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Friday, March 20, 2015

Celebrations 20 March 2015 - Skipping (Reading Essentials)

Welcome to the March 20 edition of the Celebrating the Small Things blog hop, started by VikLit and now run by Lexa Cain, our fearless new leader and her two wonderful co-hosts L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge
Katie @ TheCyborgMom

Today I am celebrating a wonderful reading (and writing) tip:

Skipping Through Books...
I have a terrible confession to make.   It has required a lot of courage on my part to take this step, especially on a public forum (more or less, since mine is not the most widely read blog by a long shot).   I don't know too many people who would willingly admit to it, at least not in this modern world where people take pride in reading every single word of a book.  Certainly, only one other person I know will admit to this particular practice.

The thing is, the practice has enabled me to circumvent unpleasant things and get to the meat of a book and then, armed with confirmation of the book's quality, go back and have another go at the unpleasant parts.  Since I have seen the whole of the book, I can now inspect its separate parts.

What am I talking about?


One of my favorite authors (C. S. Lewis) has this to say:
It is a very silly idea that in reading a book you must never "skip." All sensible people skip freely when they come to a chapter which they find is going to be no use to them. In this chapter I am going to talk about something which may be helpful to some readers, but which may seem to others merely an unnecessary complication. If you are one of the second sort of readers, then I advise you not to bother about this chapter at all but to turn on to the next.
Lewis was speaking of philosophical and theological subjects, but I have found that the advice is equally valid to those who are trying to plow through a passage of purple prose that threatens to derail them (Dickens has a lot of this), or who are having heavy going with a particular scene that has no apparent bearing on the rest of the book, (Melville's digression on the history of whaling in Moby Dick, for example) or the discussion of gardening practices in Lady Chatterly's Lover, per the reviewer in Field and Stream.

Just look at what not skipping does to your face!
I have gone skipping through most of Dickens, happily thumbing past his description of the nasty things that the law did to the fellow who they decided had killed the happily late Marquis de Saint-Evremond, and his various disquistions in all his books on society, injustice and the method a gentleman should employ while chasing a runaway hat on a windy day.

With this useful, and previously forgotten, technique, I am able to sit down, pick up The Pickwick Papers , and read what I enjoy, going back when I have more fortitude to suffer through enjoy  the parts I skipped.

That's worth celebrating, don'tcha think??

So what are you  celebrating?  (And have a wonderful weekend!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group - March 4, 2015

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

If, unlike me, you do not live in the Land of Oblivia, and (like me)you are, or think you may be, a writer, the first Wednesday of the month is the time for the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. This is the once-a-month blog hop started by Alex J. Cavanaugh .

IWSG = Insecure Writers' Support Group (click for the link).  We share our insecurities and support each other with empathy, sympathy and  practical suggestions. 
Visit the site - and visit the co-hosts:
Chemist Ken,  Suzanne Sapseed, and Shannon Lawrence!

It is time for admissions.  I've been mulling things over and maybe I can give some enjoyment and, perhaps, get some nods, if I make a confession or two.

You see, I have a fundamental problem with 'bettering' myself as a writer.  That doesn't mean I will succumb to it.  It does mean that once in a while I look up and find that pet...fear, if you like...staring me in the face.  It's like this:

We are supposed to 'hone our craft', to read books about our craft, to attend seminars regarding our craft, to participate on discussion boards centered about our craft.  We are supposed to speak knowledgeably about our craft, and use words that indicate our knowledge about our craft (you know...  The stuff that proves that you are knowledgeable): 
"Each book in the series has its own story that opens up the changes to the MC as the events of the book pertain to them.  In the first book, XX is unstoppable in his own sphere.  He is assured, capable, brilliant, unflappable...  But then a chink develops.  Someone loves him and he confesses, however fleetingly, the fear that he only admits to himself when he is drunk awake in the wee small hours of the morning with no one to hear him.  The second book sees the widening of that chink until that moment where the unstoppable, unflappable hero is brought to a standstill and realizes that it is he  who needs support and protection given by others . And the third book... well, that particular weakness is gone, but there is more.  Oh - and the megatheme that over-arches the entire trilogy is the relationship between XXX and YYY."
...And your listeners look at you and say, "Huh?" and write you off as a nut case.

All these things we are supposed to do to make ourselves better.  Listen, learn, think...  Admit it, they can be uncomfortable.

What if, for example, I crack open John Truby's book The Anatomy of Story, which I bought recently, and discover that I have been going about my writing, which I love, which gives me a reason to value myself, which has made of many a wasteland of a bad day a time of enjoyment and increase, all the wrong way, that all I do is wrong or wrong-headed or just plain stupid and inept, and I will need to scrap everything?  What if my attendance at seminars and workshops and critique groups leads me to the aghast realization that what I offer for others to read and enjoy not only will not sell, but will be judged laughable by "real" writers and thoughtful readers?

What if I conclude that I am a phony?  That I only have a dream, and that having it doesn't mean that it is any good?  What if I might as well scrap things and resign myself to holding a place in the might-have-beens?
The Tragic Fate of a Might-Have-Been
...We are, after all, talking about insecurities, right?
We can linger and peer at them and choose not to venture away from our own little patch of endeavor.  Goodness knows, the temptation is to just leave well enough alone.
The movie  Notting Hill has a moment that, for me, expresses the fear of failure:  Anna Scott, the famous star, has decided to submit an argument about why she should get the last brownie, which is supposed to be awarded to the person with the most pathetic story:

Anna: I've been on a diet every day since I was nineteen, which basically means I've been hungry for a decade. I've had a series of not-nice boyfriends, one of whom hit me. Ah, and every time I get my heart broken, the newspapers splash it about as though it's entertainment. And it's taken two rather painful operations to get me looking like this.
Honey: Really?
Anna: Really. [indicates nose and chin] And, one day, not long from now, my looks will go, they'll discover I can't act and I'll become some sad, middle-aged woman who looks a bit like someone who was famous for a while. 
The correct response to this internal dialogue is, as in the movie, 'Nice Try, Gorgeous.'  And you have a good laugh at yourself and get on with it.
That's what it's all about , isn't it?  Acknowledging your insecurities and getting on with it?  That's what we're all doing.
In fact, Truby's book is interesting and while I'm learning from it, I'm also nodding my head and saying, 'Yep.  I'm doing that.  Good to know!'  And I'm looking for a seminar or two to go to.
Now excuse me.  I have a megatheme to scrutinize.