Moving On

When I don’t write, I feel lazy. So I try to force myself to put words on a page whenever possible. Writing fun or silly prose or poetry makes the task more bearable. I wrote the paragraph below as an exercise in producing words and I’m sharing it here just because I can.

It was time to move on. Tom knew he was being held back by his group of friends. His mother always taught him that he should surround himself with the type of people he wanted to be like. Tom wasn’t. This became a stark reality last week when Mitch Panitkin was arrested for publically displaying affection for macramé. Word on the street was that the DA was out for blood. Mitch was likely facing real time this go-around. The gang had been embarrassed in the past by Mitch’s unscrupulous behaviors. During his years playing Snooker in high school he was caught juicing. Coach Bell tried to take care of the situation quietly but Mitch refused to quit. He was addicted to the performance boost. Bell was shocked when Mitch suggested the whole team do it. He said they would be unstoppable. In all fairness, Mitch should have been kicked off the team. But coach liked to win more than he liked to be fair or ethical. He let Mitch continue playing but made him promise to limit himself to ten pounds of carrots per week so no one would become suspicious. But everyone knew what kind of person he was.

How to Spell Check Your Online Writing

When I write a blog post I have to choose what platform to type it on. Many times I’ll use word processing software Like Word or LibreOffice. I do this for two reasons. First, I can save a hard copy of the post to my local machine. Second, I get a robust and powerful spell checking functionality that I don’t always get online. 

But it can be a pain to type in one application and copy/paste it into my blogging software. Sometimes I just want to type out a one-off post right in WordPress. That can be an equal pain because WordPress doesn’t have out of the box spell check. You have to add a plugin and then maintain that plugin as it gets updated (assuming its author actually updates it)

I started looking around for a better solution. Eventually, I (re)discovered Grammarly, a free online writing tool. It lets you write an entire post (or whatever you’re writing) online. But that’s not what I like about it. My favorite part is that there are browser extensions (Chrome, Firefox, and Edge) for the app that put Grammarly’s spell checking power into every browser-based app you use.

The extensions apply to any page you’re on including WordPress and Gmail. That means you get the benefit of a spell checker without any additional add-ons or plugins. It’s been a great tool for me when I’m typing something up outside of a desktop app.

Grammarly has a lot of great uses. If you go with one of their paid plans you can benefit from cloud storage of your writing, advanced writing feedback (more than just spelling and punctuation), and team use. But if you’re just looking for a handy online spell checker, this is definitely one to check out.

Five Books for Friday #3

Here we go again with five of the books I’ve been digging into over the last week. The subjects this time around are an interesting mix of projects, publishing, drawing, writing and poetry. Some weeks I find a ton of books all on the same subject I’m currently interested in. Other times it’s a random mix. Either way, I typically learn something useful and get entertained at the same time.

  1. First up is Souped Up, an Instructables.com book edited by Michael Huynh. It’s a mix of projects ranging from food to electronics and woodworking to Décor and furniture. My wife was especially thrilled with Gummy Bear Surgery which details how to create your own frankengummi monsters. This is one of those really simple time wasters that make you wonder how it could take four pages of instructions. But the ideas you get out of those four pages are pretty funny. I get more excited about reuse projects like making clocks out of old computer hard drives. I was only really interested in about a third of the projects in this book. But this kind of book is great for cherry picking.
  2. I love cartooning although I don’t get around to it nearly enough. Like most cartoonists, I dream about putting together a complete comic book someday. The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing Comics by Comfort Love and Adam Withers brings that dream one step closer. It’s not a book about drawing but more a book about the technical and business side of getting your art work into book form (printed or digital) and into the hands of your readers. The book has a lot of great tips on ideation, character development and dialogue. It also steps you through using Adobe Illustrator for layout, coloring and lots of other stuff. Finally, it talks about how to market your work after publishing to get it recognized among all the other self-published comics out there. I enjoyed the “Pro Tip” sidebars sprinkled throughout the book. This type of info is fun to read and gives you a sneak peek at real life implementations of what you’re learning.
  3. I posted a few weeks ago about doing zendoodles. I was inspired by a book my son brought back from the library and I’ve kept it since then to refer back to. Tangles: Amazing Zendoodles to Color and Draw by Abby Huff has some great patterns to get you started drawing your own doodles. You really don’t need a book like this to draw zendoodles or zentangles. The whole point is to create original designs that flow like a stream of consciousness writing. But it’s still nice to see what kinds of patterns you like and the different pen strokes that can get you there.
  4. I’m always looking for inventive ways to be more productive with my time and produce more of whatever I’m trying to do. That’s why I was intrigued by the title of How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silva. The book’s premise boils down to disciplining yourself to sit down and write regularly. Now, I could have been frustrated that there wasn’t some magic bullet between the covers of this book but it’s refreshing to have somebody just reiterate the plain truth that you already knew. The fact is, if you want to write a lot, you have to write a lot. The book does give you more insight on the subject of course. You learn what barriers to writing a lot you might encounter. And you are introduced to motivational tools, styles and how to write certain types of works. Although this book was written primarily for academic writers, it still holds a lot of great insight no matter what your genre.
  5. I saved my favorite book for last. Alone and Not Alone is a compilation of poems by Ron Padgett. Padgett is a wonderfully accessible poet who uses humor and insight to bring everyday life onto the page. I like writing poetry in all different forms and on all different topics. But I’m very selective in the poets I actually enjoy reading. Padgett is one of those poets I actually enjoy reading. As with most poets there are a few of his selections that are just a bit too obtuse for me. But overall, his imagery, style and cadence just lead me from page to page and poem to poem. Sometimes I’ll read them out loud because I enjoy listening to the words. Highly recommended.

