Category Archives: Thought Bubbles

Thanks for Reading My Fiction, Now Let’s Talk About FOMO

It’s hot again and as Friday winds down I am typing up this one from my apartment in Beijing, China. Luckily the air isn’t that polluted and I can open up all of the windows to get a little cross breeze going. So, in my gym shorts and with a half cup of ice coffee I sit down ready to open my heart to the world.

If you are visiting my site today because you read my recent flash fiction post on the Anthill, well, thank you! A lot of work went into that piece and I am more or less happy with how it came out. Although it was originally a bit more tongue and cheek, I think the edits did in the end make it better. If you haven’t check it out, then here is a link for you.

Now that all the PR stuff is out of the way I want to get around to a topic that has been on my mind as of late. Namely, FOMO (fear of missing out). This is something that writers and professionals alike need to think about because it is seriously wearing down our attention span. I am betting that I am not the only one who suffers from FOMO.

For those who don’t know, FOMO refers to constantly checking social media because of the feeling that something is happening which we aren’t privy to. This has always existed (think of the friend who comes out on a Friday night- even though he has a fever of 102 degrees), but now with the advent of technology it has been seriously amplified.

We get FOMO because of all these messaging services and social media accounts. The internet is incredibly interesting and there always seems to be more and more ways to access it. But it’s important to remember that these physical devices and their connection to the internet can be a potential black hole of procrastination.

Of course, it’s also very important to stay connected and interact with the world. So the question arises… how do we manage it?

One idea is to set up a time during the day which you commit to not being on social networks. You could, for example, disable all social accounts until after five pm when you leave work. This could be done with an adblocker or “good ol’ self control”. (Sidenote- I don’t think “good ol’ self-control” is actually effective as we might think. So, yeah, maybe adblocker is best).

Another way could be to cut down on our accounts. That means deleting all the useless accounts that we have and ultimately not signing up for the new ones in the first place. This is a hassle in the beginning, but there is also a strength in learning how to say no.

The reason I bring this up today is that I have noticed how much FOMO cuts into the quality of my own work. This is to say that I do my best work when I have no distractions and can focus from 2-3 hours uninterrupted on a project.

If you are reading this post and saying “Ah, jeez Will I am an excellent multitasker” well, I’m sorry but you are not. Research has shown that multitasking really just means switching our attention from one thing to another, and therefore reducing our overall span of attention on one particular thing.

But I digress.

I hope that I was able to bring up some awareness about the importance of managing your own attention span in relation to social media as well as the internet. Because while I mainly discussed interacting with people on social networks here, this also applies to just surfing the web in general.

I will go out on a limb here and say that I really haven’t learned that many useful things from just surfing the web aimlessly. Normally, the most useful bits of information come from conversations with other people, lectures, and books. The web is certainly an awesome tool, but you need to make sure that you are using it, and not the other way around.

Lynch’s Magellan Fund (Stock Picking and Stories)

Peter Lynch ran the Magellan Fund for 13 years and achieved a 29.3% average annual return from 1977 to 1990. He is a legend in the financial world. 

When investing, Lynch advises doing research and developing a story about the target stock. If through your research and analysis you can develop a good story about why the stock is a good buy, then chances are you are on the right track.

Stories and stocks? Yes, you read that correctly. That’s because stories are one of the oldest forms of communication and an excellent tool to examine our own thinking. 

Whether people are eating lunch, in the line at the grocery store, or just watching the game, they are always telling stories. Stories about success and failures. Stories about the ups and downs of life. It seems only natural that someone would adapt the technique for picking stocks. 

Stories and stocks? Well, why not. Hard to argue with Lynch’s track record.

PS. Lynch is also famous for saying to “Invest in what you know.” Reminds me of the phrase “Write about what you know.” There seems to be a pattern!

Every oak tree started out as an acorn.

Inch by inch by inch,

step by step,

we go,

further and further.

People want results fast. They want to find the short cut,  a bypass, or a diet pill. But shortcuts only lead to shortcomings. And did I mention that diet pills don’t work anyways?

Good things come to those who wait. Now, where have I heard that before?

