Editorial Choices

As always I’m working on a couple of my own writing projects. At the same time my wife and I have been working on some editing projects to help a couple of other writers. This has all gotten me thinking about the choices I can make and actions I can take as an editor…

You can’t dictate everything…

You can’t. Ultimately the individual piece is the author’s piece. You can help shape that piece. You can help refine that piece. You can help the author make it better. But, what you can’t do, is take it away from the author completely (obviously we’re not talking about the whole copy right/rights to the characters can of worms (we can talk about that another day but not right now…)).

In a lot of ways being an editor is to be an assistant. In a lot of ways being an editor is like being a teacher. You are guiding and supporting an author in the process of creating a work. You can put in a lot of work, and you should be rewarded for it. But the person who had the idea and did the writing needs her/his own reward as well (it was his or her baby!).

In this side of things you can advise, but you can’t dictate. You are helping the writer to create and improve a piece of writing that ultimately belongs to its author. If you try to take it away then you’re going to have issues (we’re back to that copy right thing again…).

There are choices you can make.

If your author comes seeking advice, or asks for your input, you can certainly give both.

If your author asks “should I do ‘A’ or ‘B’?” It’s kind of your job as an editor to give the best answer you can.

You can choose what advice to give. You can choose how to give it (actually it’s often a good idea to discuss and even negotiate what kind of advice your giving and how BEFORE you start working together).

You can choose to say “one or both of us need to think on this some more”, or even “Let’s bring someone else in on this”.  There are good reasons for making these choices actually. Some things need more thought and planning. Sometimes you really do need to hand things off to, or enlist the aid of, someone else.

What’s an example of that last one? Here are a few…

My author client wants support in telling a good story. I can do that!

My author wants advice on how to present statistics in a piece. I can do that (I’ve tutored doctoral students in stats and written scientific papers…)

My author wants advice on how best to portray a bisexual Latina living on the U.S. Mexico border. Umm… Let me call in a friend from back when I was at San Diego State. In this case it’s not that I’m unwilling, it’s just that I happen to know someone with a much better skill set for that particular need.

An author (I won’t call this one mine…) contacts me to work on a piece entitled “ALL WHITE MEN ARE RACISIT SEXIST HOMOPHOBIC BIGOTS AND SHOULD BE SHOT OFF INTO THE SUN!!!!!!!”. This time I’m actually going to decline to work on the piece. I can sense right off the bat that there will be some problems in working on this one and I’m not the right person to work with this author (if nothing else the fact that the presented title is in all caps is a bit of a red flag…).

There are choices you can and should make…

Even though I come from the school that says “don’t take the piece from the author”, there are choices you can and should make.

You can, and should, make choices about who you work with. If you can see that the author in question is going to be a headache (or from the author side if you can see the editor is going to be a headache); then why would you choose to work with that person. If there’s not a compelling reason, then you might want to seek another partnership. And money alone isn’t compelling enough (for me at least!)

You can make choices about how you work with the person. One of the concepts we learn about in the seven habits of highly effective people is the idea of the win-win scenario. It might be a good idea to find ways to make your author/editor interactions win-win (from either position why are you going into this if you’re expecting to lose?).

And then there are some bigger ‘special case’ decisions…

So far most of what I’ve said has had to do with helping an author with a piece; you’re part of a team working to create something and make it the best that it can be. But, there is another hat that editors occasionally wear; being an editor you occasionally also serve in the role of publisher.

As an editor (and chief editor at that!) I try not to take my authors projects away from them. I’m not going to demand that they change the main character from a male to a female and species reassign the sidekick to be a bottle nosed dolphin. But at the same time if I’m going to be the one to publish the work, that does give me more of a say. The author can choose to write what he or she wants, but just because somebody wrote it doesn’t mean I have to publish it!

The difference is that when one steps from the role of editor to the roll of publisher one is transitioning from helping someone else to tell her/his story to actually using one’s own resources to put that story out to the world. Now that we’re talking about publishing I’m in a place where it is my name and reputation on the line as well.

