Stroke of Inspiration

According to everyone’s favorite atheist, Christopher Hitchens, the four most overrated things in life are champagne, lobsters, anal sex and picnics. Being somewhat of a connoisseur in three of the four (tough to find good lobster in my neighborhood), I would agree and add a fifth to the list.

Inspiration is overrated. It doesn’t really do much over the long term. This was beautifully captured in a quote by a black woman science fiction writer, essentially the most succinct description of my soul mate:

“First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”

– Octavia Butler

I force myself to blog once a month, and it sucks. It becomes more and more challenging to find something to write about as my life gets more and more boring. I went from sports reporting to tech, from lining up whiskey shots to walking an old dog, from hitting on ladies in a 30-year age range and 100-pound weight range to living with a schoolteacher.

And now I am engaged. It is truly over. I failed to do something meaningful with my life. I have no interesting experiences to share anymore or even care to seek them. Nothing seems capable of defeating the oppressive combination of a Netflix subscription and Chipotle within walking distance.

My night out this week was going to a Manhattan Beach private school for open house, which featured first and second graders taking parents through a history of the universe. The tour started with the Big Bang, depicted by popping black balloons with glittery stars inside that I helped fill the previous night by stretching the opening with four fingers while trying to suppress realizations of how similar it looked to a vagina.

Then my miniature tour guide explained to me how life was created by a giant supernova, and I had to suppress saying, “Yo lil Galileo, pump the brakes. Ever heard of creationism?” if only to be a good Texan and teach him to think independently of reason in preparation for religion. Perhaps I will broach the subject at his baseball game tomorrow, the major social activity of my weekend, after which I will visit my buddy’s 5-month-old and try to instill in him the fortitude to never settle, never give up on his dreams just because he met a nice girl and turned 30.

Do you want to hear more about my life? I have nothing left to give. So it really is a struggle to manufacture a blog post every month, which is why it never goes up until the last few days. Deadlines get things done, not inspiration. If I waited for inspiration to come, I would never write for kicks again. I see this in the people whom I encourage to blog or write a book or screenplay, and they agree, yet never start or abandon after two posts. This is because the act of writing will rarely happen if it is based on how you feel or what’s going on in your life. It needs to be a reality that you accept, that you simply are going to write like you are going to brush your teeth.

The reason why I am passionate about people writing really comes down to just having an outlet for creativity in general, whether it be painting, music, dance, design, programming, film, whatever. Most likely the final product will be nothing exceptional, but the value lies in the process, the struggle to create something out of nothing. It exercises the brain, making things fire and stretch and move up there.

Technology sets us up for laziness, and that goes for body and mind. A lot of brains out there become obese because of a gross imbalance between consumption and creation. There was a time, believe it or not, when you did not have a smartphone. If you were hanging out with friends, you would have to entertain each other rather than pull up the latest meme. If you were waiting in line somewhere, you might drum up a conversation with the person next to you rather than scroll through the latest Vines of teenagers making screeching noises. If you were uncomfortable in a social situation, you would sack up and try to make a new friend rather than bury yourself in texting with one far from the moment.

Smartphones make for dumber interaction. Every spare breath does not need to be spent gobbling up content like a zombie with a finger attached to an iPhone. It’s OK. Put it down for a bit. You’ll be all right. Try stimulating your own thought for a second. (Unless you’re reading this on your phone right now, which really is just being efficient with extra time and should be commended.)

Because this whole smartphone-social media thing is relatively new, we don’t know what long-term effects will materialize down the road. I don’t see how it can be healthy to constantly inundate the brain on the processing end while leaving the production line to deteriorate. Imagination separates humans from the rest, so what happens when it is neglected? I am not taking any chances. I will write once a month for the rest of my life, or at least until inspiration strikes me dead.