Everybody wore a hat

FromOneLine Volume 3 has been published and is now live! Here is around 220 pages of pure brilliance, emotions, words, and thoughts, compiled by Meghan Dargue for the third FromOneLine anthology, published by Kobayaashi Studios, United Kingdom. This anthology features poems and flash fiction from writers around the world.

Where can just one connecting prompt line take us? That’s what the FromOneLine community of writers have been exploring on a regular basis since 2019. I was privileged to be featured in the second volume in December 2021. I regret not being in the first Volume only because then I was not seriously following my creative writing passion. Around mid-July 2021, I was pulled into creative nourishing of the soul due to myriad reasons, and then magic happened.

I reinstated my blog, became a book reviewer for #ReedsyDiscovery Reedsy and the #HimalayanBookClub, got opportunity as a probono editor for a self-published author, and got published, as a short story writer and imagist poet. It was the inspiration and boost I needed in a time of self-doubt. It helped me make some significant decisions to embrace change.

Life changes course in more ways than one. My creative pursuits are not as intensive as they were at the close of 2021, however, I continued writing for the #FromOneLine prompt. It gave me much joy and artistic succor. It made me believe in my creative abilities. For me, being featured in the third anthology is a manifestation of my desire to be read and acknowledged, to be meaningful, and to make my words touch hearts and souls. It’s fulfilling and I only feel love and gratitude for Meghan Dargue for connecting personally with selected contributors and making this gorgeous cover design and poetry collection happen.

“The writings to make it into this volume were chosen from a staggeringly high number of submissions. Poems and pieces of flash fiction have danced me through a rollercoaster of emotions. Words that I have returned to time and again to discover new feelings, or just to delight in connecting with familiar ones. I hope you will enjoy exploring them as much as I have, and may they inspire many more writings and adventures to come.”

The blurb from the Amazon site says all about the stellar writings that Meg chose for this book

FromOneLine Volume 3 (paperback) is available on Amazon for worldwide delivery. In India, the book is available on Pothi.com.

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When the words beckon

Analysis of the art of reading

Blogger, Tom Johnson, of the I’d Rather be Writing blog recently experimented with reducing his smartphone usage and filled that time with reading. He shares some interesting views in this latest post. I made notes that ended up becoming observations worth sharing.

  1. “Queuing up books” – Been there, still doing it. My eBook library has books for seven lifetimes. Every time I read a good review or hear a recommendation, I grab a copy. The reasonable pricing of eBooks makes piling on the reading list relatively easy. However, looking at the ever-expanding reading list can be stressful. Often, I have this urge to give it all up and just wade through that enormous shelf.

2. “The problem is that my interests evolve from book to book.” This, I believe, is not the problem but the “power” of reading books. It opens new thought vistas and encourages questions. Someone asked me the other day what kind of books I read and my response was “anything that holds my attention.” My taste has increasingly shifted from fiction to nonfiction but I can also devour Calvin & Hobbes or Garfield, cover-to-cover, any time of the day. Reading variety changes the mood and widens our knowledge.

3. “….I decided it wasn’t worth slogging through.” It took me some mental reconditioning to accept that some books are not worth the effort, and some are good in just bits and pieces. I still find it a difficult decision but I have started rationalizing skip-reading and not making it a battle to finish a book that I don’t want to. Tom talks more about this in the section, “Can I skip ahead when bored?”

4. “Buy print versions of audiobooks I enjoyed?” – It’s a personal choice but audible formats don’t hold my attention. Audible versions keep me hooked to my smartphone, which is counterintuitive to the act of reading. I also miss making notes and highlights. I love physical books and buy many on impulse, however, I usually end up with the Kindle version for convenience.

5. “For me, part of the reading experience involves interacting with the book through these annotations. Writing in a book destroys it for resale, but I consider that part of the cost of reading.” – I try to keep my books clean and find a local library to donate or share it with a friend. However, the desire to annotate is as real as Tom describes and this makes eBooks an appropriate choice for me.

6. “I dislike Kindle entirely. Reading from screens is the worst.” This is a universally debatable notion since the birth of the eReader. The eInk technology and the disconnect from any other app or truly workable web access, differentiate a Kindle from a typical screen. I love my Kindle Paperwhite because it powers a more immersive reading experience and is more portable with anytime-anywhere reading. Tom also talks about “How to remember words I look up?” For me, the Kindle highlights and dictionary lookup work well to create a mental map. I can easily search and refresh my memory.

7. “Is reading expensive?” – This is subjective and depends on the format as well as a source of books, for example, libraries, free or discounted eBooks, or used book stores. However, any hobby or pastime involves a monetary angle.

8. “I do think writing reviews would be a good skill to develop, though.” – As a regular book reviewer, I agree with this. It has helped me in developing critical analysis and vocabulary, paraphrasing, and writing in engaging ways. It enables me to pay back to the community of writers, especially self-published, by spreading the word about their work. Book reviews are a beautiful thing to do – for the self and the authors.

9. “Reading is a natural precursor, even a requirement, to writing.” – Always! The more you read the better you write and that’s true for self-review or edits in one’s own writing. The work evolves with each iteration.

