I Blog, Therefore I Am

A classic fairy with a wand

This has nothing to do with this blog post — I just liked the magic of it.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A blog is in many ways a continuing conversation.”  ~  Andrew Sullivan

Right on Andrew! Apparently Mr. Sullivan is “the first mainstream journalist to experiment with blogging.” Called The Daily Dish, his blog started in 2000, “soon gained a large following, enabling him to interact with his readers and garner almost instantaneous responses to his work.” (Found this bit of blog history in The Writer’s Devotional by Amy Peters.

All I can say is Thanks Andrew ~ we will all happily continue your tradition, mainstream journalists or not.

Bliss is blogging, whether it be as a mainstream journalist, a little known journalist (like me), the hobby blogger, or the social blogger–what do you think?

Published in: on May 30, 2013 at 1:54 pm  Comments (42)  
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Old School Can Be Bliss

“I’m old school. I’m not the fastest guy or the quickest guy.” ~ James Harden, Houston Rockets shooting guard (basketball for those of you not in the know. Neither was I).

I am “old school” when it comes to covering an event for the newspaper. I am the one scribbling away fast and furiously while others are on their laptops taking notes. I have considered taking my laptop to meetings I cover for the paper, but I am always afraid something will happen and I will be left without a quote or a motion that was carried, or miss some important drainage or sewage issue.

 What reminded me of this is the fact that I still have one of those writer’s bumps on my third finger and have had it most of my life. It is referred to as a callus in some circles, but I consider mine a part of me that I am, if truth be told, proud of. Over the years it has shrunk somewhat because I do most of my writing on the keyboard now—but every other Monday night finds me in Council Chambers making notes like a house on fire, and when I am not taking notes I am doodling to keep myself awake until the next item on the agenda.

It is interesting to see how school used to be.

old school  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 My note-taking writing is very different from my usual handwriting which is very precise and neat, though I am losing that talent as I do not use it much anymore. When I take notes my writing is back-handed, barely legible to anyone else reading it, and contains numerous short forms I have come up with over the years. I tend not to dot my i’s and cross my t’s when I take notes. Though I took one year of shorthand (instead of taking Latin) I remember none of it—and it was the lowest mark I ever got in a subject. (It was a business subject they let some of the academic students take—and it was a huge mistake for me as I hate memorizing).

LL Cool J has a definition of “old school” that I really like. He calls it “classic”: “I’m not trying to be new school and I’m not old school – I’m classic…..I’m just classic in doing what I do.”

I think I will adopt his way of thinking and call myself classic instead of old school—it is so much more charming and sophisticated. Not, of course, that there is anything wrong with being old school (I am channelling Seinfeld here).

Sometimes bliss is the “tried and true” or classic—what do you think?

Published in: on May 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm  Comments (30)  
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Answer Me This

English: Country road. The private road leadin...

Imagining myself walking on this path gives me bliss. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. What is your favourite “bliss” word?

2. What is your favourite “bliss” food?

3. What is your favourite “bliss” activity?

4. What is your favourite piece of “bliss” clothing?

5. Who is your favourite “bliss” author or poet or writer?

6. What is your favourite “bliss” movie?

7. Who is your favourite “bliss” person?

Answer 1 or 2 or 3 or all the questions and you will give me bliss.

 

Published in: on May 22, 2013 at 5:13 pm  Comments (49)  
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Take Two

English: Double pink tulips and filigree acer....

These double pink tulips have nothing to do with this post but I thought they were pretty. My business cards are pretty too.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a novice blogger in May of 2011, I did not have the “following” I have now (lol). I wrote a blog that asked the question: “Have you ever received something for free that was not really free?” My sister Peggy, (who has been a faithful follower since the beginning) said: “I  get lots of free advice and I don’t even ask.” At first I missed her witicism, but then I thought her observation was hilarious.

