A Writer’s Random Ramblings

Naturally, I feel a little lost on what to write from time to time. I started this new-fangled writing schedule. It’s going well thus far, but it’s been less than two weeks, so I will keep you posted.  Nevertheless, I find myself writing more (yay!) But what the hell am I to write about? (Boo!) I want to write stuff for my blog, perhaps strike upon an idea for an article, but I think that too much pressure scares off the ideas. Nevertheless, I have found that writing is a bit like running you just have to put in the miles, or words, in order to get what you really want.  It can be frustrating as hell, but it’s just how it works.

I feel very excited to write, but I just don’t know what the heck to put down on paper. But I’m thankful to be excited, that’s a step in the write direction (ahh…I can hear those sweet, sweet groans.)

I realize there is a weird paradox about a blank page.  It can be anything, and it has no expectations; however, we as writers want it to be perfect, whatever it is.  But that is something we impose on ourselves. I’m not sure where the concept of, “we must write the perfect first draft!” comes from.  I guess we all really hate editing, or we don’t want to “waste” our time writing something unworthy. But editing can be interesting, surprising, and even fun. And no writing is a waste or unworthy.

Again, like running, they say that the only bad run is the one you don’t do and the same goes for writing.  The only truly wasted draft is the one you don’t write. Not everything written needs to be published or should be.  Some writing can just be for yourself.  In the grand scheme of things, writers are kind of an uptight bunch who need to take a chill pill and putter a bit.

Puttering is a great thing because it can lead to all kinds of interesting places.  One needs to allow for exploration and see what happens.  I don’t do this enough, but I’m working on it.  But I also need to learn to not feel bad when my putterings actually turn into fruitful pieces.

I know this sounds barmy, but I sometimes sit down to write, and I think to myself: “Today I’m writing a stream of consciousness just for myself. This won’t be publishable and that’s cool.” Then I get started and something strikes me, and I start writing a publishable idea. I freak out that I’m not doing what I am “supposed to be.” Yes, I know I have issues, but putting the pressure off is probably why something came into my brain that’s usable.  That’s awesome and not something to feel bad about. I have to remind myself that there will certainly be times when writing sessions won’t produce much of anything, but when they do I need to embrace it and forget about the intentions.

Writing is a strange and bizarre process, but perhaps that’s why so many are drawn towards it. It’s an elusive medium, and one that we are all in the pursuit of tackling. What makes it even more interesting is that we tackle it one day, but then the next we can’t grab on to it to save our souls.

Yes, it’s a skill and needs practice and experimentation.  It has rules and general practices, but it is a fluid thing which presents so many options as well as so many pitfalls.  This is what makes writing so awesome, so beautiful, and so enticing because it’s full of surprises and never gets old.


The Machine- Going Old School

On a ridiculously rainy day in Chicago, my mother, my aunt, a family friend, and I ventured to the American Writers museum.  It is a small establishment but very interesting. One of the more interactive exhibits were the typewriters.  They had four or five sitting out that people could plunk away on. Now up until this point, I had only seen typewriters.  My mother has a collection, but I had never actually typed on one before.

I grabbed a sheet of paper and looked helplessly at the group of ladies I was with.  I knew generally to insert the sheet in the back and then crank it through.  My mother then said, “lift the bale.”  To which I responded, “English, please.”  They all laughed and came to my rescue.

I then started typing.  It was awesome.  I could have sat there for hours.  It’s such a different feeling than a computer keyboard.  And the satisfying ding at the end of the line is marvelous. I knew instantly that I wanted one.

So, I put one on my Christmas list and Santa (aka mom) pulled through.  Mine is a portable typewriter, so she’s less beefy than the traditional desktop version.  She has a few quirks such as she doesn’t have a number one key.  It’s not missing.  It was never there, but she is a beauty.

Obviously, such a fine machine needs a name. It needed to be epic and old school, like Masil, but with more spunk. Louise could work, but that didn’t strike me as studious enough.  Vivan was nice and sassy, but lacks the needed industrious tone.  But Agatha, now there was a name. It’s old school, studious, industrious, and the nickname Aggie had just the right amount of spunk. It was perfect.

(As a side note: when I told my husband I named the typewriter Agatha he responded, “Oh like the mystery writer you like.” My jaw dropped it had never occurred to me that the random name I chose also was the name of one of the greatest writers ever!  What a happy accident!)

