Hello good people! How are you? The last few days were a few hectic, and I don’t know what I have been doing. So I thought it is good to write a blog post about it and sort things out. So welcome to the Touch Base!
The first important thing that happened is that we found a baby cat at the entrance of our house. He had a gash on his stomach and right under his arm, as well as multiple scratches around his body. We took him to the vet and the vet amca, as we call him, said that “the kitten should be fed every hour or every two hours until his wounds are completely closed.” We had multiple trips to the vet amca and had many sleepless nights, and still have many sleepless nights, but our little boy is as healthy as he could be.
He is pear-shaped and happily purring while he is trying to carry his huge ass around. We named him Loki because our older cat is called Thor, and this little one is a bit battered up. Look at him. Isn’t he the silliest kitten you have ever seen?
Dealing with our kitten made us have many sleepless nights, which shifted my focus from being the most boring intellectual person ever. So I have started diversifying my attention towards many interests I have. I started painting again and reading to my heart’s delight. I was kind of miserable when I forced myself to focus on writing, so I stopped doing that.
I was focusing on being a writer because at the company I am working at, they shited my position from a graphic designer to a writer/translator/editor of English. I thought I wasn’t ready for the job yet, and I thought I have to improve extremely quickly, so I dropped everything I do and focused on learning how to write.
As it turns out, I knew how to write well enough for the company, so I can relax and continue being the jack of all trades master of none I am. I have translated websites, social media posts, youtube captions, and I started writing a series in which I interview ex-pats living in Istanbul and write a short essay about them. I love that job, and I am organically improving at it. Below is a photo from an interview I recently had.
Leaving the obsessive days behind, I started looking around, and I found out Medium has many interesting articles. I used to dwell in Medium, but it has been quite some time since I have spent some time there. I spent a couple of nights reading Medium articles while waiting for the time to feed Loki. One night, I came across this article talking about a new social media platform on the blockchain. I joined BitClout even before I finished the article. You can reach my profile here.
BitClout made me realize the power of the blockchain, and I started investing in cryptocurrencies as well. Even though I wouldn’t suggest people who don’t understand finance invest their hard-earned cash on cryptocurrencies, long-term investors or people who understand finance shouldn’t miss the opportunity. I don’t care about short positions when I am investing, so I took long positions for some of the coins I found interesting and left it at that.
On BitClout, people can invest in other users’ currencies, and a user invested a whopping $180 on my coin. I wanted to pay him back, so I offered him to paint something in return. He wanted me to paint a friend of his as a troll, so I tried:
Since I stopped trying to be cool and decided that I am going to follow my interests and curiosities, I decided that I should also loosen up in my blog. I will continue writing on my blog, but I am more likely to use this as a place to think publicly and give a heads up about what is going on in my life. I would be delighted if you come and check what we are up to from time to time!
When I started this blog, I thought that I would publish regularly and experiment with different writing styles. When I started, I announced that I am going to post twice a week. After failing that, I said that I am going to publish every day. My action was akin to a couple who makes a baby to strengthen their failing marriage.
That fallacy was the result of my artistic training. In art, we know that starting a lot of new work trumps working on one thing until you make that thing perfect. If they were given a year to improve, the painter who starts a new painting every day will be significantly better than the painter who works on the same painting at the end of the year. I thought writing would be similar.
I couldn’t be more wrong…
I can churn out mediocre articles with streams of consciousness every day, but those pieces are worthless for my purposes. Those kinds of articles are almost always lesser versions of information you can acquire from great books written on the subject. Moreover, the internet is full of writers who write mediocre posts that just remind or summarize what the great writers had written. Nobody needs another writer who churns out mediocre posts every week.
I don’t want to write posts that you are going to read as a guilty pleasure. I don’t want you to read what I have written as a procrastination device. I want to write things that will change how you see the world. I want to improve your understanding of the world and mine, solve your problems and mine, or just learn about a subject with you.
I figured this out when I was trying to write an article for publishing today. Last week, I decided that I am going to write an essay about the principles of journalism to post today. I bet it was an easy enough subject to write within a few days, and it took me a couple of hours to write. Yet, that principles of journalism article weren’t saying anything new, so to make my post useful, I have decided to dive into the history of journalism and understand how these principles were formed. I thought I could do it since there were more than five days to the self-imposed deadline. I gathered my resources and started reading.
Unsurprisingly, most of the resources I had were about journalism in the US. Yet, I am from Turkey, and reading about US journalism made me wonder how journalism in Turkey differs from journalism in the US. That led me to the question; are the principles of journalism different or perceived differently between countries because of the historical differences in journalism’s growth. I started reading about the subject and taking extensive notes about it. I was on fire with curiosity.
