Tag Archives: opinion

Rescue Your Creativity from the Internet!


I realized last night that I haven’t played my piano keyboard in about 5 weeks. 5 WEEKS? That, for me, is almost unheard of–at least, when you take into account that I used to spend up to two hours a DAY playing piano down in the basement. Even when I had video games and schoolwork to take care of, even when I was at my busiest in college, I always found time to play my music, or to write poetry, or do other creative things. What’s changed?

I can point to one thing: the Internet. Now that there’s a constant source of passive entertainment in my room (even while I’m lying or sitting in bed!), I don’t have to go far for mental stimulation. I don’t even have to lift a finger to create anything if I don’t absolutely need to. And, increasingly, I find that the urgent need to create is somehow slipping away.

Why This is a HUGE Problem–And More Widespread Than It Seems

For me, a prolific creator for most of my life up until this point, this is a radical mindset shift, and I know I’m not the only creative person suffering it. The Internet provides us with endless resources to fuel our creativity, but it also provides a handy time sink–it gives us carte blanche to while away just as many countless hours clicking things on a screen for no purpose other than a high score and/or a sense of accomplishment.

Unfortunately, that random Internet time doesn’t often lead to creativity boosts, unless your brain just really needs a gaming or browsing break. These days, for me, Internet time becomes simply “lost time,” time in which my brain still has to work at reading or analyzing, but rarely has anything concrete to show for it. And by the time I’m finally done puttering around on the Internet, I’m far too mentally tired to be creative. That is the most dangerous symptom of all.

I see this happening not only to me, but to some of my creative friends, too–we’re all suffering from what looks like “Internet fatigue,” not having the mental energy to do much beyond surf just one more website, take just one more online quiz, etc. Have you felt it, too?

A Simple Solution

I’m not recommending that we all just stop using Internet for the rest of our lives, however. Not only does our work often depend on Internet, but our creative lives are now taking place on the Internet more frequently than not. The Internet is great, but, as I’ve discovered, one can easily “overdose” on it and end up less creative than ever.

We creative folk have to reclaim at least some time for our brains to be JUST OURS–for our thoughts and ideas alone to be uppermost in our minds, rather than the blended remnants of today’s headlines/scandals, DIY ideas, status updates, etc. That’s the way we get back our creative juices…that, and specifically carving out time to do so.

So, how to reclaim productive creative time from the Internet? Here are some tips I’m putting into practice:

  • Turn your wireless connectivity off on your computer if you have to use your computer for creative purposes (such as writing).
  • If your creative process does not need the computer, turn off the computer entirely, or set it to do an anti-virus/anti-spyware scan–something that precludes you from getting back on it.
  • If you usually use your computer for creative work, try creating without it, using pen and paper when you need it for notations.
  • Turn off your smartphone or set it to Airplane Mode while you’re creating, too. Better yet, leave it in another room where you won’t be tempted to check it.
  • If you typically use a certain room for Internet, go to another room to create–sometimes, just the change of visual scenery (even if it’s still your house) will trigger your brain to behave differently.

What other ways can you think of to rescue your own creativity from Internet fatigue? Tell me in the comments!

Your New Favorite Support Piece: The Mystical Elf

As part of the Yu-Gi-Oh! HeroClix set, there’s one figure you’ll definitely want if you enjoy strong Support pieces. Let me tell you about Mystical Elf!

Image credit: HeroClixWorld

How to Play Mystical Elf

This little lady is meant to be played close to her teammates so that Mystical Healing can go off and so she can more effectively use Prob and Support. As for defending herself, her Barrier, Phasing, and Willpower make her hard to target and pin down for long. Her 8 move, 10 attack and fairly high defenses most of the way down (including that fantastic 19 on last click) are good enough stats to ensure that she’ll be sticking around for a good portion of the game at least. All this for 50 points–not bad!

Additional Functionality: The Trap/Spell Mechanic

Notice the “Trap/Spell,” “Graceful Dice,” and “Skull Dice” rules–these can be used on another friendly Yu-Gi-Oh! character to enhance Mystical Elf’s usefulness even more. Whenever she would be defeated, you can instead turn her into a Spell or Trap card as described. (Skull Dice would be a nasty surprise for your opponent if you’re playing against a beatstick team, and Graceful Dice would be an excellent boost for a character who needs Prob.)

Also, you can include her dial facedown at the beginning of the game for 7 points if you don’t have room for 50 points or don’t want to use her Support characteristics. Just choose your friendly Yu-Gi-Oh! character and set the dial facedown on their card, and you’re ready to play!

