Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rudimentary vs. Complex

I was thinking about destruction and construction and I was thinking about how destruction is so much easier than construction. To create takes great amounts of energy and precision for a stable structure to stand. To destroy requires only to undo any part of the structure and watch it fall.

From there I thought about how destruction was this universal, inherent skill. All of us can destroy, and we can usually destroy rather easily, but it takes a special person with a desire to do more to learn how to create.

That thought didn't make sense to me, though. After all, if you spent every day and night studying and practicing how to create, then it would become the norm and destruction would be an odd thing to do. On top of that, creation is not always difficult. It may be hard to draw the Eiffel Tower, but it is not hard to draw a triangle. You can draw triangles all friggin' day and never break a sweat.

So it is not a matter of construction versus destruction. It appears to be a matter of rudimentary versus complex. Rudimentary construction is easy. Complex construction is hard. Rudimentary destruction is easy (hit it with a hammer until it stops existing). Complex destruction is hard (tactically destroy key areas which will cause total collapse with minimal energy spent and no local casualties).

No matter what path you choose to take, know that the more complicated you get, the more difficult it will be,but that this really will be true of any path you would take.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Respect Knives

I like knives. I find them simple, yet elegant (or perhaps elegant in its simplicity). I have studied their design, their manufacture, and practiced their uses anywhere from culinary to martial application. I am very particular about the quality of knife that I use and demand nothing short of exceptionally sharp and solid blades.

You may see me playing with my knives from time to time, but be very certain about one thing: I always respect the danger of those knives. A knife has a sole purpose, and that is to cut. It can cut lightly (scoring), it can cut deeply, or it can cut and remove entire sections. Although you can do many useful things with the aid of a blade, it is a tool of destruction (and the ones I use are exceptional at it).

Anything that has power is dangerous and everything that is dangerous should be respected. This includes writing.

Writing can be extremely dangerous. It can shape the beliefs of millions of people at once. It can change entire worldviews. It can actively incite people to act in a way you choose. And if you are not careful with your writing, it can actively incite people to act in a way totally unlike the way you choose.

Writing exists everywhere. It's not just in your fiction stories. It's not just in nonfiction and essays and blogs. Writing exists in business. Writing exists in emails and text messages and scripts. And all of this writing can be dangerous. You write the wrong thing in an email and you can cause a huge fight. You send a text message to the wrong person and you could go to jail.

Respect writing, in all its forms, for all its applications, in the same way you need to respect a knife. If you don't, you will eventually get cut.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Spit It Out Already

If you have something to say, say it. If you have an idea you want to write about, write it.

Planning is all well and good, but the greatest plan with no energy spent realizing it is worthless.

When yo have energy, utilize it. There is nothing quite like feeling inspired. You can write at any time on any day, no matter how you feel, but if you get bitten by the writing bug, go do it. Don't jut think about it; do it.

This is by no means new advice, even from me. But that does not mean I will stop stressing it. And since I'm  guy who hates repeating himself, trust me that it is important. If you have been meaning to get around to saying something, just spit it out already.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Be More Than Skin-Deep

A lot of ideas I get for stories come from wishful thinking and the what-if game. Today I was daydreaming about having time-traveling ability and using it to fix the problems of one's personal life.

Did you just have a huge argument? Go back and make sure to not make that instigating comment. Get pulled over? Go back and remember to leave your house earlier so you don't have to rush. Imagine how great your life could be if you could keep resetting and trying again. (It occurs to me now that it would be like living the world we create when we write, realistic, but with a nice sheen on everything.)

I wondered what a story like this would be like, and I quickly got bored. From what I had, it really only had one way to go. It would make for a perfect life at first, but then something would have to either nullify its effectiveness or make it too dangerous to use.

Most likely, the character would encounter some problem (probably a catastrophic one that resulted in a loved one's death or permanent disfigurement) and could not solve it. Every new timeline resulted in some form of death, disfigurement, or some other horrible outcome that befell others instead.

