Tag Archives: Writing

Reality Check

Someone said to me, “You aren’t as important as you think you are.” She said it matter-of-factly. I was crushed until I realized she was advising me to ignore my imaginary audience. You know, that group of people who spend their days criticizing your wardrobe, noticing your mistakes, and discussing your terrible writing behind your back?

Everyone has an imaginary audience, but for those of us born with self-consciousness issues or who suffer from delusions of grandeur, the audience causes a lot of unnecessary stress. We make decisions based on what we imagine the audience is saying about us. We spend a little too much time worrying that the audience knows we wore these jeans yesterday. Most importantly, we stifle some of our creativity; we don’t take chances because (we think) the audience is watching our every move.

Ninety percent of the time, though, no one cares that you wore those jeans yesterday. They don’t remember that blog post where you misspelled “grandeur” and inappropriately used a semi-colon. They seriously aren’t meeting after class to discuss your train wreck of a manuscript.

They have their own imaginary audiences to worry about. You’re just not that important to them. Thank god.

Useless Status Update Thursday

I almost didn’t write this because I’d rather see a useless Facebook status update from someone I like than no update at all. And I am certainly guilty of posting useless updates from time to time (all the time). But griping about useless status updates is a hobby of mine. I can’t resist writing about them on Useless Adjective Thursday.

8 Useless Updates, in no particular order

Darlene… is waiting on Tim : I wonder if “waiting on” is even legitimate grammar. She doesn’t mean she’s a waitress and she’s serving dinner to Tim. She means she’s sitting in her car waiting FOR Tim. Also, this is possibly the most boring status update ever, because she’s bored, which makes us bored.

Billy Bob… is glad it’s Friday! (see also: thank God it’s Friday, I’m so glad it’s Friday, it is finally Friday, only one more day until Friday, and only two more days until Friday) : While TGIF status updates are not useless in and of themselves, they are overused — grossly — and therefore their meaning is diluted, rendering them useless.

Jeannie… has a case of the Mondays! (see also: I wish it were Friday, I can’t believe it’s already Monday, I hate Mondays, and why can’t it be Friday?) : Diluted. See above.

Lisa… Wow! It is a beautiful day! : Weather-related status updates are not necessarily useless. But “beautiful” weather could be anything. Give me a visual, people. I like picturing my various friends in various locations enjoying various climates. But one man’s beautiful is another man’s… not beautiful. Throw us a bone.

Jim… is tired (see also: exhausted, sleepy, and needs a nap) : Boring.

Any and every update with “AI” (American Idol) in the text.

Sara… needs coffee (see also: is drinking coffee, loves coffee, wants more coffee, can’t wait to have coffee, mmm coffee)  Alert: writing about coffee and your need for it is overused and flirts with useless.

Any and every update with Yum! appended to it. : Unnecessary. I assume your food is “Yummy!” or you wouldn’t be bothering to update your status with a description of it.

Juno… is relaxed (see also: is relaxing, is chillin’, and my least favorite: is chillaxin’) : I need more (and eliminate chillaxin’ altogether, please). Are you relaxing while watching Rescue Me with a glass of wine? Are you relaxing while sitting on your back porch shooting rats as they run along your fence? Give me something I can sink my teeth into here.

Just keep swimming

Via She Started It, this column is a fun and inspiring read: Rats with Islands.

Perspective: Get Some

As a technical writer, I have a lot of anxiety about releasing documentation with errors. Sometimes I lie awake and wonder if I should have had another person review the godforsaken diagram I’ve been toiling with for two months. The diagram chases me through my dreams. (And I have reason to believe that I haven’t seen the last of that bastard.)

This weekend, I read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. The book is about Krakauer’s disastrous expedition to the top of Everest during which an unusually large number of people died. At the beginning of the story, the author laments that when he returned from the trip — badly shaken, of course — he had to get right to work pounding out the contracted 17,000-word article detailing the tragic adventure for Outside magazine, who paid for the trip. Under the wire, he bungled some facts and made a major error that he says caused a lot of pain to the family of one of the deceased.

Now let’s discuss what’s worse: falsely representing the events surrounding the death a person who perished on Mount Everest during the deadliest season on the mountain vs. incorrectly labeling an arrow on a diagram in a software manual that 27 people might read.

Perspective. I have some now.

Tiptoeing outside the perimeter of my comfort zone

I have a narrow comfort zone. It has enough room for my couch with an annex for my office (preferably with the door closed). I like to spend a lot of time in this zone. But being comfortable is not inspiring. Every once in a while, when the well is dry and I have nothing to write about other than my high score on Mario Kart, I’ll get brave enough to try something uncomfortable.

For you, trying something uncomfortable might mean jumping out of an airplane or traveling to a foreign country by yourself. For me, uncomfortable is never that far away. I consider shopping at an unfamiliar Trader Joe’s to be uncomfortable.

My husband is less chicken when it comes to trying things or going places that he’s never been. He’s climbed two of the tallest peaks in Northern California with only a few pints of water and a peanut butter sandwich in his backpack. He once danced with our daughter on stage in front of the school during a class concert. He thinks nothing of going to a foreign Trader Joes.

Through him, I am sometimes encouraged to push the limits of comfort. I never intend to climb a mountain, but I have kayaked, skiied, hiked, and attended social events that took place way outside of the zone.

Obviously, the positive side effect of being uncomfortable is having something to write about. That’s why I am sort of, kind of doing Script Frenzy (so uncomfortable! it burns!). That’s why sometimes I volunteer to work at the food bank with a group of strangers or offer to host a dinner despite my hosting anxiety or agree to walk in a parade with a bunch of baton-twirling second graders (wow, that hurts just to think about). Trivial things, but any departure from the ho-hum revs up the creativity that has gone dormant during those weeks in the zone.

Maybe this weekend I’ll check out the Trader Joe’s in Mountan View. Dare me?

Not happening

The script thing, it’s so not happening.

Sometimes in the past, when I joined challenges like NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo, I experienced unbridled rage and irritation when idiots posted on day 2 or day 3 or even day 10 that they were giving up. How hard can it be? I cried. Now I’m one of those idiots.

I’d like to say, “I’ve been so busy at work. After writing all day, I just want to veg out, not spend my evening writing for ‘fun.’ I want to watch American Idol and drink 2 Buck Chuck from the bottle. What are you looking at!”

But the fact is, I don’t watch American Idol and I always drink wine from a glass. I’m just not into writing scripts, I think. Or maybe my brain is actually drained after 8 hours of sitting at my desk trying to figure out hard stuff that I’m paid to write about. Whatever the reason, as of April 2, I have written zero pages for Script Frenzy and I can’t see that number increasing in the next 12 hours.

Talk to me again Monday. Maybe this weekend I will have a burst of script-writing energy and the game will be back on.

Overused Modifier Thursday

painfully thin

Stephen King used this descriptor in The Green Mile, which I read this week. I was all, “Really? Painfully thin? Are you sure?” But I imagine that someone who has written as many millions of words as King has must run out of modifiers at some point.

Interestingly, he followed painfully thin with a less-cliched description that could’ve replaced it altogether, something like, “He was painfully thin, as if recovering from a long illness.” I have to admit I forgave his placement of the overused modifier upon reading the long illness part.