Instant Gratification

Clementines citrus are very sweet, easy to pee...

I bought a box of those clementines at the store the other day.  All orange-like products taste better when the weather is gray. They taste like luxury. Like civilization and progress and modern instant gratification. Like all the good things our global connectedness can provide.  I know nothing about how they arrive at my grocery store, and I refuse to google it.  I don’t want to learn that they were actually picked a year ago, via the tiny tortured hands of malnourished infants, then flash frozen and stuck in a shipping container for six months only to sit in the back of the grocery store’s warehouse until the temperature outside dropped enough that suckers like myself will drool over these tiny, pulpy, juiceless, dyed-orange balls and think they are worth buying.

No, I already feel enough guilt over the fact that half the box will end up in the trash. Why do they have to sell them in such large quantities for so little money?  If they were more expensive I might resist the temptation.   This is the problem I have with shopping altogether.  I don’t like buying things in bulk.  I have a small kitchen and a small budget and a small appetite. I don’t have the family that the ‘family size’ is meant to feed.

What I really want is a machine in my kitchen that will store, frozen I suppose, all the things I like to eat, and then with the push of a big red button, portion out and thaw exactly what I want when I want it.  No waste, no shopping, no need to plan ahead. Now that I think about it, the ‘planning ahead’ is the part I struggle with the most.  Oh, I like making plans, I make them all the time. My house is full of bits of paper covered in lists and plans. I always leave a bit of space to the left of each item, just enough room for a checkmark.  But the checkmarks never appear. There is no follow through.

I’m interested in using the reward system found in video games as motivation in my own life. When I play a game, I get constant bursts of happy neurotransmitters exploding in my brain whenever I do even the smallest thing right. Defeat a bad guy, pop! Find a rare object, pop! Move up to the next level, pop!  This blog does that for me as well.  Every time I log on I look at my stats, and there – a new view, pop! A new follower, pop! A new like, pop!

My brain is awash in serotonin, or adrenalin or whatever. Which makes it really hard to do anything else other than blog or play video games. Nothing else in my life provides the same sort of happiness.  I have two different book ideas I’m working on right now, and neither of them get the attention they deserve.  I’m not motivated by word count, I don’t care about the length of the story, I care about how I tell it.  But because they can’t be typed up, posted and viewed (pop!) in a day, I don’t feel like working on them. I want the pleasure they can provide right now.

I just (finally) finished reading Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own,’ after at least two decades of picking it up and putting it down again. (Not constantly for all that time, of course, where is the IG in that?)  It was, by far, one of the most brilliant things I ever read.  My wonderment of it might have a bit to do with the pride I feel in finally getting through it, but I’ll only know if it wears off in a few days, right now, I am in awe. BUT – she makes all the good points, ties together all the wandering bits of story threaded throughout, at the very end of the essay.  It is not until the END that you get the gratification.  This is why it took me so long to finish.

I know, I know, it is a sad sign of the times that our attention spans are so short that we can’t stick around for the payoff of a very short book.  But wait, doesn’t the word ‘span’ speak of length?  Isn’t the whole Harry Potter series somewhere around a million words long?  If you can read about 200 words a minute, that means 83 hours straight of reading. I think that is a decent span. It doesn’t feel like I’m forcing myself to get through them, because there are little payoffs all along the way. If reading those books doesn’t define constant IG, I don’t know what does.

Yesterday, I read this year’s Pulitzer prize winner for Feature Writing.  “Awarded to John Branch of The New York Times for his evocative narrative about skiers killed in an avalanche and the science that explains such disasters, a project enhanced by its deft integration of multimedia elements.” (the description from the Pulitzer website) It is called Snow Fall, and if you have the span of time required (90 minutes) to read it, I suggest you do. You will not notice the time go by and you will not mind reading it on a computer screen.  It is chock full of bits of instant gratification: gif’s and sound clips and short videos. It fully embraces our ‘short’ attention spans and all the modern tools available to tell a compelling tale.

I strive to do the same for you, dear reader.  As much as I admire Virginia Woolf’s writing, her clever prose and strange twists that all make sense in the end, I don’t want to make you wait that long.  I want every sentence and paragraph to be its own reward.  And I want, mostly for myself, to think, type and post as quickly as possible.  But am I stifling my own potential?

It took John Branch more than half a year to create Snow Fall. And you can tell, its depth is astounding. I would love to have the impact on you that he had on me. But that means six months of work with no steady drip of serotonin to keep me going towards that ultimate pay off.

I want the clementine – a sweet piece of fruit, easily peeled, easily popped into the mouth and eaten. No work, just pleasure, right now.

One thought on “Instant Gratification

  1. Ha, because clementines always come out at Christmas – and I’m always depressed at Christmas – the smell of them is the smell of despair. Tasty, juicy Christmas despair… x


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