is.

But if you are still young (Daniel! Samuel! Joel!)…well, that’ll be me sailing on by.

David Fee

Tips On “First World Problem” Survival

ImageMmmm. Smell the flowers. Said the man who had stopped going on Facebook and didn’t immediately find lots of other things to fill those Facebook sized gaps of distraction. Which sadly didn’t actually involve smelling any flowers yet. And that’s the answer to my friend who emailed me this morning to ask if I’d been experiencing any Facebook withdrawal symptoms.

It did occur to me, as it often does when I’m waffling on about whatever little storm is being waged in my head, that a lot of my ponderings fall into the recently invented #firstworldproblems category. Of course that hashtag was invented in order to give those of us who aren’t struggling with more fundamental issues of survival a little sense of perspective. And quite right too. But in the absence of threats to our physical existence it might be that we have to invent a little bit of tension in our lives. And when this gets taken too far, when we have a little bit too much time to think…well, I suspect that’s when a lot of the mental health issues, which seem fairly rife in more affluent parts of society, start to get a hold.

So, when we are lucky enough to have everything we need…and if you think it’s much more than luck then you probably need to experience a bit of time between a rock and a hard place…we may well find ourselves searching for meaning.

Life without physical threat is a great privilege. Very few creatures, human or otherwise, have had that privilege in the history of the universe. We  should want to do stuff that matters. That makes a difference. That counts for something. And because we have time to think about all of this we could, without a little care, end up with our heads entering into a Bermuda Triangle of inescapable self analysis that threatens our very mental existence. So first, if we are going to do anything that counts for something, we need to kill The Voices.

There is only one way to kill the voices in my experience, and that is to starting moving. And probably the more physical that moving is the better. At least that’s what the experts, and my own experience,  suggest. If you are going to find something meaningful to do, outside of earning a living, it really doesn’t help if you feel crap. So, play the guitar. Go for a walk. Play tig with yourself. Try and foot tap a strangers shadow. Get those endorphins persuaded to come out and dance. If only for long enough to quieten those pesky voices. Get into the habit of shutting them up. Honestly, it can be done. You should have heard the CACOPHONY in my head. These days I can actually hear myself think sometimes.

But after that, what about finding a meaning for your life? It might be that we need to do a lot of the voice quietening stuff before we can even begin to start answering that question. But you know what. Sometimes we can combine the two. Because adding meaning to life, your life and the world around you, can be almost anything. Anything that adds a positive something. So, yes, posting a video of a fluffy bunny chasing a Rotweiller onto your Facebook wall counts. You are putting a smile on someones face aren’t you? Don’t let anyone tell you that doesn’t matter. Just make sure it’s the best Bunny chasing Rottweiler vid you are capable of producing.And if you are planning to find the cure for malaria, which might involve spending a lifetime simply discovering the next step in the search for the cure for malaria, then do that too, with all your heart and mind. That  counts as meaningful.

You may well be thinking that i’m joking by putting these two “extremes” of “usefulness” next to each other. Not really. It’s more important that we do something productive, that we value our actions, and that we aim to act in ways that make life better, than that we  do nothing or simply stew in our own privilege. I’m rubbish at judging the value of my own actions, so I’m certainly not going to start judging yours.

But we’re on the side of the good guys aren’t we? I, for one, am not going to be too humble to admit it. Don’t be ashamed of being good. Don’t think that doing something meaningful with your life is only for special people. We can all be special in that way. And the more people that realise it the better.

Dang, I’m not even going to apologise for starting to preach again. But you can have a smiley face for getting to the end. 🙂

David Fee

Great Endings

Our intrepid leader, David, reflected on his experience of ending his activities on Facebook and how the mix of feelings that swirled around that choice connected to other moments of ending things in his life.  It got me thinking about endings.

I’ll confess that I have said on many occasions in other contexts that stopping is as good as starting, that ends are as good as beginnings but Western culture tends to have this really irrational model that starting something is exciting and full of anticipation and hope but ending is a sign of a failure, some kind of loss, a sombre or emotionally shadowy experience.   It is merely a decision to see starts and endings so differently.  Endings have the same qualities as beginnings, if we notice this, if we choose to see those qualities.

The balance of qualities IS different between starts and endings but the same qualities are all there.

When we start something new we anticipate newness, we expect surprises, we have hope for something to grow.

When we finish something we anticipate the newness to come after the end, we expect surprises to be in the big open space after the “end” and we have hope that the big space will also have new growth of some kind in it.

David identified that there is some grief, of varying intensities, connected to endings.  Many of us have noticed that ourselves I’m sure.  We don’t notice the grief we feel when we start something new with the same kind of deliberate choice that we take to end a thing.  The grief is there,  that might surprise you, but its there – we don’t notice it because the Western model does not tell us to notice it, just as Patriarchy does not tell us to notice male entitlement, so most of us don’t.

