Nov 18 2014

Words

As I was avoiding getting ready for work early this morning, I noticed a theme of posts about “words” showing up on my feed. I always find it fascinating when my reading naturally falls into themes without purposefully meaning to.

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The Oxford Dictionaries have named “vape” 2014’s word of the year, explaining that “As e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) have become much more common, so vape has grown significantly in popularity. You are thirty times more likely to come across the word vape than you were two years ago, and usage has more than doubled in the past year.”

In response to this news, John Kelly wrote and excellent post about the etymology of the word.

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Hel Gurney writes, “ALL WORDS ARE MADE-UP WORDS,” explaining how it’s silly for modern writers to complain that the younger generation is ruining the English language:

If English had never changed then we’d all be reading Beowulf without a translation; and yet there’s always someone who seems to think that English-as-it-is-right-now is the pure, immutable, “correct” form and everything after this arbitrary cut-off point is Wrong. All it takes to see the absurdity is to imagine people tutting over Shakespeare for all the words he “made up”.

Gurney also discusses how the creation of new words and terminology can be empowering to marginalized groups by reshaping what is defined as “real.”

“A word after a word after a word is power,” wrote Margaret Atwood (Happy Birthday!) and there is truth to this. Words have power and the way language shifts and changes over time to some degree mirrors some of the power shifts in society.

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These coincidental commingling discussions of words lead me to discover Pet Words by Brad Leithauser in the New Yorker. Leithauser writes:

The word “sweet” appears eight hundred and forty times in your complete Shakespeare. Or nearly a thousand times, if you accept close variants (“out-sweeten’d,” “true-sweet,” “sweetheart”). . . . Every poet, every novelist has his or her pet words. Which words these may be dawns on you gradually as you enter the world of a new writer. . . . Either way, you’ll likely discover that your author’s personal dictionary contains an abundance of amiable acquaintances, but a select few intimate friends.

I’ve learned over time that I have my own pet words, which cycle through depending on my mood. The word that most insistently comes to mind is “tether,” which has appeared again and again in several poems. (You can find an example in my poem “Miscalculation“, published on Train Write.) I love “tether” for the way it feels on my tongue, a soft feathery feeling. Something tethered seems to be bound in such a fragile and gentle way, like a boat taping lighting against the dock or a spider web strung between two poles. It’s a word I can’t help but return to, always there waiting for the right moment to slip quietly into the text.

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What are your thoughts on words this fine day?


Nov 16 2014

What makes a story a story and other thoughts at the Tate Modern

Untitled Painting by

Untitled Painting (1965) by Michael Baldwin

As I was walking through the Tate Modern, I came upon “Untitled Painting” (1965) by Michael Baldwin, which is a work with a mirror attached to a canvas. The description noted that historically painting has often been referred to as window to the world, a perspective captured within the frame. However, the mirror in this piece shifts the gaze of the window, revealing the viewer in the act of viewing rather than an image the artist made themselves. In addition to being the viewer, you also become the subject of the painting as well.

As I stood observing myself, now the living and temporary subject of the painting, I started to think about the nature of art and the artists who create it. Since it’s been years since I’ve taken an art history class and I don’t tend to speak critically of art, bear with me as I may misinterpret some things.

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Nov 3 2014

Facing the mountain

Tom Frost - Robbins ventures up - 1961

Photo by Tom Frost (Creative Commons 3.0).

Saturday morning, I came to the sudden realization that I was doing Nanowrimo whether I liked it or not. After several hours of denial in which I instituted time-old delay tactics, such as twitter and tumblr, I decided on a story to work with — a novel in poems involving the interweaving and retelling of many fairy tales and myths — and began to dig in.

This weekend was an excellent lesson in making time to write.

On Saturday, in between switching out laundry, I wrote. After going for a 4 mile run/walk, I wrote. In the few minutes before I had to leave for the awesome Dia de los Muertos party, hosted my fantastically awesome friend Lise, I wrote.

