First a warning, this blog post will ramble because it was written by me… it is centered around the idea of what Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) effect is on our society.
The spark for this post centers around a number of articles about ChatGPT and its ability to write essays for students. One article used the example of a literary criticism essay covering the works of Emily Dickinson’s work. ChatGPT did a fine job, but of course it did.
Honestly, there are only so many ways to write a literary criticism over a single poem. I actually use poetry to introduce the literary criticism essay. We discuss a number of poems, breakdown how elements like similes, personification, even rhyming is used in the poems. Then the students write their essays. At the heart of a literary criticism is the idea of teaching the reader something about the poem.
So, many of the students’ essays read about the same. The introductions and conclusions are different, yet the body of the essays center around what anyone can learn if they analyzed the poem themselves.
I’m not especially worried about ChatGPT writing essays, or even its own poetry. AI will never be able to write a narrative essay, at least not a real one. A narrative essay is about the meaning of a moment for the writer.
AI doesn’t deal with the complexity of living. It will never be hungry. Or feel the joy of a great meal. AI will never open an unexpected present that fills their heart. Or deal with the bad mood of a loved one.
I do worry about us giving our lives over to technology in general.
I see too many students just consuming their screens. At the moment it is TikTok. They watch all these people doing different things, while they just sit there. I actually encourage students to make their own videos (yes, I’ve been in a few).
Also, the idea of just letting technology tell us what we should listen to or watch next; from products on Amazon to a playlist Spotify thinks we would like. Yes, we do tend to enjoy certain genres of music, but there is so much of our human experience connected to media that an algorithm can never give us a perfect recommendation.
As an example, I will listen to a song or watch a movie that I do not like because someone I care about likes the movie or song. I usually find something interesting from the media, even if it doesn’t get saved to a playlist.
Yet, we can just let technology live for us… that is what I am afraid of. What’s so funny is how we keep advancing technology to be more human. We marvel at how close we can get AI to write like Edgar Allen Poe, yet here we are trying to be human but addicted to the technology.
What I know for sure is that AI will never enjoy the tradition of making blueberry muffins for breakfast every Sunday morning. And that I will always write my own stuff.
I check my email to find a message from a flash fiction submission. It is my fourth rejection email in two days, for poetry and short stories.
My mood is not good this morning. Recently I have been seriously considering giving up. I talk about it a little in The Creative Moment podcast, “The Idea of Success”. That was a couple weeks ago, now this morning, I feel like giving up the dream.
I can’t give up writing, that is who I am. Poetry is the way I think. I will continue to jot down ideas on scraps of paper. Compose verses in notebooks. But the dream of being known as a poet, as a writer is fading.
Now, I know this is where people would give all kinds of motivational quotes and stories of authors who published their first book in their sixties. I know all of that. I know Stephen King’s story about his wife digging the story “Carrie” out of the trash. (Yes, I know he was an English teacher, too).
But this is a low point. Everyone has them. And low points are powerful moments. Maybe choices shouldn’t be made at this point, but we shouldn’t discard the emotions and self-evaluation that comes at these moments.
Questions / thoughts I have to work through:
I might not be a good writer or poet.
Maybe I’m not spending enough time on my craft.
Maybe I’m not spending enough time promoting my works.
What are my goals regarding my writing career?
Feelings come and go. Right now, I feel defeated. I am at a low spot. But it doesn’t mean this moment can’t be a positive for me or for anyone that is at a similar point in life. A low point doesn’t feel good, but if you see it as an opportunity to self-reflect, prioritize goals, and spend a little time working with the moment, you might find you can climb higher tomorrow.
I have been busy this month with the write a poem a day (PAD) challenge. I use the prompt provided by Writer’s Digest and I added my own personal challenge to write in a different form for each day. (You can read some of the poems on my creative blog: Creative Corner for Writing. I’m a few days behind posting to the site.)
On day 24 the prompt was to write a poem about a superhero or a villain, or both. I wrote a cadralore poem about moments in life where we could be the hero or the villain. The last stanza starts with the line:
Of course this got me thinking about how our decisions lead us to different choices in the future. At the same time a decision will eliminate other opportunities for us in the future. I once gave my seniors a kind of “last lecture” about life. I presented the idea that life is a tree.
