ONE RING – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Sunday–Ring


“One Ring to rule them all,
One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all
and in the darkness bind them.
In the land of Mordor, where the shadows lie … ”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

NEW WORDS? WHAT ABOUT THE OLD ONES? – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Saturday – Fleek


A what? Or is it a which? Or perhaps a twitch? Maybe it’s the rhymer for the word “week” when you are babbling rhymes. I managed to get three definitions from various online dictionaries:

(1)   FLEEK: flēk/ adjective INFORMAL in the USA

Extremely good, attractive, or stylish. As in: “my hair is on fleek right now.”

Why do you need the “on”? How come this a word requires a proposition or possibly, a preposition? Who made up that rule?

If I grow up, I want to become a dictionary designer. I will make up new words as I go along and never offer any hints about what they mean. Hah! That will chill their tail-pipes!

(2)  From the “Urban” or perhaps “Urbane” Dictionary:

A shitty word made by shitty people with no fucking lives.
Dumbass: “My eyebrows are on fleek!”
Me: “Who the fuck cares?” — by wastetimechasingmemes

(3) On Fleek: Born (or maybe it just floated in from another reality) in a Vine video on June 21, 2014, the term fleek is a busy word. It was originally (and still is most commonly) applied to perfectly-groomed eyebrows, but the word has been used to describe everything from hash browns to skateboards.

Making sure your third eye is on fleek.

(4) Fleek or  “on fleek“:  A word used by people whose intent is set on decimating the English language, thus further depleting the ever-dwindling repository of individuals capable of intelligent conversation.

(5) Wiktionary – On fleek – Adjective. on fleek (comparative more on fleek, superlative most on fleek) (slang, of eyebrows or hair) Sleek and perfectly groomed or styled. quotations; (slang, of an article of clothing or outfit) Stylish and perfectly chosen or put together.

The next time I have my eyebrows waxed, I know the precise word to use. My Vietnamese eyebrow waxer doesn’t understand even basic English so this will be as meaningless to her as it is to me.

INSPIRED: WHY I WRITE WHILE YOU PREFER GOLF – Marilyn Armstrong

Wednesday RDP – INSPIRE

A friend asked me why I do this, why I blog. So I asked her why she plays golf.

This is an evergreen post for me. I’ve modified a bit with each iteration, but it says something that’s fundamentally true about the creative process and certainly about my creative process. Writing is me. It’s the sport I play, the goal I seek. Sometimes, I need to remind myself of things I already know, so here it is, again.


We do what we do because we love it, need to do it, or both. For me, writing is like breathing. If I don’t write, I strangle on words never used. My friend needs to compete, to be active. To play golf or she will suffocate.

I can’t begin to count the number of people who have told me they want to be writers, but don’t know how. They want me to tell them how. That they asked the question makes me fairly sure they are not writers.

If you are a writer, you write. You will write and will keep writing because it is not what you do, it is what you are. It is as much a part of you as your nose or stomach.

75-FadedBooksFloatingWordsNK-004

I started writing as soon as I learned to read, which was about 45 minutes after someone handed me a reading primer. It was as if a switch had been thrown in my brain. Words felt like home.

Writing was (is) exactly the same as speaking, but takes longer. I have never minded spending the extra time. I love crafting sentences until they are just right. I love that I can go back and fix written words, that unlike words you say, you can take them back.

Raison d’être? I write because I’m a writer. Writing is how I express myself, how I interact with the world. It’s my window, my doorway, my handshake, my dreams.

If you are going to be a writer, you probably already know it. Practice will make you a better writer, can help you understand the techniques you need to build a plot and create books that publishers will buy. Writing itself is a gift.

If you have it, you know it — and most of us know it quite young.

computer gargoyle

Writers have words. They collect in your mind, waiting to be written. We have heads full of words, sentences, pronouns, adjectives, and dependent clauses.

My advice to everyone who aspires to be a writer is to write. Don’t talk about it. Do it. Whatever medium works for you. Blogging, novels, short stories, poetry. Whatever. I’d also advise you to not talk about your work until you’ve done a significant amount of writing. I can’t count the number of great ideas left on barroom floors, talked away until there was nothing left but a vague memory and a lot of empty wine glasses. Save your words to a better purpose.

Write a lot even if it’s mostly not very good. Sooner or later, you’ll find your thing. Or not.

But at least you will know you did your best, even if your best wasn’t quite up to snuff. If you don’t write, it might be a personal loss for you, but possibly, it’s the world’s loss.

You will never know how good you can be if you don’t at least give it a try.

DEVELOPING AN IDEA – Marilyn Armstrong

Develop – from Fandango’s One Word Challenge

Garry and I have had this particular conversation often. For him, writing is a developmental process. He has to “see” the entire post, or at the very least, he has to see the beginning and a hint of where it is going before he can start writing.

