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Category Archives: On Writing

Space

100_9021I like order in my little corner of the universe. I like the rules that keep the order in my little corner of the universe (whether I decide to follow them depends on how much disorder would be caused if the rules were bent/broken). I am okay if the rules change, as long as the change maintains or improves the order in my little corner of the universe. I don’t like when the rules change and I don’t get the memo. Then there is chaos in my little corner of the universe while I try to play catch up.

I did not get the memo when they changed the rule about how many spaces go after a period (or other end punctuation) when you type. When I learned to type (on a typewriter) back in high school, the rule was two spaces after a colon and all end punctuation. Any other punctuation mark only required a single space. For example:

She told her boyfriend she needed space, (space) and now the flat, (space) drab landscape stretched out around her in all directions. (space, space) She hoped she had enough fuel to make it down this deserted, (space) godforsaken stretch of road to the refuge of her mother’s house.

I first noticed a disturbance in my little corner of the universe a couple years ago while proofreading student papers during my sessions as an online English tutor. Only about half of the students were inserting two spaces after end punctuation. The first couple of times I noticed this, I simply explained to the students the proper (as I had learned them) spacing rules, and no one voiced any objections. However, by the time I’d proofread a dozen papers with single spaces after any and all punctuation, I began to get uneasy. Had someone changed the rules? Was one space after end punctuation now the preferred format? Did I miss the memo? Google supplied the answers to my questions…yes, yes, and not exactly. You see, there wasn’t really a single formal announcement of this rule change, it just gradually infiltrated revised editions of style manuals as computers replaced manual typewriters, and anyone who was out of the practice of writing formal papers (therefore negating the need for a style manual) was left unaware.

Paul Brians, Emeritus Professor of English at Washington State University, has addressed the reason for the change to the spacing rule in his book Common Errors in English Usage. His website of the same name contains this explanation:

In the old days of typewriters using only monospaced fonts in which a period occupied as much horizontal space as any other letter, it was standard to double-space after each one to clearly separate each sentence from the following one. However, when justified variable-width type is set for printing, it has always been standard to use only one space between sentences. Modern computers produce type that is more like print, and most modern styles call for only one space after a period. This is especially important if you are preparing a text for publication which will be laid out from your electronic copy. If you find it difficult to adopt the one-space pattern, when you are finished writing you can do a global search-and-replace to find all double spaces and replace them with single spaces.

After learning of the new rule, I stopped chastising students for improper spacing in my online tutoring sessions, but I continued using two spaces after end marks in my own writing. (Remember I said I like rules, but I decide whether or not to follow them?) Until January, that is, when I started this blog. Sometimes when I published a post, the finished entry would contain sentences within a paragraph that began one space in from the left margin. That’s because I’d inserted two spaces in the text editor, only one of which would fit on the original line in the final layout. The second space was transferred to the following line during the text wrap operation. This Type-A girl couldn’t handle a left margin that was not justified, so I was forced to adopt the one space punctuation rule tout de suite.

The transition was tough at first; old habits die hard, and all that. But I think I’ve pretty well got the hang of only tapping once on the space bar now when I end a sentence. However, when I eventually have a manuscript ready to submit for publication, I’ll be sure to use the global search-and-replace recommended by Mr. Brians.

Today’s ramblings were inspired by the Write 4 Ten prompt, Space, which landed in my inbox a couple hours ago. If you’re ever short on ideas (or time) for writing, you might consider subscribing to their prompts–anyone can carve out ten minutes to write, there are no limits on genre, and there aren’t any other restrictions to worry about.

Write4Ten

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Posts I commented on today:
Maps (Nouveau Scarecrow)
Want to Join a New Blog Challenge? (Janice Heck: My Time to Write)  new blog of the day
Blog Every Day in May: A Challenge (story of my life)  second new blog of the day 🙂

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Monday Mix, On Writing

 

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Notice

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Notice: I am giving you fair warning that I am about to temporarily abandon my carefully planned weekly blogging schedule. My mom is coming to England for a two-week visit, and my priority will be spending as much time as possible with her, not locking myself in my office to curse the cursor taunting me from a blank screen. Since I’ve yet to master the art of the quick post (those 33-word Trifextra pieces take me hours), I am scaling back the writing while Mom is here. I will continue to post daily, and am committed to completing the April A to Z Blogging Challenge, but I see the next half-month’s postings being heavier on photographs than words. And since my goal when starting this blog in January was to practice my photography skills as well as my writing skills, I don’t feel like I’m letting myself down too much. Thanks for understanding, and I’ll be back on track the first week of May!

