When I was a child and would do something wrong, a punishment I frequently received was to write. Yes, the humor of this is not lost on me, and while my mom did not let me write whatever I wanted, it still sparked something in me. And perhaps it led me to see that a way of relieving tension or anger was putting pen to paper, which led me on a lifelong pursuit of the craft of storytelling. Made it so that I feel compelled to write and can’t help but do it. In that sense I could see that maybe her punishment was really a gift. (If you know my wife, you know that this is something that she would say.)
Or, (and this is more something that I would say) it was really the ultimate punishment, like this quote I put on facebook a few days ago:
If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker
Or, it was just a tool that hopefully made me stop calling my brother an idiot.
Whatever the case may be, I figured out a creative punishment last night for my daughter who hates math. She had a bad attitude and was being defiant, and so I made her do a math worksheet.
Some of you may think that I’m ruining her future as a mathematician, but I can assure you that she’s more than likely not going to go that route anyway. And anyway, my mom made me write sentences, and look at me now! I write sentences all the time, and I really enjoy it!
So along that line of thought, maybe she WILL be a mathematician, and she’ll have me (and her bad attitude) to thank.
Creative punishments. Think one up for your kid today.
When I first began to write, I used to be so focused on language and its uses that I would pore over every word, forsaking the story. If a character sat in a chair, I couldn’t say, “He sat down.” I had to say it with verve; it had to sound flowery, poetic. I had to impress. This is not to say flowery, poetic language is not justified or desired, but the language should not call attention to itself, not in novels anyway. At least, in my opinion. Novels are stories, and the language is a tool we use to tell that story.
I still struggle against this desire, and to some extent, I believe all unpublished authors do. (And perhaps, published authors as well). We have to prove something to someone; we have to prove we master the language in which we write. However, as we mature as writers, this desire will diminish, and once we let it, we will discover that there is power in a simple sentence. There is a lot someone can say using only a few words. Sometimes, the less you write, the more you say.
Language is important, especially for those who dabble in it. But for me, the Story is the key. It is about that thing that writers write; it is the purpose of the craft. Without the story, we write mere sentences, but with the story, we are crafting character, ideas, purpose – we are saying something. That is what writers want to do; we want to say something.
There are times in life when you may feel like you can't keep going on any longer. Things just seem too bleak. Most of us have been there at some point, and lately that's been me. But I've got to hunker down, hold on for a just a little longer, until the relief comes. And it will come. All dark days eventually see the light.
Also, make sure that you maintain your sense of humor, at all costs. Work these gems into everyday conversation:
"Late is the hour in which these conjurers choose to appear. 'Lathspell' I name them. Ill news is an ill guest." (I'm thinking that you could say this if you are having a happy conversation with some of your co-workers, and then a boss or someone who is annoying interrupts your conversation to announce something work-related.)
"I didn't get a Masters degree to bandy crooked words with a witless worm." (You could use this in many, many situations. For example, your boss or an annoying person tries to make smalltalk with you. This would definitely shut down the conversation.)
I gave this advice to Liz yesterday... she was having a bad Monday morning (remember how she hates various days of the week?) and so I tried cheering her up with this same advice. I think she tried it, and it even worked.
In case you didn't know, those quotes are from Lord of the Rings (well, except for my addition).
Today's my birthday, by the way. Whereas some people may be ecstatic celebrating their momentous occasion, I'm not really one of those. All I can think about is how little I've accomplished in the past 37 years (just being honest).
(My wife likes to list as one of my accomplishments that I've fathered four children... I'm not sure, but I think that's actually something that's fairly easy to do. Frankly, a lot of people have done the same thing, many times they see it as an accident too. So, not really encouraging.)
But before you think I'm wallowing in the depths of self-pity right now, I'm not, I promise. After all, I have homemade cake to look forward to, and probably some amazing handmade cards from my kids (There will be NO glitter).
It's one day closer to Christmas. And one day closer to the newest Hobbit movie premiere, which I will post here for the heck of it.
I think this is the time of year that a lot of people get sad, and I understand that. Those of us with melancholy personalities are particularly vulnerable.
Meanwhile, keep marching forth stalwartly through time.