Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Stranger than fiction!

When I started this blog several years ago, I set out to create a space where I could showcase my talents. I lacked confidence that I could even write on a level where others would even want to read my dissertations.

Now, I have come full-circle. My writing is improving. I have a few good clients who believe in my abilities. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination - I have a lot more to learn. The wonderful thing I discovered was; people care more about what you say than how you say it.

This is the real secret to writing.

I have had to come to the realization that I may never make it commercially as a freelance writer, but that is OK. There are thousands of writers out in the world that one more or less won't make a difference.

I am not bitter or upset by that fact. The truth is it is very freeing. Now, that I don't have to prove anything to anyone, I can concentrate on what makes me happy. Without the pressure to search out and woo clients, I can relax and keep churning out words.

I like words. They are the friends that I can count on every time. Words don't have loyalties or any agenda. Simply put, words allow us all to communicate with each other.

I just sit down and decide what I want to say, then I use words to express those thoughts.

I read, in a book recently, that words need to be cultivated. I am not 100 percent sure what that even means. I suppose that if you want the words to communicate effectively, it might make sense to surround them with creativity.

I think maybe they are talking about using adjectives that super-enhance the nouns. Just like, proprietary software. Not just software but proprietary. the adjective seems to elevate the noun to a higher level then say; our own software.

I am finding that by using more creative words it tends to slow the reader down enough to enjoy the ride more than just completing it. Now, if I am writing for strictly informational purposes, I would not want the reader to slow down because I want them to get the full impact right between the eyes so to speak.

Maybe I am completely off base, but who cares. This is my blog and I say what I want.  

If you want to leave a comment, go ahead, it would be cool to see if anyone actually reads this stuff I write.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Why did I ever think I could do this?

One of the most frustrating things that I as a writer can do is, think about why I started to write in the first place. If you think about it for a moment, it is easy to sluff off as - a case of the blahs! The reality though will stop a writer in their tracks. This could have proven to be fatal for me as it pertains to the motivation to continue writing.

I have been there many times. The way I have been able to overcome the urge to call it quits is, keep writing. I know it has been said, by a lot of people in a lot of different articles and posts. And truthfully this is probably not any different than those. But, I feel if you keep reading you may just find a ray of hope that your writing career is not over, it is just about to take off to a more meaningful and productive direction.

I am going to propose three simple steps  to handle this question. Each step will build on the previous one - stepping stones so-to-speak. When I want to write an article, post, book, just a simple story - this is how I do it. So, without further delay, that may cause you to stop reading and chuck it all in, here we go!

Step one.

Generally, all I have to write today is one sentence. That's right, just one sentence today will start me in the right direction. I  have used the saying, "The journey of a thousand miles, begins with but one single step." Lau Tzu, the Chinese Philosopher, wrote those words that have become part of what are known as, "Ancient Chinese Proverbs."  In that statement is the key to almost all endeavors in life. That's it! Begin, Start, there is nothing more to do. When I first saw this, I almost laughed and said, "That is too easy!" For my 50 plus years in life, I missed this. I can't go back and change what I did or when I did it, I have to just begin my journey. This not only pertains to writing, but it is a good philosophy for life.

Beginning is what I did with this post. I sat down with an idea I had to help writers, including myself, with what I know is the way I feel sometimes about this craft I  have been called to do. Once I began, I was unstuck and motivated to continue with more passion and drive.

Step two.

Fortunately, there are writers who inspire me to work hard at this thing I have chosen to do. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who many will recognize as the author of the Sherlock Holmes, series of mysteries, was in my opinion, the quintessential master of the "Who done it!"  Almost all of his stories start with a benign opening scene. In the opening of "The Hounds of the Baskervilles," the first paragraph draws you in.

"Mr. Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those, not infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearth-rug and picked up the stick which our visitor had left behind him the night before. It was a fine, thick piece of wood, bulbous-headed, of the sort which is known as a 'Penang lawyer'. Just under the head was a broad silver band nearly an inch across." 
Do you see what he did there?  He set the stage with a description of  who was there and what they were doing. Not only that but he gave us details of one particular object in the room.  The first time I read this story, I didn't understand the significance of the opening paragraph. 