The problem was that the article required a lot of research and reading, and I had a deadline, artificial or not, so I thought that I had to find something else to write about. I thought the subject that I can write about in such a short time would be “Why you should start your writing with a pitch.” I didn’t even start that article because my heart was still in the first one. I was deeply curious about it. This intense curiosity stopped me from writing the second one, and I started procrastinating.
As soon as I understood this, a bigger acceptance set in: I shouldn’t strive for publishing as much as I can; instead, I should aim for writing the best article I can write. Writing is different than painting. In painting, the small changes you can make to improve your piece improves your artistic skill and the image itself marginally. In writing, every rewrite, every draft is a huge learning opportunity. Every time you rewrite, every time you research for the article and improve your draft, you become a significantly better writer, and the piece improves significantly as well. I want to and will publish articles only when I can’t improve them further.
Disclaimer: Even though I have read and thought about the subjects mentioned in this article subjectively, nothing on this article is based on truth-checked objective facts. Everything here is mere speculations, but I believe them to be truth or near-truth at the very least. I would love to be corrected or find the correct information together. — If you see something you can disprove, please don’t hesitate to comment. I would love to think together. — I haven’t researched the subjects of this article because I consider this as a diagnostic essay, and I am going to see how my ideas expressed here will change over time and through journalistic research.
As humans, we consider ourselves highly; unique and different. But we are more similar than we estimate to be to our cousins in the animal kingdom. Even though we have created layer upon layer in our brains through evolution, which made us more intelligent, we can’t run away from our brains’ deeper recesses that control our behavior. That deeper recesses of our brain keep us similar to our mammal cousins.
These similarities of behavior show themselves best in situations that evoke intense emotions. Luckily for us, we experience most of our most intense emotions in private. But the privacy of those moments hides the commonality of our reactions. That’s why we usually surprisingly find out that other people had similar experiences when we share our deepest desires or the responses we have been ashamed of. We usually never understand that the same reactions, the same feelings are also the guiding principles of our mammal ancestors and our mammal cousins. Our similarities with our mammal cousins show most transparently when we endure a tragic event that affects a large part of society.
When a tragic event or a threat shows up, like meerkats recognizing a threat does, we turn to someone we regard as our trusted leader. But what happens when we don’t have an apparent trusted leader? Or what happens when there are more than one leader and various groups of people trust different leaders? What happens when these trusted leaders give conflicting signals? Under these conditions, egotistical people who have unfounded confidence rise to power, making right-wing extremism soar.
When big groups of people feel an unaddressed threat, they become susceptible to sociopathic pseudo-dictators. If the pseudo-dictators are good enough orators, have money and power, they quickly form a cult because people regard this pseudo-dictator as their savior under the conditions mentioned above.
If the people who rose to power under great duress are wise, they bring significant change and progress to their societies. But if they are unskilled or, worse, self-serving, they misuse their power and bring impending doom to their communities. Under representative democracy, every time a great threat shows up, humanity risks going back into what led us to world war II — nationalistic or racist dictatorships. Because the extreme right-wing is full of people who think highly of themselves and most of the population seeking immediate relief mistake their confidence as merit. The primary cause for this mistake is the little monkey brain residing beneath our evolved human brain. The bigger the threat, the more of us succumb to the little monkey brain.
I believe this susceptibility to the monkey brain has been one of the biggest extinction-level threats to humanity…
After World War II, the intellectuals and people in power created two ideals to ensure that we don’t have another world war. One of those ideals was globalization, and the other was the idea of human equality. They thought that if you have factories and investments in other countries if your own country’s well-being is directly tied to other countries’ well-being, your country will be more cautious about attacking the other country. They thought that if we consider each other as identical in potential, we will shy away from the idea that one nation or one group of people are intrinsically better than the others.
Institutions and activists worked hard on instilling these ideals into humanity, and they have been largely successful. Since our generation has been raised with these ideals and has never seen any other option in action, we act as if the World of globalization and human equality are objective reality. We understand that there are a lot of problems in the World. We feel that there are things that don’t make sense. But we don’t know the cause, and we accept that we cannot change anything even if we knew.
While human society keeps static, the ideals that weave the World together are crumbling. Globalization which has never been perfectly formed has been dismantling for the past two decades. We started the globalization journey thinking that capitalism will create effective markets and tie countries. We were hopeful for a long time because of the ‘so-called’ success of the European Union. Yet, in the last decade, how much the EU has been struggling became transparent. We understood Germany, the most financially sound and productive country of the EU, has been carrying the heavyweight of the EU’s financial burden. Within our capitalistic society, the department that brings in the money eventually rules the company in any organization. EU is no different. Before Brexit, Germany’s hold on the EU was balanced with Britain and France, but with Brexit, the EU’s actions will shift heavily toward Germany’s desires. This is one blow to the globalism ideal, but not the biggest one.