As a result, the main character would either allow the loved one to perish or heroically allow tragedy to befall himself (either sacrificing the time-traveling powers or his very life). Although there are a few possibilities for the specifics, the story ends up being predictable from start to end.

I was thinking about this and realized that the real problem is that it is skin-deep. There is no real soul, no dilemma. It's simply a matter of creating a cool power, then turning it into a curse for the sake of adding any drama.

An interesting story examines serious and complex issues. It doesn't hold opinions, but merely presents different viewpoints. And, quite often, stories show two people or groups that have their own problems, but are both related to the same idea.

People may not think of a woman with a terrible boyfriend as being the same as a woman in a horrible job, but an abusive relationship is an abusive relationship, and the ways one can handle them are very similar. If you write a story that has both of these aspects to it, you will probably be much further than skin-deep.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Difficulty of Intermediacy

People are often scared to begin a new endeavor because of the difficulty of it. If you have never written before and have no formal training in it, you are probably going to be overwhelmed with all the knowledge you don't know.

Being a beginner, though, is pretty easy. All you have to do is find somebody willing to teach, and listen to them. You will also need to practice and think about the teachings and really put in effort, but as a beginner, your sole duty is to absorb.

Once you have been at it for a while, you reach the stage of intermediacy. As an intermediate, you now have knowledge and experience. You have learned lessons and developed your techniques, as well as your endurance. You have a fair amount to talk about. You can share your experiences with beginners or swap stories with fellow intermediates.

When you're in the middle, you are generally part of the club (as opposed to a beginner, who is often seen as testing out the waters), but you are by no means a master. You still have plenty to learn, as well as acquiring more experience.

This is where the difficulty of intermediacy kicks in. You totally can talk and share because you are not a beginner, but you can still benefit from being quiet and listening to others to learn from them. You now have the additional task of figuring out when it would be beneficial to talk and when you are better off listening.

It is good experience in itself, though. As an intermediate, you are somewhat on your own to figure out the balance between teaching and learning. As you progress through the tiers, you will increasingly require more independence and self-confidence, so this beginning part is a great start.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Expanding Your Vocabulary

I know a lot of words. I don't know all the words, but my vocabulary is larger than the average person. Some people think this is an impressive thing, and for a while I believed them. I thought that somehow I just knew more words than people. But I have realized that it is not that special.

I am no different than any other person. I grew up knowing nothing and picked a lot up by listening to people around me. I came across plenty of words I didn't know. I still come across words I don't know. I had no idea what "stultify" meant when I read it today.

The only thing that sets me apart from many is that, when I read that word, I pulled out my dictionary and looked it up. Now I know what it means. I have a new concept to use and I have expanded my vocabulary by a dozen words or so (because I know 'stultify' and 'stultification' and 'stultifier' and every other form of the word).

As a writer, the larger your vocabulary, the more accurately and succinctly you can express yourself. Every time you see a new word, don't shrug and move on, take the time to acquire it.

P.S. If you are scratching your head wondering what the heck "stultify" means, guess what I'm going to tell you to do.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I Disagree

People hate being called liars. It's one of the most offensive things you can tell somebody (that is rated G). Similarly, telling somebody they are wrong can yield some nasty responses. Although the latter is less offensive than the former, it happens more often, which makes it a long-term aggravation.

If you think somebody is lying, ask them if the last thing they said was true. It still says that you don't believe them, but it is a far softer way of doing so. It is an implication instead of an accusation. If you think somebody is wrong in their claims or beliefs, tell them you disagree. That way, you simply have a different opinion.

There will be times when you need to be blunt. If somebody is being constantly shifty and you have proof that they are lying, then call them a liar. If somebody is making claims that are irrefutably wrong and are standing by them despite criticism, then call them wrong. Just understand that they are strong claims to make and can often make a situation worse.

If somebody has an opinion you don't like, they aren't wrong; you simply disagree with them. Never confuse the two.