That each major decision sends us to a new branch. That branch will have its own junctions or moments of choice that only happen because of the decision made before. You can become paralyzed at the vastness of moments life can have for you because of one choice. My seniors are two weeks away from graduation. They have chosen a path to follow, the opportunities they will have in the future are unique to the path they have chosen now.
I recognize that some goals we have as individuals can be pursued at any time. I may yet be known as a poet or writer, but each day the choices I have now are because of choices I made in the past… I can’t change that.
No one can change that. Too many times we only consider the immediate consequences of a choice, not where the choice will lead us. No, we can’t predict what future moments will come our way, but there is a certain set of outcomes we can infer if we think about where the choice will lead us.
As a poet, it is an inspiring image to the complexity of this life. Tomorrow is based on what choices we make today…
Alright, I have tried and tried and tried to remember a book I read about doing epic things. It is not on my Goodreads list, but I have only used Goodreads to catalog my reading for a few years so…
The book was about people taking on big challenges. Some of the examples were more personal, like blogging every day for a year. While other examples were life changing, like climbing a mountain when the person was 60 years old. The main theme was about taking on a goal that stretches one’s skills while making us face emotional aspects, like fear or patience. (If you recognize this book, please share the title with me on Twitter or in the comment section.)
I just finished another book (which is on my Goodreads list), 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die. I have read 182 of the books on the list. I have an epic challenge and I only have 26 years to complete the challenge, according to the data from Statista about life expectancy.
I found an epic challenge.
But I also have another epic challenge, based on another book, The Late Starters Orchestra. Which is the story of Ari L. Goldman’s journey of playing the cello with The Late Starters Orchestra. No, I am not going to learn to play the cello, I am going back to the piano. I have some musical background. I learned to play the drums in fifth grade. I taught myself how to play a few songs on the piano in junior high. I came back to the drums at a school I used to work for a couple of years ago. The band director and I both had the same planning period, so once a week he would let me practice on the drums.
Sometimes when I write a poem, I can almost hear a song with it. I have had the privilege of working with P.R. while creating my poetic projects Stargazer and Just. He does an amazing job connecting music to my poetic lines. (Some new projects are in development.)
I doubt that I will ever be able to really write a song, but I want to try. I want to experience the beauty of creating music, to add another level of joy to my life, even though I will go through some rough spots learning to play the piano. That’s learning though.
So here is to my two new epic adventures in my life. Are you heading out on an adventure or in the middle of one? Share your story with me.
This morning we made blueberry muffins. My second daughter asked how it felt to be half a century old. Children can view the world in a different way. Half a century. Fifty years.
As always, I thought about how many crazy turns I’ve taken on my path. I thought it would be fun to share some fun “Top Five” blog posts over the next five days in celebration of living fifty years.
To start, this post will be my top five things that I am proud of.
Self publishing my poetry and fiction books. I have a few more projects in the works. It is exciting to create work that others enjoy.
Creating traditions for my family, like blueberry muffins on Sunday mornings. I’ve read books before bed for over 20 years. Other traditions have faltered, some are new, like deciding on a word for the year. But I think traditions are building blocks for a strong family.
Keeping an open heart even as the world and people let me down. Call me foolish, but I believe Love can save us.
Staying creative. Writing blog posts, taking photos, writing poetry. I try to listen to the muse when it hits. I’m working on a new short story right now. I have three new poems that are in rough draft form. Being creative keeps my spirit fueled.
Finding the courage to change the narrative of my family history.
Tomorrow I’ll share another Top Five post about moments.
I’ve been trying to come up with a clever introduction for this post. I’ve also spent time considering the tone of the post and how I can make the topic more reader friendly, more optimistic. I decided that the idea needed a more direct approach.
What you say is important.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking to yourself while addressing a golf ball on the fifth hole.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking about your spouse to coworkers.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking on social media.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking about people you don’t even know, like actors or athletes.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking to your kids.
It doesn’t matter when, who, or what you are talking about. What you say is important.
Words are powerful. They create emotions. They create community. They create works of art. They can build or destroy a relationship, a team, and even a nation.
Words create the way we see the world around us. I could give a thousand examples, but the message would be the same. What you say has power. It is your responsibility to handle that power. What do you say?
I self published my first poetry book in 1997. I used a local print shop and peddled the book around town. I sold about 50 copies.