The western intellectuals are usually blind to the eastern developments and threats. The main reason is that the western mind is so intertwined with individualism. The seeds of western intellectualism were planted when the ruling class of Europe parted ways with the collective mind, catholicism. Individualism is the main idea that has helped rulers control societies during and after their divide with the Catholic Church.
This blindness towards the collective mind created one of the biggest threats to the Western World today: China. With its communalism and huge population, China provided western capitalism a deal it cannot resist — tax-free revenue and cheap labor. EU had enough opportunities, and cultural distance from capitalism, to fight the ‘too good to be true’ offerings of China. But, the US, with its monopolistic capitalism, was easily sucked in. The Western mind didn’t understand that in a communal country, the country itself is the monopoly. When the western forces recognized the monster they have created, it was too late. The effects of shifting production to Chinese monopoly made China a global power.
As production shifted to China, the US started to lose its grip on the World. The Internet and companies came to the aid. The US tended them to become monopolies. Those big technology companies have been a tremendous financial defense against the production power of China. But the big tech wasn’t the only solution. Even before big tech, to cope with the economies of scale China has, the US let companies roam free and monopolize industries. Even though the monopolization and the big tech’s surveillance harmed its population, they kept the US as the global world power.
Big tech and the monopolies are the US economy’s lifeblood, and the US can’t continue its current form without its monopolies.
This is a simplistic explanation of the current state of our broken globalism.
Our other safeguard against nationalistic dictators and a possible world war III, human equality, is also in shambles. You are equal as long as you are a white man from a Christian society. Otherwise, you might be treated equally if you are well educated, speak English well enough, are not religious, have a good amount of money, and dress nicely. If you possess all of this and are lucky, you might be considered equal with an average western white man. Oh, if you are not caucasian, you have to work harder…
We sense the impending doom and feel helpless. The problems are too big for any of us to solve.
For me, the solution is to be a public intellectual.
When people feel threatened and can’t find somebody they can objectively trust, they look up to politicians and business people for answers. Because of their respective systems, both have flocks of sociopaths waiting to become pseudo-dictators when the chance strikes. A person with high morals rarely chooses to dwell in politics or business. I don’t say they are non-existent. I say that a person with sociopathic tendencies has a higher chance of succeeding in those areas.
We need people who keep their neutrality facing the problems humanity face. We need people who think about how to live and communicate their findings. We need people to turn our faces to when there is a threat lurking on the horizon. In today’s World, I feel like most intellectuals who have an audience are either left-wing activists or right-wing propaganda machines. Even if there are people who influence large groups of audiences while maintaining their neutrality, I am not aware of them. I firmly believe that being a politically neutral public intellectual is a position every person who cares about humanity’s fate has to strive for.
I believe in the necessity of public intellectuals. I think a group of neutral public intellectuals are necessary to guide our future, and we need them as soon as possible. I want to be part of the solution myself. So this is a manifesto for myself and for others who are feeling the same way.
To begin my journey, I have to understand what being a public intellectual entails and understand the necessary steps:
I believe public intellectuals have to be journalists. The public intellectuals have to stay neutral and consider all sides, all arguments, and every angle. Neutrality is a key if one will be regarded as dependable by every spectrum of society. The public intellectuals of our World have to be able to talk to people who are lacking as well as rich. The public intellectuals have to be able to hold an audience of pseudo-racists as well as black lives matter activists. The public intellectuals have to be the group that bridges the gaps between society, shows the other angle, and tries to solve problems from an objective point of view.
The public intellectuals have to talk to the next generation. You can’t hope to solve problems by speaking to older generations. As Einstein said, you can’t solve a problem with the mindset that created it. The salvation lies in the next generation, and it is the public intellectuals’ job to understand the next generation and be the guiding light in their lives. Therefore, the public intellectuals of the day have to understand generation Z. They have to be the funnels that the wisdom of the older ages get summarized and shaped for the eyes and ears of Gen Z.
The public intellectuals have to understand the global condition. They have to understand politics, economy, history, and sociology to a high degree. They have to understand the policymakers and how their policies affect the World. They have to have a great understanding of the financial system, both centralized and decentralized. They have to understand history because even though history doesn’t repeat itself, the past teaches us many valuable lessons and creates the building blocks, the libraries we can use to program the future. A public intellectual cannot be an intellectual without understanding society and how they react; therefore, a public intellectual must be a master of sociology.
Public intellectuals have to have an understanding of individuals and the forces that shape them. Public intellectuals have to have a working knowledge of religion, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, and science. You can’t understand humans without understanding the primary organizer of human thought, religion. You can’t understand modern humans without understanding science. Psychology gives the edge to make meaningful connections between the two and understand how the tugging forces of science and religion shape modern humans. If you don’t understand philosophy, especially the history of philosophical thought, you will have a problem understanding the roots of the many ideas shaping the world we live in. Also, even though I don’t believe in her individualistic ideals, I think what Ayn Rand said is proper “if you don’t build your own philosophy, you will live your life believing somebody else’s.” And lastly, the public intellectuals have to understand anthropology to see the development of humankind through ages with unbiased eyes.
