The Distracted Writer

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Holidays aren’t enough. Kids aren’t enough. Mechanical issues with appliances lure writers away from their choice seat. Obviously it’s okay to pile on more. Distractions. We tell ourselves that. There’s always tomorrow.

It’s really a bad habit. Half-written stories, manuscripts in the drawer unsent, journals forgotten with worthwhile gems lodged in their pages —

That’s exactly my point.

Most things can wait, though. It’s our writing that shouldn’t. Our time lines are usually our own, and arbitrarily made, but we allow distractions to happen, don’t we?

Writers can be the best excuse-makers.

Our attention is pulled from our writing all too often. We become our routines, and soon enough writing eeks out its existence on the edges of our schedule (ooh, did you notice all that assonance?).

See? I just did it. I moved from the idea of distraction to a grammatical term most are unfamiliar with, unless you count all the English teachers out there, and the linguists who sport with such terms because they can.

The negative side of having distractions is obvious. The writing stagnates. Ideas hover at dead-ends. The writer’s oomph dissipates. Not. Good. For. Writer.

A positive that could be said is that the distracted writer’s mind is quick, and open to possibilities, a mind ripe for ideas because any distraction, routined or not, is fodder for future writing. All of life is, then, isn’t it? Life is our inspiration. So, one could argue, distractions become a good thing, and the distracted writer, a good one. When. Writer. Sits. In. Seat.

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Is Text-speak Ruining English?

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The plethora of mediums that do not require full-on grammatical formality that adheres to academia’s standards of excellence whittles down to the many arenas where we find English, well, kind of lacking. These being of course, and not limited to, social media like Twitter, RSS feeds, SMSs (cel texting), and every day tangibles like menus, signage, or even handwritten notes. Do newer forms of English communication, like texting, impede on the quality of our language?

Ah, but this is the beauty and flexibility of language, and English is well accustomed to bending to the needs of the populace.

I was watching a DVD at a friend’s the other night; two characters in the film rehearsed lines from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Amongst our mini throng of couch potatoes, we commented on how formal sounding his plays were as compared to today’s lingo and did they actually reflect the way people spoke nearly five hundred years ago? We’d like to think so, but surely, even then, the people in the streets hadn’t the vocabulary Shakespeare had pronounced upon the stage. His medium was theatre, so much of the connotations were supported by gestures and actions if any in the audience hadn’t a clue to words like scurrilous or gambol (I’m completely theorizing here). One can safely say that, no, people didn’t talk quite like that, linguists would argue. Conversations not being recorded means linguists are guessing based on few records that survived time. So, that being said, knowing that language lives only by its speakers, and knowing people’s tendency to get lazy, and/or finding shorter and easier ways to say the same thing, we reduce.

For all practical purposes, such reductions are necessary due to space allotment. A billboard is only so big above a movie theatre; hence, shorter movie titles fit. It’s better to have “Titanic” than “The Ship That was Unsinkable Sank”.

Twitter-speak is a practical necessity with its ‘u’ for you, or ‘b/c’ for because; we must remain within 140 characters, and yet isn’t it amazing how much can still be communicated in such short blurbs?

So, the underlying question, then, is whether the truncation of English (‘Know what I mean?’ Instead of ‘Do you know what I mean?’) impairs the quality of English. Let me put out two thoughts on that. One, are messages in Twitter, for example, any less communicative because of the shortening of things? No, communication rises above the level of what we deem necessary grammatically (though I am a proponent of accuracy and clearly understand that within certain contexts, good grammar incites better communication).  Further to that, to be able to say much in few words suggests a mastery of conciseness, and isn’t that what our high school teachers always hounded us on? Two, if there is a fear, amongst parents, that these kinds of shortenings degrade their children’s writing and reading skills because their kids ‘R txng 2 mch’, it means that the fear regards the possible transference of that into the classroom, or worse still, into the workplace (or prevent them from getting there), and then what? All h*** breaks loose. Civilization as we know it completely implodes.

Laugh now.

While it is true that short-speak has its place, it is, perhaps, just the increase in the number of new communication channels that seem to fool us into thinking that English is becoming dominated by truncated or reduced forms, texting being a popular mode. I certainly don’t speak to my family in a robotic manner, omitting necessary prepositions in a conversation because of texting. Teenagers birth new slang, sometimes shorter versions of more formal terms without such a sentenced influence (pun intended) that texting bears, and immigrants are wonderful for introducing new vocabulary to the language and culture they’re entering, English or otherwise, outside of that. Technology has bred necessary changes to our language, but communication hasn’t gotten lost.  Language, English, has adapted based on speakers’ needs. Texting has its niche, and so far, hasn’t infiltrated negatively on how we communicate; it has definitely enriched it, though. Text-speak lives.

The Distraction That Hovers Over the Writer

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This is not a cliché, or shouldn’t be. Countless of diary-like blog entries have inundated the web with diatribes of guilt for not tending sheep to their blogs, as if the writing itself deterred the writer, or the invisible weight of “the blog” has become this monstrosity that with each passing day grows bigger.

No, this is not a cliché. This is not me, the writer, telling you whatever excuses lay at my fingertips that may become artistic expression in and of themselves as to why I’ve not tended sheep these oh-so-many-days. Truly, like any writer, if considering overarchingly, the task at hand could be routinely fit into a day as well as brushing teeth. This kind neglect typifies most writers, and I can say ‘most’ only in that I don’t know most –only me.

It’s not for lack of ideas, mind you. Ideas abound. It’s truly how much life outside the keyboard plays dominantly with our time; we are the masters of our own clocks, to be sure. Mine resists the 6am chirping from out my window on a rainy spring morning as it does the blurry-eyed 10pm opportunity when the house is quiet and productivity maxes out at Facebooking (oh, gosh –is that now a verb???).

As a parent, though, I’d say that parenting is enough of a distraction, though not so much for J.K. Rowling, and I should aspire to that, maybe. The juggle of being a mommy-writer slash maid slash chauffeur slash cook slash dandelion extractor is just a typical day’s efforts. The return to this venue with renewed vigor is favoured by the writers met via Twitter in recent days –a good and growing group. Did I mention you can find me as @racheledits?

In the days to come, that connection to other writers may just be that extra oomph that is a better distraction toward writing more regularly.

RP

Whilst –It Isn’t Blasphemous

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I like Britishisms. I even like the word Britishisms, but why I use British variants of particular words that may not be in use in North America is because they’re a bit different. To think some would die out from lack of use might even suggest they would due to a much assumed dominance of purveying Americanisms (thank you Microsoft).  Notice I didn’t write “Canadianisms”; that is not to say that we don’t have our quirky slang words, creative ditties that twirl around our lexicon. Continue reading