Final Note: Trap/Spell Legality

Whether Trap/Spell functionality is legal in standard Golden Age games is hotly debated on HCRealms at the moment, but both an official judge and a forum moderator have said that individual venues can house-rule this to be legal or not. Just ask your local HeroClix judge whether they allow Traps/Spells before building your team for standard Golden Age events–if they say no, you can always play Mystical Elf as a regular Clix piece and get most of the benefit. She’s versatile!

Why Do We Use Unordered Lists for Navigation?

The question in the title of today’s article has been bugging me for several years. Why, out of all the tags we could potentially use to style our site’s navigation, have modern designers chosen the unordered list?

At First Blush: Web-Elitism and Table Layouts All Over Again?

Coming from my background in hand-coding, when tables were still in vogue for layout building and lists were used for–well, listing things in one’s content–my confusion is warranted. I caught so much flack as a newbie designer for sticking with table format layouts, because, in the words of my critics, “tables are meant for tabular data only.”

So why use a list format for a navigation bar that is kinda sorta but not really a list?  See the following:

<ul class=”nav”><li><a href=”page1.html”>Page 1</a></li>

<li><a href=”page2.html”>Page 2</a></li>

<li><a href=”page3.html”>Page 3</a></li></ul>

Sure, a site’s navigation IS a list of links, but the unordered list used in most navigation schemes these days doesn’t end up LOOKING like a regular bulleted list. Instead, it gets twisted and reshaped with CSS magic into whatever configuration is needed, whether that’s a vertical list of links without bullets or whether it’s a long horizontal bar across the top of the page.  That magical CSS class creates all the beauty out of what otherwise looks like slightly bloated code, at least to my eye.

As I read article after article about using and styling unordered links, I kept thinking, “Isn’t that what we table-layout-makers were doing with tables back in the early 2000s? Isn’t this just another creative use of an HTML tag?” I found myself wondering if the unordered list would eventually go the way of the HTML table as a “deprecated” way of designing, and if those of us who had adopted it would be the butt of elitist jokes in 5 to 10 years. (Y’all who don’t think web-elitism exists–trust me, it does. People get snarky and condescending when they think they code better than you.)

The Answer to My Question: Yes AND No

But, as I’ve studied this problem a bit more, I’ve realized something. Yes, unordered lists seem like a little bit of excess code for what amounts to “a list that doesn’t look like a list onscreen.” But they actually solve a couple of problems, one of which reared its head in one of my recent designs.

My Old Navigation Style: “Display: Block” All the Way

I had organized my navigation into a div called “sidebar,” with the following code to handle all my navigation links:

#sidebar a {
display: block;
font-size: 20px;
font-weight: bold;
text-decoration: none;
border-bottom: 1px solid #AAAAAA;
padding: 10px 5px 10px 5px;}

#sidebar a:hover {
border-bottom: 1px solid #FFFFFF;
text-decoration: none;}

The corresponding HTML code for the navigation looked very simple, like this:

<div id=”sidebar”>

<a href=”about.php”>About</a>

<a href=”projects.php”>Projects</a>

<a href=”archives.php”>Archives</a>


The Problem: ALL the Links Were Affected

This was all well and good, until I decided to put more content in the sidebar–including some links that were part of paragraphs rather than navigation. You can probably guess what happened; I refreshed the page, and found that all my links in my sidebar were displaying proudly in block format, even if I had intended them to be contained in context with the paragraph around them.

So, what to do? I thought about creating another div to house my navigation links, styling it separately…but then, I realized I had the perfect tool for a vertical list of links already in my HTML toolbox. All I needed to do was to add unordered list code and give the unordered list a CSS ID. I dragged my feet about it a bit, but finally decided the list code was better than potentially causing layout havoc with another div thrown into the mix.

The Simple but Effective Fix

Thus, I ended up with this code instead:

#navlinks a {
font-size: 20px;
font-weight: bold;
text-decoration: none;
border-bottom: 1px solid #AAAAAA;
padding: 10px 5px 10px 5px;}

#navlinks a:hover {
border-bottom: #1px solid #FFFFFF;
text-decoration: none;}

The corresponding HTML code looked like this:

<div id=”sidebar”>

<p class=”sub”>A Headline</p>

<p>some text here with <a href=”index.html”>a link</a></p>

<ul id=”navlinks”>

<li><a href=”about.php”>About</a></li>

<li><a href=”projects.php”>Projects</a></li>

<li><a href=”archives.php”>Archives</a></li>



Why This Change Helped

Adding the unordered list tags to my navigation helped me out in two ways:

  1. Eliminated the need for “display: block;” in my CSS, because the natural behavior of lists is to display each item on a separate line;
  2. Created a specific ID for just my navigation links, so that the other links in the sidebar would be unfettered by navigation styling

Having specifically targeted code like this, even if it results in typing <ul> and <li> about a thousand times more than you’d like, actually makes it easier for you to design. With your navigation self-contained in a little list “box” all its own, you can specify its styles to your heart’s content and not worry about those style choices overflowing and causing havoc in the larger divided layer.