Writing is a form of communication, as is speech. Both of them can be given to massive audiences at once or be one-on-one. I have always stressed the importance of being careful with your words, of knowing exactly what your words mean, both to yourself and to others, of making sure that you are expressing your thoughts as accurately as possible. Whatever your medium for communication, whatever the size of your audience, this will always be one of the most important points to know.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Don't Take The Easy Ones

I love puns and other wordplay. Sometimes I make some terrible puns (terrible as in they make people groan) and they are fun. But there some puns that need to take a rest.

I never need to hear about the guy who stabbed all those boxes of corn flakes (i.e. the cereal/serial killer). I never hear the word 'serial' said without somebody making a 'cereal' pun. It gets old.

This doesn't mean that the pun is bad; it's just tired. Everybody uses it and they do so because it's easy.

Never stop telling jokes, but sometimes, don't take the easy ones. Try for a joke that takes a little more energy to create and to understand. Try making a joke that really reaches for it. It may fall short of comedy gold, but you will definitely get an A for effort.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Play It Straight

Nobody uses the verb 'relish' anymore. It's a shame to me, because it's a terrific word. It's a way of expressing that you are greatly enjoying something. The problem is that the only time people use it is when they are making a pun based on the noun 'relish'.

That pun just isn't funny anymore. Comedy needs to be surprising and unexpected. If anybody ever uses 'relish' as a verb, you are guaranteed a pun is forthcoming.

Every now and then, play it straight. Sometimes the best surprise you can give is not making a twist at all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Finality is not an easy thing. As a writer, all I ever think of is possibility. In my stories, I think about what could happen. If there is anything that can't happen, I think about ways where I could change reality itself to make the impossible possible.

Along those lines, I always think about editing. Any time I make a decision and decide it was not good, I could highlight it and press the delete key (pr tear out the page and throw it away. Whatever has happened, there is always a way to change it.

And even if I was in a situation where I could not change my decisions, I can always twist fate to make my characters do what I want.

This is one thing where writing and reality are quite different. Reality has a great deal of finality in it. It is not easy to make such choices, knowing that your choice cannot be unmade, but it is unavoidable.

That is why, when we are in such positions, the best thing to do is use all of your analytical and hypothesizing skills to figure out what the best choice to make is (much like Robert Frost did in that infamous yellow wood).

Monday, June 20, 2011


I really like the prefix re-. I find it simple and elegant. You attach it to any verb and it means to do it again. Unfortunately, that elegance is sometimes lacking.

In English, we have some words that have re- in them: words like 'represent' and 'reconsider'. Although these words originally were created by adding re-, they now exist as whole words (not words with a prefix added).

This can pose a problem, though. When I wanted to say that I could present my ideas again, I couldn't say that I was representing them; that would have meant something else entirely. So I did the next best thing and say that I was "re-presenting" them. that hyphen was all that was needed to explain that I was adding the prefix to 'present' instead of using a different word that wouldn't make sense (either that or it just looked like I made a typo while also using a nonsensical word).

Despite this bit of awkwardness in the language, there is a simple fix for it, which still remains fairly simple and elegant. Experiment with re-. See what you like about it. See what discoveries you make about language while playing with it. And let me know if you find something cool.

Reconsider vs. Consider Again

Kevin's talking about connotation and denotation again. Today, it is "reconsider" and "consider again". They totally mean the same thing except that they don't.

To 'consider' is to think about. Maybe it is thinking somewhat deeply or a little more thoroughly, but it is pretty innocuous - just general thinking about a subject.

To 'consider again' means that you have thought about something and, having finished that, you decided to think about it some more. It usually implies that you still have the same belief you originally held, but that you are wanting to confirm that your belief is accurate.

To 'reconsider' means the same thing, but the implication is the opposite. You reconsider something when you think that your original beliefs were incorrect.

Obviously, using the phrase with the proper connotation is important if you want to express yourself clearly (or you could avoid it by not using either phrase, but that would be stifling). But be aware that 'reconsider' and 'consider again' are not total opposites of each other. Get a feel for the nuances of them (just like you should for any word you would use).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Last Lessons

We learn many lessons from many sources in life. We learn from people, from books, from observations. We learn in schools from teachers and from our peers.

