A new chew toy

Kitten falling asleep on an Apply keyboard.
I nap a lot…
My friend, Sheryl, posted about looking at resolutions and the like as forms of behavioral modification. I especially liked her third guideline:

Replace an undesired activity with a desired activity. A good dog trainer knows that just yelling at the dog for chewing on your shoe is bad, and instead giving your dog an acceptable chew toy while removing the shoe is better. Rather than beat yourself up for obsessing over that metaphorical shoe, give yourself a metaphorical chew toy to occupy yourself.

Because it’s the time of year when lots of people compile retrospectives of the previous year and/or set goals for the next, it’s difficult not to at least think about it.

I’ve been thinking about several things that could fall into the category of resolutions.

I quite enjoyed NaNoWriMo as a rebel, this year, and if I could maintain half that level of writing productivity year round I’d be a very happy camper. So I’ve been trying to think of sustainable habits I could form that could achieve that. I don’t have a good idea, for that one, yet.

Another thing that’s been niggling at me is my choice of topics on this blog. I hadn’t meant to write so many blog posts on gay rights related topics. I mean, I always know that those will happen with some regularity in any place I write or post, because it’s where I live, metaphorically. And no one foresaw just what a busy year it would be in the U.S. in that arena. As things kept happening, it’s impossible for me not to at least mention the events, right?

But a sort of related niggle is how many times a week I read something that outrages (or at least disturbs, annoys, and disappoints) me, and how I let that color my thinking. Part of that is the nature of news and human information sharing. We’re inherently drawn to bad news, if for no other reason to ascertain whether it is something that might happen to ourselves. So, since it is guaranteed to get people’s attention, people in the business of reporting and commenting on the news are going to focus on bad news. Bad news, or rather, stories about bad things happening or threatening to happen, is also easier to report than other kinds of stories.

Thanks to filters and aggregators and such, I can get news that’s tailored to topics I’m interested in, which is good, but because bad news is easier to report and reaps higher rewards in terms of ratings, et al, that means I wind up reading a lot of upsetting stories that feature topics I care about, which increases the upset! I’m too much of a news junkie to give it all up, but it couple of ways that I can cut back have occurred to me.

I love the NPR news quiz, Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me. The show is about news, but it tends to focus on the silly, strange, or mockable. And since it is in a quiz format with various humor writers and so forth as the panel of contestants, it doesn’t exacerbate any feelings of outrage. But the last few years, instead of listening to it weekly, what I find myself doing is letting the podcasts pile up on my iPhone for a month or so, and then I listen to a bunch of shows in quick succession. So, one thing I’m going to try to do, is listen to an episode of the podcast every week, rather than let them pile up.

During November I felt a lot less irritated about world events, because I wasn’t paying as much attention to my usual news sources at all. During my lunch break at work, instead of browsing the news through Zite or Flipboard, I wrote. There were some days where I felt so out of touch that I did spend part of my break reading the news, but I gave myself a time limit, so that I would spend at least half of the break writing. I think I may be able to make that a regular thing. Spend no more that half the break reading, and the rest has to be writing.

I hope that will also increase my overall writing productivity. So there’s two resolutions! Oh, let’s go ahead and make a list:

  • Reduce the outrage. Listen to Wait! Wait! podcast once a week, limit the amount of time I read news during work breaks.
  • Write more regularly. Spend the reclaimed break time writing. Find other ways to motivate myself to write rather than twiddle the keys.
  • See friends for fun more. Haven’t figured out how to concretely do that. My tendency to drag all my friends into my projects makes project schedules drive all my social interaction. Which I think isn’t entirely healthy.
  • Paint, draw, and make music. Haven’t figured out how to make that happen more regularly. Yet.

So, that’s my current list. I’ll keep you posted on how things go.

12 thoughts on “A new chew toy

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