Yes, it’s true. The best things in life take a long time to nurture. They also need water, sunshine, and positive thoughts.

Every oak tree started out as an acorn.

Is it better to burn out than to fade away?

Neil Young famously sang “It’s better to burn out than to fade away. “

Well, right now I feel burned out like a candle burning at both ends. Or the ashes at the bottom of a fire. A book of matches, or a…. ah, just forget it.

While I have no regrets, I do have a few questions and possibly some concerns. To what point is it advisable to push the human body? And at what point is this process counterproductive?

Admittedly, I have a difficult time self-regulating. Maybe some of my readers can empathize. Surely they can sympathize. It can’t just be me, can it? 

Sometimes I get all these ideas in my head and all I want to do is create-create-create.

As if I could only make enough things, then I could get “It” out of me.

“It” is my special drug.

I am always chasing “It”. I am always trying to show people what “It” is. “It” wears me out but there is nothing to be done about it.

Even at this moment I should be getting ready for work tomorrow. That’s what the clock says anyways. But here I am at my keyboard again just smashing away. My little obsession.

The process is a peculiar thing though because sometimes, if only for a moment, you are successful. The stars align and you can see “It”, right there, in front of you. You feel happy and fulfilled; like you are walking on a cloud.

But then “It” eventually fades away, (always does), like grains of sand through your fingertips. And then you’re back to square one. Just a man with a pencil and a blank piece of paper, or a woman with a chisel, or… anyways you get my point.

Once you understand “It” then you have to ask yourself…

“Was Young right?”

Literary ADD

Will’s weekly update

Writing is such a curious thing. It is as if in the beginning there is a large boulder you need to push by yourself. Just you, your bare hands, and some geological components. 

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This past week has been a big one in terms of writing. I finalized a piece of flash fiction that I have been working on for a while now (will be released in June). I finished a larger piece which I was just kind of stumbling through (not sure if that will ever be released 🙂 ). Finally, I also wrote the first draft of another which I think could be pretty entertaining.

In a way it feels like I have a little bit of literary ADD. So much so that I actually haven’t read anything longer than a web page- besides Robert Greene’s, “Mastery” (and even that I am listening to).

I decided to revisit this book because of a youtube talk show, Creative Live (featuring Robert Greene), that I watched the other day during lunch. (My last blog post was about some of the main ideas in the book).

Sidenote- Greene does not think there is necessarily a correlation between how many words you write a day and your ability to write.

I agree with the caveat that we are assuming said person is still a prolific writer. Interesting food for thought. Actually, to a certain extent, having a tight per day word count can be quite stifling and actually counterproductive.

It could, for example, be easy to fall into the trap of just trying to get words on the page. I know that sometimes we all have to do this, but still, there is a different environment when you are writing for a word count versus the story itself.

I was aiming for a minimum of 2,000 words per day on my most recent piece. I would occasionally find myself at the end of a chapter, only to realize that I needed a couple hundred more words. Eventually, I decided that I should just start on the next chapter, rather than extend the one I was working on. However, it took some trial and error before I came to this decision.

Anyhow, it was a productive week for me, and I am looking forward to an equally productive one this week. Hope all is well with y’all out there in cyberspace.

– Will

Two Key Points from “Mastery” by Robert Greene

Robert Greens’ book, “Mastery”, is about how humans reach the heights of skill and craftsmanship in all areas of life. He calls such people “Masters”.

It’s really good.

In fact, it is so good that after a couple of years since reading it, I have decided to go back and read it again. (Well, in my case listen, as I still have too many credits on my Audible account).

There are a lot of cool ideas in the book: such as 10,000 hours and genetic disposition. Greene goes much deeper than what I have written here, but the thesis of the book is that one needs to acknowledge one’s life’s calling and then work tirelessly towards it.

10,000 hours

A large part of Greene’s thesis is that people who achieve the highest levels of skill in a craft are those that put in more than 10,000 hours of work.

While I do not monitor my own time spent in learning a new skill, I can say that the idea of time spent doing something (with focus) directly correlates to one’s skill in that area.