On Sunday, I woke up early and wrote, because I knew the majority of my day would be given over to helping my sister move from one apartment to another — both apartments were on the second floor. Well, one was on the second and a half floor, because there was a flight of stairs just to get to the second floor, which means my legs are all wibbly wobbly today. While my sister and mom were organizing all the moved-in things, I sat in the living room and wrote some more.

The result: 3,079 words written.

Already, with just that start, I feel better. The poems are more prosey than I’d like, but that’s for editing to fix. The months of feeling stuck and miserable from not writing has slid off my shoulders. This was exactly what I needed. I have a mountain of work ahead of me, but if I continue to be creative with my use of time, then I’m certain I can make it all work.

This is the mountain of things to be done during the rest of November:

1 — Trip to the U.K. for work. I’ll have a day and a half in London to tour the city, which will be action packed

3+ — Bridal party events to attend, including the bachlorette party, the rehearsal, and actual wedding itself.

2-3 — Thanksgiving dinners. The family dynamics are shifting this year and I’m not sure how it’s all going to fall into place.

27 — Blog posts left to be written as part of NaBloPoMo.

46,921 — Words left to be written for Nanowrimo.

Unknown Number — Of books to be read, runs to be run, and hang out time with friends and family have to be fit in.

Are you participating in any November challenges? Have you had a good kick off to the month?


Nov 1 2014

Getting back on the horse, or something like that

It’s November 1st, and here I am not participating in National Novel Writing month, not even in a modified format. I love Nano and have participated more often than not over the past eight or so years. It’s helped me write words, a lot of words. And even though much of those words were set aside or trashed, I know those words have helped me complete other projects that I’m proud of. I also wouldn’t have many of the friends I have today.

So, I always feel a little sad on those rare Novembers when it participation won’t work for me, for whatever reason. This is one of those Novembers, because I will be traveling for work to the U.K. in a week and will have a slew of other events during the rest of the month.

Also, I’ve been feeling blocked with writing lately and have been trying to dig myself out. I would argue that feeling blocked is an excellent reason FOR doing Nano, rather than not doing it. Nothing to get past a slump like putting down words at a breakneck pace and racing past your inner critic…

and… um…

freaking, fracking dammit! I can’t do Nano. I won’t.

But it’s occurring to me now — literally, right at this minute as I’m typing, seriously — that participating in Nano might be infinitely helpful to getting me back on tra— NO! I DON”T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!

But if I work on a new project, i.e., not the werewolf novel that has been hovering over my head like a great cloud of doom, then maybe, just maybe I can…

But I swear, I don’t have time for this. I mean, I’ll be traveling, loosing a WHOLE WEEK.

But I could write on the plane.

But I…

I swear, I started this post intending to make my excuses for Nanowrimo and announce my participation in NaBloPoMo. But, now, I guess…

Well, shit…

Participant-2014-Web-Banner


Sep 19 2014

How to Dig Yourself Out of a Creative Slump

It’s an awful, crappy (insert additional expletives) feeling when you’re in a creative slump, no matter what you’re working on, whether its writing, painting, or a new business proposal. Everyone goes through it — and yet it manages to be a terribly isolated feeling, like you’re trapped inside a dank, dark cave with no sign of rescue on the horizon.

Here are some things you can to do to help pull yourself out of the mire. Or, rather, I should say, here are a few things I’m currently doing to try to dig myself out of my own current slump. As with most bits of advice, your mileage may vary.

Seek Community Engagement

Go out and find fellow artists, writers, creators with which to interact. You can do this online, but if you’re really stuck, I recommend seeking a face-to-face experience. It provides a different level of osmosis. On a really good day, you can feel their excitement, their creativity energy coming off them. I don’t think of this as stealing, so much as basking in their sunlight. It’s great for gathering inspiration

My most recent foray was to attend Writers with Drinks at the Make-Out Room in San Francisco this weekend. Charlie Jane Anders is a live electrical wire on the stage and she always selects amazing writers to perform. It was a fantastic event and I felt energized by the end, excited to get some of my own words down.

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