This vast understanding is a prerequisite to be an intellectual, but you can be an intellectual without communicating with the public. To be public intellectuals, they also have to be able communicators. They have to write and talk clearly. They have to be charismatic. They have to be great orators who can talk for hours without boring the audience, using humor, knowledge, and storytelling. The public intellectuals have to be writers who are also active in visual media. They have to be charismatic leaders and have to look good on various media. And they have to be able to reach digital natives; they have to be active on various kinds of media.
The journey to being a public intellectual is a tough one, but a noble and important one. I believe a person can pick up the necessary knowledge along the way, but I think he or she has to start with the most important one, being a journalist, being a member of the fourth estate. Without neutrality and love for the truth, all of the knowledge might turn into fuel for propaganda. A public intellectual can’t take sides. Like any proper journalist, a public intellectual has to keep being neutral.
That’s how I am going to start my journey as well. I am going to work on understanding journalism and being as neutral and fact-oriented as I can.
While continuing to be my writing lab, this blog will also be the purveyor of my findings.
It would be a great honor if you join me on this journey and share your findings as well.
Even though the prevailing feeling is that most of the resources are limited, the only finite resource is time. Sadly, it is also the resource we tend to waste the most. Of course, we can’t, and we shouldn’t spend every waking moment with bustling activity, but at least we can try to be mindful about how we use our most valuable resource.
I bet you know the feeling: if you are absorbed in an activity, time flies by, and if you are disinterested, the clocks stop ticking. I have many different arguments about this phenomenon, but today we will talk about what it means for a person with attention problems. In my opinion, attention deficit disorder is an inadequate name for the condition because people who have ADD don’t have a lack of attention; they have a filtering problem. Imagine that your mind never rests and flutters from interest to interest and you lack the will to sort out the unimportant stuff. That’s what people with ADD deal with all the time, and the result is days, months , and sometimes years of pondering; fervently following everything that induces curiosity. When they reach the other end, people look back and see many unfinished projects if they are lucky and just a void if they are not.
If you are one of those who suffer from attention irregularities, it is of paramount importance that you sort out what needs to be done, plan what you are going to do, and do it. Everybody is different, and you should try to find a solution that suits your needs. I am sharing the solution that works for me:
1- Decide which tasks are essential for attaining your long-term goals.
Humans are obsessed with ideas and goals. Yet ideas and goals are meaningless if you fail to act upon them. Since I have a problem focusing and deciding what I should turn my attention to, I need a system to overcome this tendency. My solution is to have a stable primary goal and build habits that would lead me to that goal. If I try to develop habits for a purpose but fail to practice the routine consistently, I shrug and start working on finding a new target. If I fail following a habit, I suspect the goal is extrinsic instead of intrinsic, and I never prioritize extrinsic goals.
Once I decide on the goal, I spend weeks analyzing what I need to know and the skills I have to achieve. I work hard to understand the dependencies between that knowledge and skills. I decide on the most critical independent step and divide it into actionable steps, favorably to micro-habits. Those steps and micro-habits become my primary to-do list items.
2- Before going to bed, decide up to 3 items that you must work on the next day.
I use a to-do list for two things: I use it to make sure I do something that makes me get closer to my goals every day, and I use it to be certain that urgent activities don’t interfere with important ones. I am always aware that there may be many things that I might need to tackle during the day, but I make sure I work on the essential items by ensuring that I know what actions I have to take before the day starts. I treat those actions as sacred.
I tried many methods for prioritization, but in the end, I figured out I can never tackle more than three habit-building activities, and I usually keep it at one. If I have more than three items I feel that I must accomplish, I feel overwhelmed and start procrastinating. I call that particular activity that I have to finish, the sacred one. It stays on the top of my to-do list. Once the sacred item is placed, I know that the day will be fruitful because I have the habit of focusing on and finishing the sacred items on my to-do list as soon as possible. This is the power of habit because, since I mastered the habit of following my priority, I feel restless until I finish my sacred item or items.
Let me give you an example; my primary goal is improving my writing skills, and I figured that to get better at writing, I have to write every day. I wasn’t ready to publish everything I have written, and I didn’t want to focus on other aspects of writing. I just wanted to write every day. Therefore, I decided that the main sacred habit is journaling every day. It has been over 45 days since that decision, and now journaling is part of my day. When I don’t write in my journal early in the morning, I keep thinking about my journal and itch to find time and place to write.
That’s the power of streaks, of which I am a firm believer. Experts say you have to do something for 21 days to turn that into a habit, but I figured out it is around 30 days for me. I try not to work on two time-consuming habit-building activities in the same 30 day period. Instead, I decide on the next item I will turn into a habit, and I keep it in my to-do list as an optional activity.