Anyway, over the past few weeks, Aggie and I have gotten know each other. I’ve discovered she requires a lot more force to get a clear letter to appear on the page than one of my generation would expect.  The hunt-and-peck method is really the best.  This way you use consistent force for all the keys.  If I use proper typing method, all the “a”s, which use the pinkie on my non-dominate hand, don’t show up, and it looks like I’ve created some weird cipher for WWII communication.

I’ve also learned to anticipate the ding.  If you’re typing along and see that you’re getting close to the end and you need to bust out a big word like “hornswoggled” you will need to start a new line because in the fight between a big word and the ding.  The ding will almost always win.

Anyway, I’ve been able to manage.  I even typed out a thank you to my parents via Agatha.  It had some mistakes, but I figured that added to the charm and nostalgia. She is epic in every way possible. She does her job loud and proud. I’m kind of intimated by her. I try to use her in a timid manner as to not break her, but Aggie will have none of it. She’s a sturdy girl, and we will be the absolute best of friends! Ding!


Writing Woes

As I’ve mentioned before, I not only spend copious amounts of time reading, but also scratching out my own scribblings. I tend to write long-hand in a journal I carry with me.  However, I have recently been having some writing woes, but not the usual writer’s block and such. I have been struggling with what people say and do when they see me writing.

I have been given the impression that they think my scribblings are silly, and what could I possibly be writing that is so important that I fill up so many pages.  I’m currently on my fourth journal. There are many people who I have kept this hobby hidden from due to fear of judgement.

Now I know that I really shouldn’t give a flying flip what other people think, but a writer’s ego is fragile.  And sometimes things said really sting, such as one morning a co-worker saw me writing before work at my desk and mockingly said, “Dear diary…” like I was an angsty teenaged girl.  I was instantly embarrassed of my writing and felt foolish for it. It made me feel that my hobby of writing and blogging were inferior to other hobbies.

It’s difficult to not let comments like this burrow their way into your mind and under your skin and make you really question what you’re up to. It makes you wonder, is it really worth it for those of us who are not professionals?  Answer: Of course, it is!

However, it is a bit ironic.  A professional writer, such as a journalist or a novelist, is held in quite high esteem, but it feels like if you haven’t reached that level then you’re inadequate. Yet how does one reach those levels without toiling away with a pen and a piece of paper or a keyboard and a monitor before their day job? And what if you just like doing it with no aspiration to be paid?

Writing is difficult.  It is a process.  I don’t like criticism, but I’ll take it and do something with it if it will improve my work.  However, criticism for the act itself seems unnecessary and rather unproductive. I haven’t come upon any solid advice other than to ignore people and their comments and their eye rolling.

I am, however, very lucky to have many supportive people in my life regarding my writing. They are pretty amazing, so I’m going to focus on those awesome peeps, jam to “Shake It Off” and keep doing what I love.

Happy Friday, everyone! Keep on keeping on!

The Other Side of Reading

I have recently been reading Elizabeth Berg’s book on writing called Escaping into the Open. It’s fairly obvious that I not only like reading but fancy writing a bit as well.  I’ve known for a while that there aren’t necessarily strict, firm rules to writing in order to be successful.  However, I don’t believe it truly sunk in until reading this. People say what works for them, but that doesn’t mean it’s applicable to everyone.

Thus, a big part of writing is simply figuring out what the heck works for you.  This is comforting and yet terrifying. It’s nice to know that my bumbling around is not only normal but encouraged; however, I really would like to stop bumbling.  But it sounds like that’s just the way of things.

Berg gives the impression that being relaxed about writing will make everything easier.  I think this is true. I’m just not quite sure how to Zen out my brain about this.  Writing tends to make me get this… tightness.  I want to put a masterpiece on the page. This includes my blog posts. I realize I have to get past this, and Berg makes it seem like one day I will.  I just can’t force it.

She reiterates many things I already knew, but it’s nice and necessary to hear them again.  Such as:

  • Write, write, write, just keep writing, no matter what. I have seen transformations in my own writing as time goes on.  Even though there are many times I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.
  • Read everything. This I try to do on a regular basis. (This blog helps.)  Ideas strike in all kinds of weird places.  So just keep that nose in any reading material you can find. As a personal addendum to this I’ve discovered listening to a wide variety of podcast can also get the ideas flowing.
  • There is freedom in writing and don’t let other writers’ hang ups or beliefs limit what you do or how you do it. There are a lot of myths about writing some could be true for some people but they don’t necessarily affect or apply to everyone.
  • Work hard, but be kind to yourself. Natural talent always helps, but drive and passion can make almost any writer succeed.  Furthermore, I know that I’m not a super-star writer, I like to think I have the drive to become one.  And that this hard work does not include mean or self-deprecating thoughts/comments.  A firm gentleness will suffice.  Positivity will go a lot further than negativity.