10. “What value do non-technical books have on a technical career?” I am glad that Tom raises this question about how book reading as a hobby can help in our technical writing profiles. Well, content strategy, paraphrasing, minimalism, understanding audiences, and trends, are all skills that grow as we expand intellectually. As Tom says, “Perhaps reading helps prime and tune my intellectual engine, which then makes me more capable in performing other tasks (even in writing documentation).”

I enjoyed reading Tom’s article and crystallized my views on the wonderful hobby of reading. Tom’s article has many more points to ponder, for example, is reading passive or are book clubs worth the time. You may find your takeaways or rediscover the lost art of reading. At the end of it, don’t forget to grab a book.

Clickbait – a story of people on the Internet

Clickbait on Netflix is an Australian series of 8 episodes relevant to our Internet-infused lives. It is a binge-worthy show in the thriller-crime genre. The twists and turns in the plot are intriguing. The end is engaging and packs in quite a surprise element. Clickbait is also a commentary on the complex nature of relationships, work, and individual psychology.

For instance, Detective Amiri – we see a bit about his personal life, but we also glimpse how his insecurities affect his professional demeanor and work relationship. He feels overlooked because of his religion. In reality, as a lone wolf, he lacks the skill to work in a team. Amiri is ambitious, with personal and professional ethics mostly in the right place. On the other side of the spectrum, we have the journalists. They hound the victim for news bites and employ objectionable methods to capture information and the coveted prime time slot. These and other incidents provide ample food for thought on complex work dynamics in various professional arenas.

Pia, as one of the leads, has a visibly volatile temperament. She is determined to solve the mystery involving her brother, Nick. We witness an empathetic side of her as she fights for her family. As the shadow of an Internet-based crime hangs low over the Brewer family, skeletons drop out of the closet, including extramarital relationships.

Characters that do not fill in the entire space of the series but feature in dedicated episodes have a lot of depth. Tech-savvy teenagers, who do not understand the impact of technology, put themselves and the lives of others at risk. From GPS-tracking devices, memes, and trends, to meeting strangers on the Internet, youngsters pride themselves on being connected. How many of them are mature enough to understand the consequences of using technology, even if well-intended? Why blame the children, when even the adults plonked in front of screens, take part in a make-believe world? The series brings out the horrors of convoluted identities and an even-more complex web of lies on the world wide web.

A content moderator sits through 10, 000 images a day, sieving out the trash from the Internet. Trudging through his boring life, he probably does not realize how the violent and inappropriate content he is perusing every day has subconsciously affected him. His wild side breaks out after he cannot save his sister from being deceived on a dating site. Then, there is the compulsive liar, the insurance agent, who is so good at weaving stories out of thin air that maybe her mind stops processing the thin line between fantasy and facts. I found her character to be quite impactful.

At the end of it all, there is one underlying theme. The pursuit for the remedy of loneliness through the Internet. When we are alone, anxious, perturbed, even bored, we turn to devices to consume mindless information, entertain ourselves, fix dates, and make friends. As the clock ticks, filling in the stark hours, we throw caution to the wind. We are entangled. We are callous. We are still lonely and afraid. Trust is a beautiful thing, but it shatters bit by bit, rather, click by click, as we bite the bait and hope for beautiful and extraordinary things to emerge from the Internet. It is all a lie!

Clickbait, as a series, has garnered mixed viewer responses. I found it watchable and impressive enough to feature on my blog. Beyond the crime drama and investigation, the psychological aspects are worth pondering. Clickbait is a tale of complex mind-games and a reflection of our society. It projects the mental health condition of the seemingly normal-life leading individuals and how it hides behind glossy screens and digital spaces. The more these people need to get help, the more reclusive and secretive we become. It carries a message of caution not just about what you click but also how well you know the people in your life.

You cannot do it all and it’s okay

One of the trends in the women’s empowerment movement is to expect and push women to be all-rounders. The call is to know and do everything independently and magnificently – manage the house budget, know how to do the taxes, help with the school work, deliver the work presentation, deck up for the family or social event, mind the Ps and Qs, develop a competitive mindset – and much more. The demand is to do it all with aplomb and impeccably. To create gender equality, society burdened women with the responsibility of being successful, within and outside the home.

Perfection is the barometer of this empowerment. It is exhausting to be projected as the domestic goddess and the work maverick with many arms. Women are expected to strive more, go the extra mile, adjust, sacrifice, have their choices questioned, and at the end of it all be perfect. This concept and expectation are flawed.

True empowerment is to allow women to decide and execute what is best for them, and within their capacity, even if imperfect. The goal of every woman is not to shatter the glass ceiling or acquire the corner office, or a place in the C-suite. The goal is to contribute and exercise the potential to elevate oneself mentally, spiritually, and economically. The social worker is doing an amazing job, so is the teacher, doctor, scientist, or the woman who wants to start a business from home, or wants to quit a job to stay home.

It’s all okay. An effort may not win an award or have a cushy label attached to it, or feature on a magazine cover. Each woman should be empowered to pursue happiness and success, on her terms, without the need to be perfect but with the courage and the resources to support her choices.

Also read – the difference amongst job, career, and calling.

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