Tag Archive | writing

The singular ‘they’

I love singular ‘they’. Back in 2016, the American Dialect Society named it word of the year. And we all use it all the time. But that’s not why I’m so excited about it right now. I’m excited because it can help researchers, particularly if they’re working with qualitative data and thus with very small […]

via The bonuses of singular ‘they’: anonymity and bias avoidance — Everyday linguistic anthropology

I’ve used the singular they in speech for as long as I can remember. Every once in a rare while, I feel as if I’m being a bit ambiguous or that I might sound professorial/literary – but saying “one might often think one’s mind is set on a topic” sounds much sillier. And Using ‘you’ has occasional unintended consequences: a reader might feel attacked, or if they aren’t actually someone who can empathize with the generic you, they might feel even more distanced from the topic. I have been having a very hard time with why some people have such a hard time with other people wanting to take the singular they and use it as a personal pronoun. It’s already used!

Anyway, neat blog for other good reasons for the use of the singular ‘they’ to keep propagating and become even more common.

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Thoughts on failing CampNano, again.

Technically, there’s one more day: tomorrow. And I might write, but then again, I probably won’t. Even if I do, though, and even counting this blog (which I will), I will still have failed.

Part of that is not committing fully to writing daily. It can work for me, for sometimes as long as a 5 day streak. (I might have even managed a week streak. I’d have to look at the regular Nano history to find out.) But it doesn’t usually work for an entire month. And it appears to rarely work during one of the Camp months. April? Nope. July? Apparently nope. But November? I’ve done relatively well at least once.

I don’t think this means I’ll never be able to do it. I don’t think it means I can’t write or any of that. But I do think I need to start out with lower expectations. I wanted to adjust down to 10 items (pages were the indicator I was using for that), but the system wouldn’t let me go below 30. Even so, I wouldn’t have made that.

I can’t decide if that means I’m going to skip out on camps from now on, or if I’m just going to try to be more reasonable with my goals. Balancing real life stress vs trying to decompress in healthy ways (I have been reading more again lately, which is pretty awesome; I’ve cut back on gaming with friends lately, but I really enjoyed blowing stuff up with them on a regular weekly basis, and we’re still doing other gaming activities, which I really love) and then trying to add in a task that is almost a chore – but not – well, it doesn’t seem to be working.

It needs to become a new habit. But so do a few other things. Like exercising and dealing with first year home owner issues. I don’t want to back-burner writing, but I think it’s just going to be one of those things that has to be wedged in as I can; and unfortunately, the NaNo camps don’t seem to work for that particularly well.

Whining About Not Very Much

I have four prompts in my drafts folder. 2 are dictionary definitions of things that either interest or annoy me, and the other 2 are vaguer shower/email thought prompts.

They don’t sound good to write.

I thought about writing about mothers, and the holiday yesterday. The thing is, I’ve done that? It would retread these themes: I miss my mom. I think the holiday has a tendency to encourage fictionalizing/romanticizing some relationships (and I didn’t have a wrought relationship with my mom). I am not a bio-mom for anyone. I feel weird being a step-mom/-mom-in-law to adults, and being shoved in those roles by random semi-strangers. I sometimes feel weird being a god-mom for a long host of reasons. The only mom thing I feel good about is being a cat-mom, and that’s not a socially acceptable thing.

See? Written up very succinctly.

I think I’m just feeling tired, and disgruntled, and frustrated. In part that’s likely work related. It’s also life related. Having recently bought a house, and moved, our life is only mostly settled. We still have dozens of boxes that need sorted and a small storage we haven’t moved yet. I’m not sure if I’ll be all better once that happens, or if it will just be a new thing.

This is the point where I usually remind myself that I’m privileged to be able to whine about the things I’m whining about. I have it very good, in a lot of ways. And even on days when my brain is completely fried and I feel misunderstood by everyone, I’m still doing better than I could be.

I do feel better about one major thing this weekend: after several bookshelf purchases, all of the book boxes that I know about are finally unpacked. And shelved. And even basically organized!