As far as I can tell, for blog writing anyway, I don’t develop anything. I get a little “bing” in my brain and I start writing. If, for some reason — like it’s the middle of the night or I’m cooking or something I really can’t stop — I try desperately to hang onto the tweak of an idea until I get my fingers on a keyboard.

When I was writing manuals for software and hardware, that was an entirely different story. I had to see in my mind the entire process, from the introduction to the final indices. While I didn’t use 3X5 cards (I never quite got “into” the whole card thing), I did write a preliminary table of contents — subject to massive changes when I got my hands on the product and realized the engineers had no idea how the product would be used.

I excused them for not knowing because while they understood what the software would do,  they had no interest in users.

I wanted to know how people would make it work and it was my job to help them do that. How they would interface with it. What graphics they would need. When they would want panels of information. When they need “instant” data — such as press “CTL D” for valid entries. And when they would need extensive background data.

It all depended on who was going to be using the product. Was it going to be a civilian who wasn’t entirely sure how the mouse worked? Or an engineer using this software to create new software for a new product. Two very different species of users.

Surely the engineer would not need an explanation of how to use a mouse or turn on the computer.

The hardest manual to develop was when the manual would be used by civilian and experienced people. Then you had to write for the least experienced user. Because someone who already knew the information could skip it and move on, but someone who was clueless would be grateful it was there.

A badly written manual — and these days they are all badly written because they are generated from developer’s notes and not actually “written” at all — can effectively confuse anyone. I remember one manual which used symbols — probably an early version of emojis — instead of text. Problem?

There were a lot of those tiny little symbols and if you didn’t have good closeup vision (anyone over 40 knows what I mean), it was amazingly hard to tell one from the other.

There were so many. You needed a glossary of symbols just to know what you were looking at. Mind you, this was a beautifully designed manual — written by (you guessed it) a designer. Her goal was to make it look great, so it was gorgeous. Useless, but pretty.

I didn’t get the job of writing it, but I got the call to come in and repair the disaster. I made a lot more money than I would have had I been given the job in the first place.

Probably, all of this explains why fiction is a big problem for me. Good fiction — even flash fiction — requires at least a minimal level of development. From beginning to conclusion, you need to see your way through the story to the end.

I write really good non-fiction. I write amazing instructions when I am trying. The rest of the time? I unwind ideas with a lot of diversions because that’s the way I talk. A story needs to roll out and much of its magic are the words themselves, the music they make. That kind of music doesn’t require structure or development. It is a feeling, a sense, a kind of magic, and beautiful words.

These days, in retirement, I don’t develop, plan, or structure. I write and what comes out is the whole of it.


Note: I do not have a single copy of any book I wrote in hard copy. I think I dumped them when I retired. I wish I’d saved one or two. But if I get desperate, I have a couple as documents, though I have a feeling they are in a format I can’t access anymore.

3.2.1 ME CHALLENGE: INSPIRATION, WITH HELP ALONG THE WAY – Marilyn Armstrong

INSPIRATION” VIA SUE VINCENT AT DAILY ECHO


I was invited to take part in the 3.2.1 Me Challenge the other day by Sue Vincent at the Daily Echo. The rules, she said, were simple:

1 – Thank the person who nominated you.

Thank you Sue, not only for the invitation, but also for always writing unique and beautiful posts that make me think and remind me of all the things I usually forget.

2 – Provide two three (but you can use two — I just found three I liked) quotes on the subject you are set by that person.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. –Mark Twain

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. –Plato

When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.  When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote down ‘happy’.  They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life. –John Lennon

3 – Invite three other bloggers to take part (if they so wish) in the challenge.
The subject Sue gave me was ‘inspiration’ and I really need to thank her for making me take the time to think about it. Because oddly enough, I had been thinking about it anyway, so this was remarkably timely.

I always have trouble with this part of any challenge. I don’t like to ask because they may feel obliged to say yes, even if they don’t really want to. So please, if this sounds interesting to you, I offer you the subject:


TRUTH

Given the way life has changed, how do you feel about it? What’s your version of it? How important is it?


Inspiration: On your own but not alone

We all start college — or at least most of us do — pretty young. In our teens, generally. Some of us start even sooner. I was just barely 16, but I thought I was terribly sophisticated and mature.

I was sophisticated and mature for someone my age. Which was 16. I had zero vision of what I would be on this earth. I was socially inexperienced and emotionally volatile. My knowledge went exactly as far as the books I read.

Working in California from Boston – Dawn of a new age in telecommuting

I had read a lot of books (for my age). I had also not read a lot more books. It isn’t, as my father said, what you don’t know that gets you. It’s what you do know that’s wrong.

I knew a lot of wrong things. They weren’t wrong because I thought them wrongly, but because much of what I read was inaccurate, closer to guesses and opinions than facts. Possibly much of what I know now is still wrong, but I think most historians and scientists are working more closely with original sources today. That may be one of the best things to come from the Internet and sharing of information across the world, that you don’t necessarily have to travel the world to find original sources (though it certainly doesn’t hurt, either).

