Writing, author, books, editorial, philosophy, kindle · Writing, editing, editorial, philosophy

Why write? Why not write?

Having been in the writing business for almost ten years (although I’ve been writing for quite a bit longer than that, on a non-business basis), I’ve learned many things. My hope is to impart them to my readers, both to share wisdom and to prevent you from making the mistakes that I did.

When you have something to say, say it. Sharing information is cathartic and if you find someone or some entity that wants to read it, so much the better. One of the lessons that I’ve learned through a significant amount of experience is that you are not the same as the work that you create. In other words, people will like you and not your work. Or more importantly, it’s critical to understand that a lack of positive response to what you’ve created in no way diminishes you. It’s simply the taste fairy thing.

Now that I recognize the value of this medium, I’ll be adding comments much more often. If you want to see more of me and what I’ve done so far, my website is http://www.csscribe.com. Looking forward to hearing from you – Shalom.



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Last week, a treasured family member mentioned in passing that she had long ago stopped worrying about her grammar and spelling when texting me. This concerned me but I neglected to ask her what had changed and why she worried about it in the first place.

Under no circumstances would I consider editing her or anyone else who is close to me. When they were young, I might have corrected my kids, but only in my role as a responsible parent. Likewise, when I am in the classroom, I consistently edit my students for spelling, grammar and punctuation, but in a constructive manner.

Being competent in the English language does not entitle me or anyone else to correct others. That reality doesn’t mean that I won’t notice. Please don’t ask that of me; I’ve spent too many years as a reader, writer and editor to become oblivious.

In order for that to make better sense, we can leave the context of English grammar/usage/punctuation and consider other endeavors. What would happen if you were walking through the Louvre and encountered the Mona Lisa? It’s been there since 1797, in its timeless perfection.

As you get close to it, you see that some misguided curator or director decided to embellish Mona’s frame with large pink ruffles and velvet bows. Are you kidding? Who would dare to profane art in this way?

Or find yourself in a symphony hall, listening to Beethoven. All of a sudden, a percussionist forgets his role and common decency. He begins banging incessantly on a bass drum. Think you would notice?

Obviously, most of the work or texts that I see don’t have the prominence of DaVinci or Beethoven. But training to find imperfections is critical to my craft, not a tool I use to criticize.

While I may be conscious of glitches in the language of others, they make no difference to me at all. Perhaps, the lack of concern is the realization that I am a loving family member, not a grammatical fanatic. My eraser, real or digital, is reserved for those who request it. Shalom.

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A little fun

As a writer and student of the English language and its quirks, I thought I would have a little fun and point out the following.

Your greatest advantage is that you’re going to receive a raise in pay, as in days of yore.

Who’s going to determine whose shoes are on the floor?

When we live a life we choose, we see things that are live all around us.

You can re-create your past when you designate some time to recreate and have fun.

One way to resume your work life is to create a new résumé.

If you accept some facts about life, you can understand that people are necessary, except for those who detract from your happiness.

Some of us are specially talented in one field or another, especially those who have developed those talents.

It’s a good idea to make certain that you know the personal details in your personnel file.

He sat down at the television to watch a serial drama and eat his cereal.

If you were designing a horror set, you would need to identify which witch you want to portray.

If you’re wise, it’s a good idea to identify the whys and wherefores of your job.

Please don’t continue to whine about the quality of your wine.

Preventive is the preferred form of that adjective, unless you’re discussing drugs or viruses, in which case, preventative is acceptable.

Using “toward” is preferred in the US; if you’re in the UK, you are most likely to see “towards.” There are going to be exceptions in both countries.

New Mexico is one of the 50 United States of America. It was admitted to the union in 1912, as the 47th state. You do not need a passport to enter, leave or communicate with New Mexico. The capital of New Mexico is Santa Fe, the oldest capital city in the US.

There is no X in etcetera (etc.). If you pronounce it as excetera, you’re incorrect.

Finally (and most importantly), irregardless is not a word. Never has been, never will be. Regardless is correct.

Shalom (Peace).

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In your eyes

It was a beautiful, sun-filled New Mexico day that began as many others. Our travels took us to Santa Fe, to find something for the backyard that we had previously seen and admired. After securing the item, we were excited to see that it was an artisan craft fair weekend in the plaza, and elected to see what there was to see.

This was an extraordinary gathering, full of crafts that were unique and tempting. Eventually, we discovered a kiosk of southwestern jewelry, tended by a tall, gray-haired gentlemen who looked as if he could have been a high school physics teacher or a minister.

We stopped for a moment and I was intrigued by this vendor’s clever decision to display his rings according to size rather than in one large cluster. Mentioning this to him, he responded, “If God is smart enough to give each of us a different ring size, if makes sense to display them that way.” Hearing that, I was struck by his deference to God for such an issue.

He wasn’t preaching or prodding – he merely referenced God in two or more additional statements. My search was for a ring for my daughter, but I inquired about one that I discovered and slipped on my finger, due to its unusual design. When I laughed at my apparent lack of resistance to something extraordinary, he indicated that God must have led me to put it on or I would never have done so. He went on to explain how the ring’s stone acquired its unusual pattern.

At the end of our interaction, I purchased the ring and thanked him for his kindness and unusual reverence, explaining that I planned to include him in my next blog. He handed me his business card, shyly adding that he would be in the same place tomorrow and thanked me profusely for the purchase.

Never having expected to run into a man whose faith was consistent and sincere without proselytizing or prodding, I am touched by one who is true to his beliefs and finds God in all he does. While each of us finds inspiration in our own way, I will remember him each time I look at my ring and recollect the man whose faith enabled me to add it to my life. Shalom.