I may still need to unpack miscellaneous office junk. And remaining art. And random hidden boxes of clothes. But BOOKS ARE ON SHELVES WHERE I CAN FIND THEM.

Why can’t I take that success and wallow in it for a bit? I must be a glutton for punishment.

Permissions and Restrictions

I’m allowed to tiptoe out of the gate.

They don’t mind that.

It’s within the rules, you see.

What rules?

Oh, you know. The Rules.

Don’t dress too loud, or too flashy. It draws attention.

Don’t move too fast, or too well. It draws the eye.

Don’t be too loud. They might hear you.

Don’t feel too much. They would be uncomfortable.

Because it’s really all about them. And if they don’t have to see you, hear you, think about you… then they don’t really care.

It’s all about how you can steal moments that mean something, but within the cage.

It’s all about how you eventually make yourself so very small, that they forget you exist to the degree you once did. You’re simply what they’ve made you. What they need you to be – or not be. What use you have.

And eventually, they get distracted by some other shiny, loud, emotional thing.

And you can tiptoe quietly through the gate.

Into the light.

Into the air.

Into the sound of beautiful, terrible, wonderful things.

Where you can slowly unfurl and grow.

And they remember, that their mouse was once a giant dragon.

That is when you have to decide: do you let them coax and woo you, to win you back?

Or do you burn them?

So that they never try to shrink you down to nothing again.

Colors: Chosen vs Given

So, you know those random quizzes that pop up on the internet? “What does your favorite color say about you?” “We can guess your favorite color!” There are more, but those are basically the themes. And of course, people will ask, often for perfectly mild reasons – they found a shirt they think you’d like, and it comes in a variety of colors, and they want to get one you’ll really like. Or they want to avoid one you hate!

I dislike those moments. The quizzes make me roll my eyes, if I’m in a particularly grumpy mood. Or I just pass them by if I’m in a good mood. I try very hard to answer close friends and family who ask. (Although, to be honest, most family have more or less learned not to bother or if they ask it’s more along the lines of “how do you feel about greens this week?”)

My dad worked in theater and television for a good bit of his life. He especially worked with lighting and stage design, but his card also allowed for costume work, and he did some design there, as well. Colors were tools that could shift your mood, tell you about the history of a place, or the rank of a person. I don’t remember if I ever asked him what his favorite color was. I knew he loved all colors for different reasons.

You could put a straw gold light gel in front of a lamp and get a certain mood out of how that light hits a set painted in terra cotta orange with red and yellow accents. It’s a hot, dry sort of feel. It’s the desert, or at least somewhere that might make you think of the desert. Or you can use a certain pale blue with a shimmery metallic gleam gel, cast down across a set painted in navy and indigo blues, with hints of turquoises, soft greens, gentle dove greys and the slightest hints of purple and aubergine – almost black – and you’re in an ocean, perhaps even at night. It’s so very cool and quiet.

A gentleman of a certain period – it isn’t just the fabrics he wears that declares him a gentle man to all who see him. If he is wearing vividly dyed fabrics with heavily saturated hue, he must have money! Those red and purples were hard to come by on trade routes, and only the most wealthy could afford them. Similarly, bright yellows could be dear, depending on where he lived at least.

So truly, I love all colors. I love autumn colors best, but there are days when a spring rainbow better suits my mood. And of course, a wintery rainy series of blues is surprisingly cozy and comforting, even while it might look chilly.

I look good, sometimes, in reds. But in reality, red is rarely a favorite. It’s so often a shade of pink that I find too pale, and too candy-like, rather than a good rich blood red, or brick red, or scarlet. I like salmon and coral, all right, but in some light, those shades turn to pink again, and it’s just too difficult to find one I can stomach. I’ve given up and bought some clothing, here and there, that is indeed pink. Mostly, because I wanted to fabric and the other colors were shades that were worse somehow.

I can also wear green, sometimes, depending. I think I look better in forest and olive and army greens, for example, as opposed to lime or pale mint. I’ve still bought those colors because, well, they’re still pretty. But sometimes I look very worn out wearing them, and people ask if I feel okay.

