Tag Archives: Writing

12 Things You Should Know About Lists

I’ve received plenty of advice or, more precisely, offers to subscribe to newsletters, attend webinars, or purchase books on how to get more traffic to one’s blog. I’ve never been all that interested in them though, truth to tell, I sometimes read a few paragraphs or so. One of the great “formulas” for blog writing is “The List” which, for some odd reason, amuses the hell out of me.

Lists are ubiquitous and endless. Virtually anything you can think of has been – or can be – reduced to a list and chances are someone has created one. In that spirit, today I did a little poking around to confirm my suspicions. For your dining pleasure I bring you 12 lists of 12 things you should know about something or another.

  1. 12 Things You Didn’t Know Your Smartphone Could Do
  2. 12 Things to Know About Medicare Advantage Plans
  3. 12 Things to Know About “Lifted” Suspension Engineering
  4. 12 Things I Wish I’d Known
  5. 12 Things Wedding Photographers Want to Tell You, But Can’t
  6. 12 Things You Didn’t Know You Could do With Mason Jars
  7. 12 Things No One Ever Tells You About Babies
  8. 12 Things Every Gender-Nonconforming Child Wants You to Know
  9. 12 Things You Might Not Know About World of Warcraft
  10. 12 Things Your Nail Salon Doesn’t Want You to Know
  11. 12 Things You Might Not Know About Elephants
  12. 12 Things You Should Be Able to Say About Yourself

I got these from searching Google for the phrase “12 things you should know about”, which returned a little less than 50 pages of reasonably relevant material. Some of the results were for different size lists. Five, ten, and seven are pretty popular size lists as well, each one returning around 40 pages, though the time-honored dozen provided the largest return.

I don’t know what this means or what it says about us (writers and readers). I’m not really big on formulaic writing, though I’ve recently done quite a few case studies, which must follow a basic format in order for them to make sense. Still, there’s something about the ubiquity of lists that grates on me a bit. Maybe my next post should be “13 Reasons I Can’t Stand Lists.”


A Different Kind of Authorship

Writer's Block

My Goal – Overcoming Writer’s Block

I have long wanted to write some fiction, maybe even some Science Fiction . . . which I used to devour back in the day. For reasons I can’t adequately express (even if I wanted to) I’ve seldom completed anything I’ve attempted. Since deciding I wanted to offer my services as an editor and proofreader, partially as a means of developing my writing chops by learning from others, I have determined to write as often as I can. I just finished a short story, which is a little over 1200 words, I’d like to publish here. Special thanks go out to my dear friend, PD Williams, who soon will be published and writes a blog called Over Easy – Notes from the Estrogen Files, for her advice. My plan is to try different styles and approaches as I work on developing my skills. This one is taken from an experience I had very recently. The names have been changed to protect the guilty. :) It’s entitled:

TRANSFERENCE

James had been napping for at least an hour. His lunch with Daniel proved a little too much for him, as the salt content of the food made him uncomfortable and a little uneasy. Jewish soul food sure was comforting and tasty, but it would never be mistaken for health food. This was especially true if one had hypertension, like James, accompanied by a deep love of Matzo Ball soup and kosher pickles. He was pretty sure, now that he had no choice but to think about it, he’d ingested at least three or four teaspoons of salt. Although it was now the middle of the afternoon and there remained things to do, the sensations he was experiencing were unsettling and he felt he had no choice but to nap, even if somewhat fitfully. He lay in bed, drifting between different states of consciousness, at times dreaming comfortably and at others becoming keenly aware of what was happening elsewhere in the house.

His wife, Doreen, had come into the room earlier and asked if he wanted to get up for dinner, but James declined, choosing to allow himself a few more precious minutes of rest and relaxation prior to assuming the chores he had no choice but to perform. After all, the trash and recycle containers weren’t going to take themselves out to the curb and, since the kids were off from school the next day, he wanted to get it out that evening rather than arising early to make sure they weren’t passed up by the trash trucks that always came at daybreak.

Unfortunately, things weren’t working out quite as he hoped they would. He could hear his children arguing at the dinner table . . . and the volume seemed to be increasing dramatically. Suddenly, he heard angry footsteps approaching the girls’ bedroom across the hall, followed by a triple slamming of the door and loud screaming. He tried to ignore it. This, of course, was impossible and he was shortly fully awake. And upset.

