The Prompter Room

 

For Friday, June 23, 2017:

 

We need not fear a future elimination of the book. On the contrary, the more that certain needs for entertainment and education are satisfied through other inventions, the more the book will win back in dignity and authority. For even the most childish intoxication with progress will soon be forced to recognize that writing and books have a function that is eternal. It will become evident that formulation in words and the handing on of these formulations through writing are not only important aids but actually the only means by which humanity can have a history and a continuing consciousness of itself.

Hermann Hesse, ‘On Little Joys’ in MY BELIEF: ESSAYS ON LIFE AND ART

 

Hermann Hesse

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The Prompter Room

For Tuesday, June 20, 2017:

 

The act of writing, when it goes well, gives me a pleasure, a joy, unlike any other.  It takes me to another place … where I am totally absorbed and oblivious to distracting thoughts, worries, preoccupations, or indeed the passage of time.  In those rare, heavenly states of mind, I may write nonstop until I can no longer see the paper.  Only then do I realize that evening has come and that I have been writing all day.

Oliver Sacks

The Prompter Room

For Friday, March 3, 2017:

Maria Popova, who compiles the literary Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), shared this from Rainer Maria Rilke’s classic Letters to a Young Poet, which she calls ‘nothing short of secular scripture for the creative life.’

… Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody.  There is only one single way.  Go into yourself.  Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.

 

 

The Prompter Room

For Friday, November 18, 2016:

 

… [A] writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words, fitting swift little descriptions to everything he sees, always noticing.  Just as I believe that a painter cannot sit down to his morning coffee without noticing what color it is, so a writer cannot see an odd little gesture without putting a verbal description to it, and ought never to let a moment go by undescribed.

Shirley Jackson – ‘Memory and Delusion’ in LET ME TELL YOU, 2015

The Prompter Room

For Friday, October 21, 2016:

 

You know, they ask me if I were on a desert island and I knew nobody would ever see what I wrote, would I go on writing.  My answer is most emphatically yes.  I would go on writing for company.  Because I’m creating an imaginary – it’s always imaginary – world in which I would like to live.

William S. Burroughs – interview, THE PARIS REVIEW

The Prompter Room

A little change of pace today, generated by one of the books I’m currently reading …

I’m only 130 pages in to the novel set in Victorian England and already the co-authors have used the word ‘fulsome’ several times.  In all those instances, they have used it semi-correctly only once.

One of the characters, Cardwell, for instance, ‘tugged at his fulsome muttonchops, fiddled with his speckled bow tie, cleared his throat, and tried to keep his growing temper in check.’

Another character, Captain Miles, ‘ … sparkled in his uniform and wore very well his other emblems of authority, including side whiskers so fulsome that they would have made Edward Cardwell weep with envy.’

As Chapter Thirteen starts, one of the main characters, Douglas, reflects on the scene before him.  The ‘great ship’ Sultana is ‘as fit as any vessel put to sea.  Then again … [i]f she sank beneath those fulsome waves, succumbing to a watery grave, the only thing left afloat would be the lard.’

Perhaps you can tell from these passages which is the more correct way to use ‘fulsome.’  I’ve addressed this more fully in the Page above called ‘Those Fulsome Wordplay Blues,’ but in short, ‘fulsome’ is not a word that means something good.  In his book Fine Print James J. Kilpatrick declares it is not the ‘friendly’ word he [and I will add, most people] thought it was.  ‘Its primary meaning is insincere, phony, offensively effusive …’

The Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus defines ‘fulsome’ as ‘disgusting by excess of flattery, servility, or expressions of flattery, cloying … In fulsome praise, fulsome means “excessive,” not “generous.”‘

Using these definitions, even the third passage above, about the ‘fulsome waves,’ is not entirely correct, but it is closer to the intended meaning than ‘fulsome’ side whiskers.  Given the authors’ use of ‘fulsome waves,’ though, I wonder why neither they nor their editors noticed the difference.

I wonder, too, how many more times they’ll use the word.  And if they’ll find the right meaning eventually.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sabbath Summer of Zen

“Trust the wait.  Embrace the uncertainty.  Enjoy the beauty of becoming.  When nothing is certain, anything is possible.”

From mindsetofgreatness

Those eleven words are the most I’ve written all summer, and – obviously – I didn’t write them.  It’s been a strange two or three months.  I’ve felt like I’ve been in a trance of some kind.  When I need to, I can accomplish something like doing the dishes after supper or going to a meeting, but I have not been able to write.

Rather than get frustrated or anxious, I’ve learned to ‘go with the flow’ and not question what’s going on.  When I went back to school as an adult, the mantra among the professors and other students was ‘trust the process.’  Sometimes it was uncomfortable, but I did it then, and I’ve done it ever since.  For some reason my body must need this rest, so I remind myself to ‘trust the wait.’

At the same time, I miss being here, I miss writing and the current stalled work-in-progress.  So, after wracking my brain almost all summer for something positive to post here, at least on occasion, I may have had a mini-brainstorm a few minutes ago.  I think maybe I burned myself out with the daily writing prompts of the Prompter Room, but so many folks responded positively to those posts I don’t want to stop them altogether.

Here’s what I’m going to try: I will post something much more simple, and only two to three times a week.  The posts will consist only of a saying or quote or inspirational message – in other words, I won’t insert any of my own words that might get in the way.

If I had the technological expertise, I could dress up the words as a banner or poster with appropriate backgrounds and the like, but I can’t.  Each post, then, might seem sparse and spare, especially compared to before – but maybe that’s a good thing.

