Monday, August 31, 2015

What's Stopping You?

Charles Bukowski quotation

 Go write something today.

There's nothing to stop a man from writing unless that man stops himself. If a man truly desires to write, then he will. —Charles Bukowski

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Prompt Jar

Instead of giving you a writing prompt this week, I want to help you build a collection of your own writing prompts. Saving up writing prompts is just like saving up your pennies for a big vacation, only without a ceramic pig you have to break open to get into.

Friday, August 28, 2015

On Fiction and Truth

Author and fellow Hoosier Jessamyn West once said, "Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures." I believe this is true both in the reading and the writing of fiction, and I have long held the belief that the best literature, by revealing these truths, helps us to be better human beings.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Word Wednesday: hermetically sealed

It will surprise no one that hermetically is derived from the name Hermes, but it doesn't come from the name of the messenger of the gods of Greek mythology,* at least not directly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

New Word Wednesday: zoogeography and faunology

Whether you've roamed far and wide through the vast expanse of the English lexicon or stuck to a relatively small plot of vocabulary land, you've probably seen and used the individual parts of today's words numerous times but never thought of putting them together. Nonetheless, biologists have been doing so for a long time.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Logophilius around the Internet

In the last couple months, I've been a substitute blogger at for a few editor friends who needed vacations. Here are some of my posts that you might find interesting and educational. I encourage you to check these out as well as posts from other copy editors there.

Monday, August 17, 2015

This Is My Letter to the World

Emily Dickinson poem

The first two lines of this always stick out to me. I think all writers at some point get that feeling of writing to the world and never getting a reply. Of shouting into the wind. It's depressing, and it can lead to questioning why we even do what we do in the first place.

What's the point if everything we do never does anything but stay on a hard drive or in a closed notebook? Never touches anyone? Never makes someone's life even a little bit better?

I have to remind myself sometimes that this feeling — this lonely, disheartening feeling — is something that all writers understand and share. And remembering that and understanding that I'm not totally alone gets me going again.

At least, I hope that every writer has felt this. I would hate to think it's just me and poor Emily. Of course, Emily kept all her poems in a drawer in her room. I wonder sometimes what her life would have been like if she could have blogged.

Have you ever thought of giving up on writing? Have you ever actually given up? What kept you going or brought you back?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Five-Second Writing Prompt

The title of this writing prompt is accurate, but you're going to need more than five seconds to write. Here's what I want you to do: Write at length about a five-second interval.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Constant Joy of Sudden Discovery

I often wonder if people who don't write think writing is simply taking a thought and putting it down on paper (or the screen). How boring would that be?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

New Word Wednesday: discord

Discord is certainly not a new word, but it's one of those that, if you look at it for too long or think about it too hard, starts to take on new forms.

We're used to seeing dis- as a prefix that makes a word the opposite of what follows it — like dishonesty, disloyalty, and disease. But if dis- is used that way in discord, where does that -cord come from?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Book Lover's Vocabulary (from Oxford)

I somehow missed that August 9 was National Book Lover's Day. Perhaps I was too busy reading.

At any rate, over at the OxfordWords blog, Lili Feinberg published "10 unusual words for book lovers" to mark the occasion. These aren't ten words that mean "book lover," but ten words that book lovers ought to know.

And there are more than ten of them.

The first and last entries hold the most meaning for me:
  • tsundoku: A Japanese word meaning the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piling up with other unread books.
  • scripturient: Someone who has a passion for writing.
Check out all ten — or however many there are. What other bibliomaniacal vocabulary could have made that list? (Graphomania comes to mind.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

Saving Civilization by Destroying It

I'm a big fan of dystopian fiction, novels in which civilization as we know it has been supplanted by something more oppressive and sinister. Often, the new order of things follows an apocalyptic event, but often enough, we don't know how a particular fictional world came to be.

That's one of the joys of fiction: building a world entirely from scratch.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Writing Prompt: Astonish yourself

Think about the type of stuff you usually write. Choose a genre that's very different from your usual and write something in that genre.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New Word, uh, Thursday: shrieval

I apologize for publishing a New Word Wednesday post on Thursday, but the last couple days were spent shipping my elder son off to boarding school.*

Mea culpa.

If you have a history of confessing your sins, you might think you've taken some shrieval actions — but you'd be wrong. Shrieval is as related to shrive as shrivel is, which is to say, not at all.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Stay Drunk on Writing

They say the hardest part of writing is getting started, and that has certainly been my experience. I want to believe that there's a zen moment when you start writing and you forget about the world and the words keep coming and the whole thing starts to snowball and you just never stop writing until it's done done done.

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.

I imagine that's what it's like to be drunk on writing. To lose yourself in your pen the way an alcoholic loses himself in a bottle.

I say I can only imagine it because, unfortunately, I've never experienced it.

Or at least I don't remember experiencing it.

Getting started is hard. For many writers, it's hard to get past the first four words in this quotation from Ray Bradbury. And entirely too many writers end up being destroyed by reality.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Writing prompt: Look What I Found!

Your story begins with your main character unexpectedly finding something valuable.

What item was found? What type of value does it have? Would it be valuable to anyone or only to certain people?