Rarely are our sources of learning permanent. People come and go. You graduate from schools (or move away from them). Although you will learn so much from each of those sources, there will be a final lesson from them, and that will be of the most powerful lessons.

When you are learning, especially in formal education, every lesson leads into the next lesson. Every new knowledge works with your existing knowledge. The most recent lesson you've learned is the freshest in your mind, but when the next lesson comes in, the previous one gets mixed in with all the other previous ones.

When you stop learning, though, that last lesson always stays there. It is the most recent knowledge and it stays on the top of your mind. There is nothing pushing it in with the rest of your knowledge (it sort of happens over time, but it still sticks out as an important one).

The last lesson I learned in my aikido practice was, "if you have to correct yourself in the middle of your technique, it is because your screwed up in the beginning." That is a vastly powerful lesson, not only for aikido or martial arts, but for most things in life. And it sticks out to me because it was my last lesson.

My last lesson in college was that being humble is only valuable to a point, but after that it becomes detrimental; you need to take pride in your work, believe that it is great, and show to other people how great it is. If you don't do that, you will drown in the sea of everybody else.

Last lessons are not the only lessons that stick out. There will always be particularly revelatory moments that are so powerful that they do not leave your memory. There will be some lessons that are so all-encompassing or so common that you are always using and always thinking about them. Last lessons are merely one kind of those powerful lessons.

What are your last lessons? What do you draw from them and how do they help you out?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Success Depends On Goals

You can't just give me a piece of your writing and ask me what I think of it. At that point, my answer would be meaningless. I don't know what you are trying to do with your writing, who your audience is, if your words and examples are fitting and support your goals.

I will only be able to judge it by my standards, based on my assumptions of what you are trying to do, and how I think it should be done.

If you want better than that, give me your goals (and all other relevant information) when you give me your writings.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Remember To Read Your Notes

I remember things by writing them down, not so much by reading what I wrote. For whatever reason, the actual act of writing makes information stick in my head better.

I first realized this in high school biology class. The first half of the year, I wrote down all the notes that my teacher put on an overhead transparency. I would just listen to what my teacher was saying while I wrote the notes. Once I wrote them, I never looked at them again. I maybe ran through them once the day before a test, but I never sat down and studied them. And I always got very good grades on those tests.

Halfway through the year, I was aware of the fact that I never actually studied my notes, but still did well and remembered information. I therefore came to the conclusion that I must have absorbed all of that information from listening to the teacher. Writing the notes was just a way to keep busy while I listened and processed.

I stopped taking notes in class and just listened to the teacher. Then my grades quickly dropped. No matter how intently I listened, the information just wasn't sticking. Shortly after that realization, I realized where the knowledge retention was coming from and promptly started taking notes again.

I always write notes to remember things. I have 3 different documents on my computer and scraps of paper all around just for ideas for future blog posts. But I rarely read those notes beyond the titles. That's not necessarily a good thing, though; there is value in reading notes thoroughly.

Your notes have that one word or that one wording, that seminal quality that sparked your desire to write about it.

Remember to read your notes. They may be your greatest inspiration and your greatest aid.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Surviving The Scrutiny

The scariest, most awful part of writing is when other people are reading it. The irony is that we usually want other people to read our stuff (that's why we let them read it), but in the beginning, these people are not casually reading your stories - they're scrutinizing them.

Scrutinizing is what your peers do to you in a workshop. They pay close attention; they take notes on every line; they question every inconsistency and incongruity. (Well, that's what they should be doing in a workshop.) Scrutinizing is what your editors do. They find every single mechanical error,every heavy sentence, every awkward phrasing. If there is any kind of issue with your writing, a scrutinous reader will find it.

Such scrutiny can break so many writers. We get so connected to our work that it is hard to separate ourselves from it. When people take a shot at your writing, you take it personally. After a bad enough experience, you either never show your work to anybody (except your yes-men friends) or you ignore everything that everybody ever says about your work.