Here is the post many of you did not read because you were not around then:

“The writer experiences everything twice.”  ~ C.D. Bowen

This is the quote that appears on my “business card” which I designed myself for free. As we all know there is no such thing as a “free lunch” and this pithy piece of advice was proven (unfortunately) correct in this instance as well. I had to pay for the shipping, which was reasonable, but on the back of each of my lovely mint coloured cards is an ad for the business that printed the cards. Had I known that this was the cost of “free”, I would have paid for the cards, or at least saved my pennies up until I could afford them sans advertisement.

Perhaps I overlooked the important (but non-existent) sentence that stated: “You can have these cards for free, plus shipping, if you agree to have an ad for our business on the back, thus spoiling them.”

Perhaps I was so taken with getting something for “free” that I was not careful enough.

Perhaps I should charge the company for “free” advertising.

Whatever the case, I now have about a zillion of these cards (which are quite lovely by the way) that I have to “make do” with. I do this by applying a label on the back and writing in my email address and a little “check out my blog: onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com”. The labels probably cost more than paying full price for the cards. Oh well, live and learn.

Have you ever received something for “free” that was not really free? Or, on the other hand, have you ever received something for free that was blissful?

Published in: on May 18, 2013 at 6:17 pm  Comments (37)  
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Hope Springs Eternal

hope

hope (Photo credit: mindfulness)

“A writer is not a writer because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view, a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ~ Junot Diaz

Love this quote and the fact that it applies to all of us, not just writers. Tell me if you agree that it applies even if you change it to read: when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you just keep on anyway.

I tend to think that there is always hope, but agree that we should keep on, even if hope seems to have taken a vacation without us.

Do you agree that bliss is never giving up on hope? No matter how dim, or how hard it tries to hide?

Poem for Day 17:

Hope

Hope is the hold out

The one thing that can be diminished

Only by lack of faith

Published in: on April 17, 2013 at 7:17 pm  Comments (31)  
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Tell, Don’t Show

Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in P...

Reading the newspaper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you a shower or a teller? For some reason I am a “teller” and I blame it on the fact that I write for a newspaper where there is not a lot of room for showing.

“Show, don’t tell” is the mantra of every successful writer. It is not mine (so what does that say about me?) but I do respect it. Becca  (Becca Puglisi)  from Bookshelf  Muse gives a brief rundown of “Show, don’t Tell” in a guest column she did for another blog (Wendy’s Writing Now) today. It is brilliantly simple–so simple, that I understood it. Here are a few of her wise words, but the whole post is worthy of a trip over:

“Telling usually explains everything right off the bat. There are certain venues where you want people to explain things as simply as possible: when they’re giving directions or explaining a calculus lesson; when you’re on the phone with your neighbor who never stops talking and The Walking Dead starts in 30 seconds. But in fiction, telling is a form of talking down to the reader; it doesn’t give him/her any credit. At worst, repeated telling says to the audience, “I’m not entirely sure that you’re capable of getting the point if I write it with any subtlety, so let me make it really simple.” At best, it’s a sign that you’re unsure of your own ability to make yourself understood without using the simplest of words. Neither message is one you want to send.”

In newspaper writing we tell a story, but we let the facts speak for themselves. I embellish every once in a while for fun, but in getting the information across, I do not talk about how a person is feeling when they make a statement. I let them live and die by their statement. In trying to make the transition to non-fiction writing and even creative non-fiction writing, I have to take a step back and really work on the showing part.

As I have written a weekly column for almost fifteen years (and earlier in my career for two years) I have somewhat perfected the art of essay writing (ha ha). Okay, not perfected it, but I have turned out a column every week for years, so I must have learned something. I think my column is a combo of showing and telling.  I am an advocate of simplicity, and showing rather than telling is something that I struggle with. I am willing to write with more subtlety, but I wonder if I will understand it. Perhaps I am too simple to garnish my writing with things that show instead of tell.

