Reality and what’s really worth it…

I made a commitment to myself that I was going to post to this blog every week, specifically that I would post on Fridays. Well, this week I have no idea if I will have computer access on Friday, so I’m posting early.

I would love to have a deep thought provoking post, but this isn’t the week for it. I serve as a clerk in my church and my two assistants are both working heavy hours this week which means I needed to step up to do the clerk stuff myself. My wife and my mother in law are both stressed (my wife due to working on a doctoral dissertation, working, church duties and a family reunion; and my mother in law, all of the above except for the doctorate). In the midst of it all my kitchen drain goes out to such a level that I had to call in a professional (I make shiny stuff with stone, fire and metal and this was above my ability to deal…).

Life is a stressful thing. I really want to tell stories and how to’s that help people and make people think; things that give people hope and expand knowledge. Sometimes, in order to do that you have to take care of yourself… by all means help people! It’s part of what we’re here for, but don’t do it to the point that you burn yourself out  or kill yourself in the process (OK, there are times to do that, but I don’t really foresee throwing myself in front of a bus to save a child, or on a grenade to save my squad in this week’s schedule!).

Some days, some times, you need to make sure you and the ones you value most are OK, then you can go out and save the world.

As far as how this applies to words and writing… sometimes you need to write to get the words/thoughts/feelings out, and sometimes you need to get things done, get the words/thought/feelings under control in order to write. It pays to know which is which, and this week is definitely the second kind.

So, this week I’m going to say my piece (I think I just did!), which in this case is also saying my peace, and then I’m going to go help my wife with the things she needs right now. The reunion will get over, the drain issue will be fixed and cleaned up (actually for mine I cleaned up already), and I will be back here next week with something interesting and thought provoking to say (The dissertation… well… that one we’re giving ourselves a year on (and I’m going to be patient because before too long it’s my turn!)).

Take care gentle reader and see you next week!

Faith, Process, and Confidence

After last Friday’s post I spent two days obsessing about finding something to put up this week. Then on Sunday I found something and on Tuesday I realized the parts  were right in front of me the whole time. I have to remind myself that writing this blog is a matter of faith. Not necessarily faith in god, though I highly recommend it, but faith in myself and in the process. If I do my part: think about it, do my research, endeavor to learn technique, learn style, learn vocabulary, learning in general; the words will come at the right place and time.

Helping the words to come can involve a number of things, learning to control my mind, learning to focus, controlling (or changing) my environment, sometimes prayer (hey if you believe in a god and want to write what he/she would have you to write then you might just want to have a conversation with god about it!).

As I write this, I am sitting in a local fast food joint. Kids are chattering, screaming and running around. Mothers and fathers are interacting with their kids. The radio is going. There are all the thumps, bumps, rattles, whistles and other noises of a busy place. I can feel the chill of the soda next to my arm and smell the food around me. Some people would ask how I can focus to write in such an environment. The truth is, sometimes this environment helps me to write. The stimulation and distractions act to cancel each other out, and drown out the noise in my head.

I’ve never been formally diagnosed as ADD and I don’t want to be because adding a label isn’t helpful. I don’t want medication and have learned to control things well enough to get life done. (If you feel  meds or other therapies help you, then go for it; but, make an informed decision and learn for your self)

Some things, like editing, can go very well for me at my desk. For other things, like writing new text, one or two distractions are worse than ten because I get stuck focusing on the one or two and the ten drown each other out.

Those one or two distractions can easily include stuff from my own mind. Did I pay the power bill last week? Better check! Will we have enough money for my wife’s conference next month? Better check…but I don’t want to check that right now so I mess around with some other website instead. Hey remember that other project like this? The one you did eight years ago? That didn’t work so  well, so why will it work this time? At the restaurant I can filter those better.

While we’re at it; two questions have never failed to come up in writing classes and talking with people about writing. First, where do you get ideas? Second, what do you do about writers block?

For getting ideas I have a two part answer. You already have part of the answer, the restaurant. Ideas come from things around you. If you are trying to invent a character, go to a place with a lot of people (or memories of people…). You don’t copy any one person, but I never fail to find something, an incident, an expression, a quirk, what ever…  to start me down the road.