Both of those are bad ideas, but if you had to choose one, go with the latter. One of my professors actually told me and my fellow writing majors that a workshop is where everybody reads your work, tells you how they think you should change it, and then you ignore all of them and do your own thing. It was funny enough to remember when we actually were doing those workshops and helped us survive (those of us that did survive).

The trick to surviving the scrutiny is to remember that it is just searching. People are not trying to attack you; they are trying to help you. They are finding the problems so you can fix them and make a better piece of writing. Some people may be more crass than others, but try to not take it personally. Your writing may be a part of you, but it is also separate from you. You are not words on paper. If people don't care for the words, that doesn't mean they don't care for you. You can change your words without having to change yourself.

Find that balance between ignoring scrutinizers (especially negative nancy's and people with terrible suggestions) and accepting where your work could be improved and ways to make it happen.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


In any physical activity, there are two primary components: technique and conditioning. Your technique is your ability to make your body do the things it needs to do, whether that be catching a ball, playing the right note on an instrument, or putting your boot to somebody's head. Your conditioning is how long you can do those techniques.

You cannot succeed unless you have developed both of those qualities. No matter how excellent your technique is, if you cannot do it over a long period of time, then they will never be enough.

Writing is a physical activity and it is governed by these same requirements. Learning writing technique is tremendously important, as are there massive amounts to learn in that area, but no matter how effective your writing is, if you don't continue to write, if you can't get yourself to finish your stories, if you only do it every now and then, then you will be severely limited in what your writing will be able to do.

Work on your conditioning. Try writing in a 3-hour session. If you can afford the time, try an 8-hour session just to see how long you last. Try writing without letting yourself stop. It's very easy to try to gather your thoughts or edit as you type or come up with one more thing to add, but if you never let your hands rest, you will definitely be feeling it, and you know that you will have produced a great deal.

Along with conditioning and endurance writing, remember that you are always better off writing too much than writing to little. It is far easier to remove than it is to add. Even if you feel like you are just spinning your wheels, it is still good exercise.

Monday, June 13, 2011

You're Not Alone

My last post was short and sweet. It was done on purpose, and I had no desire to make its message longer than it was. However, it did lead into more thoughts I wanted to share.

Everybody has deep thoughts. Most people are having the same deep thoughts. We don't all have them at the same time, but they are the thoughts that stick with us; we don't forget them.

Those thoughts are our greatest fears and our strongest desires. They are the things we rightly keep to ourselves. If others knew of our secret shames, they would ostracize us. If they knew of our hopes and dreams, they would belittle and deride us.

But the reality is that you're not alone. No matter what it is you want, somebody else wants the same thing. Whatever thing you've done that you hate yourself for, somebody else has also done.

However gross or bizarre or atrocious the things in your mind get, you are not alone. You only feel that way because we're all too afraid to expose ourselves to others.

It often seems that these writers are the only people who understand us, because their thoughts are like our thoughts. But like I said before, the only difference is that writers write those thoughts down. Some of those writers may share their thoughts with a select few. Some writers will share their thoughts with the world.

As a writer (and as a reader), I am not interested in the things that we all acknowledge openly. I know that sunsets are pretty and flowers smell nice; I don't care about that. I am interested in the people who play in abandoned warehouses, the people who stare at a car crash because they are fascinated by the new forms that the hunks of metal and plastic take on, the people who choose solitude because the world in their head is way more interesting than the world around them, the people who choose social lives because they are so scared of the world inside their heads.

Everybody is unique, but that does not mean that we do not have a vast amount of similarity among us. But the only way you will be able to make that connection is by extending yourself. Write down those thoughts you have and show them to the people and show them the courage to extend themselves to the world.

This is the kind of power that writing has. It has the power to change societies. It has the power to remove fear and connect individuals. It has all the same power that you do. Make use of that power.

A Writer Writes Them Down

We all have those thoughts - deep thoughts - every single one of us. We think about the things that scare us, the things we want, the things we are missing that would fulfill our souls.