What you write says something about you. What I publish says something about me.

(That’s why “ALL WHITE MEN ARE RACISIT SEXIST HOMOPHOBIC BIGOTS AND SHOULD BE SHOT OFF INTO THE SUN!!!!!!!” ain’t getting published at my company. It’s a message I don’t agree with and I’m not going to be forced to put my name on it. But, if the author feels like going somewhere else to publish it and that person/group chooses to publish it, then the fall out is their problem…)

I’m not for taking away anyone’s free speech (that would negatively impact my business), but at the same time I don’t have to give up my free speech by allowing people to use my company to say things that I can’t ethically agree with.

Summing it all up…

So there it is dear reader… Editors shouldn’t try to take away a writer’s work, or mutilate it in ways the author doesn’t agree with. But, at the same time, it is kind of the editor’s job to do his or her level best to help the projects he/she chooses to pick up become truly excellent.

Editors and writers can and should choose partners/coworkers that they can actually work with in an amicable way. And both need to work together to make the piece really good.

No matter what else happens, no one in the relationship: writer, editor, or publisher really has the right to force someone else to say something she/he/whatever else doesn’t agree with.

So that’s it for this one dear reader. Choose people to work with who will actually help the work to go forward, and don’t try to bully folks just because you don’t agree. And of course…

See you next post!

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Reactions and personal responsibility…

Those who read my blogs regularly might have noticed that I’ve been a way for a couple of weeks. Well, there has been a lot going on: challenging client stuff, challenging family stuff, helping Dr. Kidder (as usual my wife not my dad…) in navigating her first outside editing gig for Forever Mountain, and a couple of medical issues (you know, just a few life or death items mixed in for fun!). Naturally I survived all that (you are reading this post after all!). And naturally I learned a few things on the way.

Usually I’m pretty good at ‘holding it all together’. So is my wife. We didn’t get through a doctorate, multiple career changes, and all the other fun things of the last decade or so without that ability. But even we do have times when things get hard to control…

Reactions: dealing with life and what others do…

Life is a thing. Life happens. Sometimes your spouse or significant other is depressed. Sometimes there is a scary medical problem that comes up through no fault of your own. Sometimes the car’s AC system stops working for no apparent reason. Occasionally clients are unreasonable (and occasionally so are bosses, contractors, vendors, etc.… This can happen with anyone). Occasionally the driver in front of you (or behind you, or beside you…) drops the vehicle to drive his or her ‘smart’ phone. All of this stuff happens.

All of those things can happen whether you did anything to provoke it or not. When they happen it is natural and even appropriate to react, but you have the opportunity and the responsibility to choose how you react!

If your spouse is getting depressed. You might want to spend a little time finding out what’s going on (even if you think you know…). You also have the choice to be mad at him or her (which doesn’t usually help) or to do something constructive that will help counter the depression.

If it’s the car… Well, you can take it in to the shop or try to diagnose the problem (getting mad at the car doesn’t help).

If it’s the client/boss/vender/contractor being unreasonable… You might once again want to find out what’s going on. But, this time you might want to consider whether continuing the relationship is worthwhile, whether the relationship can be improved in a reasonable way, or if it is time to walk away. But just like with your spouse/significant other/family member you might want to skip snap decisions.

If it’s a driver ‘dropping the vehicle’ or a medical issue you might have to make a snap decision. A truck pulling into your lane or a heart attack just isn’t going to wait for you to be in a ‘safe space’ or calm state of mind to make a decision!

In pretty much every situation when something happens in your world you have an opportunity to react and choices to make (this is all part of that free will thing). You do have a right to think and act for yourself (though your choices and your opportunity to make them may be limited by the situation). The thing that you don’t have is a free pass for bad behavior. Whatever choices you make are yours and you kind of have to own up to them. You have to own up to your responsibility in things.

Personal responsibility… The good and bad part of the whole thing…

Things happen.

Sometimes things happen that you don’t choose.

But, you get to choose how you respond to them.

And no matter what happens, in the greater scheme of things you are responsible for what you did.