He forced himself out of bed and popped his head into the girls’ bedroom. His oldest, Angela, was sitting propped up in the corner, sobbing uncontrollably. He wasn’t feeling sympathetic and fixed her with as menacing a glare as he could muster.

“How many times have I asked you not to slam doors? I’m not feeling well and you woke me up.”

He continued his glare. She seemed not to care, merely staring back at him with sad, tear-filled eyes. Of course, this infuriated him more. Fortunately, he managed to summon up his nurturing side; at least enough to realize he wasn’t going to help by getting angry with her. With a heavy sigh, he withdrew and moved into the family room. He sat down and instead trained his glare on the television which, to his surprise, also showed no sign of caring.

Doreen, seeing him now awake, began to recount—step-by-step—the events leading up to this latest drama. He didn’t want to hear it. Most of the conversation, arguing, and yelling between the kids had made it into his consciousness while he was struggling to ignore it and remain asleep; he had no desire to relive it all from her viewpoint, thank you very much. If he had been feeling better, he would have listened better. He wasn’t.

Ten minutes later, he could still hear Angela sobbing heavily in her room. James was finally convinced he wasn’t having a heart attack and now was becoming concerned for his oldest daughter’s anguish. He felt a little pang of guilt for having scolded her. Also feeling a bit selfish and narcissistic, he decided to do something about it.

Softly, he knocked on the bedroom door. There was no response. He knocked again and heard a quiet, somewhat surly “What is it?” He now had permission to enter the room and state his business.

James walked slowly over to her. She was still sobbing, not even looking up to acknowledge his presence. He gently sat on the bed and looked at his oldest. Her sadness washed over him and his guilt was replaced with warmth and the love he felt for this wonderful child he felt so privileged to have in his life. He took her hand. She looked up, somewhat surprised, and he stared directly into her eyes.

“Sweetheart, I’m very sorry I yelled at you for waking me up. I know you had a fight with your sister and you’re very upset.” She continued to stare at him, softening slightly from the stone-faced, hurt child he’d seen when he entered the room.

“I can’t stay mad at you, and it hurts me to see you like this. Is there anything I can do to help?” Her face again softened almost imperceptibly as he continued, “I’ll talk to Annie about teasing you and being so annoying. Would you like that?” The mention of her little sister brought Angela back to the feelings she had before he entered the room. Again she began to sob. James took a deep breath, wondering how he could make this better.

Seeing one of the great loves of his life this miserable was overwhelming and, as he looked into her eyes, he felt tears beginning to fill his own. He could not look away from her and, therefore, could not hide the fact he was crying. As she saw the tears in his eyes, the corners of her mouth began to turn up ever so slightly, and her eyes took on a slight twinkle.

“You know how much I love you, baby. Can you forgive me for getting angry with you? I really, really am sorry.” As he spoke, a tear slowly flowed from one eye and began running down his cheek. Angela’s eyes widened and she smiled at him with a look of both wonder and appreciation.

“Would you like to come out of the room with me and see what Mommy’s fixing for dinner?” he asked. She nodded, and continued to look lovingly into his eyes. James was filled with a sense of deep relief and not a little wonder at what had just happened. He’d entered the room hoping to merely calm his daughter down a little. Now he had unwittingly achieved something far greater and more enduring.

Somehow, his display of emotion had managed to suck the anguish out of Angela. Since he was much older than her, it was easy for him to deal with the depth of feeling he experienced and, in fact, once he saw her reaction he was filled with a profound sense of satisfaction.

He arose and held out his hand. Angela took it and stood up beside him. “Feeling better?” he asked. She nodded. He turned and led her out of the room—this magical room where something special had just happened. Mommy was making dinner and Annie was still Annie, lying in wait out in the family room. This moment, though, was very special and he savored it. He knew there would be more—perhaps even greater—battles fought between the two of them but, for now he was content to soak up the intense connection he had found in his short conversation with Angela. Life would, indeed, go on.


Out of the Mouths of Babes

Rick's visor

What Geordi La Forge’s visor would look like if it was designed by the British Royal Family.

