Outside

I am not a particularly outdoorsy person. By this I mean, I do not ravenously partake in outdoor sports or have too much of a wandering spirit. I do not grow restless in one spot for too long, with a fierce need to be out and about. I leave most of my wandering to be done in my mind on distant planets or in the company of dragons. Or perhaps this is just wondering. Huh.

Still, I do not get myself all in a tizzy with gatherings, shindigs, bacchanalia, and the like. I do however enjoy long walks. No, this is not an ad for eHarmony. But, I do love nature and can easily spend hours walking among trees and shrubs and listening to the birds and looking at flowers or strange shaped mushrooms or rocks that I imagine to be toes of some sleeping giant hidden under the forest floor. There I go wondering again. Adversely, I love treks into the city, especially in the summer with all the festivals and streets shut down so that people can walk where cars had dominion, and food trucks lined up and bands on every corner.  I love window-shopping and people watching, and being a tourist in my own town.

And being from where I am, when summer hits and it hits like a hammer – as my significant other said – summer is on a switch, not a fader – I am overcome with an almost guilty pang to get up out of my chair and get out. I feel it like an obligation. As if I owe the outside for all the times I have ignored it over the  long… long… long winter. As if outside had waited patiently for me to remember it was there. Now I pay penance for all the times, past and future, when I have and will be happily choosing to stay cozy indoors instead of braving the wind, rain, and obscene temperatures of winter. But now, I can no longer cling to frigid excuses and seducing hot beverages. No. I must do my duty and venture forth.

So when the days lengthen and warm, and coats are suddenly no longer necessary, and legs must finally be shaved – seriously – for shorts and skirts and swingy dresses, and the summer crooks her finger, gently at first and then more forcibly with a hooked double nostril pull, I must bend to her will. Before I know it however, there is less need for those forceful yanks. I gather lists and create plans.  I mark thick X’s as if the calendar is a treasure map and a day, a chest with a broken lock that spills doubloons. I check that sandals, sneakers and slippers are in suitable states for sortie. I dust off backpacks. I venture out, inspired by all outside has to offer.

All this to say, that I will be blogging a little less consistently over the summer months, as I follow this moral imperative to soak some vitamin D through my skin, breathe fresh air into my lungs and generally creep, arms raised, blinky-eyed and hunched, out of my hidey-hole toward the naked brazenness of outside. Of course with all this adventuring, I may very well have even more to say, but my time being finite and my sleep being necessary and my effulgence of energy being miserly, I am forced to prioritize my activities.

So here I go, into the welcoming warmer weather. Summer, she appears, festooned with fragment flowers and lit by promising dawn until waning dusk leaves like a reluctant lover. Watch me. Here I go. Kicking and screaming… Ah, poor me.

Counting Words

I’ve been getting the word a day from Merriam Webster and am shocked at all the words I haven’t been using in my day to day. My recent favourites –  skosh, concatenate and torpedo not because I’m particularly violent but because it comes from the latin torpere, meaning to be sluggish or numb and I was amazed to learn that. I mean how the heck did that happen? How do you get something that zooms through the water to blast away your enemies from something that means sluggish? I know, right – That’s a head-scratcher.

As artists, whether we take it into account or ignore it all together – the business end of art, exists. For writers, one of the components of that is word count. There are rules. When is a novel really a novella? When does flash fiction become a short story? How do you determine the suitable word count for certain age groups, or genres? And readers have expectations.  Anyone wanting to have a cozy read on vacation, may torpedo the idea of a 480 page tome, but for some Epic Fantasy readers, bring it on.

So word count is not something to dismiss lightly. And if that is your concern you should head over to Writer’s Digest. They’ve got it laid out for you – well don’t go right now because I’d really like you to read the rest of my blog and you’re here anyway and that post isn’t going anywhere… But there you have it: a reliable source. So why did I start my post with talk about the dictionary? I’m getting to that.

I remember a heated conversation about word count during a critique group session, and I said – it’s not about word count. It’s about making your words count. I was being both sincere and flippant. In reality, for every rule about word count there are outstanding books, ones that everyone knows, ones that sit smugly on bestseller lists, ones that naysayers, debating the validity of said heretofore standardized word count, will present to argue the point – and frankly – they ain’t wrong. So while Writer’s Digest is an invaluable source of information for writers and I would never question their authorit-ae, sometimes our emphasis is on the wrong syllable – if you get my drift. So it bears repeating.

It’s not about the word count. It’s about making your words count.

Yes, I like to make up words, but I also respect the value of the ones already available. I noticed that getting the word-a-day into my email, made me think about and even play with words more often than I did in the past.  Then, actually using these new words, helped to plant them more firmly into my vocabulary.

Let me add a skosh more on the subject of making words count. Word choice is key. Let’s take ‘walk’ for example. Walk is such a vanilla word. But if you thesaurus it up, you get all manner of choices.

He walked slowly towards the car.
He trudged towards the car.

In my example, not only have I reduced the word count by one, I have described the action of the character more specifically. You can imagine the character trudging, perhaps with exhaustion or despair. Walking slowly, on the other hand, could imply so many things as to become almost meaningless.

So how to begin? Did I mention Merriam Webster? Dictionaries and Thesauruses; obvious tools. Make them evident, conspicuous, obnoxiously available in whatever form you desire. Pop helpful links right up there on your favorites bar. Do the same for the Urban Dictionary because… hilarious, for one. And two, you never know what’s going to inspire you to think outside the box. I’ve already been able to use Resting Murder Face in conversation. Yay, me!

Now, if you’ll excuse me – I have to go write some flash fiction using the word concatenate.