Five Book Friday #2

Once again I’m bringing you the fivebooks I’ve read or have been reading over the last week.

  1. The first one takes the reader on an 1800 mile walking trek throughout Central America. Walking the Americas by Levison Wood  is an enjoyable first person account of the still wild lands that make up Central America. From Mexico to Panama and finally ending up in Columbia, Wood and his friend find adventure and danger from both nature and their fellow man. This one wasn’t the most compelling page turner I’ve ever read but it had plenty to keep me interested.
  2. I like some of Woody Allen’s writing and maybe two of his movies. So when I saw Mere Anarchy on the shelf last week, I grabbed it to see if Allen was as funny as in Without Feathers. Once again there was a mix of laugh out loud funny material and pseudo high brow snarkiness. In all it was a quick fun read.
  3. Patrick O’Donnell brings a barrel full of first and second hand WWII spy stories in his book Operatives Spies and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of WWII’s OSS.  This book is basically a collection of anecdotes collected and combined in a generally chronological order. I enjoy learning about unknown or largely unsung characters from WWII. This book gave me just that. The OSS was a facinating group of facinating men and women who made a huge impact on the outcome of the war. If you’re interested in wartime espionage, this is the book for you.
  4. David Naimon‘s interviews with Ursula K. Le Guin were published in Conversations on Writing. This question and answer book covers writing fiction, poetry and non fiction from LeGuin’s perspective. It’s not at all a how to on writing but rather herr philisophical ideas of different types of writing. It was an interesting read but slow in many parts. I’ll admit, I skipped a few parts that didn’t interest me.
  5. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to exercise better and more efficiently as I grow older. That’s why I was ineterested when I found Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance by Jeff Bercovici on the new release shelf. Jeff travelled around to document breakthroughs in sports performance hacks and trends, talk to olympians about their training regimens and dig into health fads that promise too much.  I’m only about a quarter of the way through this one but will definitely finish it. I was especially interested in the chapter on a better way to think about conditioning. Many professional athletes like NFL players are plagued by injuries as early as the preseason. It could be that they simply don’t train smart and that they push themselves too hard too fast. Sometimes you have to slow down and actually work less to reduce your chances of injury and let your body stay fresh.

No More Sundays

For several months now I’ve been posting something to the blog every day of the week. I’ve made it a point to create something (prose, poem, drawing, photograph) new every day and share it. But lately I’ve been feeling like weekend posting is too much. Even something good like writing can benefit from a disruption in the routine.

I don’t want to get out of the habit of creating something every day. But I think I’m going to go down to posting only 6 days a week by taking Sundays off. 

Just Write Something

Over the years I’ve written prose, short fiction and poetry. But consistently writing, refining and finishing pieces has always been a struggle for me. Sometimes I’m inspired. The words just come to me. Or my first draft says exactly what I wanted it to say and in the way I wanted to say it. However, those pieces are rare and they’re not usually produced at will.

There’s a solution to this problem. It doesn’t have anything to do with methods or techniques. There’s just one little trick that I need to employ that solves my consistency and production issues. The trick is to write.

I tend to fear imperfection in my writing. More than that I fear not having anything useful to say. Not writing anything certainly takes the imperfections in my writing. And I don’t have to fear writer’s block. But I also ensure that I’ll never create anything good. I’ll never have the satisfaction of producing polished pieces or anything I’m proud of.

I think writing nothing is much more troubling than writing something bad.