So no, I don’t like picking colors, particularly. I like all of them. And it’s more likely if I’m asked, I’ll ask you to explain why you want to know, so I can give you the best answer for the application you’re working in, for me. If you’re just asking, I might answer “all of them” or “rainbow” if I’m feeling particularly sassy.

One color people keep deciding I like, since I was a small child, is in fact red, pink, or any color along that general line. I’m often surprised at that. I understand that often, if I’m coloring my hair something non-natural, I lean toward red; but that’s because it looks good with my coloring more than anything. I’ve had it purple, and I’d secretly love to have it blue or mermaid or even rainbow. But until it turns more naturally white than it is now, I’m not going to have a lot of luck with that. My hair’s too dark, naturally, and the stripping process to get it that color is hard on it. I even have, as I’ve said, chosen to wear red before. Because it looks good on a brunette with a faint olive tint to her skin. But my favorite car color, so far, has been a deep, shimmery brown that made me think of silken chocolate and coffee. And yet, a salesmen recently encouraged me to try for a red number! (It wasn’t immediately available, so I went with grey – a titanium shade that luckily picks up other colors around it, so that’s bonus!)

But I remember even my parents, would hand me a red thing, another sister a purple thing, another a blue or yellow thing, and the other would get softer shades of browns, peaches, and earth tones. I always wished I could have those earth tones. Or at least the occasional green.

And these are, of course, all solid things! It’s not even getting into things like auras or chakras or other things that people say one might be, based on their moods or where their pain is locked up. The best one I ever read was an old DOS program, that decided my aura was silver, with flecks of lightning and yellow in. It just couldn’t decide. I haven’t really tried in a very long time to see what I’d be classified as, but for the longest time, roses and reds would come up, because I cared about relationships between friends and family and love.

These things are interesting to me, perhaps because I do think about how colors can describe a person – their nature or their characterization; and to me, red is a very angry or high intensity color.

I hope I’m not perceived as angry or constantly vibrating with emotions. I suspect I’m not. I suspect most people don’t even think about color that way. They just think, “This color looks awesome on her! She must love it.” And then they move along with their day, sparing not another thought to colors and how complicated they can be.

Marginalia: When you’re intrigued but simultaneously despise it.

A friend posted a photo on Twitter recently, showing a library book she was reading that had notes in the margins. Someone had been writing notes in pen, either for their own edification, or for a class, or other study of some sort.1  Someone else followed later in pencil, critiquing the previous reader’s spelling and adopting a bit of tone. She captioned the photo tagging a mutual friend and mentioned he seemed like the sort who would write the second note, but said she knew better. He noted it couldn’t be him, because he didn’t write in all caps any more. I cut in and noted if I didn’t abhor writing in books, I’d wonder if I’d written the 2nd note (hashtag postitlover). At this point, yet another friend piped in with simply one word: “Marginalia!” At which point, I remembered a half-dozen things and mumbled I should write a blog about marginalia. Font Folly thought this would be a fun read. So. Here is a bit of un-packing of my thoughts.

In college (or high school, but I recall it the most in college), books are bought (really leased) and then later sold back in book stores, and you end up with used books that are loaded with notes; in the margins, on the page, within the tables, and along the lists.

If you were very lucky, you had a book that was previously used by a smart note-taker. More often, you have people who aren’t always paying complete attention to the teacher.

So I developed an extreme hatred for notes in the margin of biology, chemistry, history, political science and theory books. Even more, as I was an English major, I detested notes in the margins of novels; textbooks of essays, short stories, and poems; and plays. Because I could never experience the work unaffected by others. I never could get a first, unadulterated read.

I quickly discovered most professors had no sympathy for that argument:
“Just ignore it!”
But how do you ignore words on the page when you’re reading?
“Well, you ignore footnotes, don’t you?”
NO! They’re there to be read, and put there by the author or the editor! They’re intended to be part of the work.
“Wait, you actually read the footnotes?!”
Why wouldn’t I?!
“No one else does!”

Eventually, I figured out that not everyone reads in blocks and absorbs at least a general idea of the block of text at a quick glance.