My youngest daughter, Alyssa (9), says I need to write more blog posts if I expect people to visit and read. Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t know what it is, but sometime you just don’t have a great deal to say. Sure, I frequently post things to Twitter and even more to Facebook, but this is my blog. This is where I give vent to the things that are most important to me . . . or, is it?

I have to admit I’ve always had trouble writing about certain things, not the least of which is my becoming a first-time adoptive father at the age of 55 . . . and doing it again at 59. I want to write about the experience, but I also have long felt the need to protect my daughters’ privacy. It is, after all, their story to tell, and it’s far more about them than it is about me and my wife. I think there may be a happy medium, however, and I’m close to figuring out what it is.

So . . . here are a few goals of mine. I want to continue writing about some of the things that are of interest to me professionally, e.g. Knowledge Management, Social Media (especially as it affects business and civil society), Politics, and Religion/Philosophy. I also want to share some of my personal experiences, especially those I know are a bit out of the ordinary, e.g. International adoption late in life, retirement, becoming a man in the 1960s (including my political activism back then), and maybe some things for which the statute of limitations has thankfully run or for which the trail of evidence is too dry for me to worry about. :)

This is a process and involves (I think) my re-doing how this site is set up. I’ll be getting to that soon. Right now I’m busy looking for ways in which to supplement my retirement income. I’ll probably be writing a bit more about that as well. I have always been somewhat of a late bloomer. Now I’m just hoping I live long enough to see my latest “career move” come to fruition. I greatly appreciate those of you who take the time to visit and read. I think, perhaps, another goal of mine will be to see if I can’t elicit a few more comments. I wonder if writing about controversial subjects will accomplish that? We’ll see.

Here’s a thought. Anyone interested in the intricacies . . . and the legal and moral issues . . . of International adoption should read this. It’s one of the issues I plan on writing about as I loosen up on the subject. It was not something we thought about prior to our first adoption, but was definitely part of the thought process when we adopted our younger daughter. Now it just haunts me. One of my goals is to live long enough to see my girls to adulthood. Then I’ll be able to discuss it with them. The reality is we just don’t know for sure what happened before they came into our lives. I’d much rather it haunted me, and not them.


Death of the Postscript?

Oh, BTW.

Just an afterthought

Do you remember the postscript? You know, that extra thought preceded by a PS, usually appearing after the signature in a letter. I’ve come to the realization postscripts are a thing of the past, a relic of the days in which we would actually write letters, cards, and notes and send them to others. When using pen and ink, one had no choice but to put an afterthought in a postscript. The computer has put an end to that. Regardless of the medium, any afterthought you have can easily be inserted in the body of the main message prior to sending. Even when instant messaging or texting, there’s no longer a need for what used to be the fairly ubiquitous PS (sometimes even a PPS). Just keep adding to the thread.

This came to me the other day when, after posting something to Facebook, I realized I wanted to add another thought. Of course, it was too late to edit the original post, but I was able to comment on my own post, which is exactly what I did. In fact, I even preceded the comment with a “PS”. It dawned on me this wasn’t quite the same usage as those of us who can remember actual written communication were used to. In those days, if you didn’t include the PS you were forever barred from adding – and let’s not forget commenting, texting, etc. are virtually instantaneous – the afterthought.

I have no clear idea how this affects our ability to communicate, though I suspect it’s an improvement in clarity of thought. Given some of the lamentations I’ve read over the decline of the English language and proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation in today’s rapid-fire communications, I assume there are those who would disagree with me. Nevertheless, that’s my story.

PS – I’m sticking to it!


Get Out There And Buy The Book Already!

Books for Sale

Go ahead. Splurge. Buy the book already!

Once I started blogging, which was quite some time ago, I became an author. Truth to tell, I’ve been something of an author virtually all of my life. I just haven’t ever thought of it in terms other than how it served whatever organization I happened to be working for. Whether it was writing advertising copy for my family’s business or my cousin’s wine store, publishing a newsletter in exchange for free range balls and rounds of golf at Simi Hills (that’s how I could afford to learn, starting at 46), or producing a monthly newsletter for the Knowledge Management team at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, I’ve been an author for a lot longer than I give myself credit.

