On the Railway

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On the Railway
Written by: Maranda Russell

On the railway,
no one studies your face.
No grief is given,
but neither is grace.

The wheels are loud,
and the engine is hot,
bringing to mind
all things better forgot.

With the changing landscapes,
and nature’s colorful hue,
remember this thought
that will always ring true:

On the long ride back
from wherever you roam,
never return the same person
as when you left home.

Things I’ve Learned Recently

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Hello everyone! This post is just a little check-in to say hi and let you all know what I’ve been up to. I figured I would make it more interesting by focusing on what I’ve learned recently from this unpredictable thing we call life.

  • After working on a book about nutrition for a freelance client, I’ve realized how much I DON’T know about what is really healthy and how much my own diet could use an overhaul. Unfortunately, I’m still a sucker for anything sweet, which throws a wrench into those plans!
  • I’ve learned how much traumatic experiences from childhood can affect our adult lives and our physical health. It is a fascinating subject, especially if you were¬†put through a lot of crap growing up. I would recommend the book “Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal” (written by Donna Jackson Nakazawa) to anyone interested in such subjects.
  • I’ve learned that it is ridiculously expensive to treat a cat for diabetes ūüė¶
  • I’ve realized that our current culture is engaged in a war on free speech and free expression in many ways. Both those from the extreme left and the extreme right often seem to want to silence dissenters. The same can be said of some companies and many governments. What I thought was once only an issue in communist, dictatorial or radical religious¬†countries is proving to be a much broader problem.
  • YouTube is full of warped trolls (ok, I didn’t really just learn that one, but I’ve been reminded of it several times recently).
  • And lastly, if you are going to date naked, have some confidence!

Are You a Nowhere Man? All About Biases

The Beatles "Nowhere Man"

The Beatles “Nowhere Man”

I’ve said before that I think some of the best poetry snippets can be found in song lyrics. Not every musician or group writes great or even above-average lyrics, but when they do, I like to dissect the songs and really think about them. One song I have always felt a strong kinship with is “Nowhere Man” by The Beatles. I’m not sure many people really stop to think about the song as far as philosophy goes, but I find it full of a kind of zen-like wisdom.

I think perhaps my favorite lines from the song are:

“He’s as blind as he can be
Just sees what he wants to see”

Do you know anyone like that? I know I sure do. I know people who are seemingly intelligent and caring, but are hopelessly blind to certain truths because they either don’t want to see them or because their minds are biased to a point where they can not see anything that doesn’t align with their personal beliefs. Even scientific studies have found this to be true…that our personal beliefs can affect our ability to see things clearly or even figure out simple problems.

When I used to be a foster parent, we had a class we had to take every so often that talked about how deeply bias affects us and the decisions we make, even when we are small children. A child who is biased to believe the world is cruel and unfair (from past neglect or abuse) will make their personal reality fit that view, even if their belief is not the current truth. They will see everything that they experience from that biased point of view and nothing will change their mind unless that bias changes.

I find that fascinating from a psychological point of view and have thought often of what that means when applied to human nature in general. Sometimes it rather discourages me because I understand that many people will choose to be blind or can’t help being blind to seemingly obvious¬†truths no matter how much evidence they are given or how easily their beliefs could be disproven¬†using logic and scientific reason. This makes me want to scream and shout in frustration sometimes. It also makes me worry about what biases I have in place that I don’t even notice. I guess the song was right when it asked, “Isn’t he a bit like you and me?”

A warning for those who want to be published writers

Currently I am reading a book entitled Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life, written by Anne Lamott. This book is considered a classic as far as books about writing go, and now I can see why. It is full of truth, wisdom and encouragement for novice or even experienced writers. There is one passage in the introduction that really struck me, one that I think any beginning¬†writer should be told –

“…I tell my students that the odds of their getting published and of it bringing them financial security, peace of mind, and even joy are probably not that great. Ruin, hysteria, bad skin, unsightly tics, ugly financial problems, maybe; but probably not peace of mind. I tell them that I think they ought to write anyway. But I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give them the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived. My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.”

Honestly, I’m not sure truer words have ever been spoken about the writing life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, I would never quit…but sometimes the actual business of writing and publishing can make you as miserable as it makes you happy. Bad reviews, marketing failures, endless editing, lonely book signings (where you feel ignored),¬†low sales…all of these things can bring a writer down quicker than you might imagine. Plus, for 99% of us (or more), it¬†seems to be a¬†struggle to pay any of our bills with what we make writing, let alone live a comfy lifestyle.

So why continue to do it? Why not throw in the towel and quit or just write for yourself? I can’t answer for every writer, but for me it is because…

A) I love to read & write

and

B) I really want to share that passion and my own creativity with others.

Next to those reasons, all the small stuff doesn’t seem quite as important. At least not to me.