Thirty Years & a Tassel Toss: What One Non-Writing Prof Taught Me About Writing

Biola Sign 4

“I can’t believe it’s been over three decades!” she quipped, blue eyes dancing. “Didn’t we just graduate last year?”

Looking backwards quick enough to generate dual whiplash, my friend and I peeled back thirty+ years in a single bound, recalling cafeteria food, favorite chapels, best profs, dumbest assignments (yes, I confess), a championship basketball team, dorm life, concerts, and The Dreaded Finals Week like they were… well… last week.

Later, I thought about all the people I met during my college career. Those years generated countless friendships, fond memories and shining moments as well as a few “speed bumps” and disappointments. Funny, isn’t it, how the down times seem to fade into irrelevance and the good times loom large as time marches on?

Another Recollection

“You won’t remember much from the academic part of this class” I recall Dr. George Nishida, Sociology Prof Extraordinaire, saying one bright fall morning. “You won’t remember today’s lecture or this week’s assignment or Friday’s exam after you’re graduated and gone,” he smiled, adjusting his wire-rimmed glasses. “What you’ll remember is the people. The best part about your college career will be the people you shared it with. What matters is the relationships.”

Only People Can Do That

This was before the Internet. Before Facebook. Smart phones. Or email. (I know, I know. I’m a dinosaur.)

But you know what? Technology can’t offer the kind of insight Dr. George did. The Internet doesn’t connect those dots. Social media can’t take the place of lunch in the cafeteria. Cramming with a classmate to pass Dr. Mitchell’s Old Testament 1 final. Or stringing popcorn garlands and sipping hot chocolate with “Dr. George” and his family at their annual Christmas open house.

Only people can do that.

Let Me Ask

So let me ask: if your web site, blog and social media accounts gave up the ghost tomorrow, would it matter? A fair amount of pulled-out hair would doubtless ensue, but would a technology crash – like a computer crash – totally destroy all of your relationships?

My blog and other outlets have given me the chance to meet and interact with some really cool people. I’ve gotten to know and learn from some awesome fellow travelers. I’ve grown to appreciate each one, especially those who are generous enough to leave a quick comment or respond with a sentence or two in response to my latest post.

But here’s the thing: although it may have helped establish those relationships, technology isn’t at the heart of those relationships. People are.

Bottom line: If you’re Facebooking or tweeting or blogging to ignite that kind of connection, great. Just don’t stop there. Kick it up a notch or two. Likewise, if you’re using social media just to boost your numbers, increase your stats or as a head trip, you’re pretty much missing the point.

Not Exactly

Long-term isolation isn’t exactly a writer’s best friend. You can’t spend all day, every day staring at a computer screen, checking your email every five minutes or logging status updates ten times a day and expect to develop as a writer. To do that, you need people. Other writers. Their creativity, energy, and yes, productive critiques and “utches.”

I get some of my best ideas by bouncing them off other people. I’m inspired, encouraged, challenged and uplifted by connecting with other writers. By “connecting” I mean face-to-face if possible. Grabbing a latte, a book review, writer’s group or a luscious slice of raspberry white chocolate anything together. When distance or other factors makes this impossible, how ’bout a personal phone call, card, letter or email – as opposed to the blanket list-y stuff?

Only Another Person

Technology is a great tool. But it will never take the place of a living, breathing human being. Because you can’t have a “relationship” with an electronic gadget. Only another person can offer that.

Dr. George’s words still ring true. I have no idea what the answer to question #10 was on my final exam for his class. But some thirty years down the road, I’m still in touch with many with whom I once shared a college campus. Shared experiences can become shared lives. And sometimes shared lives become lifetimes, lasting far beyond – and meaning much more – than final exams and a tassel toss.

***

Advertisements

Best Book-ish Quotes for Your Instagram

There I was. Stretched out in a pool of sunshine. Minding my own business. Working on my tan. When Mom comes along with her mobile Doo-Hickey. She says all sort of nonsensical stuff: “Smile, Kimber! Sit. Roll over. Lay down. Stay. Say ‘cheese.'” While the Doo-Hickey is clicking away.