3- Set your goals based on time allocation — not as accomplished tasks.
For a long time, my to-do list was full of items waiting to be finished such as: read 50 pages, write a blog post about jumping jacks, research about fishers of West Virginia, etc. I almost always failed at following my to-do list and felt terrible about it. After making the same mistake repeatedly, I figured out that I am not a good judge of deciding how long an activity takes. Moreover, if I tried to finish every item on my to-do list, the quality of my work suffered. I would read 50 pages I set out to read, but I wouldn’t remember them. I would write a blog post, but it would be incomprehensible. I would do sloppy research. To solve this quantity over the quality problem, I started to decide the amount of time I would allocate to the item.
This time allocation problem solved one of the major problems about to-do lists for me. Now, my to-do list items are like: work on the blog post about the historical importance of underwear, read The Saturner for 30 minutes. It might take me five weeks to finish that post, or it might take me two hours. Doesn’t matter. I will tackle it one hour at a time. And who knows how many pages I am going to read in those thirty minutes.
I have to note that the time you allocate, especially for habit-building activities, should be something you can do consistently. I would love to spend eight hours on my blog every day, but it is not sustainable. I know I will spend eight hours some days, and I will spend less time the other days, and not being able to hit my target will make me feel bad, and I will give up. So instead, I go for an hour. No matter how busy my schedule is, I can squeeze out an hour to do something I value.
4- Use a timer to keep track of your progress.
Sometimes my day is so chaotic and full of urgent items I have to take action, I can’t find a solid hour to spend on my most important activity. Facing this problem multiple times, I have decided to use a timer: I use the Bear Focus Timer app on my iPhone to track the time I spend on a task. The bear focus timer is an app that counts down as long as your phone screen is facing downward. If you pick up your phone, you get an angry bear with an indicator showing how many minutes you have left.
My timer keeps me honest to my goal and stops me from getting distracted because I make sure I pick my phone up if I am distracted.
5- Add secondary items as things you would like to finish.
These are the tasks you would like to finish that day but not necessarily related to your future goals. Usually, people’s to-do lists are full of this kind of activity. Remember that these items are secondary items for you, and they should be treated as such until you finish your main task. If you mix what is urgent with what is essential, you will never move forward because there will always be urgent tasks and they will suffocate your dreams.
I hope this has been hopeful! How do you plan your day? Please share your method in the comments below!
My father never taught me how to shave. Or how to smoke a cigarette. He taught me how to drink, though. I remember him not being able to walk from the table to the car. I remember helping him walk. I remember Mother telling him that he is too drunk to drive. I remember him arguing that the car knows the way. I remember him driving us home and tumbling to the floor as soon as he got out of the car. I remember the acrid smell of alcohol mixed with garlic. I remember sitting in the backseat, anxious. I remember Mother telling Father that he was driving too fast. I remember shrieking break and approaching the stoplights of the truck. I remember the ‘thunk!’ and the hard yank.
We were lucky that day. Nobody got hurt, even though the car was wrecked. That day I promised myself that I would not be like him. But then forgot the promise.
I started drinking when I was attending middle grade. I thought drinking was cool. I was a loser in my mind, and my friends were cool, so I drank with them to be cooler. Then I would go out to a restaurant with Father. He would drink until he couldn’t walk, and every time, I would think that he was dumb to drink that much and believe I was cool because I could handle my drink and stop before I get drunk.
I believed that I understood alcoholism well, and I was sure I wasn’t one. Even though I almost drank every day, I didn’t blackout or caused a scene. Therefore, I must have been drinking responsibly, right? I would always joke that “I drink until my graphic card moves from the slot.” That was my way of saying I always stop drinking when my vision gets laggy.
I drank away countless days. Drinking was the only way to socialize. When I didn’t drink, I got so bored that I wanted to leave and be alone. And then I would go home and drink by myself. Over time, I started drinking so much that my friends had to make sure that I am fine at the end of the night. I started drinking so much that at the end of the night, my friends drove me home. I started drinking too much that I had to spend countless hours trying to remember what had happened the previous day. Unaware, I was turning into my father. I was becoming the same sorry man, drinking his life away.
I don’t remember my last drink. But the last memory of my drunk self is a girl handing me a bottle of tequila and inviting me into my friend’s house. Who knows what happened after that. I came to myself strolling the streets the next morning, not knowing where I was or what I was doing. I trudged myself back home, slept until five p.m., and have never drunk again.
While I was teaching our cat, Thor, how to shave, I remembered the confusing pain and destruction my father brought wherever he went. Even though Thor was more interested in attacking my slippers than watching me shave, I felt contempt: I figured out that I kept my promise to that little guy sitting at the backseat watching the stoplights coming closer than they were supposed to be, with terror.
