Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

We’ve All “Been There, Done That”

Some of us even have the T-shirt

Once, I even tried prayer. Then I realized that it was a waste of time: after all if one set of imaginary friends won’t talk to me, what made me think another set would?

Being blocked is frustrating. When I’m there, I’ll try reading a book. It works, sometimes. Other times — like now — it makes me feel useless: I can never be that good a writer.

So I set the book aside and fire up my laptop. Maybe there’s something good on Netflix that will inspire me. “Oh, cool!” I think; “This one looks interesting.” It’s a martial arts epic in Mandarin, with English subtitles. Am I the only one who wonders why it seems the Mandarin language takes several paragraphs of dialog to deliver a single sentence in English?

Ninety minutes, 2,500 dead bodies, and 175 gallons of fake blood later, I’m all, “Well, that wasn’t it.”

I know! I’ll wash the dishes! Maybe cleaning the kitchen will clean my mind so I can start with a clean slate.

Photo: izzie-r-584152-unsplash.png

So. The dishes are washed, the kitchen is clean, and now it’s time for a cup of tea. I do my best thinking over a nice cup of tea. I’ll clear my mind and perform the ritual: I measure the tea precisely into the cup. I boil the water. As I pour it into the cup, I use the bamboo whisk to mix it thoroughly before rotating the cup three times and finally raising it to my lips.

Ok, ok, ok…that’s what I do in my mind. In reality, I boil a pot of water and pour it over the two Earl Grey teabags I’ve already put in the cup. While it steeps, I set out the milk and sugar. Hey! A girl can dream, right? And before you write to complain, I know Earl Grey requires lemon, not milk. What can I say? This is how my Irish Nana taught me how to make it, and that’s how I like it best. So screw you, George Orwell.

It’s The Weather

Spring is here, and with it comes pollen. With pollen, come allergies. And boy, do I have allergies! Mine call for “[t]he nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so you can rest medicine.” And that’s in the daytime!

In fact, the pollen is so bad in our neighborhood that the meth heads are converting their crystal meth back into Sudafed!

It Isn’t Writer’s Block, it’s Blocked Sinuses

And I feel like dog doo-doo. It’s quite simple, really: I don’t want to write. Or do anything, for that matter. All I really want to do is to take some acetaminophen, some Benadryl, and go to bed until next Thursday or whenever I feel better, whichever comes latest.

Yes, I know I promised a review of my note-taking apps. But that was then and this is now.

Finally! The goddess is in her heaven and all’s right with the world!

I’ve often used Ulysses on my iPad and iPhone, wondering all the while why they don’t make a Windows version. To get a document written in Ulysses over to my laptop for editing requires me to jump through far too many hoops.

Too many in fact that I finally stopped using it altogether, canceled my subscription and deleted it from my devices.

Never before had I been sad after removing an app, especially one that was so useful.

Enter Notebooks

Not in any generic sense, however. Not “notebooks” but Notebooks with a capital N. The solution to my problem. Once I paid for it (less than $30 U.S.) and installed it on all my devices, I set it to sync to Dropbox.

Now I can start writing on my iPhone, work on it in bed on my iPad, and do a final polish on my laptop.

What’s that? $30 for an app? Well, no. It’s act$30 for three different apps and no subscription fees.

Consider: in order to create an app that runs on the iPhone, iPad, on Windows, on the Mac, and on Android devices requires that you own at least one of each of those devices. Costs a bit of money. And if you’re a programmer trying to make a living from your work, you don’t just give it away.

Oh, and then there’s the software you have to have on those devices to make sure your app is compatible with them. And the last I heard, Microsoft isn’t giving away free copies of MS Word.

But why did I even need a new writing program in the first place? If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know that to me, writing is as necessary as breathing or drinking. Whenever I have a few minutes to kill — when I’m waiting for my tea water to boil or the tea to steep, or when I’m riding on the bus, or when I’m waiting to be seen by the doctor — I write. Sometimes when I’m writing, my ADD-addled brain says, “Ooh, ooh! Here’s another idea!” and I make a quick note of the thought, knowing that unless I do I’ll forget it in about 3 seconds.

With the Notebooks app, I can simply add a new note and jump right back into the previous one. For me, it is the answer if not to prayer then certainly then treasure chest at the end of a long search.

And I’ve also done away with all the other note-taking apps I had on all my devices.

 

Or, Why My iPhone Battery Loses its Charge so Quickly

Photo by Wenni Zhou on Unsplash

Once again my iPhone’s charge is down to 30%, and it’s only 5 p.m. It’s all Medium’s fault, really; once again, I’ve spent too much time reading and writing here, and once again I’m probably going to have to put the phone on the charger just to get me through to bedtime.

I blame the problem on Medium: there are far too many interesting stories I have to read, and it’s far too easy to write my own stories on my iPhone.

So you see, it’s not my fault at all. (Echos of Han Solo: “Hey, it’s not my fault!”)

All kidding aside, when it’s 16° outside and snowing, and I’ve caught up to all my shows on Netflix, there’s not much else I enjoy more than drinking tea, reading, and writing. Especially on a lazy Saturday.

Except for the fact that I’m retired, and so all of my days are lazy Saturdays.

Look, a girl can read only so many vampire novels before she needs a break.

And my favorite break consists of another cuppa and reading stories on Medium.

