Archive for the ‘Frustration’ Category

Or is it just an excuse?

Last night my friends Rick and Kirk from Syracuse came to visit, and we stayed up far too late watching Dr. Phil analyze a young man who is, to put it in psychiatric terms, batshit crazy. Nutty as a fruitcake. As crazy as a shithouse rat.

I rarely watch television. In fact, the few times I have was when Rick and Kirk were visiting. Anyway, by the time I got to bed it was 2:30 in the morning. I woke up at 9 to take my morning meds, and lay back down and managed to sleep until 10:30 or so. After a leisurely breakfast (leisurely because I was so tired it took me a couple of hours to get around to it), I went back to bed around 2:00…

…and immediately had so many ideas and topics running around my brain that I had to get up and start writing. As I write this, it’s 4:00 pm and I’ve already posted on two of my other blogs.

This, I believe, is the hallmark of a true writer, as opposed to a hack: when you have to write something that it keeps you from doing anything else until you get it down, whether on paper or as pixels on the screen. The need—not just the desire, but the raw, urgent need—to say what you have to say before you can finally feel able to turn to other pursuits.

Writers on Writing

My Pinterest board has over 200 quotes from writers about writing. From the simplest statement (A writer writes) to the most esoteric (Don’t just write—BE a writer), some of the biggest names in literature have shared their insights on just how to write.

After reading and studying them, hoping for some magic, become-a-writer-overnight scheme, this is what I have come away with:

Nobody else can tell you how to write.

Whether it’s Ernest Hemingway, who is often miscredited with the “It’s easy to write; all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,” to Evelyn Waugh, who is reputed to have insisted on writing whilst wearing a three-piece suit, I’ve come to realize that when writers offer tips to other writers, they’re not spouting so deep, eternal truth; rather they’re describing what works for them! Nothing more, nothing less.

Pretty simple, yes? But here’s the catch: I’ve been writing off and on for the past 50 years, and it only took me until now, June of 2018, to understand this “simple” idea.

There’s No One Way to do It

Something else I’ve learned is that even for me there is no  one-size-fits-all approach. What works one day might not work the next. Sometimes I’ll sit down and dash off a few lines, paragraphs, or even pages without stopping, then go back and read and correct what I’ve just written. Other times I can’t move onto the next sentence until I’ve written and rewritten the current one until it is perfect.

Most days I know what I want to say. Other days I pull up a blank page and stare it it, chain smoking cigarette after cigarette (only figuratively—I switched to a vaper a long time ago) until I begin to get the ghost, the hazy idea of what I want to say.

The One True Thing

My own One True Thing is based on a quote from Hemingway:

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

This is what keeps me going when I don’t want to write. I write one true sentence, and it goes from there.

In Closing I’d Like to Say

This is what works for me. Your mileage may vary. Find what works for you, and stick to it.

And be sure to check out my Standard Disclaimer.

Thanks for reading.


“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”—Albert Einstein

“But she has so much potential!” was the rallying cry my teachers used with my parents. “We just don’t understand why she’s not living up to it.”

And so began my first year in junior high, back in the olden days before middle school was even a concept. 7th and 8th grades. The good old days of assigning classes based on gender rather than a student’s interests. To this day I maintain that at some point before graduation, students should be required to take classes in what we used to call home economics and basic automotive mechanics.

I don’t understand turning students out into the world when they don’t know how to sew a button onto a shirt, or how to change a flat tire.

But that’s the way it was in the early 1960s. Girls took Home Ec and boys took Shop.

Oh, I knew I had potential; I didn’t need to be told that by someone who wasn’t as smart as I was. Because I was left alone in a guidance counselor’s office just long enough to look through the folder containing ME and seeing what my IQ was, I had written proof that I was smarter than most of my fellow students and probably most of my teachers as well.

I still couldn’t change a flat tire, or tell you the difference between 0 and 0000 grit sandpaper, but I could boil the hell out of a quart of water!

Potential don’t mean fuck-all when you’re bored by all of your classes.
High school was even worse. With the exception of two years of Spanish and a semester of Texas History, I didn’t learn anything I hadn’t already known in junior high. So yeah, I was bored to tears.

I was a student with a measured IQ above 160 and I was expected to do well in classes that were geared more towards the future farmers, ranchers, and homemakers than they were towards students who were planning on going on to universities or colleges.

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school/It’s a wonderful I can think at all.”
Paul Simon could just as easily written those lines about me as he did for himself.

But then, suddenly, COLLEGE!

And the complete opposite of high school. It was taken for granted that you knew certain things, had taken specific classes to prepare you for “the real world.” After four years of bluffing my way through classes, I was expected to actually do stuff!

I was finally in a world where I was expected to perform. To achieve results. And here I was, a person with no study habits. I hadn’t needed to develop any, because I had always been able to ace all of my classes without so much as opening a text book.

I felt as if I was a fish trying to climb a tree. Stupid.

Needless to say, my budding college career ended at the end of my freshman year. My parents weren’t about to keep shelling out money for a D student.

I still only have an Associates degree. No matter how many times I’ve tried, I still don’t fit the college mold.

If only I had been able to take Wood Shop in high school. But I was smarter than that.

