In my year-end review process I go through my old journals to get a sense of where I was last year and five years ago. It helps me to see what my goals were, what I’ve accomplished, and where my goals changed. This year something I wrote five years ago, caught my attention. I don’t remember the details but can read between the lines. I had said something out loud about my dream of being a successful writer and it paralyzed me for a while. It’s been a rough year–again. But the little free verse that I wrote five years ago speaks to me today about more than my writing. What is bad will be better tomorrow.
I Dreamed and was Afraid
I dreamed aloud today. I boasted of my writing abilities.
And I grew afraid. I’m not that good.
And I wasn’t.
I dreamed a quiet dream. And I whispered I will try.
And still I was afraid.
But I tried.
And words meandered across the page.
I stopped dreaming. And I wrote.
I was still afraid.
But I did it anyway.
And words marched and plodded and stumbled and fell.
It wasn’t that good.
But it was getting better.
I dreamed on paper today.
And the words sailed and danced across the page.
What was good was very good.
And what was bad, will be better when I dream again.
It makes me smile today. Am I living the dream? Yes and no. I’m not famous. I’m certainly not making much money. But I’m doing what I love every day. And the last two lines apply to more than my writing. It’s the optimist in me. I tend to see life as mostly good–even when bad things happen. Because what is good, is very good. How about you? Do you keep journals? Do you ever look back and find a small gem? Do you think what is bad will be better tomorrow?
I’m tired of all the school grounds name calling that is done in the name of “discussing” politics and speaking up to protect us. Name calling is an attempt to bully or diminish someone with demeaning language. It is the least effect means of “discussion.” So I’ve decided to issue a challenge to all name callers: improve your insults. And because it’s unlikely the name callers will do research in order to improve their insults, I’m providing you with a choice of words.
(In case you don’t get it—I’m not really asking you to improve your insults. I’d rather you don’t insult anyone. I provide this list because I love words and these are fun to say.)
Words to Improve Your Insults
Acerbate—a bitter person
Billingsgate—coarse or abusive language
Bloviate—people who talk for a long time or who inflate their story to make themselves sound better
Bumfuzzle—confused, perplexed, flustered
Cacafuego—Swaggering braggart or boaster
Contumelious — insolent; rude and sarcastic; contemptuous
Dingus: A person regarded as stupid
Discombobulated—Very confused and disorganized
Drate-Poke—One who drawls or speaks indistinctly.
Flibbertigibbet—a silly person who talks incessantly
Fopdoodle—Insignificant or foolish man
Gardyloo—a warning shouted before slop bucket is dumped out the window
Gobermouch—Prying person who likes to interfere in other folks’ business.
Ill-willy—having an unfriendly disposition
Klazomaniac—Someone who only seems able to speak by shouting.
Malarkey—words that are insincere or foolish
Molly coddle—A man or boy used to being coddled; to pamper.
Namby-pamby—Weak, insipid, indecisive; a feeble person.
Niggle—To be preoccupied with trifles or petty details; to cause slight but persistent annoyance, discomfort, or anxiety; to find fault constantly and trivially.
Nincompoop—a foolish or stupid person
Piffle—Nonsense. To talk or act feebly or futilely.
Popinjay—A vain, talkative person.
Scalawag—A reprobate; a rascal.
Sesquipedalian— a person who uses long words.
Skelpie-limmer—A badly-behaved child.
Snollygoster—a politician who does or says things for their own personal advancement
Did you learn a new word or two today? My favorite new word is “snollygoster.” It’s fun to say.
It’s my sincere hope that this was a fun read and that none of these words, or others, will be used to insult any real person. (It might be fun to use a few in one of my stories.) What about you? Did this list help you improve your insults? What fun or unusual words have you heard?
I’m always amazed at the twists and turns that happen during the course of writing a novel. This particular twist came from a beta reader question: Did credit cards exist in the 60’s? I could have simply answered yes, personal history informing my answer. But, I am an insatiable curious creature and found myself researching. And, being a writer, I’m going to inflict my research on you, dear reader. I found the forgotten history of the credit card fascinating. I hope you do, too.
Stagecoaches & Credit Cards
What do stagecoaches and credit cards have to do with one another? Read on.
The California Gold Rush of 1849 led to a lot more than selling panning and mining equipment. Within a year, it became evident that there was a need for more efficient and faster shipping of materials between the east and west coasts. Companies were created by men eager to serve and profit from this situation.
On March 18, 1850, three companies consolidated their express transport services. Fargo & Company Wells & Company, and Butterfield & Wasson consolidated to for an unicorporated association of investors The company began transporting goods, valuables, and animals between the east coast and the California mining camps in July 1852. From the beginning, they engaged in banking and in profiting from the transportation of gold dust but the American Express name and their role in credit cards didn’t come until later.