So annoying.

Anyway, Mom says she’s going to “post” the clickey things from her Doo-Hickey. Whatever that means. Then she stops. “Kimmi,” says Mom – not usually a good sign – “How’re we gonna caption these?”

What “we,” Kimo Sabe?

I trotted over to help her check out some online suggestion. Mom nixxed most of ’em as too: 1) Rude and crude; 2) Stupendously sophomoric; 3) Booooring, or my personal favorite: 4) You’re kidding, right?

We then put paw and pen together. Got to work on swiping appropriating 40+ Top Book-ish Captions For Your Instagram. (Not all are strictly bookish. A few strays wandered in looking for a good home.)

Here they are, divided into six basic categories:

UPBEAT:

  1. “Very few things in this world are certain, but morning is one of them.” – Gregory Maguire, What-the-Dickens
  2. “The world stands aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.” – Earl Hamner, Jr., Spencer’s Mountain
  3. “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.’ – C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle.
  4. “Hope is the thing with feathers.” – Emily Dickenson
  5. “Wishes come true, not free.” – Stephen Sondheim, Into The Wood
  6. “We’re here, and then we’re gone, and it’s not about the time we’re here, but what we do with the time.” ― Rick Yancey, The 5th Wave

A DASH OF SASS:

  1. “It is always sad when someone leaves home, unless they are simply going around the corner and will return in a few minutes with ice cream sandwiches.” — Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid
  2. “Of course I’m not always full of ginger. Sometimes I’m asleep.” – Mom
  3. “Laughter is the best revenge, although being rich and famous and outliving all your enemies are good ones, too.” – Patrick F. McManus
  4. “You don’t have to live forever. You just have to live.” – Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
  5. “I would always rather be happy than dignified.”—Charlotte Brontë , Jane Eyre
  6. “Hand over the chocolate and no one gets hurt.” – Mom
  7. “Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief.” – Jane Austen
  8. “Stay gold, Ponyboy.” – S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders
  9. “All children, except one, grow up.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
  10. “Oh no, young Skywalker. The ugly is strong in that one.” – S.J. Kincaid, Insignia

NATURE/LANDSCAPES:

  1. “The moving moon went up the sky, And nowhere did abide.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  2. “The ocean glimmered on the horizon, spangled with moonlight.” Mary Downing Hahn, Look For Me By Moonlight.
  3. “It’s a strange word, ‘twilight.’ It makes me think of endings, of things done or left undone, of things over, of evening. But there are two twilights in every day, and one of them does not foretell darkness, but dawn.”― Erin Bow, The Scorpion Rules
  4. “All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost.” — J. R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
  5. “Wind’s in the east, there’s a mist coming in, like something is brewin’ and ’bout to begin.” – Mary Poppins (the movie)
  6. “Bravery is a choice that is yours to make. Dont let fear steal your will.” -Erin Summerill, Ever The Hunted

SPRING (for those of us impatiently awaiting winter’s wind down)

  1. “It’s spring fever. … And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!” ― Mark Twain
  2. “It was such a spring day as breathes into a man an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness, a longing that makes him stand motionless, looking at the leaves or grass, and fling out his arms to embrace he knows not what.”― John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga
  3. “Spring drew on…and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
  4. “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party’!” – Robin Williams.
  5. “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet.”—L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
  6. “One more dawn. One more day. One day more!” – Les Miserables (in concert)

MOTIVATIONAL:

  1. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” Walt Disney
  2. “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”Howard Thurman
  3. “There are some things one can only achieve by a deliberate leap in the opposite direction.” Franz Kafka
  4. “You must never feel badly about making mistakes … as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”— Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
  5. My advice is, never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.” — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
  6. “In spite of everything, I still believe people are really good at heart.” —Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank
  7. “Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”— Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams
  8. You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
  9. “It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.”—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  10. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a d…” (Well okay. Maybe not that one.)