I had only the fuzziest idea what I was going to do with myself. After I gave up my dreams of playing the grand piano with an orchestra at Carnegie Hall, then deleted my “great American author” fantasy where I lived on a cliff in Maine overlooking the ocean while writing unforgettable novels,  I had no idea what I would do.

It turned out I was not a novelist. I had great ideas, but no ability to turn them into books. I could write dialogue easily and still do, but I had no talent for “action.” Even the most chatty novel requires that characters sometimes get off the sofa and do something. Anything. My characters never did anything — except talk and think.

Not unlike me, come to think of it.

I needed help along the way and I got it.

Dr. Herb Deutsch needed to point out while I loved music, I was not sufficiently involved with it to make it my life’s work.

Mr. Wekerle (pronounced Weh-ker-lee with the emphasis on the first syllable) was the head of the Philosophy Department at Hofstra University. I adored him. Not because he was “hot,” but because he was so incredibly smart. He was the only professor could always tell when I was bullshitting and hadn’t really read the books. He was also the only teacher to give me D-/A+ as a grade for a 50-page paper.

The A+ was for style, the D- for content. I treasured the A+ because somehow, I was sure that style was going to be more “me” than content. I was wrong. It was both.

He taught me that even if you know it, you can’t assume your audience does. You have to write it all out, Alpha to Zed. I had an editor in Israel who reinforced this by making me rewrite all the sections of a book I was working on — the parts I didn’t want to write.

Garry was deeply influential too at a time when he was figuring out where he stood in terms of work and his future. He came to realize that for a variety of reasons, he had gone as far as he was going to go. He didn’t want to move to a different city and that alone was some degree of a “game ender.” He knew he didn’t want to move into management and he didn’t want to be an assignment editor, producer, or director. He liked what he was doing. He liked doing it in Boston. He had found his place — and his walls.

I was finding my walls, too.  I knew I wasn’t cut out for management. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, but I hated it. I didn’t want to edit other people’s work. I wanted to write it. I was not sufficiently ambitious to “go corporate” and try to head a department. I knew my personal life had always been more important to me than my professional life. I knew this was unlikely to change. Effectively, I had reached my limits.

As Garry talked about how he felt about his own work and I talked about mine, we both recognized because you’ve gone as far as you are going to go professionally, you are not facing defeat.

Success does not mean you need to reach the top, the pinnacle, the ultimate level of success for your field. Not everyone needs or wants to climb to the top. We don’t all want to be the most ambitious to be exceptional at what we do.

It was a realistic assessment of what we were able and willing to do. I could have fought my way into corporate life and probably made more money. So could Garry. We didn’t want to.

I think my point is a twofer.

On one level, we make it on our own, but we don’t make it alone. We get all kinds of help along the way, often from unexpected people in unusual places. The help might be a simple question, or a mentorship. Or, maybe someone who knows you and recognizes when you need the right words to work through whatever is going on.

Inspiration usually comes with help. A little help can go a long way.

AN ARTICULATE EUPHEMISM – Marilyn Armstrong

Euphemistically articulate and civil, too

A euphemism is a way of saying something we don’t want to say. It needs to be close enough to the thing you are trying to say so listeners don’t look at each other and say “Huh?” yet distant enough from “the real deal” so no one gets offended and runs to call the PC police.

It’s a thin edge from which I frequently fall.

I find “the N word,” as an example, an annoying euphemism. Why? Because so many people use the word anyway. Who are we hiding from? Ourselves?

It’s an ugly word, a hate-filled word, a crude word … but it’s the word those people use. Our avoiding the “center of the story” makes the story less powerful. It’s effectively letting “them” get away with it.

Do they mean “weapon”? Photo: Garry Armstrong

We need a better euphemism. A more articulate, intelligent euphemism. So you can make your point and get everyone angry enough to realize why the word is so ugly. When we dance around it, no one “feels” it.

Does this make sense? No? Never mind. I said it was a thin edge and I just fell off it again.

No Trespassing! Not all farms are as friendly as others. Photo: Garry Armstrong

I don’t know what I am more tired of. Politically correct language that misses the point of the conversation, or crude language that whacks you over the head and make you yearn for day where a simple act of civility would have saved the moment.

I would mostly prefer everyone stop hating each other. Stop using crude language full of ugliness and evil. We don’t need better euphemisms. We need better, kinder people who can say what they mean without spewing vileness.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

THE SECOND COMING – W. B. YEATS

THE SECOND COMING – William Butler Yeats


The Second Coming” is a poem written by Irish poet W. B. Yeats in 1919, first printed in The Dial in November 1920, and afterward included in his 1921 collection of verses Michael Robartes and the Dancer.