My experience in reaching above average levels of proficiency in both sports, foreign languages, and other areas of life has taught me that the big difference between an average and above average performer really comes down to the amount of time a person spends learning the task.

“Chance favors only the prepared mind.”

― Robert Greene, Mastery

Genetic Disposition

Greene also suggests that “masters” have a genetic disposition towards their fields. Well, I’m no scientist, but it is certainly an interesting idea.

I do not consider myself a master, but I can attest to the idea that I have been drawn to certain subjects and disciplines throughout my entire life.

Maybe you have too.

In fact, Greene believes we all specific fields that call to us.

He believes that we are drawn to these fields early in our childhoods. However we often abandon such aspirations because of things like our parents expectations or addiction to a “fat paycheck”.

As for me, I can remember reading books early in my childhood. I used to sit alone in my grandmother’s library and just pour through books.

I remember getting the first Harry Potter book and completely ignoring everything else until I finished it.

I just couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was a feeling, more than affection or even an addiction; it was a deep sort of connection to the words and the world.

As far as genetics are concerned, I am not the first one in my family to be inclined towards the arts. My grandmother, the one who had the basement full of books and actually gave me that first copy of Harry Potter, was a director of the English Literature program within her school district.

My father is an author. My mother is constantly reading.

And so it would seem, at least according to my own personal experience, that yes, we are products of our genetic dispositions.

“If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become—an individual, a Master.”

― Robert Greene, Mastery

You Can’t Do Anything You Want (Or Think You Want)

A good take away from “Mastery” is the idea that you can become exceptional at anything you want is wrong. You know where your natural-born inclination lies. It is your special place in the world and you have to listen to that.

This advice runs counter to a lot of different ideas. Parents and friends might directly or indirectly pressure you into doing something that you don’t want to do. And their reasons are seductive indeed, money, fame, status- all the good stuff.

In my life, I have noticed that Greene’s advice to be true. Real power and influence only come to people who are incredibly skilled at what they do. These attributes do not come to squares trying to be circles. No matter how smart the squares are.

I remember that after graduating college, I really wanted to be a businessman. I had this idea that I was smart and that smart people could do anything they wanted. So, Ipso facto, I decided that I would be a businessman: i.e. make a lot of money.

Well, that is a story for another day. But luckily I paid enough attention to realize that the people with real happiness were the ones who developed a skillset based on their own inclinations.

Today it is clear that people who try and take shortcuts, such as starting a business without learning the fundamentals of their industry, are destined for mediocrity. There is incredible wisdom in starting small while doing something you love.

“Most people don’t have the patience to absorb their minds in the fine points and minutiae that are intrinsically part of their work. They are in a hurry to create effects and make a splash; they think in large brush strokes.

Their work inevitably reveals their lack of attention to detail – it doesn’t connect deeply with the public, and it feels flimsy.”

Robert Greene, Mastery

The Power of Simple Language + a Poem

The verb “to like” is simple and powerful. Often we don’t understand the weight of simple language. We think that if it’s simple then it’s boring and accordingly write it off.

Oh, I would much prefer to use prettier words like enjoy, love, or obsession. 

But perhaps the power of the verb “to like” lies in it’s simplicity. That is to say, almost everyone understands a smile or a frown. (Sure, there are probably exceptions to this in some country, but I rest easy in spouting this as a truism.)

I wrote this poem on a whim. It’s about my likes and dislikes. There is a slight anti-technologist edge which I think resides in all of us.

Anyhow, here it is. 🙂

I like to Write

I like to write late at night and early in the morning.
I like to burn incense in my fake stone incense holder.
I like the way it makes the room smell.
Sometimes I pretend I am in an opium den.

I like to listen to electronic music and run down by the river.
I like to wear my sunglasses and a t-shirt while I cruise on my scooter.
I like to walk in my sandals and drink milk tea.

I don’t like emails and text messages and phone calls.
I don’t like how many social media accounts I have.
I don’t like the sound of my refrigerator running all night.

I do like rainy days and drinking coffee.
Reading a book, not the kindle version.
Talking with a pretty girl who smiles like the Californian sunshine.