I had potential.

Consider this an experiment. I’m creating this document in Scrivener, then I’m going to copy/paste it into Medium and see if it retains my formatting.

The Problem

Do I rely on technology too much? Right, I know this is a strange forum for discussing technology, when one considers that without technology this forum wouldn’t even exist.

But here’s my problem:

I access Medium—at varying times of thee day and depending on my location and mood—either by my laptop, my iPhone, or my IPad. I find my laptop gives me better control over formatting—not to mention a greater source of images—than the other two options. But I don’t usually use the laptop until I’ve been up and functioning for a few hours. Instead, my default device is my iPhone. Yes, it’s easier to type on the iPad’s larger keyboard, my my iPad is a few generations old, and is rather slow. And I get impatient as I wait for my tea water to boil so I can brew my first cup of soothing, calming tea.

So the iPhone it is. It’s much newer than the iPad—it’s a 6S Plus that’s a little over a year old, so it still is fast enough—and it handles the latest updates to iOS without blinking. But I’m really unhappy with the lack of formatting options on the iPhone through the Medium app. And I’m not above admitting that it may very well be the ID Ten T at the keyboard. (Write it down and you’ll see it becomes ID10T.)

Enter Scrivener

 
I’ve been using Scrivener for well over a year now, and I’ve never bothered to truly delve into all of its secrets and wonders. Rather than using it to compose my writing—mostly blog posts—I create and edit everything in Open Live Writer, then copying them to Scrivener, which serves as an archive. But I’ve recently decided to get my money’s worth out of Scrivener and use it as it was mean to be used: to create, edit, and save one’s writings.

So this is the first test. As I said, I’m doing everything in Scrivener, then I’ll see how well it it transfers into Medium.

Well, THAT sucked. A simple copy/paste lost all of my formatting. And no, a Google search didn’t yield a Medium-specific editor.

So it’s back to the drawing board.

I’ll keep you posted.

Why I Compose Blog Entries Off-Line… And Why You Should, Too!

This morning, as I was enjoying my first cup of the day—a nice Kalami Assam—I did something I’ve never done before: I had an idea for a new post, and so I opened my WordPress editor and started writing. I am a firm believer that absolutely nothing should interrupt the first cup of the day, but it was a pretty messed up morning.

To begin with, I didn’t wake up until 10:30, as opposed to my usual 09:00. So I didn’t drink my first cup until 11:00 a.m. Which is fine, if you believe in the tradition of “elevensies” (or Second Breakfast, as our Hobbit friends call it).

As I’ve mentioned earlier, my first cup is a meditation, a short period of mindfulness when I concentrate on the act of drinking the tea. With practice, I’ve managed to block out most distractions for this short time of experiencing the tea. But as I said, this was a messed-up morning, and so I wasn’t at my best.

I normally write my blog entries on my laptop, in Open Live Writer. But I also keep the WordPress app and a couple of others on both my iPhone and my iPad, in case I get an idea when I’m away from the computer. I learned long ago that I’m lying to myself when I say, “I don’t need to write it down—I’ll remember it.”

And so it was this morning: I had such a brilliant idea for an entry that I opened the WordPress app on my iPhone and spent the next 20 minutes or so composing an absolutely brilliant article, between sips of my cooling tea, and saving it as a draft.

After a wonderful fry-up breakfast—eggs, sausage, hash browns, beans, and toast(1)—I sat down at my laptop and proceeded to edit the draft.

Only to find it didn’t seem to exist. Anywhere. Not on my phone, not on my laptop—nowhere.

I had violated my own Robyn’s First Rule of Computing, which states:

Be Paranoid And Compulsive!

It’s not a matter of if you’re going lose files, but when.

My new practice in light of all of the above is to make notes in several places, or rather in several applications on whatever device I happen to be using at the time.

Yes, it’s more work. Yes, it’s a pain in the you-know-where. But not nearly as painful as losing a good idea.


(1) At this time of the month, money is scarce, and so my fry-up was lacking the beans. And the sausage. And the hash browns. Okay, so I had 2 eggs on toast.

Pretty catchy title, eh? Sometimes just coming up with an idea for a title is harder than writing an article.

I don’t speak French. Oh, sure—I know a few words, but not enough to claim I understand the entire language. And sometimes I can even understand what I’m hearing based on context and tone of voice.

Which brings me back to Skype.

Apparently, rebooting Ed’s system fixed everything. At least, when he got back from walking the dog, everything seemed to be working.

This morning, we verified my theory that I had fixed Skype when a friend in France called Ed via the program, and they talked about 30 minutes. Now here’s the thing—and the whole point of this post—about language: From what I was able to understand in my limited knowledge of French, they were both railing against modern technology in general and Skype in particular.

Let me repeat: they were both railing against modern technology in general and Skype in particular—all the while sitting in front of computers, chatting between two countries thousands of mile apart, complete with live video feeds—and not seeing the irony.

And my frustrations? I drowned them in TWO large cups of whole-leaf Assam.

To paraphrase that great American philosopher, Homer Simpson, “Tea: is there anything it can’t do?” (Homer actually asked this not of tea but of jelly donuts, but hey, poetic license!)