Why I’m here

When you’re driving in a car with a passenger you talk. You use words on your journey. I put my journey of the writing life into “notes” on this blog, and other writerly stuff. This is what I have so far written about on this blog: writing day-by-day: jottings on my writing progress and the writing process; random words: thoughts on words that interest me; book shelf: thoughts on what I’m reading; musings: thoughts on various subjects;  life: thoughts about life and what I think about life. I have contributed to daily and weekly newspapers, monthly and bi-monthly magazines, quarterlies, journals, and websites.



book shelf

To skim or not to skim

It’s called skim reading. One skims the book one is reading to get the gist and thrust of the book rather than dwell on the detail. It takes little or no time to read the book, then.

Some people like to read their books fast. I don’t, except if I want to read more books in the time I have. Mostly, I don’t like to read fast.

A common conception (misconception?) of skim reading is that you may miss something along the way, say something crucial to understanding the story. I was always aware of this when I skim read. What if I missed getting the story? I doubted skim reading would effectively work.

Of course, those that say they skim read with confidence will say that they understood everything. For the rest of us who are honest, they must be geniuses.

But they are probably lying.

There are a few people who can skim read and do actually understand everything in the book out of a gift or natural ability, reading it as they do at the speed of knots. They are the true geniuses. They gather the content and understand the context quickly, whereas others take their time.

To skim read effectively seems to be the domain of the gifted, and there will always be those who say with confidence they skim read with understanding when in reality we haven’t a clue if they really did or not. Good on you if you can.


random words

Why writers change the sounds of words

During my daily reading I came across a real doozy of a word.


Out came the dictionary–the print one and not the online one. Then I realized why I didn’t get it. It’s a non-word, being used for effect in the book I was reading.

The writer of the book I was reading was using the beautiful sounding pachydermic for his adjective although the dictionary refers to the clumsy sounding pachydermatous as the correct adjective.

No wonder he used pachydermic instead of pachydermatous, though.

Pachydermic is not really a word, but sounds so nice to include in print. Why use the clumsy sounding pachydermatous when you could use the non-word but beautiful pachydermic? A no-brainer.

Pachydermic, as it is spelt in the book I was reading, isn’t there in my dictionary,

So, to sound nice, turn pachydermatous into pachydermic. Tweak it! This is why writers like to change the sounds of their words.


writing day-by-day

I stand corrected

There’s nothing like getting all of the writing piece right; there’s a sense of satisfaction. Then it takes something more to correct one small part to get it 100 per-cent right.

They tell you, politely, that something needs redoing. It’s seemingly insignificant, but one understands, in fact what they say is 100 percent correct and something needs correcting.

But it takes more time than anticipated to correct this seemingly insignificant detail. But it must be done, I have no doubt.

I had a guy who said to me to just write it and not to worry about the way, shape and form so much. Just do it. He’s wrong because he’s not a writer and may not even be a reader. It does matter how things are written. The little nuances and details add up a great deal. The way it is written matters in terms of how it will sound to the reader. So, it’s very important to make the writing sound the way it should.


An episode of Autopsy had much to do with the liver

This one made me think—about my coffee intake. Although the program was about alcoholism, the common link for the rest of us is what we do to our liver.

If one can relate, Autopsy is an appropriate title to make one think twice about taking care of one’s self. It made me think twice about my coffee intake.

It is a television series from Britain’s ITV studios that analyses the life and last days of famous people. Dr. Jason Payne-James looks at the cause of death that is on the celebrity’s death certificate but looking closely at the evidence he concurs with the certificate or comes to another conclusion.

The subjects of the series are people well-known in film, music, and sports. For example, the days leading up to the untimely deaths of actors Robin Williams and Heath Ledger are analysed. In the episode I watched, the life and death of Irish-born Manchester United footballer George Best are scrutinized.

It wasn’t easy for Best. The reason for Best’s drinking habit is given at the start. He was a shy young man and became a social drinker. This led him to going to the bottle when challenges in life came his way.

One such challenge was the death of his mother. She couldn’t take the public criticism of his son when he gave up football and she took to the bottle and eventually died of alcoholism. He suffered in that process, too.

The tricky winger is regarded as the one of the greatest UK footballers [soccer] if not the best ever. But his downfall was that he had a disease—he was an alcoholic. Death by alcoholism is not mentioned on the death certificate, but Dr Payne-James postulates that Best may have died from alcohol withdrawal syndrome. Payne-James investigates. This is where this program gets scary, if one cares about the liver.

Best’s alcoholism, which was a progressive disease over thirty years, certainly had an impact on Best’s liver. Doesn’t heavy coffee drinking over time have some impact on the liver, as well?