In my case I kind of forgot to take my blood sugar monitor along on a trip, and then I decided to have that desert at the Thai restaurant (and then that cinnamon roll the next morning…). Yes, I was working on helping my wife get out of a funk, and dealing with a couple of other projects that were going on, but forgetting the monitor and loading in the carbs was sort of on me. When my own emotions started going off the rails because my blood sugar was high that was on me!

The same thing happens with other people. Some of the folks behind the current iteration of a certain movie franchise have been proclaiming that “having a white male lead is box office poison”. Maybe, but since historically, and in the current market, there are movies with white male leads that are doing well. There might be other explanations. Maybe you just made a crappy movie and it doesn’t matter who the lead was…

Then there’s the kid who is punching/kicking/tripping other children with the excuse that “so and so did it first”. Maybe “so and so” did do it, but that didn’t mean you had to!  You can choose how you react.

You may find a time where a little violence is actually warranted (trust me, somebody comes to my door and threatens my wife I will respond with whatever means necessary). But, you, I, all of us have to deal with the choices we make.

If you choose to be violent, or insulting, or let your blood ‘get up’, or any other such thing, you are responsible for what you do. It really doesn’t matter what the other person did. This is why you need to make sure your reactions are actually justified by the situation you are in, and are the best options available to you.

Summing up…

It may not be a physical threat. It may not be a verbal threat.

Actually it might be something pretty good!

But, one way or another things do happen in our lives. Things happen in our lives that we need to react to in one way or another. That is part of life and something we should be expecting (that we have to react to something that is; what it is may still surprise us!).

When we do find ourselves reacting to something, be it an actual threat, an unkind word, a rain shower or other completely non-made event, or even something good like winning that game or prize, we have the right and the responsibility to choose how we react.

The other ‘guy’ is responsible for what he/she/it does. And the other ‘guy’ has to take the consequences of his/her/it’s actions…

In the same way we are responsible for what we do, and we have to take the consequences of our actions. That’s why it’s important for us to think and choose wisely, so that our actions can be the best that they can be.

That’s if for this one dear reader. See you next post.

The myth of average

Once again in my day to day adventures I find people making reference to that most mythical of creatures the “average person”. The things is, while the concept of average exists, the “average person” is one of the most unlikely creatures one can conceive of.

One of the things we learn in school is that average, specifically the calculation of average we call the ‘mean average’, is calculated by adding up a bunch of numbers and then dividing by the number of numbers:

7+3+4+5+7+4+5=35

35/7=5

In this case we have an average of five, and even a couple of specific cases where five was the actual number. But, the average doesn’t represent all the numbers exactly does it?

And,what about other variables? How do you average something like gender? (Ummm… last I checked if you want the plumbing to actually work you don’t…)

Average is a mathematical construct. It doesn’t work for all variables because not all variables are mathematical. And, since a full description of a person includes a lot of variables, including at least one that isn’t mathematical (usually more!), trying to describe someone with one average (or even the dreaded average of averages) doesn’t work.

Even when an average does work an average is really a best guess description of reality. A best guess isn’t always accurate. The average number of five in the example above doesn’t represent the threes or sevens very well…

Even if we wanted to be ‘average’ it doesn’t quite work. An average is an attempt to describe reality that doesn’t always work. Sometimes it can’t work.

The bad news is that you are not average dear reader.

The good news is also that you are not average dear reader.

Sometimes you are above average.

Sometimes you are below average.

And depending on the situation either of those could be a good thing!

Sometimes you are better than average.

Sometimes you are worse than average.

And that’s alright. It’s part of life.

Sometimes dear reader you are just fabulous.

And that’s the truth.

Use averages to help describe your world dear reader, but don’t be dominated or judged by them.

See you next week.

Invitation to play!

Well dear reader we’re at one of those ‘fun’ points in the universe. And this time it really is going to be fun.

