Archive for January, 2011


Fudgebottoms and Applesauce

The title to this post is a phrase from my childhood (who exactly used it, I don’t remember) as a creative, and safe, way to swear. Much closer to “oh darn” than to the dreaded F-Bomb, but still deliciously naughty to a six year old mind.

I found myself thinking about that last night while shopping in Wal-mart and over hearing a profanity laced conversation between two people. And by “over hear” I don’t mean I happened to be passing by to hear the hushed whisperings of two strangers. I over heard them as they shouted across the soda aisle, trying to determine what f’n flavor they wanted, which brand was the best f’n deal, and what now defunct brand was ‘so f’n good’.

It was a man and a woman, with the man being the loudest by far, though his wife?/girlfriend?/mixed martial arts training partner? certainly gave him a run for his money.

Don’t get me wrong, I swear fairly regularly myself. There are the people who think cursing is no big deal and how people should just get over it, and the people who think it’s bad, and a sign of an uncultured, unintelligent, and uncreative mind. I sit happily on the fence between them and wave merrily at both sides because I see the validity of both points of view.

Let’s face it, that kind of language is rude, unsophisticated, and in almost any case, highly disrespectful to your audience. I’m 28 years old and I still can’t intentionally curse in front of my parents. And if I do let one slip, I inwardly cringe and wait for my punishment. This, in all likelihood, stems from the time I flipped my dad off when I was about 7 (at a guess, 7 or 8 for sure). I was being told (good naturedly) that it was bed time, and as I was leaving the living room to do so, my dad made fun of my snoring. With a laugh, I looked back over my shoulder, turned my body slightly, extended my left arm, and raised that most naughty of fingers.

To this day I can remember seeing my dad’s expression go from confusion, to shock, to fury. Then my vision refocused on my finger, which was still in the air (lord help me put the finger down man!), and while I didn’t know exactly what this gesture really meant, I knew in that instant it was not something I wanted to be directing at my father.

After escorting me to bed, he demanded if I knew what that meant (deny, deny, deny), and where I had learned such a thing (for whatever reason, my cousin John was the only name that came to mind, so I threw him under the bus without hesitation even though in reality I have no clue where I learned such a thing…still don’t today). After that, there was a long discussion of why it was bad, and a great many reasons why I should never do that again (though the look on his face when he got off the couch was more than reason enough).

So, yes, that has stuck with me all these years, so even when my parents have relaxed their rules on swearing for their adult children, it’s still odd, and rare, for me to break the rules as they were back then.

Of course, when they’re not around, that’s another story.  I don’t think my swearing is excessive, but in many cases, it’s not exactly necessary either. Ultimately, it’s just a pattern I’ve fallen into. Yet, it’s one I also try to be aware of. Maybe it means I’m lazy if I can’t take the time to think of another word to express my feelings, but there are many times when a four letter word has just the emphasis I’m looking for in a given situation. In that respect, I don’t think cursing is indicative of an uncultured mind, and most certainly not an uncreative one. I know many people who could be consider virtuosos of four letter words. Who can use them more creatively than I could ever hope to write.

Looking at it that way is why people who have that kind of ‘holier than thou’ attitude towards swear words bother me. To me, they’re a part of language that does indeed have a place in this world.

However, that place is NOT being shouted across a Wal-mart aisle, or pretty much anywhere else for the general public to hear. Which is why people who just don’t give a… well, you know… about other people’s opinions on the matter also bother me. The desire to be able to go to a store and not have to worry about hearing terms you find offensive from five aisles away is a reasonable one. If you want to swear every other word in the dairy section of Wal-mart (and with the price of milk these days, I’m right there with you), that’s fine by me, if it’s in a one to one conversation. But at least show some common courtesy and decency to do it at a level that people aren’t going to overhear. If you can’t talk that low, is it really that much of a stretch to drop the expletives from your vocabulary for the thirty seconds other people happen to wander by?

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This is also making me think about how I use swear words in my writing. And again, it’s really a matter of “time and place for everything”. In 7th grade, someone asked the English teacher if it was ok to use swear words. She told us she would prefer us not to, but if we could justify it within the context of the story, it was ok. That’s the rule I’ve lived by ever since. Used randomly, it can really detract from a story. Used effectively, it can add realism and impact to your work. The key there, as with everything else, is balance.

So how about you? Yay or nay to swearing in your writing? How about in every day life? Any virtuosos out there?

Striking a chord

These two pieces top the list of things that strike a chord with my inner writer.

 

 

 

If – by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

On a personal level, I’m not overly sold on the whole social media thing. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, yet I’m not entirely happy about the fact. I mainly have them because I have several friends who refuse to communicate in any other way, so if I want to talk to them (and I do), those are my choices.

I probably don’t use either service to the fullest of their abilities, but I’m okay with that.

On a professional level, I realize that social media is the wave of the future (the present really), so I’m trying to open my mind to some of the features that I have a hard time considering as “benefits”.

With that in mind, there is someone I follow on Twitter (@WritingSpirit) who posted about the 2011 S.H.I.N.E. Blogging challenge. I’ve been meaning to create a blog of my own (for months now), as well as meaning to get myself into the habit of writing with consistency (for years now), and this challenge seems like a good opportunity to kill two birds with one semi-automatic. So this is me, committing to something I’m not entirely sure I can keep up with.

I’m hopeful that I can stick with it, and learn something along the way. Writing is, and always has been, my passion. Yet I struggle with it so much that I feel like a hypocrite whenever I say that. If it is my passion, why is it so hard to stick with it? That question is mainly rhetorical, but if anyone feels like offering a suggestion, I don’t mind in the least. I’m hoping to find the answer for myself in the next 111 days (the length of the challenge).

Two years ago I had the words “Always Write” tattooed on the inside of my arm, for two reasons: First, because it’s a bit of an inside joke with me and my family as I am continually saying that I’m always right, in everything (it really is just a joke, I’m not arrogant enough to ACTUALLY believe that). Second, as a reminder of the number one rule of writing, which essentially is “To be a writer, write.” I don’t regret this tattoo in the least, but as far as serving as a reminder/motivator for me, it has failed miserably. This is an effort to change that as well.

So change and motivation is the name of the game here. To that end, you can expect to read about the things that inspire me, and how I manage to find the motivation to continue on while finding ways to deal with the disappointment of not meeting personal goals. I’m a realist, I know there will be disappointments, and that I can’t/won’t change my ways over night, but here’s hoping that I can change more than I’ve been able to in the past.