Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ten Favorite Words

I've been listening to Anne Lamott's audiobook Word By Word.  Anne narrates it herself, presenting a portion of her inspiring Bird By Bird, about writing and living as a writer and incorporating writing into our daily lives.  At first I consumed the audiobook in great gulps, listening at double speed, before I realized I'd better slow down to properly absorb the wisdom. 

Near the end of the audio presentation,  Anne announces she's going to give us writing assignments to do later.  The first assignment is to make a list of my ten favorite words.  I immediately pause the audio presentation, eager to attack this assignment while my mind is sharp and elastic and itchy. 

Ten favorite words...sounds simple, but how shall I determine they're my favorites?  On what basis am I supposed to judge these words?  I could use words I often use (doesn't this indicate a favoritism of sorts?): fabulous, cinch, scandalous. 

I hate questions like this because I'm hardwired to provide the correct answer and when there is no correct answer, I try to read the mind of the person asking the question to discern which answer they're expecting me to give, which is probably an incorrect answer because it won't reflect my style, but theirs.  If someone asks me what my favorite color is, for example, this is what happens:

Okay, I think to myself Mike just asked me what my favorite color is.  I don't have a favorite color, but that sounds lame. Everyone has a favorite color!  Scanning his clothing and mine, I notice our shirts both have red accents.  I grasp at this one similarity and nearly shout with relief, "Red! Yes, red.  What's yours?"  I'm already thinking if I like red so much, how come I don't have a red car?  Red socks?  Red shoes?  He's going to think I'm lying and I am!  I'm a fraud!  "I don't really have a favorite color," Mike says.  Somehow it doesn't sound lame when he says it. 

Back to the list of ten favorite words.  I'm flummoxed.  Ooh!  Flummoxed should go on the list!  Let's see, it is fun to say, it sounds like what it means, I don't overuse it but I'm comfortable using it, and most people know what it means so it doesn't require translation.  Here's my full list:

1.  Flummoxed (see reasons above)
2.  Neologism (I heard it on TV recently, and I'm trying to work it into conversation without sounding pretentious)
3.  Bamboozle (is this too close in meaning to flummox?  Does my listing two words meaning 'mental chaos or confusion' point to a mental illness I'm unaware I have?)
4.  Solstice (I like the meaning; I like the balance and beauty of the word; it's fun to say, and it's scientific!)
5.  Malapropism (I like the meaning, and I like to collect malapropisms.  Maybe my next list will be the ten funniest malapropisms I've heard)
6.  Synergy/Synergistic (great meaning, fun to say, not too popular)
7.  Phooey (a nod to my grandma, and the only curse word worthy of a favorite word list)
8.  Integrity (an important word; a weighty word; the word by which I choose my friends and those I respect and admire)
9.  Caliginous (shades of the Wizard of Oz; who doesn't watch and wait for opportunities to inject this word into everyday conversation?)
10.  Sagacious  (more scholarly than 'wise', something I aspire to in my dotterage)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

To Blog or Not To Blog

That's the real question.  How much time should I dedicate to writing and editing a blog, when I don't know who (if anyone) is reading it? I could easily write book reviews, snippets about my days and observations on everything from the weather to my Pinterest obsession. But shouldn't I be using the time and energy for writing my new book?

I'm working on an as-yet-untitled book about fraternal twins growing up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  The book opens with a startling, violent scene and ends about thirty-five years later.  My first draft is finished, and it's been through the first round of editing.  It's now back in my lap awaiting my revisions, additions and further research about a career in architecture and adopting a baby in 1975.

The writing articles, books and blogs I read have one thing in common:  they all maintain the only way to write is to actually sit down and write.  Sounds simple, but the act of forced creativity is rather unsavory to contemplate, let alone sit down and do.  But Anne Lamott says I should, and Stephen King says I should, and Natalie Goldberg and Caroline See and the guy who wrote the Art of War for Writers.  They all say it.

And so I'll go and I'll sit and I'll write.  I'll revise and edit and curse and brainstorm a title for this greatest piece I've manufactured to date, so I can get it out there in the world.  Right after I have another cup of coffee and go for a walk.  It's a known fact walking can increase creative energy and provide answers to...oh, who am I kidding.  I'm procrastinating again.  (deep breath)  Okay, I'm plunging in.  Hang on tight--this story is going to keep you turning pages!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

No time to write

I've been writing since I learned to read, and yet, I have no time to write.  I could be writing right now (blogging doesn't really count, does it?) but I am basking in the afterglow of vigorous housecleaning, surveying my tidy domain and contemplating tackling the craft closet, which is in dire need of reorganizing.  I have a full-time job (roughly 45 hours/week) but an empty nest, which should be conducive to writing.

I'm supposed to be writing a short story for a contest I found, or working on my new novel manuscript, fresh from the editor's desk, quietly waiting for me to address her suggestions and continue research and round out the story to prepare it for submission.  But the sun in shining, the breeze whispering through the trees, and my craft supplies are in serious disarray.

Mercy Train by Rae MeadowsNo one is home right now to interrupt my thoughts;  I really ought to be writing or revising.

Did I mention the book I'm reading?  It's by Rae Meadows, a new author to me:  Mercy Train.  I was first reeled in by the cover, depicting two children running away from the camera toward a train crossing a railroad bridge spanning a river.  It looks like an old photograph, back when they started using color film.  The characters are great, the writing superb.  It's easy to lose myself in a book like this. Check out the author's website here:

Okay, that's enough procrastinating.  I'll just have one more cup of coffee while I set up my writing area.  The paper needs adjusting, the pens aren't lined up, and the chair is a bit wobbly.  Maybe if I grab a screwdriver I can fix that too...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My word! What a cool chair.

My first adventure with Mod Podge resulted in an eclectic, wordy conversation piece I plan to use at future Bookworms Anonymous meetings. My training consisted of viewing a YouTube video of a woman applying Mod Podge to a flat surface.  The one tip I gleaned was this:  after applying the Mod Podge to the bare surface, let it dry to a tacky finish before pressing a piece of paper or fabric (I only used glossy magazine paper), then painting over the paper with a thin coat of Mod Podge.

First I amassed an impressive stack of clipped magazine articles and words or phrases I thought chair-worthy;  I trimmed everything very close, leaving no white margins, and then cut them in different shapes--some were hacked diagonally, some lengthwise, and some columns shortened at random intervals.  I left some at their original length so I could trim as needed when I reached the difficult parts.

I started working on it outside on a hot, sunny day, then let it cure (unnecessary, but I had to work long hours the following three days) before finishing it inside on a dismal, rainy day.

The seat was the most difficult due to the many subtle contours, so I tackled that part first.  

After applying two coats to the base, or background text, I added a few interesting words and one graphic image.
 Someone studying the chair might notice two small articles:  one about drinking more coffee and one about reading something with a calming theme to induce sleep.  There are also a few fun words or phrases installed along the seat edge and back.

 So exciting! The finished product will reside in the corner of my dining room until a bibliophile drops in for a cup of coffee or the Bookworms Anonymous group gathers at my house.  We'll have to hold arm wrestling competitions to determine who wins this seat of honor!