 

 

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Dare

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I love that ideas are practically falling in my lap these days…it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve found myself in front of a blank screen, struggling for something to post. The blogosphere is a gold mine of ideas, and the only manual labor involved in the mining process is sliding the mouse over to click the “Follow” button on other bloggers’ sites! Joe Owens, over at Joe’s Musings, just wrote about his intended participation in the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, which he himself had found while scouting around on other blogs. From his page, I clicked over to the challenge link for more details, and decided to accept Joe’s dare (oops, I mean invitation) to join him in this month-long challenge.

As you can see from the calendar above (graciously provided by Jeremy, one of the A to Z Challenge hosts) each day in April is assigned a letter, “with Sundays off for good behavior.” The idea is simple…each challenge day, we bloggers will craft a post around that letter. This challenge can be adapted to suit any type of blog–writers and poets can obviously incorporate a word beginning with that letter into the theme, title, dialogue, etc. of their entry. Photographers could post a gallery of photos centered on any word beginning with that letter (Bob Mielke at Northwest Photographer has got April 13 covered…L is for lions!). Food bloggers can include recipes whose main ingredient showcases the featured letter. The possibilities are just endless.

Throughout this challenge, I intend to keep to the overall blogging routine I’ve set for myself, maintaining my own daily themes while incorporating the day’s given letter. It seems counterintuitive that setting more and more restrictions on my posts, and combining so many prompts and challenges within them, is actually boosting my creativity (you probably didn’t even notice–unless you’re following Rarasaur, which I highly recommend–but I just responded to this week’s Prompt for the Promptless). In order to publish quality posts, I’m having to think outside the box, which I admit had gotten pretty small as one by one I let most of my right-brain pursuits fall by the wayside when I entered adulthood. When I meet a creative challenge these days, I get the same high as when I have completed a strenuous workout at the gym…endorphins galore!

So, thank you, Joe for pointing me in the direction of this new challenge. I accept, and am eager to see where the 26-day exercise takes me. If you dare, you can join Joe, me, and the 1400+ other cool kids who’ve already committed to the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, but hurry, the doors to the clubhouse close April 1!

 
 

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Jailbreak?

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Scaling walls to find creative freedom

It’s been years since I’ve done any creative writing. Once I hit high school, writing became strictly research papers, persuasive essays, and lab reports. I’ve gone through random spells of journaling in the past two decades, but there’s been no creative writing. No poetry, no short stories, and certainly no novels. And it wasn’t just that I wasn’t writing creatively…I wasn’t even thinking creatively anymore. As I got older and life filled with more and more responsibilities, I allowed all of my creative outlets to shut down–writing went first, then crafty projects followed, and for several years I even stopped reading because there was “no time.”

Making this commitment to blog daily throughout 2013 might just be my own personal prison break. I’ve scaled the wall of responsibilities, both real and imagined, crawled carefully over the barbed-wire of my own inhibitions, and now find myself standing, somewhat bemused, in the world of anything is possible. I’ve read three books since January, and have two currently in progress (that doesn’t hold a candle to my high school reading pace, but it’s a vast improvement over the wordless drought that’s parched my life since the mid-90s). For my first tentative attempts at fiction in more than twenty years, I’ve found great support from other writers in the blogosphere, and I credit that encouragement for a marked increase in the number of spontaneous creative thoughts I’ve been having the past week. I hope the trickle implies that a dam burst is imminent. For the first time, I feel like a notebook that goes everywhere I go might actually be an ally in capturing some of these thoughts for future use, rather than an enemy sitting in silent accusation, adding more pressure because of its disuse. The taste of creative freedom is as addictive as Oreos, and I find myself willing, even eager, to spend more and more time in front of the computer chasing words and ideas down long-disused pathways, brushing aside cobwebs with every step. Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope, after all, that I can be a writer, not just in thought, but also in deed.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in How It Is, On Me, On Writing, True Life

 

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Repurposing

100_1113Maybe the folks over at The Daily Post picked up on my somewhat obsessive thoughts on this very topic over the past week. Here’s their writing prompt for today:

A genie has granted your wish to build your perfect space for reading and writing. What’s it like?