It is something to contemplate. But know dear readers, that if I do tell you stuff, instead of showing you stuff, it is because it is my style, it is not because you are lacking in skills to unpuzzle what I have said.

Is your bliss in show, don’t tell, or are you like me and tell too much?

Published in: on January 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm  Comments (59)  
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~ Nourishment for the Soul ~

@home

@home (Photo credit: dgthekneelo)

Where is your home? Not necessarily the place you live right now, but the comfortable place you go to in your mind that says “home”. Home is one of my favourite words—it just feels, well, like… home.

Home is the place where you are most comfortable, where you are most yourself, where you are not on guard. It is the place where you can put up your feet, and really relax.

According to Isabel Huggan, in her book “Belonging” there is “no word for home” in her newly adopted country, France. She said that “For a long time this disconcerted me, and I kept running up against the lack of it as if it were a rock in my path, worse than a pothole, worse than nothing.”

But she found a way around it and used some variations in the French language to express “home” such as “notre foyer” which means “our hearth” or “notre maison”, which most of us who have a passing acquaintance with French know means “our house”.  But most often, she says, she uses the concept of “chez” which she says indicates both the “physical location and the place where family resides, or the notion of a comfortable domestic space.”

Home is where the heart is—a warm, if overused cliché, really is an accurate description. Home can be anywhere, as Isabel Huggan discovered. As a writer she can do what she does “anywhere” and has found herself making a “house home” many times. Of her last move to France she said:

“And so it follows that I shall learn, as I have learned in other places to make this house home. Over time, I shall find out how to grow in and be nourished…”

Do you agree with that definition ~ that home, no matter where it is,  is a place we can grow in and be nourished?

~ Words of Comfort for Writers ~ On Originality

Writer Wordart

Writer Wordart (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

Essentially most bloggers are writers–and as writers we have many fears. I found a passage in Elizabeth Berg’s book, Escaping Into the Open, The Art of Writing True, that I found particularly comforting and thought I would share it with you.

Ms. Berg is a favourite author of mine and I would recommend her book on writing to anyone who wants to plumb the depths of their creativity.

Without further ado, here is the passage that I find freeing:

“….it does happen that writers can end up creating things that are very similar. If you subscribe to the belief that everything’s already been said, that should come as no surprise. But there are a myriad of ways of saying things, which brings me back to the importance of writing in your own voice. Every individual, amazingly, really is unique. Therefore, every individual has something unique to offer. When it  comes to writing, you’ll see the singular aspect of an author made manifest not so much in what he or she says, but in how they say it.”

What do you think ~do you think that everything’s already been said? Or do you agree with Ms. Berg that it is how we say it that is important ~ moreso than what we say?

Humanity and Warmth

Holy Grail in Valencia, Spain

Holy Grail in Valencia, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If “…the essence of writing is rewriting” as William Zinsser claims in his book, “On Writing Well” , then take me to the dentist.  I would rather let a dentist do excavation work in my mouth than rewrite, but I know this evil twin to the writing process is necessary.

Zinsser, I suspect does not “suffer fools gladly”. I do, as I consider them to be my cohorts, but nonetheless I like his style—confident, demanding, and dare I say it, entertaining—though don’t tell him that. I think the word entertaining would baffle and horrify him, so I must find some better words: engaging, compelling, even witty describe him more suitably.

In Part 1 of his book, titled “Principles”, he sets out his manifesto. He states that two of the most important qualities his book “will go in search of are humanity and warmth”. In searching for these qualities he is unforgiving, but by being unforgiving he is setting goals for writers who should always be in search of the “Holy Grail” of writing: clarity.

Zinsser found himself on a two person panel at a school in Connecticut for a “day devoted to the arts.” He and a doctor (who had just recently begun to write) were asked several questions about the writing process.  The first was “What is it like to be a writer?” The doctor said he came home after an arduous day of surgery and would go straight to his yellow pad and “write his tensions away”. He said the words flowed and it was easy. The same question posed to Zinsser found a very different answer. He said that it was neither easy nor fun and that it was “hard and lonely and the words seldom just flowed.”

