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.

Not Prophecy So Much as Observation

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Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

73 years ago, George Orwell wrote:

“All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.”

Today I realized how true that is.

My tea cup of choice is a tall, 12-ounce cup from Starbucks. For the past 2 years, I’ve been brewing my tea with either 2 tea bags (PG Tips) or 2 teaspoons of loose tea leaves.

Such was my first cup this morning.

But it wasn’t so satisfying as it was yesterday morning. It didn’t seem strong enough for some reason. Two teaspoons of leaves didn’t quite satisfy me.

Each type of tea has an optimal steeping time, depending on its type and the drinker’s preference. For me, with my strong black Assam tea, it’s 4 and a half minutes.

For a stronger brew, one adds more tea, rather than increasing the steeping time, which only makes the tea more bitter.

For my second cup, I used 3 teaspoons of leaves. The result? Too strong. Finally, the third cup, with 2–1/2 teaspoons of leaves, was perfect.

George was right.

Now my only problem is trying to figure out how to brew a cup of tea with 2–1/2 tea bags. A hopeless task? Perhaps.

But as Arthur Wing Pinero so wisely said, “Where’s there’s tea, there’s hope.”

Another Day of Writing

Posted: 11 January, 2019 in Writer's Block, Writing
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Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

This is another day I don’t feel like writing. I’m tired, my arthritis is acting up, and I don’t want to do anything.

It’s 12° outside, at 10 a.m. I’ve had breakfast and my first cup of tea. I’ve spent 10 minutes ranting and raving about not having any cigarettes — it’s been over a week — and I’ve finally run out of excuses.

So I’m forcing myself to write. It might not be any good, and I might delete it as soon as it’s done, but as the old saying goes, “A writer writes.”

Even when she doesn’t feel like it. Even when she’s only doing it because she’s run out of excuses not to write.

“A writer writes.”

Yes, yes: I’ve read it so many times before. But this time I’ve taken it to heart and actually acted on it.

I started this piece at around 8:30, and I’ve been editing it, rewriting it, massaging it since then.

So here I am, 2 and a half hours into this piece, and I’m finally at peace with it.

Writing is a craft, a discipline, and one that demands constant practice. It’s like an exercise as well, in that the more you do it, the better you get at it.

Today is the day I’m forcing myself to write, despite myself.

Today I can finally call myself a writer.

Come Down From Your Ivory Towers and Give Us Things We Actually Need

Photo by Immo Wegmann on Unsplash

News flash: scientists in Brazil think it’s time to bioengineer spicy tomatoes. You can read about it right here.

Yes, I’ve read all the arguments in favor of the benefits, and I agree with them: spicy tomatoes would indeed have many benefits.

And yet…

(There’s that nasty little phrase again.) Sure, I’d like spicy tomatoes, just to eat them. They’d be great in Tex-Mex dishes, and would even add a welcome zing to Italian sauces.

But I have two words: Ro-Tel Tomatoes.

So I myself don’t really need a spicy tomato. But you know what we could really get behind? And by “we,” I mean the vast number of consumers who buy beautiful tomatoes at the grocery store, take them home and end up disappointed?

If you can bioengineer a spicy tomato, why not instead create something with a ready-made market?

Why not create a tomato that actually tastes like a tomato?

You’d make millions of vegans, vegetarians, and people like me — who enjoy a nice BLT — extremely happy.

And not that it matters, but you’d be on the fast track for a Nobel prize.

No, Seriously. I Really Do!

Evgeny Gromov/Getty Images

Somewhere I once read this pithy bit of Internet Truth: “Horoscopes work, whether you believe in them or not.”

Well, I don’t believe in them, or in any other self-fulfilling system of prophecies — especially when so many folks who make their claims only do so after the event they supposedly “foretold.”

Just for a laugh, I’ve spent the past 2 years reading my daily horoscope and recording it in a journal. At the same time, I’ve done the same thing with 4 other randomly-selected other Zodiac signs.

What I’ve discovered is that over that 2 year period, everything that was predicted for me eventually showed up in the other signs as well — with the exact same wording!

I know enough about database creation and data normalization to make this claim: most horoscopes are generated by database queries operating on necessarily-limited data points, resulting in inevitable duplicate prognostications which are then claimed to be accurate forecasts.

(This is where I stopped to take a breath.)

My horoscope for today included this gem of wisdom: “If you had changed one thing you did yesterday, today might be different in some way.”

Duh. That can’t possibly be unique to my sign (Gemini). Hell, even legitimate scientists know that, and even have a term for it: the Butterfly Effect. It’s at the heart of chaos theory.

At the risk of starting a flame war (oh, wait…that won’t happen. This is Medium, not Facebook), I view astrology in the same light as Biblical prophecy: if God indeed has a plan, it’s indistinguishable from someone who has no plan at all.

And to all you “prophets” out there, make your prophecies public before they happen, not after.

Daily horoscopes aren’t worth the newsprint they’re published on.