Which inevitably leads me to writing one or three of my own. Which is a Good Thing™, because it keeps me off the streets and out of the bars.

Medium has done a lot for me in the year and a half I’ve been writing here: it’s introduced me to other writers who I follow almost religiously (I say “almost” because agnostics don’t do anything religiously), a few who follow me, and as a result my own scribblings have improved.

My hometown of Rochester, NY, isn’t famous for its bus system, and I have no car. So I can’t get to any writer’s workshops or support groups.

Instead, Medium serves that purpose for me.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

Indeed, Medium has also become my social medium of choice for communicating with the outside world. James Finn, Michelle Monet, Ezinne Ukoha and several others too numerous to mention always brighten my days with their stories…all without the constant bickering and name-calling that finally drove me away from Facebook.

So it’s time to fess up and come clean: my name is Robyn, and I’m a Mediumaholic.

Tea Fuels My Writing…

Posted: 19 January, 2019 in Tea, Writing
Tags: , ,

And My Writing Fuels My Tea

Pretty nifty, the way that works out, wouldn’t you say?

As usual, I was out of bed by 8 this morning, and my first cup of tea was brewing by 8:10, and gone by 8:20, as I breezed through the morning news and weather.

No change in either: we’re still gonna get another 14 to 20 inches, and Trump is still the worst president in history.

But as Arlo said in Alice’s Restaurant, “That’s not what I come to talk to you about.”*

I’ve come once again to speak of the wonders of tea. The aches and pains of growing old. Childhood memories. Grandchildren. Everything that falls under the heading of “SSDD.”**

My writing is a reflection of my life in this regard: I rarely know what I’m doing when I begin each day, and I rarely know what I’m going to write when I fire up my writing tool.

A friend told me yesterday, “You know that part of your brain that says ‘better think about this before you blurt it out’? Yeah. I was born without that part.”

To which I replied, “I know what you mean; I like to be just as surprised as everybody else by what comes out of my mouth.”

And I’m pretty sure that explains why I’ll never be famous for writing The Great American Novel.™

I wonder: is it possible to age out of one genre and into another? Have I lost the spark or desire or whatever impetus pushes writers to write fiction? Am I condemned to writing memoirs and op-eds for the rest of my life?

When I was in elementary school back in the ‘50s, I was “fidgety,” “disruptive,” “smart, but doesn’t apply herself.” (The same was true in college, which is probably why I never graduated.)

What in the ‘50s was a character defect is now recognized as ADHD, or as mine has settled into, ADD. It’s the same thing, but without the hyperactivity.

Like so many other things from my childhood, what was once a problem or a hindrance has matured into an asset: my mind makes connections instantly, where other people have to ponder for a while.

But honesty compels me to admit that ADD can be a pain in the ass, too: sometimes ideas come so fast that they’re gone before I can write them down.

It makes me a lousy editor of my own works; there have been far too many times when I’ve sat down to edit a first draft only to look at it from another angle and end up rewriting it into something other than what it was originally.

This story is an excellent example. I started with the intention of how my consumption of tea and my writing are connected, but after 3 or 4 rewrites it bears no resemblance to the original.

Except for the graphic at the top of the page, nothing remains of the original.

But isn’t that a perfect example of what William Faulkner said?

In this case, the character took so many twists and turns along the road that I was barely able to follow him, much less catch up to him.

But then again, isn’t that what writing’s all about? Getting out of the way and letting the story tell itself?


*Hear it on YouTube
**Same Shit, Different Day

Or, “Another Day, Another Boring Article”

Faulkner

It’s 9:00 a.m. I’ve been up since 8. I’ve checked my mail (twice), read the gloomy weather report (8°), made the first cup of tea of the day, wasted 15 minutes on Pinterest, and posted an image to Instagram.

Damn. I’ve run out of distractions. No more excuses. *sigh* Guess it’s time to start writing.

Do you start your mornings like that?

I’ve only had one or two days begin that way. I hate them. I wake up wondering just what the hell I was thinking when I decided to be a writer — even though I’ve been writing for most of my life.

One thing I’ve discovered since the popularity of the Internet is that writing for the screen and writing for the printed page are two different animals.

On the printed page my paragraphs can be long, as long as they need to be to get my idea across. I can add footnotes, end notes, and all the fancy-schmancy doodads required by academic writing standards.

Not so when writing for the screen: the moat common reaction to long paragraphs is for your reader to go somewhere, anywhere, else.

A page with shorter paragraphs,for example.

I don’t mean this as a criticism (well,not entirely); it’s a fact that the Internet, with its sights and sounds, pop-up ads, and other distractions, has contributed to shortened attention spans.

So has television, with its ability to create world-threatening scenarios which Our Hero is able to resolve in an hour — with time out for advertisements.

Shorter attention spans, however, force us as writers to (in the words of Prof. William Strunk) “Omit needless words.” That worthy considered that rule so crucial that he repeated it. Three times.

So at least in that way it’s a blessing. We are forced to hone our craft, to fine-tune our words, so that we get our message across quickly and concisely.

Of course, that lets our stories for the printed page be as wordy and descriptive as ever.

Yes, I write primarily for the screen, but I fill my spare time reading novels and scholarly works.

With today’s technology, Ernest Hemingway would be a better choice for the screen than would say, William Faulkner.

But Faulkner would run rings around Hemingway on the printed page.