JUST BECAUSE:

  • “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
  • “You don’t love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.” – William Faulkner
  • “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
  • “Do I dare / Disturb the universe?”—T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
  • “To love another person is to see the face of God.” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (in concert)
  • “Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.” — William Goldman, The Princess Bride
  • “Let the wild rumpus start!” – Maurice Sendak, Where The Wild Things Are
The beauty of this thing? Only people who read are likely to get these. Thinking of swipe appropriating a few of these myself. Soon as I figure out that Doo-Hickey.

Instagram: @kimmi_theamazingbordercollie and @thymelesswon

How Not to Write ‘Smart’

Public domain

I was at a conference the other day. Six of us arrived early. Snagged a table and grabbed seats while we waited for the emcee to get the ball rolling. Ninety seconds after we sat down, every other person around the table was buried in his Smartphone (you know who you are). I sat there for a minute, gaping like a cod fish. Then I smiled sweetly and chirped:

“Hey guys. I hear there’s this cool new game out. It’s called ‘conversation.’ I hear it’s kinda fun. How ’bout it?”

Heads snapped up. Electronically-glazed eyes re-focused.

Continue reading

Social Media for Writers: Boon or Bane?

Geyser spray

Most everyone who’s anyone is singing the praises of social media when it comes to marketing and promotion potential.  The amen corner  is full of  “absolutely!” and “imperative!” when it comes to using social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and/or web sites to jump-start your writing career or increase book sales.  But is social media use helping or harming your writing career?

Answer: It depends.  Here are some possible boons and banes.

SOCIAL MEDIA BOONS:

Continue reading

Seven Deadly Social Media Sins

Congratulations! You’ve taken the plunge and joined the wonderful world of  social media.  Now that you’ve set up your Facebook, Digg, Redditt, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts and have burnished your initial blog post to a fine sheen, you’re ready for the world to snap up your pearls of wisdom.  But wait. Although savvy sales folks and business gurus often push social media as the latest and greatest marketing miracle, it has its hazards.  Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Feeding readers a steady stream of me-centered posts. Fascinating as you may find yourself, the truth is that unless you’re the POTUS, a Nobel Laureate or the Pope, you’re probably a “small fish in a big pond.”  One way to “enlarge” or enhance your presence is to get outside yourself and engage others.  Offer content targeted to a specific audience.   Carve out and cultivate your “niche” by offering readers something they can use: tips, tools, advice, links, feedback.  Leverage your experience and expertise into a shared resource.    Respond.  Reciprocate.  Retweet.  Ask questions.  Don’t forget to comment.
  2. Opening an account and using it once in a blue moon.  Your life need not revolve around your Twitter account or blog, nor do you need to develop a Facebook addiction that sends you into withdrawals if you’re not checking in every 20 minutes.  But you need to post on a reasonably regular basis if you want to retain your readers/followers.  Don’t forget to complete your profile and keep it updated!
  3. Posting ho-hum or redundant content. You’re not the only game in town.  If you’re not offering a new angle, fresh perspective, something original or breaking news, your followers will find someone who is.
  4. Using profanity. A big turn-off and a big no-no.
  5. Wordiness. You’ll lose readers if you dump the online equivalent of War and Peace on ‘em every time you post. Choose your content carefully, keeping in mind your focus, theme, and intended audience. Keep posts short, sweet, and to the point (2,000 words doesn’t qualify).  Offer value, not volume.
  6. Expecting to be an overnight heavyweight. Building a social media following takes time and effort.  Schedule in a bit of time each day to work your outlets.  Post quality content to a targeted audience.  Participate, contribute, and be patient.
  7. Taking your readers for granted. Social media is a community. Think dialogue, not monologue.  Focus on building relationships and networking.  That means joining a conversation, offering help, advice, or encouragement and highlighting those who contribute.

If your primary goal in using social media is to promote yourself or your product, you don’t get it.  Instead of selling or self-promotion, focus on building friendships and offering content with “take-away” value.  Be patient.  Stay focused.  Don’t forget your manners.  “Please” and “Thank you” go a long way in both real and virtual worlds.

Keep these tips in mind and you’ll be well on your way to increasing your social media traffic.  Bon voyage!

***

Coming up:

Part 1 of a five-part series: Write Away...