Writers are no more thoughtful than any other human being. The only difference is that a writer writes those thoughts down.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


As I have said recently, more-sophisticated words can easily be misused and lower the effectiveness of your sentences, but that depends on the context of its usage more than the word itself.

Except for 'verisimilitude'. That word can easily be wiped out of existence.

'Verisimilitude' basically means 'truthiness'. But I can think of no instance where I would prefer to say 'verisimilitude' instead of 'truthiness'.

Appropriately enough, the word nearly has been wiped out of existence. As a word lover, that ought to make me upset, but it really doesn't. Its time has simply come.

Language is as alive as the people who speak it. Words will come in and out of fashion. They will change in connotation and denotation (not to mention spelling). If a word is worthy, it will persist. If the populace decides a word is not worth maintaining, then let it go.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Be Simplistic

I wanted to pair my previous post with this one. Although I mentioned it at the end, it deserves this juxtaposition. Being highfalutin is bad, but so is being simplistic.

Let me be clear: simple means 'plain, uncomplicated'; simplistic means 'characterized by a forced, unwarranted simplicity' (source).

I will always advocate being simple. The less meaningless drivel in your writing, the better. But if you believe that you are better off always choosing the simpler words, then you are being simplistic, and you are doing just as much damage to your writing.

Some people may think that 'cumbersome' is too big of a word. You could simply use words like 'awkward' or 'heavy' or a phrase such as 'like a burden'. But neither of those words fully describe what 'cumbersome' conveys, and trying to use a phrase to describe the word is more cumbersome than just using the word itself.

Ultimately, it will be an opinion what words are too sophisticated and which ones are not, but there are guidelines. If your sentence is too heavy to easily say, your words are too much. If your sentence is too long to easily say, your words are too simplistic.

Always, there is a balance, and that balance is called succinct.

Don't Be Highfalutin

I was thinking about Cheff Salad and how I might describe this blog to others. The description popped into my head: I describe the microcosm of writing with the macrocosm of the world. I was disgusted with myself.

It was such a terrible and useless collection of words. It was a bunch of highfalutin nonsense. It was big words that sound smart, but say very little.

Highfalutin words are not necessarily evil, nor are they completely useless, but they generally weigh too much to be effective. I find that it is easier to use simpler words to describe what I want than to try to be efficient with these dense words.

What is the "microcosm of writing"? What is the "macrocosm of the world"? Why don't I just say, "I write about all aspects of writing and show how they connect with the rest of the world"?

If you can be simple, be simple. If common words can say what you are trying to say, use them. But if your thoughts need more sophisticated words to articulate themselves, then make use of your vocabulary to do so.

The point is to realize that big words don't make you sound smart; clear and effective communication make you sound smart.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


In an egregious example of double dipping, I want to share a comment left on one of my friend Whitney's blog posts.  In the post, she talked about how difficult it is to do serious work because of the instant gratifications you can get from TV, video games, and the like.

You know what helps break me from my bad habits?

You like watching TV? Spend 18 hours straight watching it. Not only watch it, but watch it on a Saturday when there is NOTHING good on. Watch trash TV. Or, watch the same show on a marathon to the point that you observe all the tricks and techniques and you grow incredibly bored of it.

You like video games? Do the same thing. Don't mix it up. Gorge yourself on 'em. Play one game all day. Don't even take a break for TV or other equally mindless things. Do it until it's not exciting anymore.

When your shiny box isn't so shiny, a salad will taste just as good as a burger. In fact, it will probably taste better just because it's DIFFERENT.

Of course, you have to pay a cost for that. You will be sacrificing a lot of hours or putting on a lot of calories to reach your breaking point. But, if you're anything like me, the hardest part is actually starting. Once you get the momentum to write or work out or do other beneficial things, you can get all gung ho about it and keep it up. In that case, the upfront cost will totally be made up for over time.

Double Dip

Many of my blog posts come from conversations I have had with my friends. This is not due to laziness. It is because they are of value.

