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!

A Bite-Sized Review: A Movable Feast

Here is little review to munch on this Tuesday morning!  Happy reading everyone!

Vitals-

Title: A Movable Feast; Author: Ernest Hemmingway; Genre: Non-Fiction/Memoir

The Gist- Musings and anecdotes about Mr. Hemmingway’s experience of living in Paris in the early 1920s.

What Stuck- The book struck me as a bit odd.  It’s disjointed and seems random.  And yet philosophical. I mentioned this to my mother who informed me that this was Hemmingway’s style. Since I haven’t read anything else by Mr. Hemmingway I was unaware of this, but not particularly fond of it.

Should you give a flip?- I can’t say you should. I want to say that it’s an interesting read, but I can’t describe why I feel compelled to say that.  I guess it was comforting to read that many of the greats out there struggle as much as the average joe. There…that lack of clarity pretty much reflects the book. Use your own discretion.

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?

Book Graduation

My departure from young adult fiction was rather abrupt. When I was in seventh grade I found that I had out grown the Boxcar Children books, and I was up-to-date on Harry Potter; eagerly awaiting the next book.  But that left me with the conundrum of what I should read in the meantime. At this particular time, the young adult section wasn’t the expansive place it is now.

So after some initial hesitation, my mom recommended Chromosome 6 by Robin Cook. She thought it might fill the void that I was currently experiencing.  She had read it many years before and thought it might interest me.  She was right.  I loved it.  It had adventure and mystery and my favorite…science. I proceeded to read almost every other book Mr. Cook had published.  I became fascinated with forensics and couldn’t get enough of Patricia Cornwell’s novels either.  There was a distinct time period that I had my nose stuck in a Cook or a Cornwell novel at all times.

It showed me I could not only get through a fair sized adult book, but it could be really good. I realize that Harry Potter books are quiet girthy themselves; however, Chromosome 6 wasn’t really meant for my age group that made it a bit intimidating. Nevertheless, it drew me into the story, and if I could read one there had to be so many more.

My teachers didn’t seem to mind.  At least I was reading of my own volition.  As time went on I broadened my horizons ever so slightly.  I read some Doyle, Christie, Dan Brown.  But I must give a lot of credit to that first book.  Had it been bad I can’t say that I would be the avid reader I am today.

And I discovered my reading also had unexpected perks.  Every Friday in Social Studies we played a trivia quiz bowl.  The teacher would split us up into teams and then there were different categories that we could choose from.  And each category had questions that were worth different amount of points.  Obviously the higher the point value, the harder the question.

My team decided one Friday to go for the goal and choose Arts and Literature for 80 points.  The question was to name the main reoccurring character of Patricia Cornwell novels. Without even thinking, I simply looked at my teacher and said, “Dr. Kay Scarpetta.”  There was an instant flash of hatred in the eyes of my teammates until Mr. Krambeer’s lips quirked into a smile and he said, “Correct.”

I think that day was a real win for nerd-dom.  My classmates didn’t think quite as little of me and my reading as they once had.  And it was probably the first time my free reading knowledge had been useful.  It was reinforcement that all reading has merit.

I don’t read many books these days like those of Mr. Cook or Ms. Cornwell.  I may have over done it in high school.  But they will always be remembered with a nostalgic softness because they made a difference at a critical time in my reading career.

Plot Twist Coping

It was late last year when my aunt informed me of an awesome quote she had seen while scrolling through Pinterest.

“When something goes wrong in your life. Just yell, ‘Plot twist!’ And move on.”

This advice was particularly helpful as Scott and I were planning our wedding. And I put it to more recent use when we were informed earlier this year that we wouldn’t be able to re-new our lease and would have to find a new place to live.  We had two and a half months to attempt to buy a place.  We knew that once it was over it would be a funny experience; however, in the moment it sucked.

But I can now speak from experience, it really does help to suddenly shout, “Plot Twist!” when all hell breaks loose.  It tends to get a chuckle or at the very least a weird look, and ease the tension.

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.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/us/oxford-comma-lawsuit.html

Where do you stand: with Oxford or without?

Caught

I am partial to things that unexpectedly cause me to laugh out loud particularly written things. They are meant to pack a punch just by reading them.  They don’t need to be acted out or said in a particular tone.  They are simply funny straight out of their ink. When I watch a comic or put on a sit-com I’m expecting that I will laugh throughout the performance.  They have a lot to work with to make people laugh.  And while most of the time I do enjoy the show.  It isn’t quite as sweet as that unexpected moment of glee that I experience when I’m just plodding along, and I see a sign or quote that strikes my good ole funny bone.

One of these moments happened when I was walking down the street in my old neighborhood. There was a novelty shop.  They sold t-shirts and quirky cards.  And on this day displayed in the window was a mannequin wearing an all-black t-shirt, but in the left “corner” where a breast pocket would be, there was tiny white writing.  I couldn’t read it so I leaned in really close and squinted a bit, and I finally made out the words:

“Nosy little fucker aren’t you!”

I gave a little start.  I even think I shrunk back a hair as if I was caught snooping in something I shouldn’t have.  And then I just burst into laughter, right there on the street, until I was in tears.  I had never expected to read that of all things.  I honestly chuckle every time I think of it.  This I feel is quality ink laughter.