Within the last week or two I’ve finished a major editing pass on my second novel (it’s out for other people to chew on as we speak…); I’m finding myself in a new and exciting world of equipment maintenance (Yes I can actually replace a hard drive… But now I have this weird little nylon buffer that sort of decided to be a three piece set…), and I’ve been asked to be an assistant den leader for the local Cub scout pack. It is a time of finishing old projects and picking up new ones (including a few projects I’ve tabled for one reason or another).

One of the projects I’m starting on is a book about making your own ‘beach’ glass and using it in art projects. And…I’m asking you to join me!

Here’s the plan… I’m writing most of the book and making a bunch of cool glass in the process. What I’m asking you to do is accept some of the glass and try making something with it. The glass and the something are yours to keep, all I’m asking in return are a few pictures and answers to a couple of easy questions.

DSCN2265

Basically the last chapter of the book is a show and tell chapter where the stuff you make can be showcased and some of your thoughts and experiences can be expressed (naturally you get credit for all of your creations!).

This is the offer dear reader, you get some pretties, the chance to play, and the chance to show off what you made. I get to finish my book and the opportunity to share some of the goodies piling up in my workshop.

As far as kinds of projects…I’m open to anything: Jewelry, mixed media art, painted glass, diorama/miniature stuff, or anything else you want to try using some of this glass with. It’s all on the table dear reader.

If you’re interested, if you like playing with stuff and want some pretties to play with, contact me at Forevermountainpub@gmail.com and we’ll go over the specifics.

Play is a good thing dear reader, and I’m offering you a chance to join in my play.

If you want to play shoot me an email. Either way I’m going to have some fun! And, I’ll see you next post.

Life and roses

At the time I write this several things have just happened or are in the midst of happening that got me thinking.

The church I belong to has just announced major changes to the church men’s organization and how we approach teaching and helping the members and others.

I am in the middle of editing a novel.

I spent the morning pruning my rosebushes and trying to mentally bring a couple of large projects into order.

And those are just on my side of the house my wife has her own list…

All of this has gotten me thinking about spring cleaning and pruning. The reality dear reader is that these terms and practices aren’t just for our homes and yards. Sometimes we need to clean up and prune our thoughts and behaviors as well…

Why…?

As the year goes on my roses will put out new leaves, flowers, and canes. It is natural. It is what the plants are supposed to do. It is also occasionally problematic.

First there are the bits that have died back during the winter. They really aren’t doing much for the plant other than being an avenue for possible infestation and a drain on the plant’s resources. Cutting away the dead and dying material unburdens the plant allowing and even encouraging new strength.

Next in pruning order comes the parts where the plant has grown in problematic ways. If a cane is crowding another plant I either have to try to train the cane to go elsewhere or cut it away.

Sometimes a plant actually gets in its own way. Quite literally its own canes are getting in the way of its growth. In this case the plant is ‘keeping to its self’, but it is hampering its own progress. Particularly problematic are the places where the canes are actually rubbing against eachother and causing wounds to the plant. Again it’s a retrain or cut situation. You don’t want to hurt your plant, but you don’t want it to hurt itself either.

The same things happen in our lives. Ever have a spouse, partner, or companion who snores? That can have a real impact on your sleeping patterns. And some behaviors are worse. Consider the problems caused by addiction (chose your favorite…), dishonest behavior, or just plain insensitivity to the needs of those around you.  They can all cause harm.

And just like my roses even when you’re ‘keeping it to yourself’ you can still be causing problems. Those hours spent watching porn (you know who you are…), playing video games (again you know who you are…(usually)), or just getting jammed up by illegal or unhealthy behaviors are all hours that you could be using much more beneficially.

No dear reader, I am not saying all entertainment is bad. Actually sometimes it is a good thing. But when you do anything to the point that you cause yourself harm it is a problem.

So what to do…?

Well, (you know I’m going to say it…) that sort of depends on the situation. Even with my roses there are good ways to go about things and bad ways to go about things. Some techniques will encourage new growth and more importantly the kind of growth I want in the place I want it. Other techniques will just cause new problems.

With my roses I need to honestly look at the plant and what is happening with it, and what may happen in the future. Once I’ve looked at all of that I make conscious decisions on what to cut and where to cut it.