When I have a conversation, I am usually talking with one other person. In such a case, I am going to be gearing my words and examples to the conversation at hand and the specifics that I know about that one person. However, the principle of what I am saying is valuable to more than just this one person.

Everybody gets stressed and burned out. Everybody asks deep questions. Everybody should be encouraged to try to solve their problems from within.

If you catch yourself saying something interesting to one person, it may be interesting to one hundred people. Double dip from your conversations and see what the results are.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cognizance Grants Power

When you are aware of something's existence, you instantly gain power over it. Although it may affect you, it loses much of its power and you can use it yourself.

I had a conversation with a friend about passive-aggressiveness. We talked about how it exists in all cultures, in all economic classes, amongst all races. It led into how our culture is structured to reward passive-aggressiveness because we only punish physical actions, not verbal ones (barring certain exceptions). No matter how much you insult or offend me with your words, if I throw the first punch, I go to jail. As such, the winner is the person who can be the most grating and repugnant and get other people to do very regrettable things.

Less than an hour after that, I had another conversation with a different person who was being extremely passive-aggressive. And were it not for my first conversation, I assuredly would have done some regrettable things. But I was cognizant of what was going on and I was able to ignore it, or at least prevent it from influencing my actions. On top of that, if I ever was in the mood to screw with people, I know precisely how to be a passive-aggressive dick.

The power you gain from being aware of things is tremendous. This is why you need to study. You need to learn as much as you can about as many subjects as you can. No matter how much you may be sort of receptive to or aware of, no matter how much you can figure out from personal experience and introspection, you will never be able to reach the same level you would if you introduced yourself to these subjects through reading or discussion (or at least not as quickly).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Sky's The Limit?

When people say that the sky's the limit, it's supposed to be inspirational. You can do absolutely anything. Well, that's what it's supposed to mean. In the modern day, it's kind of a terrible saying.

There is so much beyond the sky. Other planets, stars, space - along with all of the amazing stuff that can be found inside of it. There are infinitely more things beyond the sky than there are beneath it. So why are we telling them that there is an infinitesimal cap?

Obviously, it's a connotation vs. denotation thing, but when people start taking you literally, or at least thinking about what your sayings are saying, you may get some unexpected reactions. Always be careful with your words. If you have the time to do so with your writing, there is no reason not to.

Star-Crossed Perfection

I was out with my friend and we were talking/bickering. At one point, my friend says, "Jesus never bought me nothin'." As soon as I heard that, I was aware of a great idea. That would be such an amazing name for a country song.

When I thought about it, though, I realized it was impossible. The country music community would never accept such a song; it's damn near blasphemous. So I stood there in awe. This title could only be used for a country song, but country is the one musical genre that would never accept it. It is pure perfection that cannot exist in this universe.

It reminded me of imaginary numbers. They theoretically exist and math works with them, but there is no way of expressing them in our number system.

This is a star-crossed perfection. Everything works except for this one crucial component, which makes the whole thing impossible. And any modification to circumvent the problem would destroy the perfection. I call it star-crossed because of the description for Romeo & Juliet. It ends up being a story about how some things just can't work, no matter how hard you try.

If you have an idea for some great story, but you realize that it just can't work in its form, but that no other form will work, hen let it go. An idea doomed to fail is not worth the effort. And, as always, ignore me if I'm wrong.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Handwriting - Not Really Slower

I am far more comfortable typing than handwriting. I can quickly press a key, even in rapid succession to create words as opposed to writing each individual letter by hand. I grew up in an age where computers were coming to classrooms, so I know my 4th grade class had them, and beyond. I am fairly ambidextrous between handwriting and typing, but I do still prefer typing, mostly because of the speed.

However, I have been noticing that handwriting is not actually that much slower than typing. Although I can type more quickly than handwriting, I also spend a lot of time idling. When I finish a thought, I have to come up with the next thought. Sometimes it takes a while to do. When that happens, I am spending a whole lot of time at zero words per minute, which kills my average. When handwriting, though, although it takes longer to get the words out, it matches the pace with my brain pretty well. By the time I catch up with the first thought, the second thought is often ready to go. The one difference is that when I am handwriting, my hand often does not get a break.