I didn’t turn out to be like my father. I am forever thankful to all the people who helped me along the way. If you struggle with alcoholism, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
I have a habit of writing about a book after finishing it to remind myself what I found valuable about the book and what it taught me for future reference. I usually do it in long-form and also think about the topics included in long-form. But ode to James’ 10 item list technique, I will list the ten things I have learned from the book, and I am going to implement in my life:
Writing 10 item lists every day keeps you creative.
Providing value to people must be your default action plan.
Ideas must be experimented upon with the least possible cost.
Being the only is a better strategy than being the best.
Your network is as powerful as the interconnections they have.
Always manage the frame.
Avoid reading news.
Every multimillionaire has multiple income streams.
Experimenting is the antidote to grinding.
You have to get out of the line before you can skip it.
The book was a breeze to read, which made me think that I should reread it to better understand some of the subjects. I always loved James’ writing style, and he never fails to deliver something valuable. Since I was an avid follower of him when he was forming the aforementioned ideas, I heard and thought about those ideas here and there, but I forgot about them and didn’t implement them in my life. Probably I wasn’t ready to approach life as an adult back then.
I don’t know if I will be able to implement all of the ideas I took note of, but I will definitely write a list of ten to keep my creativity going, and I will continue trying to bring value wherever I go. If you are looking for a book that might kick you in the ass to change a couple of things in your life for the better, acquire the book and read it!
His shift was over. His body was aching all over. He checked his pockets to find his tobacco bag. While his fingers were patting over his pockets, his eyes were studying for a sidewalk to rest his colossal mass.
His thick but nimble fingers rolled the cigarette with accustomed ease. It had been three hours since he smoked his last cigarette. The new management… They calculated everything. You couldn’t be constipated because you were only allowed to have 15 minutes for a bathroom break.
He shook his head and raised the cigarette to his lips. He lighted his cigarette with the Zippo he stole when he was just a toddler. It was his secret treasure growing up. He smiled and looked at his reflection on the chrome-plated shiny lighter. His golden fang brought a feral feeling to his smile.
He took a long breath and got up. He had a long drive home, and his car was parked five blocks away. He started trudging and picked up his phone. He was scrolling Twitter when the thunder god started to sing. He looked up. Dark clouds surrounded him. A huge raindrop hit his forehead. He shrugged and stuffed his phone in his pocket.
A sliver of light hit his face. He thought of it as a good omen. He shouldn’t spend his time on his phone. He already spent most of the day at work. It was time to do something worthwhile. He looked around and saw the ruins of a building. Even though he walked around it every day, he didn’t recognize it before. It was surrounded by new apartments. He understood the ruins. His dyed hair didn’t show his age, but his aching body did. His young coworkers looked like the apartments, but he was still standing.
The sun followed him as he reached his car. It was an old green Buick. It was old, but it wasn’t rusty. Like his Zippo, he has been keeping it shiny. He ignited the engine, and his old friend roared in laughter. “Time to go home, buddy,” he said, and touched his fang hanging from the mirror for good luck.
You are in the dark. Your heart beats faster. It gets harder to breathe. Your eyes dilate. You clump toward the light source—the floor changes. Suddenly, you are under intense light! You can hear your heartbeat… THUMP THUMP! THUMP THUMP! You feel nauseous. These are not butterflies! There is a whirlwind in your stomach.
You turn your eyes to the light source. Too bright, too hot. Your eyes seek solace. You want to turn back and go back to the darkness, to safety. But you can’t now. You look ahead. And see thousands of glitters. Watching you, judging you. You take a breath and smile.
You open your mouth to speak, and nothing comes. It gets hotter, you perspire. A single drop of sweat travels across your eyebrow and finds your eye. It burns. You try to think about something to say. Your brain is barren.
You start mumbling the sentences you rehearsed a million times. You breathe. You don’t remember the following sentence, so you skip to the first one you remember. Darn! Now you remember the previous one. What to do? You stop. You smile. You are as red as an apple now.
That is precisely how I feel when I am writing for this blog too. Even though only a few people are reading this, writing for this blog stresses me. It feels like stage fright. When I am writing here, the same fight or flight reflex kicks in, and I freeze! I stop writing for this blog and write other things and feel safe that I am writing.
I used to have stage fright. I used to go on the stage, and my mind would go blank. I would feel lanky and couldn’t decide where to put my hands. I would hear my heart pounding. I got rid of it over time, and my medicine was being on stage over and over again. If you get on the stage every day and do a lot of mortifying things on stage and get away with it, you start losing the self-destructive talk that makes you freeze in front of people.
When I started this blog, I thought by writing twice a week, I would write quality stuff instead of going for quantity, and that would be my best course of action. That experiment failed. I have been skipping that twice a week schedule at least once a week. Trying to write that long-form interesting article makes me freeze. That’s a problem.
