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The Reading Room

I am a big fan of niches. Not blogging niches, but places in real life where you can go and be at ease. I guess you could also call it a nook. For me, these are usually places where I can go to write comfortably without being disturbed. Home is not one of these places; at least, not usually. I can use my room or the sitting room to put pen to paper for hours on end but after a week or so I get tired of it. Plus, it’s where my family convenes. And when my nephew comes over there isn’t a chance I’ll be able to focus. Even if I lock myself in my room, he’ll strut over and bang on the door, “Uncle Yitzchak!” And then when I give in and let him inside he just smiles and looks around, “Hi Uncle Yitzchak.” Cafe’s are much better. Sure, they’re always full of people and their music can sometimes be too loud, but for whatever reason it always fits as my creative space. Need to get out of the house? Go to a cafe. I think my biggest problem is that there are so many to choose from in Columbus, and each is pretty distinct from the other, having their own flavor and style. Even the customers who frequent the place effect the atmosphere. Of course, if that’s my only problem, there isn’t really a problem (or is there?) But after acquiring my new electric bike, it’s been easier to go further than I would normally. This has given me frequent access to what I’m calling The Reading Room:   My last few featured images have all come from this room, though I’m not sure I do them justice. I’m not really a photographer, nor do I have a high quality camera. I wish I could convey how beautiful it is here. Since school is out, it’s almost always empty. Open space and the high ceiling allow for great acoustics, so when I play the album ‘And We Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness,’ I get chills. The cellos and violins and piano all reverberate against and off the walls, instilling a sense of vibrancy. The color pallet is wood, sky-blue, and off-white, so when I look outside and see those same colors in that same order, I can’t help but relax. It just feels right, like a curious symmetry. It may only last until mid-august, but until then, I’m going to relish this place of...

A Thought on Empathy

As most of you know, I’m a writer. You know, short stories. Books. Blog articles. All that stuff. And if you aren’t familiar with writing as a profession, you should know that it is very difficult and time consuming. Because the act of writing doesn’t usually look like this:     Most of it looks like this:     That usually goes on from thirty minutes to an hour if I’m lucky, but what usually comes out of it are good sentences. You know, it was only a few years ago that I would do this and the result would only be about a paragraph long. Three hours of work for one measly paragraph. This is why my book has taken/is taking such a long time. But anyway, I have this profession where I become continually exhausted while isolating myself in a room, go through all these kinds of emotional whirlwinds (as you would from dealing with fictional characters) and at some point you have to wonder why you’re doing this at all. Like, why do I write? I’ll tell you right now that it isn’t because I wanted to be a writer. I got into this because I wanted to tell stories. Writing simply presented itself as the best way for me to do that. And also because the act of writing is–for me at least–it’s sort of like playing music or free styling music; the moment to moment thrill of hitting a new note, discovering something about myself, my characters, humanity, usually all at once, frankly. And one of the gifts that comes with the craft is that you naturally begin to develop a sense of empathy. That is, an understanding of people, or the human condition in general. And that’s because of the fact that when I deal with my characters, Lily, Isaac, Lynn, Chelsea, Terrence, to name a few, I have to treat them like real people. I have to take them seriously. Because if I don’t, neither will my readers. And the thing is, when you’re working with characters, you quickly learn that you can’t direct their life because that never really works. Not if you’re trying to create something good. It’s like trying to tell your children to be something they’re not, because that’s always worked out well, hasn’t it? And once they feel comfortable behaving like themselves, you begin to see them clearly. And because they are your characters, you naturally want to accept who they are as individuals so that they can act comfortably and authentically when you are writing them. Their successes, their faults, their prejudices, their woes, their love and lusts and joy and overall experience that they’ve had with their life. And a very interesting thing that I’ve come to notice recently, is that when I hear on the news about, let’s say, a murderer, my first inclination is to think, “Well why the hell did they do that?” You know, like, the judgy, incredulous side of me slamming down on their evil. But recently I’ve had a follow up thought that goes like, “Well why the hell did they do that?” Like, really, why?” What led them to this? What brought them to this point? I began to realize how often I fail to see people as people. If we hear on the news about a murderer, we think first and foremost that they are a murderer. If we hear about a rapist or a pedophile, we think first and foremost that they are a rapist or pedophile. Or if we hear about a saint or a politician, we think first and foremost that they are just that. When in reality, we are all just people. We may do good or bad things from time to time, but in the end, it’s just because we are human. Being human doesn’t justify wrongful acts, and it doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be accountable for their actions. Recognizing the humanity of other people allows you, the observer, to have a more emphatic view of how to treat them. When all you know about someone is the fact that they volunteered during and earthquake in Haiti, it’s easy to picture them just as a good hearted person, just as when all you know about someone is the fact that they raped somebody, it’s easy to see them as simply devious, or evil. They become one-dimensional characters who play no other part in the world aside from their current actions. But as a writer, I know that there is no such thing as a one-dimensional human being. I’m not saying that I don’t generalize or judge people–in fact I do that all the time. People do that. But I think in order for us to grow and contribute to making the world a better place, we need to exercise our empathy, and not just with those whom we feel deserve it. Developing yourself in this way doesn’t just help others. It doesn’t even do that directly. I think first in foremost, it helps us live well. And I think that’s something we’re all interested...