The same thing applies in life. We have to: 1) be honest with ourselves and those around us; 2) make genuine evaluations about our behaviors, projects, etc; and then 3) make decisions and changes that will result in our lives heading toward the places we want them to go.

Sometimes this means cutting things off; even things we sort of want to keep, or are scared to quit. Sometimes it means changing the direction of a behavior (find a new job, find a better place to study, get married, …); and sometimes it actually means promoting a behavior you’re already doing (maybe if I spend a few more minutes cleaning the house now I don’t have to stress about it later when the in-laws are coming over…).

Summing up

Even though it isn’t easy there are times that we need to start, stop, or change our behaviors.

Just like my roses our habits and behaviors can have thorns, spiders and other problems that make change hard. But, if we really take the time to think and act in a positive way we can achieve our real goals.

That’s it for this one dear reader. See you next post.

Work, “work”, and “playing around”

On the one hand there are those times where we all (well most of us at least…) see someone “just sitting there” or “just playing around”. On the other hand there are those times where we all (well most of us at least…) come up with a winner of an idea while we’re in the shower, or cooking breakfast, or playing cards, or…

There are those who will insist that “work” is primarily moving matter at or near the earth’s surface. To them that’s all work is. But in reality there is another side to it, the psychological side of work.

Sometimes the psychological side of work really looks like work. For example there are those times where my favorite table at my favorite local fast food joint is full of books, note books, and so on and I’m busy reading, writing or whatever. But there are also the times where there’s just the one notebook out and I’m doing more staring into space than writing. That would be because I’m thinking about what I’m writing…

Sometimes mental or psychological work looks even less like work than that. For example the day before I wrote this I looked to most people like I wasn’t working at all, I was walking around a shopping mall in old jeans and a tee shirt. But, at the same time, I was still getting work done.

Internal dialog as work…

In this case I had already gotten some writing done in the morning and even some research stuff done. But I wasn’t quite sure where to go from there.

I still hadn’t gotten this post written even though it was ‘due’ the day before. Heck I didn’t even know what this post was supposed to be about at that point…

So, I got up from my desk and headed to the mall.

I walked around watched people, looked at things, and let my mind clear out all the ‘stuff’ that builds up when I’m at my desk too long. I still carried my work with me (I’m a writer I can do that), but I set it aside and didn’t consciously think or worry about it. And then the magic happened…

I found myself thinking…

“Ok I really will be getting the editing pass done next week, and then I have to move on to other stuff. But, I’ve been trying for a month and I can’t wrap my mind around the time line for that next project…”

“Um didn’t that writing mag have an article about writing a book in 90 days?”

“Yes”

“And don’t you have like three of five chapters written already?”

“I suppose so but I need to edit the heck out of them”

“So do it… The book you’re finishing editing right now has way more chapters than that and you knocked this last editing pass out in three weeks.”

“But there’s still two chapters to write and both need research and other peoples buy in…”

“Yeah the one chapter needs research for history, but it’s the intro chapter. It’s giving background and summarizing stuff in the three chapters you’ve got already. So that one’s pretty easy.

“Um, last chapter… Other people buy in…?”

“It’s the last chapter, it’s other people talking about what they did with the some of the stuff you’re working on. You still have to get them going, but you don’t really need that chapter until the very end. You got the questionnaire and requirements already right?

“Yeah… But…”

“Put it out there and give ‘em a couple of months while you’re getting the rest done. You don’t need to worry about that part till like July or something!”

“Maybe… I’d better right this down…”

“Cool bro, and by the way why don’t you use this for that post?”

“Actually that’s not a bad idea!”

And then the visible work part cut right back in. Within minutes not only do I have a schedule to finish the book by the end of the year and a post idea, but I’ve got a few other post ideas and the process for the sequels in my novel series worked out. I actually knew what I wanted to do from now until December and December is clearly marked out as the time to figure out what to do for the next six months or so since I can’t actually know a couple of things I need to plan for until then…

The point of it all…

We sometimes forget (at least most of us do…) that there is mental work that needs to be done as well as physical work. And sometimes that mental work happens best away from our desks where we can get a different perspective and see around the problems to the solutions. Sometimes we will genuinely “run into” the answer while we’re doing something else (in my case change “sometimes” to “often”).

