Frank Chen

Frank Chen

email newsletter #14

feeling your writing, being close to friends, delightful doge

feeling your writing

I really appreciate this little snippet from Ray Bradbury about writing and how you should be feeling when you're writing. He says you almost have to "surprise yourself, [because] if you think too much, you lie, and it's boring for everyone."

The best stuff seems to come when I write "in the moment", because the thoughts in my head are infinitely more interesting than when they're spit out on paper and purposefully crafted. There's this degree of vulnerability, almost scandalousness of putting down a unmodified thought. Sure, there's some editing for clarity but the aim is to get as close to the original feeling as possible.

Sometimes though, I have to force it. If I only wrote from inspiration, nothing would get written. I try to stick to a schedule - 30 minutes in the morning, a little everyday, even if it's shit. Even shit compounds.

being close to friends

I found this site about living near friends.

The basic premise is that living near friends makes you a happier person in general. This site is supposed to persuade you to move towards your friends, or persuade your friends to move closer to you. And by closer, I mean walking distance.

Coming back from Europe, I've found that daily driving to get pretty much anywhere has become increasingly annoying. Anything longer than 10 to 15 minutes just feels like a horrendously bad use of time, especially if there's any semblance of traffic. Even trips shorter than 10 minutes can feel incredibly frustrating if you're constantly being interrupted by red lights. This makes wanting to visit far away people less likely.

So that's one annoyance. The other thing I've noticed is my interaction with REAL people has really suffered in the past year or so. If you charted out how many minutes of voices I listen to, the 50% of them would be my significant other, 40% would be any number of handy podcasts that I listen to, and then 10% would be some of my close friends and acquaintances. I would say 10% is high too. 😬

Podcasting really exposes us to this information asymmetry. In a positive light, it allows me to surround myself with people I normally wouldn't have access to. The bad part is that it's kind of a one way street. I'm listening but the other person isn't present. I learn about them but they don't learn about me.

I could do better in that 10% department, for sure. We should all fight for that. At the same time, friends move away for any number of reasons (house, kids, existential dread, cost of living, better standards for living, etc). I don't know if I'm optimistic enough to believe a website could persuade my friends to move closer to me. That's like asking someone to move in with you. Of course, it's a little sad that I've shut this option down immediately in my head "oh that wouldn't work, + excuse #1, 2, 3" - perhaps it says something about the community (or lack thereof) that I currently reside in.

delightful doge

On the way to jiujitsu training, there's this long street with a bunch of stop signs that I have to get through to get to the gym. As I was slowing down for a stop sign, I noticed an elderly Asian couple stopped at the corner of the sidewalk, both with relatively confused faces. They were walking their dog, and the man was talking to the woman - the conversation seemed angsty and worried. Looking past the Asian couple, I saw their dog in the grass, just rubbing its back in the dewey blades, having the time of its life, carpet rubbing and gettin' it going on a anonymous stranger's lawn.

At this point, I had already stopped and started moving again (California rolling stop), while inappropriately staring.

I found the dichotomy of emotions very captivating. Human talk, human worry, human look anxious. Dog rub in grass, enjoy. There's a lot of shit and a lack of shit going on in each party. Also, human not paying attention at stop sign, distracted. 😂

Out of pure curiosity, I wanted to open my window, and ask "hows it going, how's your dog?" but I didn't, on the account of driving a vehicle. Who knows what they were talking about, or if they were new dog owners. I had completely made up this story in my brain in the time it took me to roll on through.

These are the moments that I think make it worth connecting to strangers. It's weird. There's this compulsion to make a story, create voice for someone when you don't know what's going on. If I had been walking and not barreling down the street trying to make training on time, I definitely would've said something. At the very least, I would've given the dog a few more minutes to enjoy the grass.