It is time to drop that experiment and try another hypothesis. Starting today, I will experiment writing every day on this blog and use it to try different styles, genres and write about what’s on my mind. This blog will be the stage that I get used to being on stage all the time. I am going to make mortifying mistakes and then continue writing.
It will be an honor if you be a part of my journey while I loosen up and get ready for significant experiments.
Mother called me in the middle of the night. “Uncle Hikmet passed away, and I didn’t want you to learn from social media.” We talked a little bit, and then she ended the call…
I was never close with Uncle Hikmet. Over the 34 years we shared this earth, we probably spent less than 34 hours together. Yet, he had been a haunting figure in my life.
Giresun is a small city on the northern coast of Turkey. It also happens to be the city where my mother’s family lived. I also spent the majority of my childhood years in Giresun. My parents were young, and they didn’t have any idea about raising a child, so grandfather from my mother’s side took on the job. He would come to Ankara, where we lived, regularly checked on me, and took me with him to Giresun whenever he could. I didn’t understand why at that age, but I loved him, and I loved my grandmother, so I would cherish the time I was with them.
My grandfather was a kind man who understood earthly things. He would spend hours talking to me about life, instilling a reading habit, and encouraging my hobbies. We had a lot of relatives, and he took care of everybody both financially and spiritually. I didn’t know who was who and was enjoying the love and care I got from these older people. I don’t know when I met Uncle Hikmet. He was someone whom everybody talked about behind his back. They would talk about how he messed up and how he was a lost cause.
He was a kind and silent man, but that didn’t stop me from getting scared shitless from this man who dressed up like a beggar and trotted the streets of Giresun with a gnarly log he had been using as a staff.
At that time, and probably even today, mothers and aunts were threatening children to give them away to beggars if they didn’t behave. Having this man, who looked like a beggar in my life, was a constant source of fear.
The first time I understood that he was different was around the time when I just started primary school. Grandmother owned a curtain shop, and she had to visit a client to measure their windows. I don’t know why the workers weren’t there, but grandmother left me on duty to entertain any customers that might visit when she was away. I waited for hours, and the only person who entered from the door was a beggar, or at least that’s what I thought.
“Grandmother isn’t here,” I said. “It’s ok, Yigit; I will wait.” He said.
That’s when I recognized Uncle Hikmet and felt really dumb. I don’t know if he recognized my mistake or not, but he didn’t show it. That’s the first interaction of ours that I remember. He sat down, and we started to talk. After some small talk, he decided I was worthy of having a conversation and started telling his life story.
He told me that they used to have to pass really tough exams to graduate from high school and people usually failed, so he used to take other people’s exams for money when he was going to middle grade.
He told me that he loved this woman and didn’t marry her because his mother didn’t like her, and the woman died in an accident, and he still loves her.
He told me that he doesn’t value earthly things because they are meaningless.
He told me about the time people from Germany came and bought his childhood project, an automatic hazelnut cleaning machine.
And he told me that he doesn’t talk to people anymore because they are not smart enough. That they value the looks more than they value substance. He said that “people whom I trained to go to university when I was going to middle grade, are now looking at me condescendingly; because I don’t care what I wear.”
He was a kindred soul. Of all the things he told me that day, the only thing I didn’t understand was why he became a deeply religious man. Yet, I was amazed that he learned Arabic by himself, and I was smart enough not to argue about people’s religions.
It was years before I saw him again. He went deeper into the religion and didn’t care about secular thoughts anymore. He concluded that earthly things didn’t deserve his attention, and he shouldn’t pursue earthly goods. He had a retirement wage, and he should be ok living on it.
Grandfather passed away, and then grandmother did. I had no reason to go to Giresun anymore. I didn’t see him, but Uncle Hikmet became a distant reminder of what would happen to me if I didn’t hang on to life. What would happen if I stopped caring…
The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago. He was living in an elderly care facility in Ordu. We learned that he had been hanging out in the hospital cafeteria. He found doctors cool enough people to hang out with. He couldn’t see well because of cataracts, but when we found him, he was solving Sudoku, which the hospital personnel had been saving for him, by putting it really close to his eyes.
We figured out he only had one outfit even though my mother had been sending him clothes all the time. When we inquired, he told us that he had been giving his clothes to poor people because they needed those clothes more. He was smoking cheap cigarettes that are more rat poison than tobacco. He told me that he is ashamed that he still had some earthly habits and should give them up soon.
We learned that he had been giving all his money away and living by the goodwill of people around, who loved to talk to him or liked him. We walked around Ordu and saw people waving at him. He found his place, I thought; at least these people value him in their own way.
We spent a couple of hours with him and made appointments with the dentist for fixing his rotten teeth and the ophthalmologist for eye surgery. We made sure that he got those surgeries.
On our way to Giresun, my mother told stories about his youth, when everybody knew that he was the smartest guy in town and thought that he was destined to do great things.
