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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Heave Ho!

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This would be the equivalent of a writer whose words stay in the computer in a draft file. They're safe from judgment but they are never going to take you on any exciting journeys.

I've taught many writing classes and when my students asked me what the one most valuable piece of advice I can give aspiring writers, it is: "be brave." The main reason 999 out of every 1000 writers (or whatever the stat may be) are never published in any form is because they lack courage.

I've had students who wrote novels and students who wrote poetry and students who wrote comedy and students who wrote non-fiction. For many of them, it was all they could do to bring themselves to read in class before an audience of 20...and some of them never did. I knew they would never end up being published.

My course included the mandatory assignment to submit a manuscript somewhere, anywhere, whether to a book publisher, a newspaper, magazine, a poetry editor. I showed them how to find the most likely markets for their type of writing. I told them not to expect success their first time out. Rather, they would most likely get a rejection letter....or no acknowledgment at all.

I told them rejection went with the territory. Even the most popular and praised authors have felt its sting many times. I told them about writers who were rejected 10, 20, 30 times before they found a publisher for books that ended up going to the top of the best seller list. Those authors believed in their work and didn't allow themselves to become discouraged. They persevered until it paid off.

I would estimate that at least half of my students never submitted a manuscript. In some cases, it might have been lack of motivation but I'm convinced, more often than not, it was lack of confidence.

I understand how hard it is to send your precious baby off into the cold, cruel world where it might get kicked around by callous editors and come back to you stained and torn (not so much now that everything is done on-line but the feeling is the same). I've been through it. It never occurred to me to think that my writing wasn't good enough. I blamed it on publishers not wise enough to see its value. Every successful writer has to be a little arrogant!

You can take classes and go to conferences. They are bound to help you. You'll find encouragement and understanding there, but in the final analysis, no one is going to stand over your shoulder and force you to raise the anchor on your ship. You have to find the courage to set out on your own.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

You Be STUNNED If You Read This Blog!!!!

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Sometimes, I feel that I'm drowning in exaggeration.....and I actually like exaggeration. A writing course instructor told me one time that the best way to write humor was to exaggerate and over the years, I've found that to be true. For instance, I wrote about my new pocket hose - "on the commercials, they show a woman holding it up with her little finger and that's true....when it's empty. Full of water, it weighs more like 845 pounds". That's exaggeration for effect.

But today, we live in a world of hyperbole. I've begun to hate the word awesome. (NASCAR is especially terrible for over-use of this word - the tracks are all awesome, the tires are awesome, the pit stops are awesome, etc, etc, etc.) NO! To truly be awesome, something must be, if not totally unique, at least extremely rare. Niagara Falls is awesome; the Grand Canyon is awesome, oceans are awesome...like that.

Your new car is not awesome unless it is the highest end Ferrari or Lamborghini. If it is a Chevy, Ford or Toyota...no, it's simply one like a million others.

We see these promises on t.v. Hamburgers the size of breadboxes. Medicines that fix your erectile dysfunction or allow you to control your bladder (so if there are medicines to control bladder leakage, why are there also all those ads for adult diapers?). Online courses that make your child a genius.

Incredible claims are constantly being made on Facebook.

"Use this cream on your face and your wrinkles will DISAPPEAR OVERNIGHT!"

"Take this collection of herbs and your diabetes will be CURED!"

"Use this trick that credit cards companies don't want you to know and ELIMINATE your debt!"

"He bought an old house and you'll be STUNNED by what he found in the basement!" (After you click through 452 "next pages", of course. Oops, see it's catching!)

"You'll NEVER BELIEVE what he caught in the ocean, discovered in a cave, found in an old chest."

Yeah, you're constantly being stunned and amazed and flabbergasted on Facebook.

Every recipe is mouth-watering; every bit of news is mind-blowing. Every puppy, kitten, baby is indisputably cute and they may all make you smile but none of them are not the MOST precious you've ever seen.

This is the political season and over-blown rhetoric is the norm. We've lived through seven years of Barack Obama and we've heard him called a Kenyan Muslim communist/fascist/socialist, who wants to take all our guns, prior to instituting Sharia Law.

Hillary (or Shrillary or Killery, if you prefer), we hear, is a corrupt pathological liar who literally KILLS her opponents. For some reason, she's in league with Obama to give over America to the Muslims. There must be money in it for her and Bill because we know they only do what they do for money. I'm not sure why the right is worried about her, really, because she's practically on her deathbed anyway and probably won't even live until the election.

America will be destroyed if she becomes president.

Donald Trump is a narcissistic megalomaniac - a racist and bigot who wants to unloose nuclear weapons on our enemies.

America won't survive if he becomes president.

Now, I admit that I'm a liberal Democrat so I find more credence in the claims made again the Donald than I do Hillary but still, I expect that even if he got elected America would still exist when his term was over (well, unless he really did decide to use those nukes). Probably even the Republican party would still be around to frustrate those of us on the left.

According to his worshipful devotees, the only prayer the U.S. had is if we had recognized the vast moral superiority of Bernie Sanders, the only PURE candidate in the race, the only candidate who had our best interests at heart.

The problem with all this over-magnification of the mundane is that we then don't recognize the outstanding when we actually see it. Scientists and historians and even regular people have found some amazing things, such as chests of old letters and tombs of dead kings and new species of birds and fish and butterflies. There are places in this world that are breathtakingly magnificent. There are talents that are so incredible all you can do is shake your head in wonder. We've just seen some of it during the Olympics.

As a bit of a wordsmith myself, I hate all this over-exaggeration. I think it lessens the power of words into a vast battering ram of blather.