EFFORT OR DOING IT THE HARD WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday: EFFORT

As one of those people who has usually found an “easy” or at least “easier” way to do things, I’ve noticed as the year advanced, there are no more easy ways. The shortcuts don’t seem to work anymore and one is left with effort, or as I call it, doing it the hard way.

Let’s take cooking as an example. Back in the very long ago old days, I threw stuff together and it tasted pretty good, or so everyone said. I used a ton of prepared — cans and packaged — ingredients. That was just fine.

Maybe it’s the quality of prepared food that has degenerated. Or maybe my taste has become more discerning, but I use as little prepared stuff in my cooking as I can manage without getting weird about it. I cook food in the least amount of time I can and make sure to clean as I go to avoid leaving a mess behind, but I cook foods from scratch or very close to it.

I don’t, for example, peel my own tomatoes for sauces or grate the parmesan personally. but I use prepared marinades and breadcrumbs from jars and cans. I’m not a masochist, but I know how it should taste and something “kind of close” doesn’t work for me.

Then there’s reading. I can read very quickly. Not speed-reading, but fast reading. I always could … but eventually, I found that I wasn’t enjoying books when I read them that fast. One of my reasons for listening rather than reading was pacing. A book that is read out loud can’t be hurried. It’s a lot harder to skip a chapter and see what’s coming next. I didn’t know I’d become addicted to narrators and the charms of oral performance, but it’s funny how often you get more (or less) than you intended, isn’t it?

What brings this up? I’m now four books backed up in the review department. People — not just other bloggers, but actual authors — get in touch with me and ask me to review their books and unless it’s a close friend, I say yes. Close friends are a problem because what if I hate it? I can’t say that to someone I really like … so I try to never review a book for someone I really care for unless they are the kind of writer I know is going to give me a good book to read.

Writers are thin-skinned. I don’t care what you say on your blog. We are all thin-skinned about our art, whatever it may be. We put a lot of our souls into our work. We aren’t neutral and we tend to hold grudges. Don’t say you don’t. We all do. It’s hard to not get cranky when someone doesn’t like our book. Or painting. Or sculpture. Or dinner.

And the strangest part of all of this? I don’t remember how to do things any other way.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

11 thoughts on “EFFORT OR DOING IT THE HARD WAY – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I like to know what is in the food I am eating, so I do prepare a lot from scratch. Pastry
    I no longer make myself. It takes too much time. And I read a lot, but I stick to my own tastes. Now and again I branch out, I say when I like a book, but otherwise I say nothing

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    1. Pastry was the first thing I gave up making because I make TERRIBLE pastry. I do not have a hand for it.

      Otherwise, I too have gotten increasingly concerned with whatever they seem to be putting in food, so I’m pretty careful about “added” ingredients, especially any whose names I can’t pronounce. I’m also careful about the meat I buy because so much commercial meat is full of some pretty horrible stuff.

      As for reviewing books, I generally need to love the book before I’ll review it. I won’t give a book at bad review. I just won’t do it.

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  2. When someone I respect offers me what might be termed “negative” feedback about a story or painting (“The pacing drags in the middle of the book”), I accept it and welcome it. I pay someone to do that for me, in fact. When someone who has NOT see the work as it is offers negative feedback of a certain kind (“This book is not that book”) then I am thin skinned and want to punch them out yelling, “Evaluate MY work on its own merits and have the grace to say, ‘I just don’t like it if that’s the story’.” I think not liking something is a perfectly valid evaluation. 🙂

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    1. Obviously, there are levels and levels, but overall, reviewing the work of a dear friend unless you already KNOW they are good writers carries a level of danger I generally don’t want to deal with. I review your books because I like them and I know I’m going to like them. I review Gretchen Archer’s books because I love them and have loved all of them since her first one. I read Kim Harrison because she is a great writer who is having a really hard time with her publisher and can use the help. But I am careful. I once gave a mediocre review to a sci-fi (very well known) author who has refused to talk to me since. It wasn’t a bad review. I just said I thought there were areas that could have been better, but mostly I enjoyed it. People can be really difficult about their work. I don’t blame them for it, but I tread carefully. Unless you know who you are dealing with, there can indeed by demons there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love to very occasionally disagree with you and I’m not going to read any of the comments before having written this. I LOVE (all caps!) to read, I read at my own speed, I’m not a speed reader and yet I read faster than others I know. But I love to linger over parts that touch me deeply. I love to re-read them, and again, and maybe even write about these sentences…. I do listen to books but only ever on long car trips. Then I like it but not in any other condition. Or while cooking, or ironing….
    Then, the ‘critics’ – of course we’re thin-skinned when we might get criticized or our stuff gets reviewed in another way than we think it should be understood. But I first of all try to see my work with their regards and understand with their views. I still might hurt afterwards but it wouldn’t put me off – everyone to their own. Also, I have no problem to take up those who ‘attack’ me and ask them what/why/what for they do what they do.
    I had a friend who was very succesful in life but she was a tough cookie, was often very ill and didn’t let anybody get away with anything. She said, after a vicious attack on her: Oh, I don’t get angry. I’ll get even….. I laughed but it made me sad too. I’m not one to get even, when somebody makes me really angry (for unjust reasons), it makes me sad – which (sadly!) is more difficult to handle than ‘getting even’. But there you go – different people, different reactions.

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  4. As far as food is concerned, I’m totally OTT. I NEED to know what I eat and when buying something I spend the longest time reading the label before it goes in my shopping basket. I practically only cook from scratch unless it’s an emergency and I pull out of my freezer some ‘quiche lorraine’ or ‘tarte flambée’…. I actually realised that yesterday when my mother in law asked me if I needed any can opener for the ‘new’ service flat for my husband…. I said that maybe once per year I would be glad to have a can opener handy , so I took one of the 9 she had in her drawer! Don’t need one more often than that. Most of our (at the time canned) goods are now contained in a plastic-covered cardboard container too (‘canned’ tomatoes for instance), or frozen (peas). I love making my winter soups with whatever I have on the go, spuds, carrots, green stuff, squash, herbs—). But I too seem to make more sure than in earlier years that my body is fed ‘real’ food and not stuff with E-numbers, outlandish ingredients. I think I also like myself better than I used to; I don’t want to go anything in my system I can’t approve of.

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