Of course, if you’d like more wordage or encouragement, you’re always welcome to browse through the almost-year of earlier posts.  And the tabs up in the menu bar are always available, too.

Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me here, or followed me anew, through my summer of silence!   I appreciate you all, and I hope this has been a good season for you in health and words and blessings.  More soon!

~~ Genie

The Prompter Room

For Thursday, July 14, 2016:

“No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader’s intelligence or whose attitude is patronizing.”

E. B. White

It’s been a long while since I’ve been here – a month from my last post that thanked you all for your patience, and probably another month since I posted anything of substance.  It’s been so long that my stats page flickered while it was trying to load, probably because it had to go back so far!

While there are still many and myriad medical things going on, there are now some down times and I’ve felt words coming back a few at a time, so I thought I’d make a stab at some brainwork and ease back into my blog.  It probably won’t be every day, but I hope it’ll be a lot more frequent than the past couple of months.  Again, thank you for your patience.

One of the goals I set for myself during this somewhat-enforced hiatus was to read books that really stretched me in some way.  The book I finished a few days did just that.  When I saw A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin on the library shelf, I grabbed it because I’d read Canin’s earliest couple of books and was very impressed.  When I read the inside of the book jacket, however, I almost put it back on the shelf.  This was a thick novel about a mathematician.  I opened it and glanced through some of the pages.  To my dismay, though not surprisingly, there  were mathematicians’ names, formulae and concepts that made my eyes glaze over – and that was just from a quick glance.

To understand my dismay, you have to know that I almost didn’t graduate from high school because of my abysmal math grades.  I found out decades later that I have dyscalcula (I think that’s the right term), the equivalent of dyslexia with numbers and figures.  At the time, though, all I knew was that I had to promise not to enroll in any college classes that required math.

As I lifted the book back to its shelf, I reminded myself of my goal … so, against my better judgment, I took it over to the check-out desk.  I figured I could always take it back to the library if it gave me headaches.

Well, far from it.  It didn’t take long before I was entranced – entranced! – by the storyline, by the writing style, by everything I was learning.  Yes, some of it was over my head, but only a little.  I was surprised at how much I understood.  Most of all, I was amazed at Canin’s gift of writing about such a dense subject and his complicated character in such a way that actually compelled this reader, at least, through to the last page.

Canin obviously doesn’t distrust his readers’ intelligence.  He had a story to tell and he did so in such a way that encouraged growth rather than going for the lowest common denominator.  And he made it a good book at the same time.

I’m glad I decided to stretch myself.  I think this is probably what has enabled a few words to flow ever since.

Apologies

“The best way out is always through.”

Robert Frost

My apologies for being missing in action recently … The last two or three weeks have been taken over by ‘life’ and medical and health issues.  I had hoped to stay on my daily prompt routine throughout – though I did take the respective weekends off to recoup some energy – but that didn’t work out.

This week is more of the same, including drives to and from doctors’ appointments that are five hour-long round trips.  Sometimes this part of the world is a little piece of heaven.  When it comes to some medical specialists … not so much, thereby necessitating the long, tedious, painful drives.

But in life, as in writing, we forge ahead, sometimes creeping (and creaking!), other times with resilience, but always through.

I hope to get back to the daily Prompter Room as soon as possible – at this point, it looks like sometime next week will be my earliest chance.  Things should settle down a little by then.  In the meantime, I hope to be able to announce some good literary news in two or three days.

Many blessings and thanks!

~~ Genie

The Prompter Room

For Thursday, May 19, 2016:

 

“You can’t blame a writer for what the characters say.”

Truman Capote

Confession time: I am not a fan of the ‘eff’ word in writing or in movies.  (Or in conversation, even though I say it to myself often enough … but I digress.)  So when one of the characters in the novella-that’s-almost-ready-for-release started using it – more than once, I might add – I found myself using other words (like my own favorite, which begins with ‘s’ and ends with ‘t’) instead.

I don’t mind the occasional ‘F bomb,’ especially when it fits a situation and/or character, but I feel like I’m being physically assaulted or overwhelmed when they come at me fast and furiously.*  I’ve stopped reading books and stopped watching movies, in fact, where that happens.  So I usually shy away from using this particular word when I write.

This time, though, the word was appropriate for the character and his situation.  Between drafts, then, I decided I had to be true to the character – to listen to him and not my own Puritanical voice – and I let him rip.  More than once, too.

My first novel didn’t have any swear words – not on purpose, really, but because the characters just didn’t say them.  They found other ways, other words, to get their points across, to respond to what was happening around them.

Therein is the crux of the matter, perhaps: response versus reaction.  When speaking, we tend to use the ‘eff’ word when we have a knee-jerk reaction to something or someone (like when I fell a few weeks ago and turned the air around me rather purple – mea culpa, mea maxima culpa).  When we can take the time, even a moment, to think more carefully, we respond rather than react.

In my character’s case, his use and omission of that certain word helped indicate his personal development.  This can be true for most characters, in my opinion.  It’s not the only way, of course, but I do think it’s something to consider.  If everyone says that word, for instance, and says it all the time, how different are they from each other?

The most important thing to consider is this: is the, or any, colorful language from the character(s) or the author?  If it’s from the latter, then some of those eff bombs need to be disarmed, in this reader’s humble opinion.

* It’s interesting that this doesn’t happen when I edit a manuscript with frequent usages.  If it’s too frequent, in my opinion, especially if it doesn’t add anything except explosive words to the plot, I do suggest that the author omit some of them – especially those that feel more author-driven than character-driven – but that’s on behalf of the story, not for my comfort.