Friday, January 2, 2009

Stupid Ramblings

The above title is an attempt to annoy my little sister, who finds the word “rambling” to be perhaps the most odious in the English language. I don’t exactly love it, but I suppose I see its occasional appropriate use (on useless blog postings). My favorite word is stupid. Just ask my family. If I don’t like it, it’s stupid. This title is therefore intended to annoy others and humor/satiate me.

I am discovering, much to my great dismay, that having a weblog (blog) these days is apparently the “emo” thing to do. If you are a teenager, think you’re spectacular, believe that you have something very important to say but nobody is listening, wear eyeliner and pants that are a size or two too small, you start a blog. And a few of your most dedicated friends – when they find themselves hopelessly bored in the middle of the night, will log on and read whatever garbage you write. Or they’ll simply hit the “refresh” button repeatedly to run up the counter and give you the impression that people actually give a crap what you say. The one potential disadvantage of running up the counter, however, is that your friends will have to sit and instead listen to you rave about how many readers/fans you have. Nobody cares. Not even them. You write because you aren’t sure of yourself, because you don’t like feeling small and insignificant, and simply because you can. You’re narcissistic. This, I am learning, is why most young people have blogs.

This whole realization wasn’t sparked by any great conversation, but by a brief visit to the website, which specializes in demotivating slogans, posters, and calendars – and more recently, “despairwear.” One shirt simply states, “More people have read this shirt than your blog.” I was unaware that blogging was such an emo thing to do – and I’m embarrassed.

The first thing that comes to mind having made this realization is the number of people I have confidently, boldly, and perhaps even proudly told that I have a blog. Most of them have been polite upon hearing this, but now I have to wonder how many were such because they assumed me just another troubled emo kid that’s desperately struggling to afford meaning to my dull, post-highschool existence. Maybe that’s why they were so overly encouraging… They were concerned that the slightest bit of negativity or naysaying would send me rushing back to the typewriter to compose angry, unsent hate letters to everybody who “just doesn’t understand or appreciate me.” Or they were concerned that I’d find a gun, or use it, or give poisoned Kool-Aid to a playground full of children. “Just don’t insult him. He’s a blogger, self-indulged, and unstable.”

Thanks guys. Had I known that blogging brought with it so many negative connotations, I would have been less excited to tell people about it. Maybe I would have simply told them I’m a writer on sabbatical (unemployed). Better that than a teenie bobber with inferiority issues.

At any rate, the purpose of this post is not to defend my blogging/writing. What I write either stands on its own merit, or it does not. The only part of it that concerns me is the challenge to write daily, and hopefully write well. Some days, I am fully aware, I do not write well at all.

I have never been a big fan of new years resolutions. Many are simply reignited guilt for things NOT done the year prior. By the end of October, people are starting to reflect on the year and all the things they either failed abysmally at, didn’t even start, or situations that have simply grown more dire. Out of self-flagellation and regret, they will think about changing. But not just yet, since the holidays are a busy time and there’s a lot of fatty food to eat first, bills to pay, and debt to incur and spend the next year trying to pay off. I’ll start it after the holidays. New Years. The convenient time to schedule all life-changes, before reneging on them for a couple of months, wherein we grow numb to the fact we’ve already totally failed to realize our ambitions and forget about them. We’ll think of them again next October, when we start to once again reflect on what we didn’t do before. New Years resolutions don’t change – they just get recycled.

This now said, I have made no resolutions, but I have made some decisions, which coincidentally fall at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009. They are not entirely new to most. Quite simply, it is time to approach this blog with renewed, and reoriented vigor.

The seventeen week vacation has ended – almost three weeks ago. It would be wrong of me to attempt to prolong it unnaturally – such as venturing out again aimlessly. Thus, this will not be happening. I will limit travel to something more purposeful.

I wish to continue writing daily, since much of what happens on a daily basis is fairly often worth mentioning. Regardless of where I go or who I meet, I tend to have an interesting conversation with somebody. People are neat. Writing will continue on a daily or near-daily basis. This I need to do, not only for practice, but also because I enjoy it. Amazingly, a few others do too.