The Second Step to Following Your Dreams (2/2)

  When I first started this blog, I had a rather vague idea of what it was going to be about. I titled it A Story Blog because I knew it would give me the freedom to choose virtually any niche I wanted. Poetry, music, adventures, people, etc, they can all fall under the conveniently large umbrella of what counts as a story. But I think I gave my self a little bit too much leg room. The freedom to write about pretty much whatever I liked made it easy to become distracted. At some point I simply stopped taking pictures. I stopped interviewing people. I stopped getting out of my comfort zone. I feel that this is largely in part of the busyness (Hm. That’s interesting. Busyness and Business are almost identical words. I got distracted, sorry). My life got cluttered, and when life becomes stuffed full, it’s hard to make out what’s really important to you. In my case, I stopped thinking so much about my family, my friends, my writing, my adventures, all because I was hell bent on actualizing the phrase, “Why leave to New Zealand with $5,000 when you can go with $25,000?” Growing up, I always heard the saying, “Don’t do things for the money,” and it’s only now that I understand why. I guess I just had to go through the lesson to get it. Funny how that works. And then, while I was still ignoring my passions and doing things for the money and slowly watching my soul wilt away, I got into a relationship. I wasn’t intending to. And by that I mean that I wasn’t planning on being with anyone until at least two years time. I figure 21 is the age of general maturity. Despite my Rule of 21 (yeah, I’m gonna call it that), I couldn’t stop myself from falling in love. Let’s get one thing clear. I do not consider the phrase, “Falling in love,” to equate genuine love. To me, it means infatuation. And infatuation, to me, is like a drug. It’s pretty much a drug. It’s one of those rare moments where you can genuinely lose yourself. You stop listening to those around you. You stop listening to yourself. You lose a certain amount of control over your mental faculties, and for me, that’s pretty close to hell. It’s one of those rare instances when I am not myself. I’m not going to give out specifics, but to give you an image of her, I’ll tell you a few things. She was kind. Innocent. Well intentioned, and pretty. We had the same Meyers Briggs personality type and I figured it must be fate that I meet this person. It meant that she was someone who could understand me. Genuinely understand me. And although I’ve never believed that you can ever truly know what goes on in the heart of someone else, I made an exception for her, in part because of the whole infatuation thing, but also because she said she loved me. Love is a word said too few yet too often and I make it a point to utter it only when I really mean it. It’s just above calling someone my friend. We went out on one date to a cafe and talked for no longer than an hour. There were a few more meet ups afterwards, but they weren’t really anything. After about a week, she decided that she wasn’t ready for a relationship. I agreed, saying that I also had some ways to go in the area of maturity. That was it. Well, not really. There were a lot more details and a bit of heartbreak, but to do this story justice I would have to get into specifics, and that’ll have to wait for another time. The point is, I lost myself. I lost myself. But I’m coming back together, and I’ve got a whole lot of stories to tell you guys. So sit tight, this is gonna be...