We need to give ourselves time to do the thinky part of work too.

There’s more to say dear reader, but it’s also something to think on and come back to. So, I’m going to set the subject down for now and come back later.

Give yourself time to think dear reader, and come back next week.

Be willing to be wrong

From the moment we are born (and some will argue even before that…) we are always learning, adjusting, and adapting….

Well, we are doing those things as long as we don’t mess it up for ourselves.

How do we do that? We’re human, we tend to invent new ways as we go. But, there are some pretty standard options. One of the most common is being afraid of being wrong.

Nobody likes to be wrong

It’s a general fact dear reader. We don’t usually like to be wrong.

Occasionally we are pleasantly surprised and something turns out better than we hoped, but for the most part being wrong isn’t fun.

It’s a matter of perception and perspective. We are generally invested in being right. We have put time and energy into learning, thinking, and believing a certain way. And being wrong means a loss.

We have put in the time and energy to learn, think and do and it turns out we didn’t get what we wanted. We were wrong.

And sometimes it’s more than just a little effort at stake. There can be cherished beliefs, love, money and possibly lifestyle at stake. And naturally we don’t want to lose any of it.

In fact, our opposition to the possibility of being wrong often increases with the perceived stakes. That’s why we’re darned tenacious when we think being wrong means loosing something important.

The more important things seem the more we will fight to be right. And that’s good… If we’re right.

Unfortunately we aren’t always right. Sometimes we’ve goofed and now we’re fighting to cling to an idea or belief that is wrong. We just can’t succeed that way.

But sometimes you have to be wrong to be right…

If we perceive being wrong as a loss we fight tooth and nail to avoid it, or at least to avoid accepting it.

But, sometimes we need to recognize that we were wrong so that we can change things and accept something better.

Sometimes dear reader, we are wrong and we are going to remain wrong until we do something to correct the situation.

Correcting the situation may mean a number of things: unlearning, relearning, accepting, adapting, or even (and people hate this one…) repenting.

No, I’m not going all religious on you here dear reader. The word repent has religious meaning, but it also has practical meaning. In a practical sense repentance means rethinking and behaving differently than you have in the past. In practice it means you stop being wrong and start being right.

Repentance is sometimes an unpleasant process. Being wrong is sometimes an unpleasant condition, but if we are willing to accept that we were wrong in the past and that we can choose to act and correct the situation; then we can take the necessary steps to be right in the present and in the future.

If we are not afraid to be wrong we can actually take the steps necessary to move from being wrong to being right.

It’s not easy, but it’s important

As I’ve said, a lot of the problem is actually perception. If we are afraid of being wrong we will fight against it.

If we see ourselves as striving to become better, and learning to be right, then the moment of wrongness and our  correction to overcome being wrong are just another step in achieving and becoming greater than we have been.

In practice any time we actually want to do something or be something greater than we are we have to accept the possibility of having been wrong. Then, if we focus less on having been wrong and more on becoming right, we can move forward and achieve.

If we recognize that we were wrong we can ultimately become right.

It is a question of perception and understanding dear reader. And for any of us out here in life there are many ways and times that we might be wrong. But for all of us it is necessary that we be willing to recognize when we are wrong and overcome our wrongness. It is then that we can succeed in our desires.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Be willing to learn and become right, even if it means being wrong for a little while…

Tower of Babel to techno babble

Information, clarity, and understanding; these are valuable things if you want to make your way in our world. If you want to make good decisions and actually achieve something they are absolutely vital.

Unfortunately the things we need to know and understand can be lost or confounded by the manipulation and changing of language. If you want to disrupt or even cripple someone, one of the best ways to do so is to cut off their supply of information. One of the best ways to do that is to attack the meaning of words and language.

And yes dear reader there are those trying to do it to you!

It’s an old problem

One of the oldest stories/examples I know of is the story of the tower of Babel in the bible.