One of the best pieces of advice I have ever gotten is to ‘write my obsessions’. Short and sweet, write about the things you’re interested in, write about the things around you. Observe and learn and the ideas will come.

The second part of getting ideas is also how I deal with writer’s block. I’ve already advised you to put yourself in a physical and mental place that suits your writing needs. Now, prime the pump! Don’t think about writer’s block, don’t think about not having ideas. Write something, anything, any idea that will break you out of stuck and start the process.

I’ve found that once I start (and sometimes it’s a push) the words and ideas flow for themselves. They say that nothing succeeds like success. In our process nothing helps you start writing like writing. Don’t worry about it not being what you think you want to write, when it’s right you’ll get there.

If you’re working on a project you wont finish in one sitting, you can help yourself your self out by leaving a bit unsaid to start next time, a known next phase or subject, something you can lock onto and put yourself into the groove.

This is the way I get there… put things in your mind and environment that help to get there. Want to write fiction? Read fiction. Want to be a travel writer? Then travel.
Once you have put the environmental and source things in place, start doing.

If you tell yourself you can’t you can’t. If you tell yourself you can, you can. If you tell yourself you can, set things up and then put in the effort to do, you will be rewarded. Some will say “the world doesn’t work that way!” It might not, but the world is not the final decider.  The universe (God, Heavenly Father, insert other appropriate term here) has other plans and veto powers, and really does reward your putting in effort.

Trust yourself and the process. Learn, think and grow; the words will come when you are ready.

I try not to be specific on what I’m going to cover next on my blogs. Things don’t always turn out the way I think they will. I do like myself and my audience to know that there is more to come. In this case I’ve got two more ideas and some proto-ideas that I found in the process of putting this post together and we’ll be seeing them soon.

 

This is going to be fun!

Words mean stuff, that’s not just a blog title it’s a fact. Words are symbols. Whether you write them on a page, put them on a screen, say them aloud or sign them with your fingers. They have meaning, meanings that can change and morph depending on the situation (the context), the person presenting (saying/writing/signing/whatever) them, or the person receiving (hearing/reading/seeing/whatever) them.

Words and their meanings are amazing things. A lifetime of interaction can be summed up by four letters (love, hate, want, need…). And yet, a simple concrete word like table can be incredibly hard to define. I have seen a room full of graduate students unable to find an all inclusive, definitive definition of that word!

Words are a key component of language. Language is an inescapable part of human existence. If you’re reading this, chances are you do most of you thinking in a language. That means you use language to communicate with yourself, not just to communicate with others. Language binds us and bonds us (ok, remember when I said meanings can change… that sentence has at least two valid meanings depending on the situation). Learning more languages or becoming more literate and/or fluent in the languages we know has a real effect on the way we thing (trust me on this one; not only do I have the personal experience, but I ran the statistics). It is true that we both learn language and use language to learn.

We also create language and use language to create. We change the meaning of words, create new words, and use our words to create our world. Not only do we create stories and agreements, but we use language to get the information, funds, tools and supplies to create physical things.

We use words to create relationships. Some relationships create children. We use words to create us.  If that isn’t enough creation for you… how many of our worlds creation stories are begun when a deity speaks (‘Let there be light’ any one?)

This blog is about these things: words, creativity, creation, education, meaning, understanding… It is not about politics as that word is often used. It may be about religion as I do believe in something greater than myself. I also believe that as we come to know god and act on what we learn we have the potential to become more than what we are. So, yes at times there will be philosophies of men mingled with scripture (religion), but this is not the place for the philosophies of men mixed with delusion and hubris (politics).

To borrow from Peter Jackson (who adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien) this is a place for things that were, things that are, and things that yet may be.

In starting this blog I start a journey of thought and discovery. You are welcome to join me, or not. You are welcome to agree with me, or not. You may persuade me, or I may persuade you. However, you may not defame me, abuse me, or silence me. And I will not do so to you.

Welcome aboard. I hope we all learn something. This is going to be fun!