The Second Step to Following Your Dreams (1/2)

  Okay-okay-okay, first things first, I’m back. It’s been over a month (I think; wasn’t exactly counting the days) but now I’m back. There are several reasons for my absence, but the big one is actually pretty simple: 1. My life got really busy. 2. I got really lazy. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I just lost a lot of motivation to do this whole blogging thing, which is weird because around the time I stopped was when my blog was getting the most views since, well, ever. Which reminds me of a hard truth told by one of the most succesful freelance writers out there: Emotional breakdown screws up your writing life. ‘What emotional breakdown?’ you might ask. Well, over the last several months a lot has been going on in my life. When I first started this blog I had this list of things going on: -writing books -trying to get into publications -blogging -getting better at music -saving up money to go to New Zealand Until recently, my list looked more like this: -wiggle in time to write anything -think about getting into a publication -think about blogging again -what about music? -what about New Zealand? -teach a writing class to high school students -make money with job/use money from said job to fund business/lose money/repeat -struggle with low level depression And then earlier this year I entered a relationship. That went well. And then it didn’t. It turns out that the first step to following your dreams involves a lot of falling on your face. Fortunately I’m a stubborn individual so, just as every other time I’ve fallen down, I’m getting back...

Snapshots

2-2 “Nowadays kids want to work on their own. No one wants a uniform anymore. They want to be able to work from home and on their own schedule. Times have changed. I’d change too if I were...

Snapshots

1-2 “When I was a kid I wanted to be a police officer. Or anything with a uniform really. Back in the day, if you had a uniform, it meant you were doing something. People respected you. It’s been hard recently, but now the cops don’t bother me anymore. But it’s bad–it’s bad. Once you’re a felon, you can’t get a job. How am I supposed to stay off the streets without a job? You know, it’s...

Snapshots

  This guy’s got passion. Seen in Short North...

Table Talks: Seolah Kim

  “I’ve been really interested in human connection; that feeling of connectedness, because from what I’ve observed, a lot of people are lonely. You could be surrounded by others yet still feel alone. And now, people are really taking advantage of social media to help with this. People will read an article like ’21 signs that you’re an introvert,’ and when they read it and think, ‘oh yeah! This is totally me!’ Cause they relate to it. People are constantly trying to say, ‘this is who I am.’ I think it is hard to be understood. Like, someone knowing you as much as you know yourself. Or maybe you don’t know yourself, and you want someone to be able to explain who you are. There were moments in my life where me and another we’re able to exchange very little words yet still grasp what we were trying to say. I felt connected to them, and wondered if they were special, like, ‘could this happen with just anyone? What if it comes easier to some than others?’ At first I thought that a connection with everyone wasn’t possible. For someone to understand you is a difficult and rare thing—you can’t just have it with anyone. But when you do, you should hold onto to it because it’s special. There was a friend who I got to know very well, and I felt a connection with him on almost a cosmic level, if that’s the right way to put it. Nothing romantic. We were talking about the universe. I’d read somewhere that humans are made of stardust, and in that way we’re made up of the universe, and that idea really stuck with me. I loved it. And when my friend understood and acknowledged that idea with me, it felt as if he were acknowledging that I was as meek, as beautiful, and as special as this universe. But when I brought it up with him later that I’d felt that connection, he said, ‘Oh really? I didn’t actually feel anything.’ That’s when I realized that connections aren’t always mutual. But if it isn’t mutual, then why did I feel that way? And then there are times where the connection is mutual but it just suddenly stops. The person goes away and neither makes an effort to keep the fire burning. In that case, what was the purpose of meeting that person? Was I supposed to learn anything? At this point, I’ve decided that we need to have those varied significant moments in our lives. It doesn’t matter what you’re supposed to learn—people crave, if not need, those types of connections. And I might never know what drives them . . . Um, but I’d like to find out...