A lesson of this episode is to look after yourself whatever’s happened to you. Keep off self-destructive tendencies no matter what it takes. Do something about it. This program can scare one into submission to doing the good thing.

writing day-by-day

What is writing “on spec”?

Writing on spec involves reading the writer’s guidelines of a newspaper or magazine, online or in print, and deciding to submit an article, poem, piece of art work, or story to that publication, according to their guidelines.

The on-spec part is that the piece isn’t guaranteed publication once one sends it. It may be accepted or rejected. That’s the risk the writer or contributor takes in submitting on-spec.

All that hard work and it gets rejected. Well, you try another publisher and another one, until it gets accepted or until one has exhausted the possibilities and you realize that it will never get published as it is. Re-write it, perhaps, and try again.

Submitting on spec is a treadmill at times and it’s hard to write on-spec when you don’t have guarantee it will get published. Writing on assignment is guaranteed but writing on-spec can be a test of a writer’s perseverance when there’s a chance of getting it rejected. Why bother?

But if one can get in the mood to write on-spec, why not? One may get published somewhere along the line.  Write it well, send it well. Go well. See what happens.

writing day-by-day

A little annoyance that one didn’t expect coming

A little annoyance in the writer’s life is good for the soul (not). Like you’re expecting an overwhelmingly positive reply, as you think, almost beyond a doubt, you are going to get the publication slot. But you don’t. It just seemed that way. It’s like a trick played on you, but you’ve been self-deluded. A wake-up call in many ways, but not a fully soul-destroying one. A writer just keeps on going, nevertheless, and processes the “trick” played on you by someone you trusted. Then, you start over again, perhaps a little more guarded next time.

writing day-by-day

On a wing and a prayer

What does a writer do when the tools for doing the writing thing are in need of repair? A writer may panic because the writing is on hold. They may get bored with waiting around until the writing tool is back and going. Other writers may devise plans to get around an expensive repair. Sit back and relax for a while. It will come out in the wash.

writing day-by-day

Getting the job done

One of the pressures of being on “assignment” is getting the job done on time. It requires a little foresight and maybe planning. If one is very busy it takes astute time management around other activities, work and social life. If one has the time, being on assignment should be a breeze, but then again who has that kind of time these days? For most, writing on assignment requires time management to get the job done.

One thing the publisher does is penalize writers if they don’t hand the work in on time. It may be a loss of some of the fee or you forfeit the whole fee if the work is too late. The publisher has assigned the work and needs it, so brings some sort of “incentive” to get it done, like losing some of your fee which is a good way for them to see the work on time.

For busy writers sacrificing one assignment for a better one may be the way if one can’t fit it in. One just doesn’t hand in the assignment and suffers the penalty. It may mean the writer loses with one publisher and gets no more work, but hopes to make up for it with a better one, or thinks it’s a better one.

There can be plusses and minuses of this. The plus is that the publisher you send the actual assignment to pays better than the other publisher you rejected. You can spend more time on the assignment and do a great job of it and then maybe get more work with the same publisher.

The negatives is that the other publisher you’ve let go may be a good one. They may have provided more assignments and quite a steady stream of jobs.

Is it better to sacrifice one assignment, but go with the other assignment which pays better? Or does one do the lesser paying job which may provide more work in the future?

But the bottom line is always this: how much stress, in one’s present reality, is one or the other or one over the other? When everything in one’s life is considered, which assignment is going to be the more realistic option, and be honest about it.

And only do both, or whatever number, if one can do them all on time. It’s always a better look and shows one is reliable. Otherwise, don’t take on the assignment if you can’t. One should always take on assignments one intends to do on time.

writing day-by-day

The journey to an assignment

Cold calling is a lonely business. After all, cold calling is just what it says it is. It’s cold because one is calling some one out the blue who may not want your business. And if they don’t want your business, it’s a cold spear to the heart.

Nevertheless, a writer may do cold calling at some stage or throughout their life. Cold calling has various forms, such as taking your business to the streets and knocking on doors and doing the rounds calling people up on the phone, but that was the 90’s.

With the advent of the internet, cold calling can take the form of emailing. Though with the internet, it does not have to be cold calling as the ability to message prospective clients, such as ones you’ve built a relationship with on Twitter and Facebook, has made cold calling a bit redundant.

However, sometimes, one must do the cold call and email has it’s pluses and minuses. It’s easier for someone not to reply. If one faced them out or called on the phone you should get a reply straight away, hence the 1990s were good for a straight up reply.

Email can bring a bad reply, though, or no reply at all. When the good ones come and with more frequency, email is a friend. You cold called a publication and got an assignment and contract. Then, onto another one!