In 1865 charge coins were issued by department stores. Varying in shape and design, these small coins were made of an early plastic, copper, aluminum, steel, or a white metal.
A merger in 1868 with competitorled to the more familiar company name of American Express. With the increase in citizens who took advantage of the express travel afforded them by the stagecoach, new means of transferring money was needed. American Express introduced the Money Order in 1882. They followed that innovation with Traveler’s checks in 1891.
By 1914 department store-issued charge cards were popular.
Charg-a-plates also known as Charge plates, came along in 1935. They fit in the wallet or pocket. Embossed with the customer’s name and address they were made of aluminum or white metal and carried in a sized-to-fit sleeve.
In 1946 a Brooklyn banker issued a card and allowed customers to “Charg-It” at local merchants’ stores. The bank would pay the store, then collect payment from customers.
DINERS CLUB CARD
In 1950, the story goes, that Frank McNamara went to a business lunch and discovered he’d forgotten his wallet. Whether he signed a note to the restaurant guaranteeing payment or called his wife to bring him cash, he managed to get away without washing dishes. And the incident inspired him to create the first Diners Club Card. Made of cardboard, a Diners Club Card was used by businessmen for meals and travel expenses.
In 1952 Franklin’s National Bank in New York issued the first charge card. It was similar to the charg-a-plate in design and materials.
The first official, recorded use of the term “credit card” was in the 1955 U.S. Patent granted to the three men who invented the first gas pump that accepted—you guessed it, credit cards.
Bank Americard devised a publicity stunt that led to the ubiquitous credit card we know today. In 1958 Bank Americard mailed 60,000 credit cards to unsuspecting Californians. It was the rise of the revolving credit revolution.
American Express introduced the first plastic credit card in 1959.
So the short answer to my reader would have been, yes, the credit card existed in the alternate world of My Soul to Keep in 1961. But I think that the research into the forgotten history of the credit card was a whole lot more fun. What do you think?
As readers of this blog know, I have a puppy. His name is Neo. He’s almost 9 months old now. He’s still a baby. Neo entertains me, delights me, and sometimes frustrates me. And being a puppy he grows through developmental stages. But I’ve also realized that the growth and development of the puppy are the same as the novelist. Now you’re looking at me like I’m stupid. Bear with me, I’ll explain.
Neonate (Week 0-2)
The puppy is blind and deaf and toothless. He can touch and taste but cannot regulate his body temperature. Growing fast, he needs to eat every two hours. He interacts with mother and her siblings and starts learning simple social skills.
The neo-novelist can read and write. She is hungry and consumes copious amounts of how-to-write books, blog posts, paper, and office supplies. She stays close to home and may interact with a mentor and fellow writers. Simple writing skills develop.
The Transition Period (Week 2-4)
The puppy’s eyes open. He starts to respond to sounds, and lights, and movement. He usually crawls but he can stand and stumble around. His baby teeth begin to come in. He also begins to realize when he is passing waste.
The new writer’s eyes are open when she realizes that she’s written dozens of story beginnings that go nowhere. The awful beginnings are a pile of—are shoved in the drawer. She can string sentences together into paragraphs and pages. Her sense of story is beginning to develop. She understands that writing is a skill. She reads tons and experiments with different kinds of writing. A wobbly first draft is written. The draft morphs into something that has little walking power. She learns that there are layers of writing and when done well her words bark.
The First Socialization Period (Week 4-7)
It’s time to introduce the pup noises, people, and other pets in your home. Good experiences will shape how the pup interacts with these things later in life. Mother teaches the puppy not to bite all the time and she begins to wean the pup. At about 5 weeks of age, the puppy begins to enjoy playtime.
The young writer learns to play with words, with ideas, with concepts. She practices her skills. She interacts with other writers, with readers, and people in general. Positive reinforcement is critical to her continued growth. She gets guidance from reading, from critique groups, and/or from mentors.
The Second Stage of Socialization & The Fear Period (about Week 8-12)
The pup may go through a fear stage. Everything frightens him, even things he has known and tolerated in the past. He learns simple commands. He sleeps better through the night and has better control of his bladder and bowels.
The young writer fears she’s too isolated and that her creativity will shrivel up. She’s afraid she’s an imposter. Fears send many pages to File 13. Interactions with other people help her recognize character traits and goals. She learns to control her writing and to command the story, though sometimes the story commands her.