As for purposeful travel, however, this is directly tied to purposeful writing. When I go somewhere, it will be for the purpose of pursuing a specific writing subject. For example, I leave for Maryland tomorrow to begin serious efforts at writing a novel with an old Marine buddy. We’ve collaborated in the past quite successfully, so we’re confident we can do it again. Fiction, however, is a different avenue for me, so brings its own set of challenges. Nevertheless, I look forward to the experience, and remain optimistic that something will come of it. It is a project, and undertaken with the intent of a finished piece of writing that may be interesting for others to read, and undoubtedly interesting to write. Work, but fun work.

Following this project (which has no specific timeline), I am considering other writing projects (which as of today are not developed into anything worth mentioning). The time for simply traveling around and writing has ended – as fun as it may have been.

My underlying purpose is this: Having been blessed with a tremendous amount of relatively free time and marginal financial independence, I wish to use my time wisely and productively. WHEN this time ends (and I am certain that it will), I want to be able to look back, content that I did well with the time I was given – and perhaps produced a publishable piece of writing. Just what to publish with who remains a mystery to me, but I will keep working on this and see what comes out of it.

Another way to consider this is that I am seeking to “redeem” my free time, rather than grow inappropriately comfortable with not working a regular job and pursuing a career. Thus, writing will necessarily become my “work,” and hopefully produce something that may someday amount to an income. I am not writing, however, because I want money, but because I enjoy writing. “I’ve just got to play music because I love it.” That quote still sticks with me. I just need to keep writing because I love it. Something MAY come of it, or not. That remains to be seen. But I won’t know until I make a reasonable attempt at trying.

Obviously, I have to consider the purpose of my writing aside from simply enjoying it. That is insufficient, undirected, and there is a strong temptation to never pursue it beyond a daily sounding board for my unclear thoughts and a few social encounters. This will become my work.

Why write? Because I like to tell a story. Just as much as this, I like to stir others’ hearts as mine is stirred. Clearly, stories can be found anywhere, so I am left making a decision of WHAT stories I wish to pour my efforts into. So far, I am undecided.

I have been blessed with having many avenues on which I may approach this decision, seeing as a rather diverse background has enabled me to “connect” with a number of different interests. There are the southerners because I claim to be one. The veterans because I AM one, the conservatives because I sometimes think like they do, and the weirdos because I, too am not exactly normal. Not only are there a number of ways to skin a cat, but I in my case several cats. All I have to decide is which has the tastiest meat. *Does anybody know the origin of the “skin a cat” expression? I’d love to hear it…

One project idea which continues to interest me is the notion of touring all the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) posts in Virginia and simply getting to know a very eclectic and interesting group of men and women. I would love to tell their stories. They have endured amazing and trying situations, lived to tell about it, and are forever changed from their experiences. In most cases, it is also good to talk about these things, even though it can be simultaneously difficult to do so. But harboring demons is even worse.

A further purpose of such an undertaking would simply be to familiarize an audience with a group of people poorly understood at best, often forgotten, and at worst ignored. I would be seeking to introduce them to America, to allow (not make) people more fond of them, and in so doing, bridge the rather large gap between civilian and servicemember that has seen combat on foreign soil at his or her nation’s calling. Millions have served thus, but many millions more don’t understand them so well. Maybe I could help to change this in a small way. I will have to put more thought and prayer into this decision, but so far it seems quite interesting. This is but one idea for more purposeful writing. None of these ideas are particularly prodigious, but, at least to me, they’re endearing.

Regardless, the days of simple blogging are now over. What I have to say is often uninteresting, but what others have to say is not. It’s time to tell their stories, not struggle to make up my own. I don’t want to be emo. Or wear too tight pants and a scarf – in summer. Or eyeliner. Or spike my hair straight up. Or worse yet, struggle for recognition and identity in a sea of useless, shameless, unedited writing. I already know who I am, as to my family, my friends, and God. WHAT I am is a God-chaser. What I DO, at least for the moment, is write. No longer aimlessly, but with direction.

Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
All Rights Reserved


  1. Never apologize for writing...unless it is for a bad check.

  2. Leah is, in fact, knitting you a scarf.

  3. Encouraging Vets to talk about their deployment past is a gift. Because you are a Vet, they trust you and open up to you. I encourage you to be "the one" who will tell all of those untold stories that we need to pass on to the next generations.
    To blog or not to blog? Pursue your passion and keep writing.