Annie Dillard – Writing Quote Wednesday

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Created by Paul Jenny using a Flickr photo by Julie Jordan Scott

Annie’s writing keeps me thinking deeply about the writing process and I keep a copy of “The Writing Life” on my desk to refer to often. If you don’t have a copy, pick up one HERE.

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Watch this inspirational writing video by WritingAlchemy.com about Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life and her idea to “follow the line of words“.

Soccer – Wildest Word of the Day

With all this talk of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I started thinking about the origin of the word “soccer”. A lot of countries other than ours call it “football”. We’re often made to feel bad and wrong for calling it soccer. But where did the word come from and which one is more “correct”?

I did a bit of searching around on the internet and found a lot of different sources by Daven Hiskey wrote a great article called “The Origin of the Word ‘Soccer'” that is one of the best.

According to Hiskey, the word “soccer” preceded the word “football” by about eighteen years.

Apparently the word soccer came about because British school boys had a habit of  speaking in slang by adding-er to the ends of shortened forms of the words. Thus, rugby became “rugger” and Associated Football, the original name for the sport became known as “assoccer” which was shortened even further to “soccer.” Legend has it that the first use of the term came from the Oxfordian (Oxer?) Charles Wredford-Brown who was asked if he’d like to play a game of “rugger” and he replied that he preferred to play “soccer.” This supposedly happened right around 1863, shortly after the creation of Associated Football. It was considered a sport for gentlemen and played by the upper classes but quickly became popular with the middle and lower classes as well. When this happened, around 1881, everyone shortened the name from Associated Football to just football.

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Charles Wreford-Brown from Myfootballfacts.com

Unhappy with your Writing Progress? You Need This Secret Power

In this TED talk, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks the question, “What makes a life worth living?”

He says that a lack of basic material resources contributes to unhappiness but the increase in material resources does not necessarily increase happiness. He shows in this video and his books that those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction are engaging in activities that bring about a state of “flow.”

I know that when I was in “flow” mode today while working on my MG adventure novel, I was very happy. I hit my word count goal for the day. I enjoyed the food I ate and the music I was listening to while writing. When I picked up my four-year-old after daycare we played and laughed and ran around more vigorously than when I haven’t been able to get any writing done for the day.

When we are in flow, Czikszentmihalyi says, we disappear. Our existence is temporarily suspended. I feel this way when I write or perform. I disappear into these other worlds for the time I am engaged in my story.

Seven things he mentions that are important for flow:

  1. We are completely involved in what we are doing, focused, concentrated
  2. A sense of ecstasy – being outside everyday reality
  3. Great inner clarity – knowing what needs to be done and how well we are doing
  4. Knowing that the activity is doable – that we are up to the task
  5. Serenity – no worry about self, feeling of growing beyond the ego
  6. Timelessness – focused on the present, hours seem to pass in minutes
  7. Intrinsic motivation – engaging in flow is its own reward

Stories are the wildest things.

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The Nap that Never Was

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Flickr photo by Susana Fernandez

So, the nap never happened. (<==Click the link to read a post about Fiction Unboxed, a write-a-novel-in-30-days adventure with Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant over at Sterling & Stone.)

My strategy to get my four-year-old down for a nap yesterday and then do some writing while he slumbered peacefully didn’t work.

Even now, as I try to finish this post, he is saying, “Daddy, daddy, daddy, I have to go potty.”

I’m writing this in the Vassar library, so I abandon my computer and the blog and search for a restroom. He moans and says, “We’re lost down here. I’m going to pee myself.”

“No, you’re not. We aren’t lost. Breathe.” But I can’t find the men’s room.

There is a women’s restroom right near the stairs. I knock. No answer. I stand in the doorway, afraid to enter the women’s restroom. “Hurry and go quickly,” I say.

He jumps and skips and scurries his way to the toilet. I hear him relieving himself and then he sighs. “Whew,” he says.

“Wash your hands.” He turns the water on full-blast and runs his hands through the water. He wipes his hands on his shirt.

We run back upstairs. The library is empty so my blog is safe. I try to finish this post.

“Go back to your computer and play.”

30 seconds pass, maybe less.

He says, “Daddy, my computer, the computer, the computer over there is not working, um, it’s not changing to the kite thing again where Curious George is flying his kite, I need you to help me.” He clicks on it and it changes into a game where George is collecting hats.

He can’t work the mouse yet, so I have to help him. We collect orange and green hats. We play again. We collect green and red hats. I say, “Now you practice.” I sit back down to finish this post. Two seconds later he says, “Daddy, daddy I want to go see Momma now.” He’s sucking his fingers. He’s been playing with a mouse used by hundreds of college students.

His immune system is getting stronger I say to myself. A slight shudder passes through me.

“Sit down for a minute until I finish this post.”

“Awww, Daddy.”

He sits.

I’m done.