Basically the people got prideful and started doing things they shouldn’t have and as a result their language was corrupted. While the story of the tower of Babel is considered a story at this point (we don’t have sufficient facts to discuss any real details of what happened or even if the event actually happened) the story does serve as an example of how far back such concerns go.

If you want more ‘real world’ examples get a group of “English” speakers together for a conversation. For completeness sake please include speakers of ‘The queen’s English’, American English, Canadian English and Australian English. To really see the extent of the problem try including a back woods Florida alligator hunter, a Silicon Valley software engineer, a lawyer, a psychologist, and a politician (lawyer or no lawyer subtype it really doesn’t matter…).

What you will find is that there is a certain level of Jargon in specialties and areas of interest. There is also a level of ‘drift’ in meaning as groups grow farther apart. And yes dear reader these factors do work in concert, creating situations where you might need a translator even though everyone involved is speaking ‘English’.

The same issue happens with other languages. French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian all have Latin roots. And yet translating between them can be tricky. Further north in Europe you have German, Dutch, Swedish, Finnish, and Norwegian to cope with.

And if you manage to parse all of that out we still have a couple of other continents to deal with. Care to examine the origins Afrikaans? If you get that one worked out why not try finding the origins of modern ‘Chinese’ (as much respect as I have for my Chinese friends I am not trying to explain the challenges of that particular language without a large bottle of Ibuprophen…).

And it still goes on…

Language drifts and changes naturally. That’s why languages like English, Spanish, German, Japanese and Arabic are classified as living languages. The language shifts and changes as time goes on. It becomes difficult to understand the words of former days. It is somewhat natural to find that things like the U.S. Constitution are a bit harder to interpret than they were two hundred years ago.

But that sort of lingual drift isn’t the hardest part. That kind of lingual drift can be countered by study and education. There is a greater danger to our knowledge and understanding in the form of those who actively seek to change the meaning of language to fit their particular ends.

(Note that as we continue I am not taking sides on any of the particular terms mentioned in this post… Today we are talking about language and people changing language. If we want to talk about particular issues where this is occurring… That is a topic for another day.)

Have you heard the contention and disagreement around terms such as “assault rifle”, “gender”, “marriage”, “climate change”, or “the American dream”? There is a whole lot of venom and conflict there, and we haven’t even gotten to the deep philosophical ones like “truth” or “morality” yet. We also haven’t even scratched the surface of recently invented terms like “fake news”, or the never ending alphabet soup of acronyms (I personally know three meanings for PSI and that’s to say nothing of TLA, ETLA, EETLA, LGBT, LGBTQ, RSVP, LOL, ROTFLOL, BYB, BYOB, or BYOBS).

There are those out there who actively try to redefine words to suit their own ends. There are even more people out there willing to adopt a meaning of a word that they like or come from sources that sound credible. Often this is what leads to the sort of linguistic drift that makes talking to my wife’s teacher friends and my family’s military friends at the same time such a challenge.

If we blindly follow what others are saying and if we foolishly allow ourselves to assume everyone is using the same word for the same thing we can end up in real trouble. It is our own responsibility to navigate this mess of meanings and understand what’s going on around us. This is a responsibility we cannot hand off to anyone.

So how do we do that?

That’s a big topic, bigger than we can entirely cover in one blog post, but here are a couple of points. We will probably revisit this subject with more information as time goes on.

The biggest key is learning. Don’t just take someone’s word for it on what words mean. Do some study and find out for yourself.

The second key is awareness. Be aware that others might be using a different definition and how that may affect meaning (it might also be a good idea to figure out why the person is using the meaning he or she is…)

One of the best things you can do is strive to use a shared meaning. This means communicating about communicating and both parties need to have a genuine desire to communicate instead of just yelling at someone while trying to advocate for a position.

Language is a vital tool for thought and understanding. We as individuals need to learn and make sure we understand the language being used. It is a challenge, but it is one of the most important things to do if you want to succeed in communication and in life.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time: Say what you mean, mean what you say, and I’ll see you next week.

