Friday, November 8, 2013

The Importance of Being Prudent

Parenting is a contact sport. You don't get a second opportunity to shape your children into creative, independent, law-abiding adults. The old idiom you can't unring a bell is especially true with our youth. Once they have been exposed to a word, an image, a situation, they can't un-see it.

I can't begin to estimate the number of  books I've read,  TV shows and movies I've previewed, and  video games I've researched with this in mind. While I've come away from this experience with a healthy appreciation for toilet humor, and YA fiction--Minecraft still baffles me, even though I find it very clever (no hate mail, please)--I have also come to a sobering, albeit not unexpected, conclusion: Not all entertainment geared toward children is actually appropriate for them.

No, I'm not na├»ve enough to believe everyone shares my standards, especially those responsible for rating books, television, games, and movies for our children. If there is anything wrong with our society, it stems from the absolute lack of outrage over this. I find that most people really don't care, for example, that sexual content is being pushed on today's youth at the pre-teen level (ages 9-12).

I recently read the first three books in a popular YA series-turned-movie-franchise. While the books are clearly geared to the YA market, the movie appeals to a much younger audience, which, as any self-respecting Harry Potter fan knows, generates an interest in the books. Hunger Games is a good example of this. While the movie might be deemed appropriate for a pre-teen (It certainly appeals to my pre-teen), the books are, in my opinion, too violent for a ten-year-old.

The series I just previewed with this in mind, is chock full of sexual innuendo and situations, which are too mature for the children to whom this movie is being marketed, whether intentionally or not. Books and movies are not always interchangeable.

My point is this: parents had better be careful about what their children are absorbing. Violence and blatant sexuality are slippery slopes for pre-teens, which can lead to violent and inappropriate behavior. It is time for parents to go back to being parents and guard their children's hearts and minds while their sphere of influence still surrounds them. I promise they will thank you for it in the end.

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Melissa

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Progress, Patience and Productivity

I keep reminding myself it has only been two months and ten days since our big move. Things are supposed to be a little unorganized, right? Wrong! These boxes are slowly driving me insane.

Between writing, carpooling (it's a half hour commute to the school, however you look at it), cleaning (I have never experienced rapid dust accumulation as I have these past two months), and cooking, I make a studied effort to unpack and organize at least one box a day. Now that may not sound like a lot, but when all of your essentials are neatly arranged and put away, the remaining boxes shouldn't really be an issue. Except that they are.

Probably two-thirds of every box I unpack is nothing but junk. Why do we have all this crap? Where the heck do I put it? And why did we not dispose of it during the move? But, undoubtedly, every container yields at least one treasure, one essential item for which I have been searching since the day it was shoved inside.

And so, I labor on. This week, my dad and I (everyone should have a handy, retired dad--mine can build or fix just about anything, the McGyver of the white-collar world) are adding some shelves to a largish, spare closet between my kitchen and my dining room to create a butler's pantry where I can store overflow and duplicate pantry items, along with extra serving items, in a neat, orderly fashion. Of course, the trick is achieving a balance between form and function, but I have faith in my McGyver.

What does this have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing--well, nothing more than the sense of peace and accomplishment gained from moving forward, which will eventually allow my mind to focus solely on writing once again. Until then, I labor on!

Keep writing, and never stop reading!

Melissa

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Read To Me

One of the most valuable tools in a writer's arsenal is your own voice. I don't mean your writing style, commonly referred to as a writer's voice. I'm talking about the sound your written words make when spoken aloud.

I am a firm believer that compelling writing across every genre possesses a musical quality when read aloud. A staccato rhythm can bog down the reader and seem like you're peppering them with short, three-round bursts. It's boring, folks.

For example: I like to write. Writing is a joy. Writing gives me pleasure. I express myself through writing. My readers like my writing. Versus: I like to write. It gives me joy and pleasure to express myself in this way. If my readers gain half as much enjoyment from my writing as I do in creating it, they are well-satisfied indeed.

See the difference? Hear the difference? If you read them both aloud, while both are phenomenally bad, the second selection at least sounds more interesting. I think you get the idea.

Each time I sit down to edit a passage of my own work in progress, I begin by reading it aloud. Something about the spoken word amplifies any awkwardness that the reader might encounter, potentially causing them to stop reading altogether. I can't tell you how many times I've had to re-read a sentence in someone else's work to try to decode the writer's intended meaning. Often it remains a mystery until I read it aloud. Trust me when I say this, words sound different in your head than they do in the air. Emphasis and inflection can drastically alter a sentence's meaning.

Another benefit, you can also avoid what I call the "Sylvester Syndrome" after the Looney Tunes cat who spit his way through every sentence. "Sssssuffering ssssucatasssshhh!" I'm embarrassed to say this has absolutely happened to me and should be avoided whenever possible. Too many esses in a sentence can be a bad, bad thing.

Rhythm is an integral component in good writing. I promise you won't regret reading your work in progress or even applying it to a book you're having difficulty slogging your way through (Shakespeare comes to mind). Let me know if this technique helps you in any way. I think it will.

Keep writing,

Melissa

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pajama Writing Versus Picture Perfect Prose or How Clothing Almost Derailed my Writing Career

Like you don't know what I'm talking about.

But in case you don't, I'm referring to the age old question: "Does it really matter how I look when I march upstairs to my office and work?"

If you're a writer, you've faced this dilemma at one time or another in your career, and the opinions on it are as varied as the shades of tan in a Pottery Barn catalog. On the one hand, I rarely regret turning myself out in a pleasing fashion, especially when the ChemLawn man, or the Latter Day Saints catch me lurking in the house and guilt me into answering the door.

On the other, creativity is fluid and transient, and as such must be harnessed regardless of our attire. It often strikes at a moment's notice, and if you take the time to make yourself more presentable, by the time you get around to committing them to paper, those beautiful words in your head may be nothing but a vague memory.

I have exercised both clothing extremes, along with attire just this side of decent, enough where I don't embarrass myself if I am forced to jog the trash can to the street to catch the garbage truck and meet a neighbor out walking. As far as productivity goes, I think it's a draw. The writing muse will hit you when it hits you no matter what you are wearing.

No doubt in pondering this question, I have wasted precious time which could've been spent writing. I contend that some answers aren't nearly as important as the questions. If I'm asking the question, I'm thinking about writing. In this business, thinking about writing can be translated into percolating words, and that is, folks,  almost as good as getting the words on the page.

Keep writing, my friends,

Melissa


P.S. When reduced to the lowest common denominator, oral hygiene is my bottom line. Can't get any work done with sweaters on my teeth. Just Saying.