Honorificabilitudinitatibus – Wildest Word of the Day

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James Joyce by Paul Jenny

In honor of Bloomsday, I wanted to include this monstrous vocable. According to Wikipedia, honorificabilitudinitatibus is the “dative and ablative plural of the medieval Latin word honorificabilitudinitas, which can be translated as, ‘the state of being able to achieve honors.'” It’s the longest word in the English language featuring only alternating consonants and vowels.

This is how Joyce uses the word in Ulysses:

“Like John o’Gaunt his name is dear to him, as dear as the coat and crest he toadied for, on a bend sable a spear or steeled argent, honorificabilitudinitatibus, dearer than his glory of greatest shakescene in the country.”

Shakespeare used this word in Love’s Labors Lost in Act V, Scene 4 of the play. Costard, a comic rustic, says of the pedants, Holofernes and Sir Nathaniel, “O, they have lived long on the alms-basket of words. I marvel thy master hath not eaten thee for a word; for thou art not so long by the head as honorificabilitudinitatibus: thou art easier swallowed than a flap-dragon.” (Flap-dragon was a game of eating hot raisins from a bowl of burning brandy.)

Essentially, the word means, “with honorableness” according to Pinky and the Brain’s 1995 episode “Napoleon Bonaparte” (Season 1, Episode 11). If you learn this one, you’ll never sound like you belong in a coterie of pre-verbal neonates.

Happy Bloomsday!

Brontide – Wildest Word of the Day

Flickr photo by N. Tackaberry

(Credit: Flickr photo by N. Tackaberry)

A brontide is a low rumbling sound like thunder thought to be caused by feeble earth tremors (Merriam-Webster). I also like the way the word sounds when you say it. Try it now.

“BRON-tide.” Feels good, doesn’t it?

If you’ve ever experienced the brontide, let me know in the comments.

“While standing on the precipice of the cliff looking down, Harry heard the brontide. It seemed like a long, low warning not to jump.”

Write a Novel in 30 Days – Fiction Unboxed (Days 3-15)

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I haven’t posted from day-to-day on Fiction Unboxed from the guys at Self-Publishing Podcast because I’ve been busy writing, parenting and reading the updates that the guys have posted each day. Their steam punk YA grows by leaps and bounds with each day. The past twelve days have been all about getting words on the page. They are about halfway through their first draft and they’ve already begun to polish. I admire their tenacity in getting the pages complete. My own output has been anemic in comparison.

They write a few pages, do some editing, upload everything and we get to read the work in progress. They’re super fast with their first drafts, making very few changes to the story as they go. They are also running their podcast, working on other projects and parenting as well. It’s pretty amazing to watch the guys work. They’ve definitely got FLOW.

Because they set up the beats so well, the writing really flows. The edits are mostly line edits for grammar, sense and rhythm. I really appreciate seeing the edits because they show how having an external eye can really strengthen your writing for the better.

As far as the influence on my writing, I’m not sure yet how it’s been helping me with my MG novel other than keeping me focused on word count. I have had a few ideas for stories within their world, which I’m getting “itchy” to begin beating out. Because they are opening the world to us, it will be fun to play within it and see what happens. I know I have to keep focused on the story I’m working on now, though. Like Henry Miller said, “Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing.” I will probably do some beats on this idea tonight, though.

The community of writers who are participating in Fiction Unboxed are positive and interesting. We’ve formed a community on Google+ with several members organizing and other members watching and participating when they can. I haven’t yet been able to take part in a Google hangout, but I’d like to. If you’re interested in finding out more about this fascinating project, check them out at Fiction Unboxed.

As a busy writer parent, I’ve tried to balance my participation with Fiction Unboxed, parenting, my writing, blogging and reading and my other projects. My wife and I had a production meeting last night. We have several films coming up this summer and an energetic four-year-old who wants and needs our attention. We’re also searching for other opportunities to pursue at the same time. All of it seems a bit overwhelming. We always come through the other side of our dilemmas, but right now we are searching for an opening to dash through to find a solution.

As I write this, my four-year-old is munching cereal and watching Sesame Street. He has a milk goatee. Now he is chewing on a pillow. Now the pillow has a milk goatee, too. The birds are singing outside our window in a cacophony of birdsong and the wind chimes are tinkling in response to the wind. Cloudless blue skies are beckoning. I’m behind on word count and stuck in a story dilemma. Do I stay in my fictional world or go out into the one outside my window? Henry Miller again, “Keep Human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.” I won’t be drinking, but I may have to take my little one to the park.

The solution we came up with last night is to play hard with our four-year-old and insist on some resting time in the middle of the afternoon to give me an hour or two to pound out some words. I am going to post this, go play hard and then post again this afternoon with the results of this new procedure.

Let me know what solutions you’ve come up with as writer parents to get your words on the page. Also, please sign-up for my email newsletter, Stories are the Wildest Things, you’ll get insider tips and inspirational quotes right to your inbox. I’ll never sell your email or send you any SPAM. Have a productive writing day and I’ll see you later this afternoon.

PJ