This is a great habit to pick up–only applying CSS styling to the elements you absolutely need to style, rather than cramming all your style rules in one or two overarching divided layers. It organizes your code better, makes it easier to change small formatting issues later, AND can save you from accidentally messing up the whole page trying to affect one small section.


Putting navigation in unordered list format may seem esoteric at first, but it’s actually handy. You might not actually need a separate div to cordon off your navigation, necessarily; all you might need is <ul><li></li></ul>!

We Aren’t “Crazy,” We’re Humans, Too


Imagine if the following six phrases were spoken to people suffering from physical ailments and injuries:
image source and one discussion of this image

This webcomic is funny because we think of it as ridiculous–who would ever invalidate someone else’s suffering like this? Who would ever deny that a person throwing up in the toilet needs treatment? Who would ever question that a person in the hospital needs to lie down and rest?

And yet we do invalidate others’ suffering, when it comes to mental illnesses.

What People Have Actually Said To Me About Mental Illness

Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve heard over the years, as a sufferer of depression and anxiety:

  • “Ugh, God, you’re talking about that mumbo-jumbo again” (meaning my recent Facebook status about depression)
  • “Let me just play psychologist here for a minute–don’t you think that your depression comes from feeling entitled because you were never encouraged to work for anything?”
  • “Well, I just think all that stuff [mental illness] is a scam to get drugs to sell on the street. They ain’t dying, so why else would they try to get medications?”
  • “Anxiety, huh? Well, when I was a kid, we had things to worry about like when food was gonna get put on the table next. What do you even worry about?”

How Is This Kind of Talk Reasonable at All? It’s Not

Would we talk to cancer patients this way? Would we talk to people with physical, measurable illnesses this way? No, and why not? Because we believe them–we can easily see the symptoms for ourselves. Mental illnesses rarely have this same level of validation–there isn’t a visible rash, nor injuries (except in self-harm cases), and our suffering is described in feelings. Thus, many people pass off mental illness as laziness, whining, or attention-getting, as this Huffington Post article describes.

Here’s the bottom line: Mental illnesses exist, as these 10 artists and writers have proven, and they DO cause suffering and pain which requires treatment. Frankly, at this point in my life, I am quite done with people who act as if those of us with mental illnesses are faking or exaggerating. People who choose to believe that mental illnesses are exaggerated, brought on by lifestyle choices, or are otherwise “our fault,” have obviously never had a mental illness and therefore don’t have the knowledge to argue about whether it exists or causes real suffering. If getting rid of depression and anxiety was as simple as “thinking positive” and “sucking it up,” I would have been clear of it years ago. As it is, I’ve battled both since I was at least 8 years old (I’m 29 now).

How to Properly Support People with Mental Illnesses

There are plenty of opponents of proper mental illness treatment out there, but there are just as many people who would like to help but just don’t know how. Either they are fellow sufferers, or they feel powerless in the face of this looming darkness and struggle that their loved one is caught in.

Wanting to help someone with a mental illness is a noble cause, but we are not born knowing how to support someone like this. From my personal experience, here are helpful and non-helpful things to say and do for your loved one/fellow sufferer:

Helpful Words

  • “I am here to listen. I/we love you.”
  • “Do you want me to help you find treatment?”
  • “I have no idea what’s ahead, but I/we will be with you.”
  • “Did you see anything/do anything today that made you happy?”

Non-Helpful Words

  • “I’m not going to talk to you/be around you if you’re just gonna mope around.”
  • “Go talk to a therapist if it’s this bad.”
  • “Things will be better tomorrow! Bye!”
  • “Ugh, can we talk about something happy for once?”

Helpful Actions

  • Check in every day via phone or personal visit. You could take this on yourself, or you could organize a group of friends for this.
  • Offer to help with household chores to take some burden off.
  • Pick up medicines/groceries and run errands.
  • Know the signs of worsening illness, so you know when it is likely necessary to contact professional help.

Non-Helpful Actions

  • Leave the person alone until they contact you (they might never).
  • Shame/judge the person for things left undone.
  • Refuse to help because it might “enable” them to be lazier.
  • Spew random advice at them because you don’t want to have to pay for treatment.

Closing Thoughts

I don’t know if we’ll ever find “cures” for mental illness, nor do I know if we’ll find the causes of it in my lifetime. But I do know that continuing to devalue the suffering of people with mental illnesses will only further the stigma and keep people from seeking treatment. Mental illness happens; we are not “crazy” or permanently broken, we are fellow human beings, and it’s time we were treated as such. Proper support now may mean your or your loved one’s survival later.