20 April 2011

Ascetic Junkies

Currently pushing: The Failure Series. My friend Sam's podcast about not making the mark. "Conversations, anecdotes, and other ramblings about and inspired by episodes of failure, in all its myriad forms." The first episode also features my friend Yasmine, who wants the world to know that she's only a failure on the inside, but not on the outside. Or was it the other way around? I so want to guest speak on this show. "Failure, ha, I'll show you failure!"

A friend said to me that I have the most disposable time of anyone we know yet I'm really not using it wisely. I'm not sucking in much media and just get on the hamster wheel of Internet life every day. My original question for him was if I should continue to watch Friday Night Lights. I know the show is great, we've watched six episodes already, but should I pony up for another five seasons? Once I'm in on something like this, I know I'm gonna wanna watch it all so this is a make or break moment.

The more relevant question is what I'm doing with all this disposable time. With no normal job, not many obligations to speak of, and having already cut out most television, movies, and social events from my life, what in the world am I doing with all those hours?

Basically I'm browsing a ton of random shit. Even with my Reader all organized in efficient folders, I've got almost nine hundred subscriptions, I got Twitter to stay on top of (which I never do), and about once a week I get all fired up to download music. Luckily I generally avoid Facebook. For some time now, I've been getting the feeling that I'm never quite actively involved in anything, with only cursory glances at everything. That has to change.

So what I need is some spring cleaning. I have to remind myself that it's pretty useless to know random crap from all over the place and it's far better to concentrate on just a few things. The first thing to go is gonna be long articles. With Long Form, Longreads, and The Essayist, I've always got lots of material on hand. The problem is, most of that stuff isn't sticking or very useful. I need to switch from iPhone reading to book reading. I'm gonna limit myself to two or three long articles per day, maximum. And if I read them, I need to really stop and think about them or engage in some way. Cut the fluff, concentrate, concentrate.

I mean, really, what do I need to know about the possible mating strategies of dinosaurs for? Or a profile of the men behind Goldman Sachs? And I definitely don't need to know about a researcher who lives in caves to discover the natural rhythms of the human body. These are all fun and dandy but it makes me lose focus. When you train to become a ninja, or a monk, you focus on a few things. Maybe just one or two. You perfect a few skills and then move out from there. The problem is that I'm pretty much interested in everything/anything. Having these long form essays to follow has been the worst as they've introduced me to longer pieces (which I love) that take some time to get through.

Each article has a word count and an estimated reading pace. For example, 3,301 words should take about thirteen minutes. That average works out to about 250 words per minute, or about a book page per minute. I've discovered that I'm a huge skimmer, but even with that, I'm wasting hours reading about crap I really don't need to know. Plus when I'm tweeting or Tumblring, or sending articles to friends, I'm just extending the amount of time I'm wasting on these pieces.

So here's what I'm doing. See ya opinion posts from Slate, Jezebel, Awl, and New York Times. See ya anything art, fashion, or architecture related. Bye bye tech world news and views. Peace out sports and video games (well after the NBA playoffs). Farewell publishing and book blogs. Sayonara to the tons of people I follow online who are not super amusing or my friends. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out entertainment and gossip sites. Sorry Asian blogosphere, I need to take a time out.

Okay wait. So what am I keeping around? I'm gonna pick like five items in each category to still be up to date on, and focus the rest of my energies on work, writing, or the general young adult scene. If you thought I was boring before, get ready for even more boring. I figure I'm already well ensconced in my boringness so I might as well go all the way. Plus you'll just never get through everything anyway, as this timely NPR article points out: "The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything."

The flip side of all this is that intaking a lot of random stuff will lead to good things because you never know what will spark an interest or an opportunity further down the line. This article about lucky versus unlucky people -- via Cheryl Renee Herbsman -- touches on the idea of serendipity and karma and keeping your eyes open and connecting the dots later. I'm totally with that philosophy but I probably need to swing the other way. So here we go, focused like a laser.