Berg provides quite a bit of solid advice for a green writer like myself.  She’s realistic but encouraging and right now that’s what my sensitive writing ego needs.

There is a lot of writing advice out there for bloggers and well for all forms of writing.  What is some advice you’ve received?  Any advice that was particularly unique?

Oh, Just Read It- The Little Paris Bookshop


Title: The Little Paris Bookshop; Author- Nina George; Type- Fiction

The Gist- A profoundly emotional story of losing love and the process of moving forward.  And how books can be the cure for many emotional ailments.

What Stuck- George is able to concisely and eloquently state some of life’s most emotionally baffling conundrums. I’m envious of this talent.

Should you give a flip?- YES!  This is a wonderful book.  It’s beautiful and elegant.  I get a warm, sunny feeling when thinking of this read.  I’ll shut up now.  Just go read it.

A Comma Conundrum

Oxford comma for the win!!

Before I get to what the hell that means, here’s a little background…

My mother was a high-school English teacher for 33-years, and as I’m sure you’ve witnessed my grammar is far from perfect, but it certainly isn’t for a lack of trying.

My mother would always politely remind me that I did well instead of good.  That “Holly has one…” as opposed to “Holly gots one…” And when correcting my papers there would always be a red flick for a final comma in a series of items, also known as the Oxford comma.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I learned its name, that it had a fair amount of debate centered on it, and that technically using it wasn’t written into the stone tablet of grammarian law at the time of the Ten Commandments.  Some believe that the Oxford comma should always be used.  It completes the series.  Some believe that is it unnecessary, and the conjunction is enough to indicate the final separation in the list. These individuals tend to believe that only in very specific circumstance should it be employed to clarify something that could be ambiguous without it.

My boss and I have secret Oxford comma wars.  He leaves it out.  I put it back in.  He crosses it out when correcting drafts and so on.  I don’t think he’s caught on yet that I’m doing it on purpose.

However, earlier this year The New York Times reported that the lack of this controversial Oxford comma has given truck drivers for a Maine based dairy company the grounds to file suit regarding overtime compensation.

Maine requires time and a half be paid after 40 hours worked with a few exceptions that are listed in the state’s statute.  This list, as common in much legal writing, lacks the Oxford comma leaving room for some serious interpretation.

Below is the link to the full article that clearly defines why Oxford may have outfoxed an employer.


Where do you stand: with Oxford or without?

Checking Reading Snobbery

I need to be knocked down a peg in my reading attitude.  I recently read The Templar Legacy by Steve Berry. It is an action/adventure type story centering on the myths surrounding the Templar knights and the Crusades.  I went into it thinking that it would be like every other action/adventure book I’ve read.  But I was low on reading material, and figured it would fill the void until I could get something “better” to read.

However, once I began, I found the story to be exciting and intriguing. It then struck me I had begun to look at books of this type as “low brow.”  I felt ashamed, and I scolded myself about this.  A good story is a good story and that’s all the matters.  Furthermore, who am I to dub things as low or high on the brow spectrum?

These books might not have flowery verbiage, and probably won’t ascend to the place of Sense and Sensibility or A Tale of Two Cities. However, they still took a tremendous amount of effort and research to produce, particularly books like Mr. Berry’s where he mixes a sizable helping of history into his plot. They may be somewhat formulaic, but they keep me reading and that’s the whole point of a good book.

These books are a bit like the Die Hard movies.  Everyone knows they won’t be winning Oscars or other notable film accolades, but the general population will love them because they are action packed with a splash of comedy.  They are pure entertainment and that’s simply wonderful.

I don’t want to read these exclusively like I once did when I was in high school, but these books should not be looked down upon.  And I sometimes need to remind my occasionally snobby arse that reading anything and everything has merit and adds perspective to a reading repertoire.  Things are gained in mysterious places, so keeping a broad range of reading is not only rewarding, but important.

I’m going to delight in these reads to the nth degree because all books deserve a chance, and I’m glad all types of books exist.  It keeps life interesting, and that’s what I’m looking for.  So, here’s to entertaining action novels.

Yippee ki-ay mother fucker.