Life happened, and he gave up everything except cigarettes. He was never gluttonous, but that didn’t stop him from dying of stomach bleeding. Maybe all that rat poison he had been smoking weakened the stomach he rarely filled. I hope that he is with my grandmother and grandfather, whom he called his real parents.
I remember him saying, “I hate myself because I live and they died. They deserved to live, and I am ready to die.”
I am sad that he, a giant brain with amazing possibilities, passed away, silently, without making a mark…
If you are creative, you already know. People won’t stop telling you that you are creative. If that’s not your case, probably you are not incredibly creative yet, but the steps below might help you tap into your creativity. So read on!
If you are creative you will think there is nothing extraordinary about you because the tasks they find original and creative usually come naturally to you. And probably, after following your creative instincts for quite some time and getting rewarded for it, you start thinking “I am creative, now what?”
For most of us, the next natural step is finding a creative endeavor to earn a living. Usually, that’s when we start figuring out we are not always creative, or being creative on demand is one of the toughest jobs ever. Doesn’t matter. We are there now.
Through necessity, we turn our eyes inward. We dissect our creativity and understand what makes us tick, so we can be creative on command. I have dissected mine long ago and wanted to share what I found in the hopes that I can ease the path for a couple of kindred souls. Without further ado, here are my seven steps that ensure I stay creative even under stress:
1. Read as widely as you can.
Collecting a lot of different information, learning without prejudice, seeking diversity, and being open to experiences generate the fuel our brain needs to burn to create new ideas. If you don’t fill your tank, you will dry out eventually.
2. Have deep knowledge about one meta-subject.
When you have a hammer, everything starts to seem like a nail. For a creative, this means, you need a lens to look at the new knowledge you are collecting. If you don’t have a lens to look through or a peg to hang everything you are learning, then you won’t know how to create something out of the work you are gathering. The knowledge you have will seem disconnected and useless. You will start thinking why bother. You will start to feel like a failure. Been there, done that. I am telling you, so you don’t have to suffer yourself. Having domain expertise is paramount for your creative health.
For most of my youth, that domain expertise was literature, and I was looking at the world through the eyes of a storyteller. As I grew up and studied business that lens changed into marketing. This is apt since marketing is storytelling in the business world.
Even though I studied art and design after, my lens didn’t change. I believe that’s because marketing gives me a sure way to understand people and how the world works, and art isn’t a more suitable skill for me to understand the world. I might talk about this later since that’s one of the main reasons I have stopped considering myself as an artist and returned to the written word.
3. Merge what you learn with your domain knowledge.
If you already have a lens to look at the world, this step comes naturally. You can’t help but see the commonalities of the things you know and you learn. The more you learn, the network in your head about your domain grows and it gets easier to add new connections. At some point, everything you know seems related to your domain.
The more connections you have, the more creative your peers think you are. It will help with your communication and your thinking because when you are talking or thinking about something related to your topic, you will be pulling information from other fields and create original solutions.
4. Talk about your findings with experts in your domain.
This is where it starts getting excited. As you start talking to people about your findings, either your peers will support your new idea or will start showing you the holes in your reasoning. I believe this is the step, natural creatives start differing from the general population.
Creatives tend to seek opposition so that they fill the holes in their thinking with new thoughts and information. They tend to thrive in opposition and will use the negotiation to get a better understanding of their topic. The general public seeks approval and usually shies away from an idea if they have some opposition. Conformism is a serial-killer when it comes to ideas.
5. Talk about your findings with the general public.
After talking with your peers and figuring out the holes, the next step is talking about your findings with different groups of people. I am coming from an intellectual upbringing that believes if you can’t explain your domain ideas to the general public you don’t know it well enough yet.
Explaining your domain findings to new people makes you think about your findings in a different way, and usually makes you create new and original connections with the everyday world. Another benefit you will accrue is that people will bring their domain knowledge to the conversation and hand you new ideas you wouldn’t be aware of.
6. Merge all your findings into a coherent idea.
Now that you have done all the hard work of generating an idea and making sure it doesn’t have a lot of holes, it is time for you to figure out how everything fits together. The goal is to reach a coherent original idea that just needs a little polish before going to the next step.
7. Do something with your newly minted idea!
Having an idea means nothing if you are not going to do something with your idea. You can incorporate that idea into your life in many ways; some ideas change how you see the world, some change how you approach a topic, some increase your understanding, but the most joyful ones are those that make you create something original.
After this, you enjoy giving birth to something original and start looking for the next exciting idea…
This is not a linear progress. I usually learn about new things while I am testing ideas with people, and I always try to learn new things about my domain knowledge. The only step I don’t multitask is the sixth one, where I merge all the insights I gathered into a coherent whole.
I hope this post helped you in your creative journey, and if you have some tricks that improve your creativity, please share them in the comments below!