Thoughts

Wrap up on “Flow”

Of all the types of books I read at various times, the pop psychology/non-fiction/motivational/psychological texts always take me the longest.

Intentionally.

There’s a lot to take in, think about, absorb, and I like to give it ample time to soak into the brain matter.

So this week I’m wrapping up Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi’s Flow, the book that, essentially, attempts to home in on the meaning of life. The root of all true happiness.

An impressive claim?

Perhaps, but I really can’t argue with him.

Before I get into my thoughts on the book, I’ll get right to the recommendation. If you enjoy the sort of book that gets you inside your own head and helps you see the world/your actions differently, you’ll enjoy it. It’s dense at times, but interesting, and as it’s referred to in so many more recent books (this one came out in the 90s and is the definitive work on the subject), it’s a great starting point to give context.

My previous post about the book breaks down his definition of “flow,” and the various criteria required to enter into this optimal experience.

For the rest of the book, he goes more into depth with the various criteria and how they come into practice with examples, like the man who’s worked the same welding job at a company for thirty years, but still loves going into his job because he finds new ways to challenge himself and then goes home to invest new little devices and features for his rock garden as a hobby.

He discusses the fact that research shows people enter the flow state significantly more often at work than their do in their leisure hours, but society focuses so much on the value of working solely so you can enjoy your leisure time that, although less happy people want more of it.

The exception to the rule? People to whom leisure is an active hobby. Something that engages the mind in a way that matches the criteria previously mentioned.

Physical — running to beat your time or master a new form, taking up a new sport, getting into shape; cognitive — learning a new language, taking a course; creative — building/invention something, making art; or social — people? what? — activities can all get you into the flow state.

Passive activities like mindlessly watching television, travelling just to look, enjoying other people’s work without adding any of your own … don’t.

Where people are most affluent, it can actually take more effort to get into the flow state unless is an effort is made to get involved in your surroundings, to keep growing as a person.

He discusses how, without that effort, can people even forget how to set their mind to active thinking. Leading to say, less critical thought while watching the news, taking the opinions of media mavens and your neighbours without taking the time to reason things out yourself (things to consider as we enter the 2019 election prep in both Canada and the States).

The best way to develop the flow mindset, this state of perfect happiness that both grows the self while separating the ego from the self, is to practice it.

So the next time you have a day off and you’re wondering how to fill your time, call up a friend, crack open a model set or a jigsaw puzzle, download a language app, go out and work in the garden.

Life your best life — it starts in your own head.

update, writing

Who You Know

No matter where your passions lie, networking is necessary evil.

Don’t stress or panic!

It doesn’t have to be as scary as all that.

Sure, it might mean chatting with strangers and remembering to brush your hair, but it can be fun and memorable and present opportunities you never would have gotten if you’d stayed at home, headphones on, nose in book/video game/canvas/guitar case/garden, etc.

I’ll even share a secret with you.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to put on pants.

Okay, if you’re leaving the house to do this networking thing, please, put on some form of clothing. Not only will you avoid the chill, you’ll also avoid the criminal charges, and that’s just better for everyone.

BUT you don’t have to leave the house.

Social media is a wonderful thing.

It can be.

Just avoid the people who make you miserable.

But that’s an aside.

Point is, social media is full of people who share your interests and are looking to connect with like-minded people for support, advice, discussion, inside jokes that only fellow writers/musicians/gardeners/gamers will understand.

And really, that’s what networking is.

To go out and expect to meet people just for the sake of getting opportunities is not going to get you very far. Most people have an easy time sniffing out when they’re being used.

Proper networking is right there in the name. Network. Connection. Information going back and forth to create a complete data set. The wider the network, the more information, the clearer the picture.

Twitter, when done carefully and when well-curated, can be a fantastic source of networking. It can be easy to fall into the world of trolls or instigators, but if you’re paying attention to the people you follow, you should be able to only see what you want to see.

In my case, the recent hashtag #WritingCommunity has introduced me to a whole new circle of writers in various stages of their careers.

It has allowed me to find support and encouragement and to offer it in others.

My time on Twitter led me to one of my first circles of writer friends, many of whom I’m still in contact with today, 10 years later.

One of those people is the person who get me into indie publishing.

I’ve met people who have brought me into anthologies and boxsets, who have led me to writing forums that have helped me hone my craft and get inspired, who have become close friends, confidantes, and kindred spirits.

This weekend, I’m heading off to meet a few of these people in person, and I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of getting the words written and talking shop with a whole cabin of people.

So try not to think of networking as a four-letter word.

Find your own way of reaching out and meeting people in your field.

You never know how your life will change for the better.

update, writing

Pet Peeve: Nauseous vs. Nauseate

cold-and-flu-seasonWe’re heading into cold and flu season, which also means the start of hearing another one of my language peeves.

This one isn’t a full peeve. It doesn’t make my eye twitch like “impact” does, but I do notice it. I can’t help it. I can be exactly the kind of language purist whose tea you want to lace with some kind of relaxant so I’ll go to sleep and stop talk about how words should be used.

I would apologize for it… but I won’t.

This particular gripe? Nauseous vs. nauseated.

Anyone who watched or remembers Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed will appreciate this one.

Common usage says that these two words are interchangeable. Fine. I accept that, but at the very least I feel people should make a conscious decision about which word they’re using.

Nauseous means something that makes you feel ill. The rotting garbage is nauseous (not to be confused with noxious, which is something that is physically harmful or destructive). If you were to be nauseous, it would mean that your very presence was enough to make those around you feel ill.

That might be the case, who am I to say? But I find it unlikely that if someone were to provide a description of you, “makes me queasy” would be included. If so, my apologies.

Typically, however, the word you should be going for is nauseated. It’s fun to say, sounds fancy, and doesn’t run the risk of accidentally giving people the wrong impression about your personality. Win-win!

writing

Pet Peeve: Impact vs. Affect

I openly admit to being one of those people whose eye twitches when words are used incorrectly.

I know that education, and therefore proper usage, is a privilege not everyone has, so it’s not that I judge people for the way they speak, it’s more an automatic reaction, like when you hear a discordant note in a piece of music.

Some of these discordant notes strike me worse than others, so I figured I would take advantage of my platform here to share my particular pet peeves as I think of them over the next little while, and maybe play my part in weeding them out of existence.

Okay, that’s kind of a huge ambition. Language changes. I know this. As certain usages become popular, they become accepted, often replacing the original word or use. We see it all the time, and it’s a facet of the English language I find fascinating.

But I have a hard time letting go.

Take impact vs. affect.

In my dayjob, it has become acceptable to use these two words interchangeably. Every day, documents go past my desk with sentences like “This policy impacts the program.”

It’s a personalized form of torture.

Unless you are specifically talking about something physically colliding with or hitting something else, impact is not a verb, it is a noun.

Your car can impact the telephone pole.

The asteroid can impact the Earth.

In both of these cases, the result is serious injury and expense.

If your policy impacts your project, then that would suggest said policy was taken in hand and slapped against your project, or maybe stuffed into a cannon and fired into your project, or possibly raised to a height of some significance, then dropped onto your project to the distress of all involved.

However, your policy can have an impact on your project, or your policy can affect your project. Neither of these alternatives risks any kind of bodily harm, depending on the nature of your business.

For a quick and easy way to know whether you’re using impact correctly, Grammar Girl suggests an simple test: if you can use an article like “the” or “an” before impact in a sentence, than you’re likely in the clear.