I Won’t beFirst in Line

During my childhood Thanksgiving Day was traditionally “Food, Family and Friends.”  On the News this morning they described it as traditionally “Food, Family and Football.”  Things change.  However, the report immediately following that comment disturbs me.  Retail outlets are moving their opening time and Black Friday (Pre Christmas) Sales even earlier on Thanksgiving Day than they did a year ago.  That makes me sad.  And it makes me angry.

It makes me sad that shoppers must abandon their families and friends to get what they hope will be the best deals.  They’ll  give up the opportunity to make precious Thanksgiving memories with their children and grandchildren to pursue their vision of finding the perfect Christmas gift on sale.  Shoppers will rush through meals, cut family visits short, and even forgo the traditional football game to be first in line at one retail outlet or another.  I guess “First” now replaces “Family, Friends and Food” as the Thanksgiving tradition.  I’m not angry with the shoppers.  I understand why they rush around and join the mobs.  But I am sad for them.

I am however, angry with the retailers.  How dare they intrude on a day that should be reserved for counting our blessings?  How dare they interrupt our family traditions?  How dare they add stress to our already busy holiday season?  How dare they encroach on the last few moments of our Thanksgiving holiday—perhaps the only peaceful moments of the day–when we might have a few moments to reflect on our blessings?

I’ll be fixing Thanksgiving Dinner for only two this holiday because we chose to avoid the chaos of being in motion this year.   I am sad that we will miss the interaction of our families, but I won’t miss the crowded airports or snow-covered mountain passes.  And although there are just the two of us, I can’t imagine spending any part of the day shopping.  Instead I’ll spend the day looking through photo albums and reliving the memories of Thanksgivings past and being grateful that I was blessed to grow up and to raise my children at a time when Black Friday sales didn’t start until Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving…and celebrate it however means the most to you.

Three word Wednesday:  vision, motion, peaceful.

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No Sodium or Ohmigosh Sodium?

Yesterday I pulled a cereal box from the shelf.  Poured some in a bowl and added milk.  When I sat down to eat I noticed the writing on the box—“0mg sodium.”  I laughed out loud.  I realized how much time I have spent online when the first thought that went through my head was Ohmigosh sodium.  Of course what it meant was “no sodium” or zero sodium.

Social media is changing the way we express ourselves.  However to express ourselves in an articulate manner requires that we know our audience.  It has always been that way and it will always be that way.  I couldn’t help but wonder if a nine-year-old might interpret the message on the cereal box differently than a senior citizen.

In today’s environment where omg means ohmigosh and lol means laughing out loud (not little old lady), how do we infuse our writing, with expressiveness and clarity, without using a lot of tired old cliché’s?

I pulled out one of my bottom shelf books (see earlier blog…”I Love My Books to Death…).  It is a guide-book written by Arthur Plotnik, The Elements of Expression,   Plotnik lists the following steps to lead us toward expressive writing—

Read

Listen

Savor

Keep a journal

Pause

Scan  (scan the possible choices)

Choose (choose apt expressions for the situation)

Invent (invent fresh ways to use and combine them)

Polish (polish the word order for emphasis and flow)

This book is a useful little book, written in a fun and entertaining manner.  Expressive examples flow naturally in Plotnik’s writing.  In addition to the steps toward expressiveness Plotnik has hints for identifying real voice; how to express force; when and how to use quotes; and how to liven up a tired vocabulary.  This is a book that orators as well as writers will find informative.

If you are currently ‘hanging onto overused expressions as you would a beloved shirt’ you might consider taking a risk.  Try something different.  And by all means pick up a copy of Plotnik’s book.  His website is http://www.artplotnik.com/

 

Ten Things Writers Can Learn From Politicians

Be informed:  There is no educational requirement for a politician, nor is there one for a writer.  But a successful politician would never enter the arena without being well-informed.  As a writer in today’s market it is critical that we become informed.  We need to know what is going on in the publishing industry, we need to know what is going on in the genre or area we write in and we need to know what is going on in the world around us.

Believe in yourself:  It takes a certain amount of belief in self to go into politics. It requires a healthy ego.  As writers we need to believe in ourselves.  How can we expect anyone else to believe in us if we don’t believe in ourselves?

Be a risk taker:  Every time a politician tries something new or different he/she takes a risk.  Every time we as writers try something new or different we expose ourselves to new possibilities.  With each new adventure we add something to our knowledge base that we might incorporate into our writing.

Surround yourself with supportive people:  A politician would never start a campaign without a supporting cast, so why do we as writers believe we can write successfully in a vacuum?  We need to surround ourselves with positive, supportive people.  If our immediate families or our circle of friends aren’t supportive of our writing we need to consider joining a writing group…or starting one.  Anyone who doesn’t know any other writers might consider taking a writing class or attend a writing seminar.  One will certainly find like-minded individuals in both of these venues.

Know your audience:  Successful politicians are adept at tailoring their presentations to the audience they are addressing.  As writers we need to be aware of why we are writing what we write and who our reader will be.  When we are ready to submit our work or send out a query we must make sure that the publisher or agent we are sending our work to is someone who will be interested in it.  Nothing is a bigger waste of time than sending our work or queries to sources that do not publish the topic or genre in which we write.

Put a new spin on an old story:  Politicians are masters at putting a new spin on an old story.  When it comes to writing it is difficult to find a topic that has never been covered.  However a new angle might be just the ticket to getting our work published.  It may mean that we have to step out of our comfort zone. (Consider that item above—be a risk taker.)  It is all about creativity and we wouldn’t write if we weren’t creative.

Ask for help:  Politicians ask for help all the time.  As writers we need to do the same.  We need to conquer our fears.  We need to become friends with the local librarians.  They can often save us hours of research time.  We just have to ask.  They can also provide us with a venue to promote our work.

We need to overcome our fear of asking someone for an interview.  That interviewee may offer us that “spin” we need on an old story to make it marketable again.

We can ask a local retailer to carry our book. We don’t have to stop there we can ask the local bookstore owner to host a public book signing.

Learn to speak well:  The successful politician has learned to present himself in the best manner possible.  He attends speeches and rallies prepared.  As the publishing industry requires more of individual authors, and as the trend toward self-publishing increases, it has become imperative that we work on our presentation skills.    We are a critical element in our own marketing strategy.

Learn to accept rejection:  Every politician realizes that the voters may reject him on Election Day.  He has to learn to live with that possibility.  As a writer we have to accept that not everyone will love what we write.  Rejection is just part of the process.  Remember that nearly every successful author has had his/her share of rejection letters.

Be tenacious:  Even when the going gets tough the successful politician sticks to his schedule.  As writers we have to learn that same persistence.  We have to be determined to keep to our writing schedule.  We have to be steadfast about sending out our queries.  We have to be unmoved by the nay-sayers.  Yes, some will call us stubborn.  Some may even call us pig-headed.  That is why it is so important that we have a support system in place.  Because as fellow writers we know that tenacity is just a sign that we are truly committed to the craft.