Adversity to opportunity

About a month before I wrote this post I decided to take a break from doing the blogs. It was actually kind of a hard decision. I like doing my blogs, but other parts of the whole writing thing, and the rest of my life in general needed to be brought back under control. So, I did the hard thing and set down the blogs and got everything relatively back in order. And now I’m back…

Some of what went on in that time is documented here in my Forever Mountain Publishing blog. Other things might end up there eventually, but there are definitely changes that will be reflected here… I have decided after serious consideration that I owe it to myself, my faith, and you, my dear reader, to be braver in what I say; to really stand up for truth and not be lukewarm in what I say and do.

This blog is named Words Mean Stuff. I named it that because I believe words and thoughts have meaning and I always need to be making mine better.

So what are you going to do?

Well, as I said, I’m going to be braver in standing up for truth. I am also going to endeavor to be more focused on meaning, understanding and the choices we make. I need to do this dear reader; because, the knowledge and understanding we acquire, and the choices we make, are the only things we really own. We have our understanding of things, our ability to learn, our divinely given right and ability to make choices; and we have the consequences of our choices. That is really about it for the things that really belong to us in this life. And these are the things I need to talk about.

And you know what…?

Sometimes the things that seem bad can really be good, if you use your intellect and choose to respond to them in the right way.

An example…

One of the areas I’ve been working on is videos for my YouTube channel. Several of those videos require the use of my good old hard working rock tumbler…

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Unfortunately I kind of put a hole in this cheap little nothing part that the machine just won’t work without….

At that moment the thought process went something like this:

Now I have to buy a new one, but the shipping is going to cost more than the part.

Can I find one on Amazon? If I can then maybe I can get free shipping… Yes, but there is still a time factor and I kind of want my machine back in action now…

Um, hey…! This thing is rubber kind of like the inner tubes on my bike. What if I used a patch kit to fix it?

I need to replace the patch kit for my bike too, so it’s still costing money.

Yes, but less than the new part and shipping. And it will probably get me running again until I can actually get the right part.

Hmm… The kit is available pretty close to me… I think I can do this!

And so… I chose to take the action that would get my shop running again and keep me moving. No, it isn’t a perfect solution, but it is definitely better than sitting around wailing and gnashing my teeth, or playing around with my tablet until a new part gets here (which probably wouldn’t happen at all if I was too busy messing around on the internet to order one…).

And then it hit me… I do shop experiments on the YouTube channel, it’s a lot of what I’m working on right now. What if I treat the patch plan as a shop experiment and make a video?

And there it was, the ‘show stopper’ problem with a ‘nothing’ part that was going to be more expensive to ship than to buy was actually a chance to learn and try something new, and an opportunity to add another video to my list (which was what the machine was helping me do in the first place!). Because I thought and sought to make the best decision I could I bought myself time to include the part in a larger order (which brings the individual shipping cost down); I got my shop running again faster (which means I get more done); and I found a new video to go up on the channel!

And… In the process of figuring out how to shoot that video I found a new setup that will help me do other videos better in the future!

So there you have it

Life happens dear reader. Good and bad things happen in our lives, but it is often the choices that we make and the knowledge we apply that determine whether an event is a show stopping problem or an exciting opportunity.

How we choose to interpret and react to the things in our lives; how we choose to use the things we know and learn in solving the problems we face; that is what this blog is about.

That’s it for this one dear reader. For now… Go, learn and do; and I’ll see you next week.

February 2018

As much as I love what I do… I occasionally find myself at that place where a project is behind, two more just got dumped into the time line, and naturally everything is an A1 priority. This usually happens when my wife is just adjusting to teaching a new class,  my doctor just proscribed antibiotics (without me even asking for them), and other family members are sending me emails containing exciting terms like “through and through puncture”….

So, I’m going to go see if I can find a couple of bigger cans (do they make a 110 gallon drum?) and try recanning a couple of these cans of worms (or at least get the projects under control). Hopefully I will be back with some good posts and good things to share in March. See you then dear reader!