Now that I’m planning on ramping up my writing efforts, including offering my services as an editor and proof reader, I’m starting to think a lot more in terms of what it takes; what my mentality needs to be. I’ve started contacting my connections, the people I got to know over the past six or seven years that I was very active in Social Business (formerly called Enterprise 2.0) and social media in general.

One of the folks I contacted and have communicated with is Nilofer Merchant. She recently authored this great post and I think you should read it. She makes some very interesting, important, and accurate (IMO) points about the way we treat authors . . . and artists in general (in my opinion). Here’s an excerpt:

No one knows how to support an author. So, every author feels slighted. And every friend is simply … stumped.

This is because we lack the social conventions for how to support authors. If an entrepreneur shares aKickstarter campaign, you break out the Paypal account because, of course, you want to help someone pursue their passions. If a colleague is doing a breast-cancer walk or leukemia team-in-training run, you know what to do. If a friend loses a parent, you know to send a card or flowers. If someone shares they are having a baby, you slap the dad on the back, wish the new parents luck (and sleep), and find some ridiculously cute outfit to gift.

But what to do when a friend, or even someone you know only on Twitter publishes a book? What if you don’t care about this topic? What if you think you have that domain covered since, you too, are an expert. What if you are just not a reader?

It is perplexing to know what to do since are no norms, mostly because being an author is rare. And – while most people would never want to admit this in public – they would rather be jealous of another person crossing off a bucket list item rather than get excited for them or support them.

But authors do need your help. They need it is small ways and large and since I have several great friends with books in the near future – books worth reading and supporting, I’m going to write a primer for how to support an author.

If you’d like to read further, her suggestions – and the rest of her post - are here. I have to admit being guilty of this myself, though I have purchased far more books than I’ll ever have the time to read . . . unless I become bedridden, and I’m not exactly hoping for that. Help an author. Buy their book. I’m expecting to be begging you on my behalf soon.


Move Along Now. There’s Nothing to see Here.

Be Careful What You Say

So . . . after deciding to open up a bit and start to share a little more of what I want to share, rather than what I think I need to be sharing (mostly business stuff), I’m still struggling with how best to do it and what, exactly, I feel comfortable with writing about. It’s actually bothering the hell out of me that I can’t pull the trigger and get out some posts on the things that matter to me: My children and the circumstances of their joining our family (international adoption); my feelings about the direction our nation is heading in (backward), as well as the responses to it; education as it relates to where our nation is going (both school and life-long); and my thoughts regarding these subjects.

My biggest conflict revolves around my children and how much I can share without violating their rights to their own story. Yes, I believe they have rights like you and I and I wish to respect them. On the other hand, I’ve learned so much from raising them and from dealing with their circumstances and my role in them that I want to share how it’s affected me as well as the things I think need to be done to lessen the burden for them and those like them, many of whom I now call friends and from whom I’ve learned much.

Painful and difficult as it is, I’m determined to write more frequently, though the past few weeks surely haven’t evidenced that. Nevertheless, I intend on pressing on even if I trip, stumble, and fall. I’m deeply thankful to those of you who take time out of your precious day to read what I have to say and I really appreciate the comments I occasionally receive. I’ve sat on this post for far too long, so I’m going to fire it off even if it feels more like a placeholder than anything else.


Do You “Like” Me?

 

I Sure Do Like This!

 

One of the easiest ways to use Facebook is to “like” the things you actually take the time to read, unless of course either you don’t like what you read or you take even longer to post a comment and engage in conversation. Most of the time you’re probably skimming through stuff your friends or the Fan Pages you’ve “liked” are posting.

You might want to consider clicking the like button for those posts. It’s simple, quick, and goes a long way to let people know you’re actually paying attention. This is especially true of Fan Pages because the admins of those pages have access to Facebook Insights, a set of analytics that tells them if they’re reaching their audience or not. Feedback is one of the things that social is all about, most frequently in the form of some kind of engagement, e.g. comments to blogs, re-tweets, etc.

Clicking on the “like” tag is surely one of the best ways to engage with your friends and the brands and stores you care about. Give it a try. You’ll like it!