As an assistant football coach, I had the opportunity to call the offensive plays for a game when our head coach fell ill. We did lose the game, it was a back and forth contest. We converted a risky two point play late in the game that gave us the lead for a while.
The first time I called my wife to ask her out on a date, I hung up on her. I called back, and the rest is history.
I quit a job, in fact two of them, without having another job in place.
And now, I released my first poetic EP, Stargazer. Which you can enjoy at the following streaming services.
You can even add a track from the EP on an Instagram story.
I thought it would be cool to mix my poetry with music. To create a unique listening experience and reach more people with my words. It was a crazy idea. My second son designed the cover, and I reached out to P.R for help with the music and production.
How many crazy ideas have you let go, for whatever reason?
Fear of rejection, failure, or success.
Knowledge of how to accomplish it.
Time it takes to make it happen.
The change that will happen to you and your life.
And let’s be honest, nothing is really lost if you don’t try. The sun will come up tomorrow like it always does. This is a hard truth about any goal we have. Even if we reach our goals, the sun will come up tomorrow like it always does.
So, why even chase small dreams, let alone the crazy ones?
Because it matters right now. The goals we have, the crazy ideas we have, give our life depth and meaning. By working toward a goal we get in touch with the real picture of who we are. We experience joy at an authentic level. But the crazy ideas spark our spirit like nothing else can in the world. The crazy ideas connect us to the real possibilities in our life, therefore creating a deeper sense of fulfillment of who we are and what life means for us.
The sun will come up tomorrow like it always does. So, what crazy idea are you going to pursue today?
I wanted to say a few things to you today as a basketball parent. I am writing this letter the day after my son’s last game. His career ended with the runner-up trophy at state. A bittersweet moment for sure. But I’ll come back to the ending later.
First, thank you, for so many things. See, I’m a football guy. I played basketball in junior high and my sophomore year in high school, but football is my game. Yes, I thought my sons would play the game I loved. But they found you instead, especially Dante. Basketball became a central part of our family for the last 10 years, and our family is stronger because of it. Let me explain.
Both of my sons started playing basketball in elementary school. In fact, they played together on the YMCA’s 3 / 4 grade team. My oldest son stopped playing after junior high because he found his passion on the stage, but basketball became a part of Dante’s journey of becoming a young man. And what a journey it was for him and us. As I write this through the flood of memories, I have to laugh because my son was at the top of the zone on that first team, and would be the main player at the top of his high school’s 1-3-1 zone. (He ended this season with over 70 steals.)
But, this letter is about what you gave to use as a family. Basketball, you gave us moments together. From heartbreaking last second losses to incredibly joyful wins. You showed us the best in people, and sadly the worst sides of people. You brought friends into our lives, and revealed how connected our own personal journeys are.
It started with Saturday morning trips to get coffee and then to a local gym, sometimes with good seating, other times parents would be shoulder to shoulder standing against the wall trying to keep little ones from stepping onto the floor.
As my sons got older we traveled to elementary tournaments. We would pack snacks, drinks, try to plan when we could eat. By this time, the boys were on separate teams, and we would sometimes have to decide who went to watch who, let alone timing the games because we only had one car. My wife and I would send game updates and pictures to each other. We strengthened our communication skills for sure.
Then, when Dante earned a spot on the Bison team (Nebraska Basketball Development Association) in junior high, you took our family to another level. In fact, I am a better father because I messed up during a summer tournament.
The tournament was in Omaha. We traveled back and forth from home to Omaha like we usually did, I was tired. Any parent who travels for AAU knows the bone weariness that comes with traveling. It was an early Sunday morning game and I did something uncharacteristic. I yelled at my son during the game.
OK, basketball, you know that fans and parents, especially, can be harsh and disrespectful. We have always tried to be respectful of the game, teams, and officials. In fact, except for this year, I was pretty quiet for a sports dad. This year, I just had to cheer loud! But back to that Sunday morning, Dante committed a turnover, and I hollered something in frustration. Honestly, I can’t remember what I said exactly, but it hurt my son. I knew it right away, too. After the game it took him 30 minutes to come to us and he gave me the cold shoulder. He wouldn’t walk with us to the car. I apologized to him, but it took awhile for him to forgive me. I have never crossed that line since then. Even though it was one of the toughest lessons to learn, I have to thank you for it.