The other thought that I had about endings and grief was that griefs connect together.  One grief reminds us of another one,  one sorrowing evokes a former sorrowing, or sometimes we can even project a sorrow into our future and feel it before the event we expect occurs.  Humans in that way are kind of time machines, our attention moving backwards and forwards thru our own history and imagined futures.

Because sorrows evoke each other, a grief that is a small thing in its own right can evoke significant intensities of sorrow due to it connecting to an older, deeper event.  We can interpret this as us “being silly” and feeling an undue amount of emotion over a small matter, which is us being tough on ourselves for not good reason.

I’ve tended to see endings as opportunities.  Easier to do with endings we choose for ourselves, takes a bit more mental work with endings that are forced on us.

It is certainly the case that for most of us in the West, opportunities abound, there are endless ways we can spend our time, endless choices we make, starts and endings.  Add to this the idea that we are each supposed to make a success of our life, we each carry this responsibility to “do well” and live a “good” life.  The result is that we often second guess ourselves when we are starting something and we second guess ourselves even more when we are thinking about ending something.  The freer we are the more responsibility we have and frankly we don’t always enjoy the responsibility.  🙂

I definitely agree with David about the connection between death and life – the certainty of our death is a universal and the endless ways this is foreshadowed in our living would take a library of books to unravel and explore.

Now my musings slow down to a crawl and come to a stuttering stop.  I didn’t plan to end it here but end it I shall.



Face Bookends

Saturday night I told somebody that I was looking forward to deleting my Facebook account on Sunday. And I was. But on Sunday morning, in a strange sort of way, it felt like a kind of death. And then I knew I was making the right decision.

It’s odd how some things, both good and bad, get us attached, becoming such a part of our lives that when they finish we grieve. Of course that’s understandable when we lose special people from our lives. But I have experienced the same thing, when I stopped smoking. When I moved country. When I first stopped actively believing in God ( particularly the world view of God which had been such a massive part of my life for three decades). And when I stopped taking sugar and milk in my coffee.

There are degrees of dying, naturally. i really, really, wanted to stop smoking (on the occasion when I last smoked 12 years ago) so the grief was short lived, the “death” relatively painless. But it was definitely a sense of grief, of dying, of something lost. And very occasionally I still have a pang. Moving country was also an active choice. Something I wanted to do. A positive move. The God thing was the hardest, because I really, really wanted to remain a believer. Faith in  God  had played an incredibly strong part in my life. The death of all that was long and hard.

And black, bitter, coffee? Well at least I knew my beverage of choice was grieving with me.

I think the Facebook experience is largely a good one. I liked the mix of the totally trivial and the solemnly serious. I liked the fact that it promotes and renews connections. I liked it as a place to practise verbal creativity. I liked being able to see photographs of myself, or of people I knew, which I would never have seen otherwise. I liked the way it could be a shared global experience when something (even if it was something completely pointless) went viral. I liked it as a way of promoting my own creative activity. I even liked it as a place to make me think.

And I still think we need something very like Facebook in our world. At the moment Facebook is really the only thing like Facebook that we’ve got. But for me it’s still a part of my life that I have felt the need to let go of. And as I said just the other day on Facebook, there are really only two reasons why Facebook is now dead to me.

I don’t trust the people who run it. I don’t know all the ins ands outs of all the privacy abuses that Facebooks owners are commiting. But I do know that they won’t simply let me write what I say and let my friends see it when I write it. They control and change what I see and when I see it. They control what my friends see. And I don’t find that healthy. I don’t think that people who wish to control our view in this way have our best interests at heart. And though I wholeheartedly believe in the kind of connections that Facebook facilitates via the magic of the Internet, I also wholeheartedly believe that our connections should be  controlled by us. That we should be responsible for our connections and able to control what people see of us and our thoughts. And though all of this might seem very conspiracy theoryish, I think the explanation for what happens, and is allowed to happen, on Facebook is simply, at the end of the day, all about money. Making money isn’t a bad thing in itself. but it should, at the very least, be open and honest, not underhand and deceitful.  I think human communication should be a free activity in every sense of the word, not a means by which to make men rich. So leaving FB is for me an act of taking personal responsibility, even if it diminished the number of connections I have.

My second reason is simpy about wise use of my time. At a time when I am in general more focused and certainly more certain about what I want to do with the time I have, Facebook has a tendency to take just a little bit too much of my available mental energy. And so it is not difficult, in one way, to say goodbye. In one way it feels very liberating and enabling. But of course it has woven a whole complex network of connections and behavioural tendencies in my head and in my life. And it can feel, on a day when everybody is “liking” you, that the whole world is listening. And who doesn’t want the whole world to listen to them.

So I had a slight sense of grief when I woke on Sunday morning about the prospect of deleting that part of my life called Facebook.

Someone said the best art, the only true art, is about death. Because that is our most commonly shared human experience and our greatest fear and cause of loss. I think life is about a constant letting go and moving on, and learning to do that well is our best way of learning to live. And learning to die. These little deaths are good for a person, I think.

OK. I know. Get over yourself. It was only Facebook…

David Fee