Dang! I missed today’s best time

I’m sorry . . . and I say that with the utmost sincerity (especially since I’m likely the only one I’m saying it to – which makes it all that much more pathetic) . . . but I really wanted to write about something, anything, today. So I thought I might write about my relationship with blogging. However, as the linked graphic clearly shows, I just missed the ideal time to do so today and, alas, it appears mostly downhill from here.

Nevertheless, thanks to Amplify, I can still fulfill my obligation to myself and get back to work so I can relax and watch some of the best commercials we’re likely to see all year. Incidentally, I think there’s a football game wrapped around those commercials. Don’t quote me on it, though.


On Joining The Daily Post (wee/akly for me)

I received an email from WordPress informing me of a new service they’re going to provide, called The Daily Post and subtitled “Post something every day”. I like the idea that they’re offering advice, ideas, and support to those of us who would like to post more than we do. I have other feelings about it as well, some of which I share in a comment to their initial post. Here’s the text of that comment:

While I think this is a really good idea, I would have to add that my main interest is in communicating every day . . . regardless of the tool I use to do so. On some days that may take the form of a blog, on others a lot of tweeting, and still others might be engaging via Facebook (just because I have lots of friends in the social media world – all over the world). Heck, checking in with Foursquare, adding a comment, and sharing it is a useful form of communication (I think).

In addition, sometimes I use Amplify to post material and others I use Posterous. Maybe I’m too scattered, but I never know when the desire will hit me and whether I’ll be at my computer, out with my iPad or phone, or just at a tab in Firefox I don’t feel like leaving. I know I could just “Press This”, but I feel I need to know what others are offering as well.

Regardless, I love having WordPress for the heavy lifting. It is, after all, the place where it all comes together for me. I think I’m going to sign up for a weekly blather.

You folks provide an incredible service. Thank you.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. This is the first step. Stay tuned . . . all five of you! Please, if you have something to say by all means share it with me. Thanks.

Rick


But, I Thought you Meant . . .

Why do some people seem to think that language can be treated like art . . . always? Language, of course, frequently finds its expression in art; witness poetry, musical lyrics, etc., but it is not – by itself – a pure art form. Language exists, surely in the context of business and economics, philosophy and religion, as an endeavor of some precision in communication and, dare I use the word, collaboration. People can’t share what they know, or work together on a project for which the outcome they seek is collectively desirous, without having the ability to communicate absent misunderstanding or, at the very least, with a minimum of misunderstanding.

Mathematics is a form of language. Imagine if someone argued that an expression might be used sort of willy-nilly, depending on how one was feeling at the moment. Imagine someone saying, when confronted with the misuse of a mathematical expression, “well, you know what I meant.” Yet, people do this with language all the time. As for my real peeve here, it seems I am often accused of being too “lawyer-like” when I insist on the accurate use of words. I just don’t understand this. Why do people think dictionaries or thesauri exist? For entertainment purposes?

I am not here talking about the incorrect use of “to”, “too”, and “two” or “your” and “you’re”, maddening as those may be. I am more interested in the misuse of synonyms, especially when there are crucial differences – subtle as they may be – between one word and another. There’s a reason those words exists and it is directly related to those differences. For instance, let’s look at the differences between the words “lucky”, “privileged”, and “promising” – all three synonymous according to Merriam-Webster online. “Lucky” means “having good luck”. It could easily refer to one instance, however small the result, or an entire lifetime. “Privileged” means having or enjoying a special capability or position based either on happenstance (which would be lucky) or through hard work and successful endeavors. “Promising” means one might become privileged at some point, or successful, but there is no guarantee and it looks to the future, not some result of the past. Both “privileged” and “promising” may contain elements of luck, but they aren’t proper substitutes for the word “lucky”. They are somewhat imprecise synonyms for it.

Now, lest I be accused of a level of curmudgeonliness far exceeding that I am actually guilty of, I am merely attempting to point out how cavalier some can be with language and, when they’re called on it, how adamant I have found some to be in defending what is, in my opinion, an indefensible position. Call me a member of the language police if you will, but I like as much precision in my discussions as possible.

PS – This post was “incited” by a conversation with my wife; a conversation that recurs every now and again :) Do you think I’m too sensitive? Do you think I used the word “incited” improperly; that I should have used “instigated” or “stimulated” or maybe even “inspired”? Just wondering.


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