I already told you about my ideal reading space in Wednesday’s Haven post, as it would be part of my chick cave (I still don’t know the correct name for the female equivalent of the man cave). But don’t be misled into thinking that room is the only place I would be happy reading. I would (and do) read in the bathtub, in bed, in the car, on the sofa, at the kitchen table, at my desk, on the patio, in the coffee shop, at the beach, on a bench in the park…there’s really no place that’s off-limits when I’m in the middle of a good book.

However, I’m quickly coming to the conclusion that my writing space really does need some thought. I’m currently writing in my office, at my regular desk, surrounded by the detritus of everyday life—there are some tax documents that need to be scanned, there’s a folder that contains half-baked ideas for next week’s English lessons, there’s a half-compiled grocery list—all plotting to divert my attention away from writing. I think I’d like a separate area within my current office devoted solely to writing.

So, Mr. Genie, here’s my plan.

The most important component in this space is my desk, so I’ll use the student desk my mother lovingly finished for me when I was in high school, the one that is now masquerading as dressing table in the spare room. It is smaller than my regular day-to-day desk, so I’d have less surface area on which to pile distractions. I’m thinking I’ll need a lamp, a coaster for my mug of tea, my laptop, and nothing else. In the top center drawer, you should put a notepad, a pencil, an eraser, a couple of pens, a highlighter, some Post-it flags, a pair of scissors, and a roll of Scotch tape. The top left drawer should be stocked with healthy snacks (dark chocolate counts, so make sure there’s lots of that) and a supply of paper napkins and wet wipes. The middle drawer is going to stay empty for now, but eventually I’ll use it to store back-up CDs of my work. The large bottom drawer that was originally meant for file folders will be my inspiration drawer—photos, snippets cut from magazines, little trinkets, anything that looks like it could spark a story can go in there so I can sift through it when the muse has left me. You can put a box of tissues and an old-fashioned, yet current, dictionary and thesaurus on the shelf to the right of the desk’s kneehole; I love the convenience of the online references, but it is too tempting to also check email or log into Facebook or Google something while the browser is open…

I’m not sure about the chair for this desk. If I decide to keep the original straight-backed chair that came with it, I will definitely need a new seat cushion. The desk is too small for a big cushy office chair, but a small padded chair with wheels and pneumatic height adjustment might be nice. Of course, a big bouncy stability ball might be even better—I could burn a few calories and tone my core trying to avoid rolling off in an unglorified heap.

Under the desk, I’d appreciate a small heated rug, or a tiny electric space heater. I have such a hard time concentrating when my feet are cold.

The walls in the room should be painted something other than standard off-white. The pale blue in my current office is kind of nice, but I also like the warm, subdued yellow of my husband’s office.  I’ll need to think about this and get back to you on the color scheme. I’d like the desk to face the corner, please, so I’m not tempted to stare out the window at the birds in the trees or the neighbors walking by instead of concentrating on the computer screen. Directly in front of me, please mount a shelf that will support a brightly painted pot with a healthy green philodendron dribbling several long, exploratory tendrils over the edge. Attach my Pecksniff horse brass to the bottom of the shelf, so he can glare disapprovingly at me through the leafy curtain of the philodendron when I slack off. (I didn’t know anything about this Charles Dickens character when I bought the brass, but just one look at his imperious gaze and I knew he’d be a stern taskmaster. How sad is it that I’m such people pleaser that an inanimate stare from a cast metal visage can keep me in line?) There’s got to be a corkboard just at the edge of my peripheral vision, so I can pin up meaningful quotes and colorful odds and ends for motivational purposes.

I’ll need my room to be fairly quiet. A ticking clock is nice (I find it soothing, rather than demanding) and I could probably write to the sound of waves or rain from a noise machine. Music is too distracting, though, so don’t leave a radio or iPod in easy reach of my writing desk; I get too wrapped up in deciphering the artists’ lyrics to pay any heed to my own words struggling to reach the page.

Looking back over this wish list, Mr. Genie, I see there really isn’t much you can do that I can’t do myself to create an ideal writing space. It seems I can repurpose items I am already familiar and comfortable with in the square footage I’ve already got. Your role was apparently to make me take the time to stop and think about how to make my surroundings more conducive to productive writing, so I guess your work here is done…off you go to grant the design wishes of the next aspiring writer. I’ve got furniture to rearrange!

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2013 in How It Could Be, On Writing