The doctor was asked if it was important to rewrite. His response was absolutely not—“let it all hang out”. He felt the sentences should reflect the writer at his most “natural”. Again Zinsser did not quite see things the same way. He stated that “rewriting is the essence of writing” and that professional writers “rewrite their sentences over and over and then rewrite what they have rewritten.”

What if you are depressed the students asked the panelists. Then “go fishing” said the doctor. Zinsser pointed out that if your job is to write every day, then you learn to do it every day, depressed or not.

The last question dealt with symbolism. The doctor said he loved symbols, and weaving them into his works was a joy.  Zinsser, in his humble assessment of his attributes said he did not use symbolism if he could help it because he “has an unbroken record of missing the deeper meaning in any story, play or movie, and as for dance and mime” he never had any idea about what was being conveyed.

I love this book—it is riveting. Zinsser is at once clever, uncompromising, intelligent and well, downright entertaining. He sprinkles his hard-nosed advice with wonderful asides, vignettes, and examples, and by the end, you too are convinced that the “essence of writing is in the rewriting” even if it is painful.

Oh, and as for the doctor—he was very interested to find out that writing could be hard. And Zinsser?  He is taking up surgery on the side, and I imagine when it gets difficult—he will just go fishing.

An icon for rewriting an article and for other...

An icon for rewriting an article and for other purposes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

#3 – Writer’s Devotional Or Why I Would Never Use the Sunday Prompt

English: Logo of Muse in SVG Español: Logo de ...

English: Logo of Muse in SVG Español: Logo de Muse en SVG (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have followed my haphazard writings about this book thus far, you know the drill: Monday deals with Writers talking about Writers; Tuesday is motivation day,… etc.

Today I am going to concentrate on the Tuesday motivation and the Sunday Writing Prompt of Week 2.

The Tuesday motivation talks about Grammar—the uninteresting, stuffy sister to creativity (sometimes known as the Muse), who is always bright and exciting, and lots of fun to be around.  We all know that having the basics of grammar under our belts is a necessity, and to be honest when I was first introduced to the intricacies of grammar, I loved it. That relationship has waned over the years, and I have a new mantra to cover my bases. It is:  I know the rules so I can break them. That statement is not really true, but it makes up for my loss of memory and any grammar mistakes I make inadvertently.  Sometimes, though I make them on purpose. It is important to know when you are rebelling against the dyed-in-the-wool grammar rules and when you are not—I have to admit, sometimes I am just not sure.

Author of  “The Writer’s Devotional”, Amy Peters states that there “is a whole cottage industry of books on grammar,….each of which offers sound advice. I know because I had to read all of them to write this book.” She says grammar is important but “there are plenty of writers who spit directly in its face.” I do not spit directly in the face of grammar, but sometimes the rules need to be broken, and I have no problem doing that. (Sometimes I break the rules because I do not remember them – but I comfort myself with the fact that I once did.)

The Sunday prompt is probably an easy one for many people. The prompt is: “I like animals,…” but it is not one that motivates me.

It is not that I hate animals–I am just not an animal person. I know this admission makes me sound heartless—but I am not. In fact, I took in a kitten on the day after Halloween about five years ago as it had followed trick or treaters all the night before looking for someone to love it. That cat is now much-loved by the three men who live in my house. Seriously, they L – O – V – E, love, love  this cat.  I feed the cat so it loves me. I put up with it because my sons and husband love it so much. There, that is my animal story—the beginning, middle and end. As you can see “I like animals,…” does not fit the profile.

I have written about our cat (known in these parts as His Royal Highness) in the past. You will find it  in the  September archives of this blog. You will note that the story did not start with “I like animals,….”

Published in: on May 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm  Comments (4)  
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