The Juvenile Stage (3-4 months)
At this stage, the pup is more independent and may ignore commands. He starts to test authority. He needs gentle reminders that allow him to learn who he is, but remind him of how to interact with others.
The writer starts to write what she wants because she wants to. The story grows on the page. She may go through a stage where she ignores the tried and true writing guidelines. Gentle critiques will help her grow, help her learn when to ignore the guidelines and when to follow them.
The Ranking Stage (3-6 months)
The pup is somewhat bratty, willful, and independent. He’s understanding ranking and testing where he fits in the pack. He is also teething.
The writer looks around and compares herself to others. She knows she is a better writer than some and fears she’ll never measure up to others. She chews on her writing with greater and greater complexity.
Adolescent Stage (6-18 months)
The puppy may look full grown, but he’s still learning. He is full of energy and exuberance. He may go through another fear period. But he still needs training and guidance.
The journeyman writer writes what she knows. Her writing has matured. She writes with energy and exuberance. She may hit the fear of being an imposter during this time. Her support group offers her reassurances, training, and guidance. Her writing continues to mature.
Adulthood (18 months and older)
The pup matures into a loyal companion who works hard, plays hard, and loves with his whole body.
The journeyman writer writes on a professional level. She works hard at something she loves with her whole being. And she continues to learn and grow. Now she’s aware that her next spurt of development will take her skills to a higher level. The journeyman writer recognizes that this is how she grows in her craft and leans into the process.
How Long Does It Take?
Puppies don’t become adults until they’re 1 to 2 years of age. Remember we claim that dog ages are the equal of seven years of adult human life. Does that mean 7 to 14 years must pass for us to become mature in our creativity? For some, it may be shorter and others it may be longer. How can you speed the process? Stay open to learning new things, read and read and read, and write and write and write.
Now you know how the growth and development of the puppy are the same as the novelist. You can be a puppy novelist, too. Work hard, play hard, and love the process. I know I do.
Some days I just don’t give a damn. I’m tired. I’ve battled the demons of the day job, the emotional toll of being a caregiver, the chores of home ownership, and I’ve wrangled words on paper and by the end of the week, I’m done. I surrender.
Today is one of those days. I’m pissed off that last night’s storm knocked more deadfall to the ground. I just can’t face the puddles of rainwater in my basement. I don’t care if mold will grow in the corners. And don’t get me started on the piles of laundry and dishes and dust and. . ..
Do your lists of things to do grow at an alarming rate? Mine do. And it is exhausting. So what do you do? I don’t know about you but there are days when I give up. I surrender to the weight of ALL THE THINGS and I throw myself down on the floor, kicking and screaming “I don’t wanna!” (Okay, not literally, but it’s how I feel.)
IT’S NOT LAZINESS
I’d berate myself when I did this. I was lazy, a cry-baby. I was inadequate for the job of adulting. What a load of $#!%.
Life can be hard. Life can, and often does, pull the unexpected surprise. And some of us pile on more SHOULDS than is humanly possible. I’m particularly bad at that. I’d go and go and go until I was so exhausted and overwhelmed that I’d collapse. Slowly, I’ve learned that when I reach the “Waa, I don’t wanna” stage, I’ve been pushing myself too hard. It’s time for a break.
TAKE A BREAK
Taking a break doesn’t need to mean taking a whole day off. Sometimes taking the whole day would mean wrecking other plans or interfering with deadlines I cannot ignore. Taking a break means be kind to yourself. Reward yourself. When time is precious I’ll indulge in a special snack or beverage. Reserve these foods and drinks as special, otherwise, it won’t feel like a treat.
Willing to spend twenty minutes or more? Take a bubble bath. Go for a walk in a place that feeds your soul. Gaze at the stars. Take a nap.
Need a longer break? Read a book (best, re-read an old favorite!) Visit a museum. Go to a concert or a movie. And at least once a year, turn off, tune out, and take a week or more to explore people and places.
Understand why your body, your soul needs a break. This, too, is part of life. It’s not something you need to forgive. You’ve done nothing wrong. You’re re-energizing, getting yourself ready for the next wave.
If you find yourself taking an extended break or too many breaks, examine your why. Perhaps the thing you are avoiding is a thing you don’t need to do. Maybe you’ve been too long without a break. Or you are resisting for other reasons. Once you understand why, You’ll be able to move forward, to jump back in.
JUMP BACK IN
The key to making this reward system work is to jump back on the tracks after your break is over. And next time, don’t wait so long between breaks. It will make doing ALL THE THINGS so much easier.
I’ve finished my latte, so it’s back to the soggy basement for me. What do you do to reward yourself, to take a break, when you surrender to all the things?