As a writer, I now see something that I was lacking in my writing. I could never get the opening scene correct. I would start with, "It was a stormy night..." You know the rest. As I studied Doyle and his works, I saw something I never expected. See if you can spot it, from another book by the author? 

"In the year, 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the Army. Having completed my studies there, I was duly attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers as assistant surgeon. The regiment was stationed in India at the time, and before I could join it, the second Afghan war had broken out. On landing at Bombay, I learned that my corps had advanced through the passes, and was already deep in the enemy's country. I followed, however, with many other officers who were in the same situation as myself, and succeeded in reaching Candahar in safety, where I found my regiment, and at once entered upon my new duties." From the book, "A Study in Scarlet," Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, again has drawn me into the story with the very first line of the first paragraph. How does he do it? It's elementary, my dear Watson. He creates a scene that has absolutely nothing to do with the story at hand. How simple, yet clever a way to begin a story.

That brings me to the second step in writing a good story. Set the stage for any event or time - it doesn't matter if it has anything to do with the story or not. Just write a scene! In all my years of writing, I had missed this key element. I used to rack my brain, trying to come up with an opening paragraph that would tie the story together. You know, find a place and event the hero or the villain would most likely hang out. I will admit there are other writers who have a different take on this. My truth is, I need to prove to myself that I can write and that what I have to say is just as important as anyone else.

Step three.

I was looking back over this post and was deciding what I should really point out to keep a writer writing and I came up with a way to explain the final step. Many times I write for a period of time that the words just flow. Other times I pause to try to get the creative juices flowing. It is in those times that I can get bogged down with too many distractions. And here is the final step. Write the way you want to write and not how you think others think you should write. I would think of how someone like Stephen King, would tell his stories. I would ponder on an Ed McBain novel. Sometimes the writings of, Lewis Carroll would flash across my mind. Each author in their own way had a story to tell. Every writer had their style and touch

My method is to just let the story lead me where it wants to go. Even when I am just writing a simple blog post like this one, I let my words lead on. My goal is and always will be to help others find their path to success.

I believe if I follow these 3 steps,  I can't help but know that "Yes," I can do this!  My prayer is that after you read this post, you will come away with a desire to keep at the craft and never give up!

I am posting this on my blog without having finished, because; I want to remind myself that I have to keep writing. That is my whole point!

Go ahead and critique my post and my writing, that is perfectly ok. If you want to comment or if you have any suggestions as to how to make this a better post, let me know. I don't get offended easily.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Black Friday

When the Thanksgiving turkey has been devoured and the pumpkin pie is gone, in some homes the real frenzy begins. Many celebrants of this fall tradition find it hard to maintain their composure as the clock ticks away until --"go time". The annual rush to get to the neighborhood big box store has begun.

I have watched perfectly normal everyday men and women, behave as though; if they don't get this one item at 90% off - they will explode. I have actually witnessed a middle-aged woman push a wheelchair- bound individual over in order to reach an X-Box gaming system at our local Wal-mart. The system was at 80% off for the first few hours of the sale. The sale started at 12:00am. There were a limited number of systems available. The woman was wearing a sweater with lettering that said, "Don't worry be happy." I have talked to several employees at that store and have been told of similar events on "Black Friday."

In the waning years of the last millennia, many major chain stores would  open as early as 6:00am Friday morning, following Thanksgiving -- stay open 24 hours non-stop until Christmas Eve. Now, some large retail organizations have chosen to open the early evening hours of Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving is one day, the American people set aside each year to pause and give thanks to God for provision. It is not a religious celebration per se. President George Washington declared it a day of thanksgiving and prayer, November 26, 1789. Historically, many Americans including myself, believe the Pilgrims created the first Thanksgiving after a brutal first year, following their arrival in the "New World." The Pilgrims, from Europe, landed in what is known today as; Cape Cod. The landing site has been under contention for many years, but most American history books proport it to be Plymouth Rock.

What was meant as a somber day reflection, has now turned into a day of turkey, football, and shopping; not at all how Washington envisioned the holiday.

The shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve is a time that retailers generally produce most of their sales for the fiscal year. It is make-or-break time for many of them. Indicators for our US economy are predicated on how the holiday shopping season goes.