You are also responsible for another tough lesson as a father, maybe not a lesson but a milestone all fathers have; that moment when a son is better than their father. I don’t know how many hours we have spent playing basketball on our driveway. When the boys were young it was them against me. As they got older, the games became tougher to win for me, so we would play Red, White, and Blue (One-on-one where the person who makes a basket stays and the other player rotates in). Then came the day Dante straight-up beat me, you can read the poem about it here: Driveway Basketball.
Again, as memories flood my heart, our driveway hoop had a hand in building Dante’s other passion, photography. He would experiment with creating cool images of him shooting. He would set his smartphone on the concrete and make shots, then blend them together. Basketball, you have been an inspiration, even for art, for my family.
The biggest thank you, though, is for all the awesome memories, and not just on the court. As mentioned before, you have given our family opportunities to be a part of other families’ lives. On Championship Saturday we got to share in the victories and defeats of former Bison teammates. We understood their basketball journeys on a level the casual fan couldn’t. We appreciated their game because we knew their life off the court. Because of basketball, our lives are richer with friendships and stories we can share when our paths cross in the future.
And some of those stories are just for our dinner table. Because of the opportunity to play basketball, our family has created our own memories, from grandpa meeting us to drop off forgotten shoes, to having our engine basically rebuilt in two days while in Chicago. (Thank you, Brett!) You have strengthened my family by allowing us to experience life, both on the court and off. Thank you, basketball, even as my son’s career ends and I feel the pain of never watching him drive to the basket again, my heart is filled with joy for being the father of a basketball player.
P.S. My elementary daughters have enjoyed the game, too. My second daughter plans on playing next year in junior high.
Well, somehow we survived 2020. To be honest, though, I’m not sure how we will do in 2021. There is too much hate, apathy, and disregard of the sacredness of life for me to be fully hopeful that 2021 will be any better. I know this post is starting out on a negative vibe, but it is honest. No, HONEST is not my word for this year, but being honest with myself did lead me to my word for 2021.
LIVE, as in live music, is my word for 2021.
There are a number of factors that influenced my choice.
First is my poetry. As soon as possible, I will be attending open mic events. I also have some social media ideas that I will be investigating to share my poetry. As much as possible I want to present my works to the world. Where will these steps take me? I don’t know… and that is the exciting part.
Second, I want my everyday life to be more live. Meaning that this year I don’t spend valuable time behind a screen. I am live in my own life. I am there for my family and friends. I am there for my goals. It is too easy to feel like I am doing something when I check my Instagram feed, or Twitter. It feels like I have accomplished something when I complete a level on a match-three game. But, honestly, I have done nothing.
Maybe because I will turn 50 this year, but the third aspect of my word is to be thankful for this life by living it… yes, this connects to point two, but is deeper than just putting down the phone. There is a spiritual aspect to living. No matter what you might believe, we only get today. And our life is the collection of these days. Making sure I am live each day is one way to pay respects to this chance I have. To be thankful for the love of family and friends. To make this world a better place, even if it is just in my home…it’s the best place I know to start.
So, here is to a new year, 2021.
Here is to new poems and opportunities.
Here is to today being lived in front of a live audience.
My intentions were to write a scathing, angry letter to you. To address all the failures and heartache this dream of being a writer has caused me. I wanted to tell you about the sinking feeling I get when I read another rejection email. How my stomach becomes a rock that pulls my confidence down into a dark hole. Even the edges of my vision go grey like an Instagram filter.
I wanted to ask what the purpose is for having this dream. I have been writing since the fifth grade. My personal blog, It is all Connected, has over 100,000 words. My creative blog, Creative Corner, has 187 posts, most of them poems. I participate in the Twitter very short story (#vss365) community. I have self published five books.
If I stopped writing, nobody would care.
But I have this dream of being a writer. That when someone says my name, they mean poet. I have this dream of someone recommending my book to a friend. That a poem I wrote is someone’s favorite poem.
But instead of an emotional letter, I am caught again in the tangles of writing. I feel the joy of articulating my thoughts onto paper. The power of creating an emotion or thought through words for the reader. I am looking forward to creating the blog post for this letter. I will create a cool title banner for this. Maybe find a video to end with…
But what you have done is light a fire in my soul. I am thankful for this dream. Even with the frustrations and rejection emails I will experience in the future. I have this dream of being a writer, even though I know deep down that the dream has already come true. These words prove it.