Monday, March 22, 2010

Why Wells Run Dry

It was a warm, sunny day, and students rejoiced when their last classes of the day dismissed. Spring break had finally come, and not a moment too soon. The constant weight of tests and papers had been stifling the happiness of many, but at last there was a moment of reprieve, a chance to stop and breathe. After working at the campus library for a few hours and enjoying a dinner at Chick-fil-A, I topped off the fuel tank of my Buick and headed for home. Three hours later, I was nervously peered through the small window of visibility on my windshield as frozen rain pounded my car, which made its way along the interstate at a pace of 30 mph.

And that's how my spring break began--with a terrifying drive through a winter storm. Now, however, the snow is melted, the Hot-n-Ready pizza I picked up for dinner is satisfying, and my eager fingers are ready to type away. As I mentioned in my last post, I haven't been able to write much lately because of the craziness of school, but now that I'm on break, I hope to write more. Here's once already, and maybe I'll do another one or two before week's end. Or maybe I'll write a couple dozen; you never know.

Well, actually, I do know. I'm not going to write scores of posts this week. In fact, it took me a long time today to even think of what to write for this one, and I'm only going to write about how it's hard to think of post ideas, which is a little circular, I suppose. But the truth is that coming up with new topics all the time is no easy task. I've been doing this for over a year and a half, and I wonder sometimes if maybe all my ideas are used up and I should finally just quit. No sense in being repetitive, after all.

Some people don't have these same problems. There are some people who always have something interesting to talk about. Their workable knowledge of different topics is broad, and they can carry on intelligent conversations about all sorts of things. You probably know people like this. They're engaging, smart, interesting, and likable. Time passes quickly when you're in conversation with these people. One minute you grab a seat across from them at dinner, and seemingly in the next second the room is empty and the dining hall workers are wiping off the tables telling you to get out. And then there are people like me. A typical conversation with me may go something like this:

"Hey David, how have you been?"
"Oh, you know. Busy as always. How about you?"
"Yeah, pretty much the same."
[Uncomfortable pause] "Alright, well, I'll catch you later"
[Feeling way more awkward than 20 seconds ago] "Yeah, ok. Bye."

Sometimes I like to watch people who are engrossed in conversation, even if I can't hear what they're saying. I remember one time last year I was in the student center at Ozark playing cards, and a guy and girl came in who had just started dating. They walked over to a couch, sat down, and started talking. There was a TV there, but they didn't turn it on. They just sat and talked, and for a long time, too. They both looked interested in whatever was going on, and there did not seem to be periods of awkward pauses. And I thought, "Jiminy, what on earth could they possibly be talking about all this time?" Those are the sorts of people who don't have trouble coming up with something to write a blog post about.

I think the reason that some of us have so much trouble having anything worthwhile to say is that we make so little effort to put anything worthwhile in our minds. Our brains are like machines in which it is difficult to have productive output without meaningful input. People who have things to say are people who read a lot and listen to people a lot (and I mean really listen to people; not just looking at someone while they speak and you mentally wander). My problem is that I too often sit around blankly hoping that a thought will grow out of my head like a virginal conception. But that isn't how ideas work. We take in what others have already said and we synthesize it, reorganize it, add to it, and spit it out as something similar yet different. Very few people are originators of entirely new concepts; the rest of us more or less recycle what has gone before us. So in order to develop more and better ideas, we need to increase our intake of others' ideas. We need to become aware of issues and more knowledgeable of what is out there.

Too a point, this is a difficult thing for a college student to do, which is maybe the opposite of how it should be. The college years are supposed to be a time of academic and intellectual growth, right? Of course they are, but at the same time, one can become so busy with numerous responsibilities (homework, work, ministry, etc.) that little time is left for pursuing an area that you want to, and that can be frustrating. I often think, "Man, if I didn't have to do this and this and this for school, I could read that or study that and be a better person for it." I guess I could use my blog posts to tell you all about my translations I've done in Greek class, but I can't imagine that would be too interesting.

But all of that is only a very small part of the problem, and probably isn't really the problem at all. A much bigger issue is that we do a terrible time of managing the time we have been given. Instead of seeking to grow in our ability to think, we allow ourselves to be merely entertained. We sit in front of a computer screen or TV screen and zone out. Now entertainment isn't all bad. At times is probably beneficial to just sit and give your brain a rest. Also, movies and TV shows and such can even help us grow in thought when we think about them critically. But most of us spend way too much time putting our brains on "sleep mode" instead of keeping them engaged.

Take Facebook for instance. There may not be a more mind-numbing force in our world today that Facebook. It becomes easy to sit for hours doing nothing but stare blankly at the screen waiting for someone to poke you. Now Facebook certainly isn't all negative. It's a good means of communication, especially with those who live a ways away. But it does very little at giving us material for significant thought, and it tends to waste large chunks of the day that could be better spent otherwise. I definitely can't criticize anyone for being on Facebook too much because I'm on it a lot. I'm on it as I write this post, actually. But the point I'm making is that the reason we may not have as substantial thought as we might like is that we give our brains little to work with, and as a result our mental tires spin and spin with no traction.

So my encouragement is simply to think more, read more, listen more, and analyze more. Which means that we zone out less, waste time less, and Facebook-stalk less. And the result? Hopefully better conversations, deeper relationships, and less pointless blogs. Because we all know there are way too many of those out there. Or right here, maybe.

If you've read many of my other posts, you know that I'm a pretty big fan of Donald Miller. His blog has a new format, and from it, I have learned several features that I need to increase my readership. 1) To have authored successful books. 2) To have candid pictures of myself hanging out in places like bus stations, coffee shops, or park benches. 3) To have content worth reading. So if any of you can help me out with any of those, just let me know.

This ended up being a pretty lengthy post about not having anything to writing about. Congatulations on your endurance. I would give you a ribbon if you weren't an anonymous internet presence.


Charlie said...

Davey Jones (7th grade nickname for ya...if you remember. which you probably do remember because your memory is ridiculous),

You said that you sit around thinking about nothing a lot, but I don't agree with you. You are the reason I decided to start writing a blog, so that I could start engaging my mind more.

And Face-stalking is not meaningless that makes us horrible conversationalists. In fact, I would argue that it creates converstation (or gossip....hhmm). You know that many of my conversations with people begin, "So I was face-stalking..."

And I posted a long comment because your blog was long. The end.

Kinsey said...


I like this post, secretly i was hoping you were talking about me... being one of those people who brings up conversation easily... but then again I am pretty selfish! haha!

Seriously though, good thoughts.