Ultimately, I am held back only by the processing power of my brain. And since that is not something that is particularly easy to change, I don't worry about it too much.

Some ideas come out through a pencil far better than through a keyboard, and vice versa. And since there is no real downside to handwriting from an efficiency standpoint, I am very happy to have both options available to me.

False Starts

It happens all too often. You start writing a sentence, but you don't like the way it sounds. So you delete it, think of a new way to say what you're thinking, then write this new version and carry on. It's a pretty common event, and so small that it is often ignored, but I think it also it does make have an effect on you. I call this phenomenon a false start.

False starts are annoying because they are like tripping or stumbling; they don't physically hurt you, and you can easily get right back on track, but they shake your disrupt your momentum. When I get an idea for a sentence something I want to write, I have bits and pieces from the beginning, middle, and end sections. Although I start writing at the beginning, I know where I am want to go. When I have a false start, I have to stop, re-consider my ideas, re-present them, and try hope this new course will have the same destinations just as easily as the original one did.

In this post, I am marking every false start I have. Technically, I am marking every time I typed or started typing a word or phrase and decided to choose a different word/phrase or go in a different direction. None of this All of these examples are 100% real. In three paragraphs, I have already had to stop and start just for this reason alone 8 times. Imagine That doesn't even include stopping to write down other ideas, searching previous articles for related links, correcting typographical errors, or other life stuff that pulls me away. Imagine how much that impedes your writing progress.

F As obnoxious as false starts are, they do have their benefits. If you kept blindly followed your thoughts without considering them, you could waste even more time writing a whole bunch more material you would throw out because it was all based on an inferior bad wordings or bad ideas.

I you stumble, you can quickly right yourself. It is easy to not notice, but if you do start to feel it affecting you, shrug it off. False starts are small mistakes - no big deal, especially worry about important things like being interesting.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Live Like A Character

We so often try to make our characters be like us. They have our thoughts and feelings, our delusions and our neuroses. But no matter how realistic they are, they are not quite real.

They live storybook lives, the kind where people always say just the right thing (or just the wrong thing) and they do it with precise timing. Even when they hem and haw, they are doing it in exactly the right way to make you, the audience, feel the way the author wants you to feel.

Characters also get to do things we rarely do. Characters get to wander from town to town, meeting people, solving problems, and moving on. Characters get to act like important big shots. Characters get to ride on a train across hundreds of miles, writing about their great realizations.

Live like a character, even if it’s only for a little bit. Not every character can be imitated, but some of them can. See what it’s like to be one of those people. Experience the world the way they would. Understand what they are going through it just by imagining it, but by experiencing it.

Even if it’s one small experience, it is a worthwhile one.

P.S. This entry was written several days prior to being posted. Technical difficulties prevented me from posting it online. This in no way whatsoever prevented me from writing it. There is no excuse to not write if you are a writer.


You may have noticed that I have been revisiting some subjects over the last few days. It was not intentional that I would do a series of them, but I kept getting thoughts for posts I knew I had covered in the past. Whenever I think that I've written on a subject before, I search through my archive to see if it's already been done. In these cases, I decided that the subject had been covered, but the content was new and different enough to deserve posting. Quite literally, I was revisiting the subjects.

There is definite value and benefit to revisiting a subject. For one thing, there is always more to say. No subject can be thoroughly covered in 5 measly paragraphs. There are new thoughts, more examples, different lenses to try out. Concepts that were glossed over can be elaborated on.

Along with the new thoughts, there may be new opinions. You may have had new experiences or new discussions that changed your beliefs (or at least opened you up to new beliefs). By coming back to the subject, you allow yourself to really consider those new thoughts and opinions, as well as show to your audience that things can change and that there may be more than one equally valid answer.

Just because it has been written does not mean it cannot be revisited.