I have to slow down significantly when reading aloud, because I can’t grab all of the text at once. It won’t come out of my mouth right. I recognize that’s not the best example. Everyone has to slow down a little bit to read aloud. Another example: I glance at a sign or ad block, or even a phone screen; and while I rarely get it exact, I can generally summarize what I saw without particularly trying. In fact, I have to work very hard to ignore or focus on just bits at a time. It’s a nice challenge, if I’m looking to do it. But if I’m trying to simply absorb the knowledge I’m reading, it’s a nuisance.

On the other hand, when I’m reading an article about how a historian or archeologist has discovered something new about monks, or normal people, based in part on the study of marginalia, and how those people were interacting with books and papers they found important at the time; I’m incredibly interested and want to read all about it! Yes, I even want to read those pages, myself! Because then it’s historical record, and in some way, my brain has decided it’s okay, even intended, to be experienced in such a way.

I do realize; it’s a hypocritical reaction. But I can’t deny I find the sociological implications very intriguing and even enthralling.

So I can’t say I hate marginalia. Because it’s more that I have a complicated relationship with it. I would prefer to use post it notes myself, when keeping notes2, and not have to see others’ notes when I’m studying something actively; but I do love that they exist and that there are things we can learn from them.

 

1. Honestly, I think the original reader was arguing with the text and couldn’t resist him or herself.
2. A reading journal would be awesome, but I’m not that organized and I recognize that about myself.

A brief update, and a wish for the season

Haven’t blogged in a while.

Honestly not entirely sure what to write about now. But I thought I should check in for a few reasons.

NaNoWriMo – a bust this year. I did worse than last year, which is horribly disappointing. I have some ideas as to why: lack of discipline, an overabundance of depression (how ’bout that election, Fred?) and a bit of seasonal (but not seasonal affective disorder) depression. All are legitimate reasons for my failure, both at 50,000 words and my sub-goal of beating last year’s total (I wanted to manage at least 30,000 words). The very bitchy part of myself says I should have been able to push past those things. And maybe if it had been 2 of 3, I could have. But 3 of 3 was too much this year, and I’m trying to give myself a pass. I did succeed in updating my Scrivener app so I can write on my iPad which is easier to carry than the laptop, and even DID write out and about at least 3 separate times. I just need to make an effort to improve. So, I will.

Not listed in the argh above is the stress of planning a home purchase and move. We haven’t packed as much as I’d like, and it’s throwing off holidays and other things. It probably even contributed to NaNo#Fail. But it’s coming along and hopefully, things will be finalized next month and we’ll be in our first house. It’s the first one I’ve owned, and my hubby is treating it as the first one he has owned – even though technically it’s not – because it’s been so long since the last purchase, and it’s so different, being a stick frame built as opposed to a manufactured placed on a foundation.

Various awesome things have happened this year. Various ugh things have happened this year. Mostly, I’ve wanted to vent about the ugh things, but I don’t feel 100% safe doing that in this space, and haven’t. I’m not entirely sure how I want to deal with that, but I’ve found a tiny steam valve and am starting to use it a bit more. I think it’s safe, so we’ll see how that goes. It’s a short form location though, and sometimes, I want long form. So it could very well change in the future.

Tomorrow is my dad’s birthday. And the anniversary of his death. He’s been gone 12 years, as of roughly 8am (slightly earlier, if I recall correctly) tomorrow morning, and there are days when I miss him dreadfully. On Christmas night, it will be the anniversary of mom’s death. She’ll have been gone 6 years. I’ve missed her worse this year than in a very long time. Most of that is the election. Some of that is the house. Some of it is a couple of movies I really think she’d have enjoyed so much. Sometimes, I blog specifically about those days. But this year, work is… work. And I don’t think I’ll have that luxury, so I’m just going to leave this hear and remember them as best I can in the moment.

I wish the merriest of Christmases, and the happiest of holidays to all of you. Whether you’re a dear friend who happens to stumble on this space and we speak daily, or you’re a stranger who just sees it in passing, know that there is a person in the world who does, honestly, hope that everyone is able to enjoy a moment of pure joy this season. We all deserve it, no matter what anyone anywhere says or does.