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Say yes

Every now and then, a client requests writing that I have never done before. With the history I have experienced, this situation occurs infrequently. But when it does as it did yesterday, I always pause before accepting the responsibility.

It’s always about the client’s best interests. If, for instance, an existing or new client requested lyrics for a song, I would decline, due to a lack of training and musical education. At the same time, I would gladly tackle a job to write poetry after having done quite a bit of composing verse for myself.

The task yesterday was to title a video and write an explanatory paragraph. Client provided minimal direction, but I believe it’s an announcement about their new home. So far, I’ve submitted three statements, each time securing more details to include. Happily, the fourth version was “perfect.”

Should I have decided against the job? Keep in mind that this is my best client who solicits my services quite often. In fact, as soon as I finished the paragraph, he needed me to compose a eulogy. When do we stop saying yes to the requests that are made of us? These may be for our professional talents or to help one another.

Sometimes it’s enlivening to do something new, both to see how the process feels and for the satisfaction upon completion. While I don’t claim to be completely objective about my work, I can always spot imperfections or writing not worth reading. But I always try.

The lesson here is to push your envelope as far and as often as there is an occasion to do so. When you’ve always wanted to dance, get up and dance. Better yet take some dance lessons.

And so it goes with writing, singing, drawing, teaching kids to read or making jewelry. Any limitations we sense are most likely artificial. Of course, power lifting is probably not for you if you’re 80 and arthritic. But you can walk, swim and exercise as your bones and muscles allow.

Saying yes always feels better than saying no. And don’t concern yourself with the critics, real or imagined – most likely they will be envious of your courage and ambition. Shalom.

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When my neighbor or friend is in pain, I feel sorry for his or her distress and extend a form of sympathy. It sounds like, I’m sorry for your pain. My question is, when I am also experiencing a physical malady, when does that sympathy become empathy? And which of us is improved by that transition?

My best guess is that most of us are more likely to accept empathy than sympathy. Back in those (sadly) forgotten days when people frequently sent paper greeting cards, sympathy cards were for the death of someone. As hard as I try, I don’t remember ever seeing an empathy card.

Before I attempt to persuade online greeting cards to initiate empathy cards, do most of us want or need empathy? Think back to your last personal crisis, regardless of its significance. Yes, I realize that “crisis” suggests a major event but that’s only true outside a kindergarten or first grade classroom. Do you feel any better or worse upon hearing, “I know just how you feel.”

Searching for an absolute yes or no is pointless. Clearly it depends on the person making the comment and the situation being referenced. No matter what, our responses will be kinder than they would be to, “I’m so sorry for you.”

For my part, I reserve sympathy for loss of life. Families of those who die in acts of war or terrorism are deserving of all the sympathy we can muster. Very often, expressions of sympathy are truly appreciated, especially when other gestures are unavailable.

But empathy is much more accessible and potentially just as valuable. Telling a friend or loved one, “I know that your heart is broken by the end of this relationship – what can I do to help?” is substantially more useful than, “I’m sorry.” This expression may or may not be accompanied by, “I’ve been there myself.” That person may care that you understand break-ups for having had one, but ultimately, we should realize that our losses don’t mitigate those of others.

As with so many of the actions that we take toward others, empathy can be meaningful when sincerely delivered. If we want to give the best of ourselves to those needing and wanting to receive it, this is a powerful way to do so. Shalom.

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If you are at all like me, you find yourself perplexed or frustrated by the mistake of confusing hope and expectations. The best way that I can distinguish between them is as follows: We all hope for world peace and the ability for all people to get along without doing harm to one another. Unfortunately, that cannot be a reasonable expectation.

The problem is largely within our everyday interactions, both with those we know and with strangers. My expectation is that doing something as routine as grocery shopping should be free of conflict, annoyance or any form of distress. It’s too bad when that expectation should have been considered a hope, based on the types of encounters you can witness every day in a grocery store.

Within the last week, I have had my side mirror rudely jarred out of place, narrowly missed being run over by a frenzied shopper and been delivered extremely dirty looks by someone who was waiting for me to make a selection. While none of these episodes were life-changing, they convert something that we plan to be uneventful into something that is unpleasant.

We can all remember similar events in our pasts. Some time, somewhere, we hoped to be invited on a date by the man or woman of our dreams, but that expectation was dashed and never realized. Most likely, it would be more accurate to state that we hoped for that date. Or we hoped for the greatest job of all time when that hope was never realized. Somehow our expectation was unrealistic or incapable of materializing.

Should we stop hoping for what we want? It might be a method of preventing disappointment when those hopes should have been expectations that were unfulfilled. Anyone who knows me will immediately recognize that I will never stop hoping. Those hopes are for happiness and success, for those I love and for me. To cease hoping, in my view, is to refrain from dreaming about the best of all possible situations and consequences.

Instead, managing expectations seems to be a much better option. Tending to our poor bedraggled hydrangea, I hope that we can nurse it back to good health. That may be an unrealistic expectation. While I hope (and dream) of the book that I have recently begun to develop, my life will more likely be free of disappointment if I refrain from imagining it as a best seller. And likewise, we must dream of the best possible world for those around us, with the expectations that the road to that existence will be unpaved and full of detours. Shalom.

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How you feel

As I become older, I am aware of how many people I have lost and how many have been lost to those I love. While I object to spending a great deal of time in grief and sadness, I do think about the opportunities missed to tell those we love exactly how we feel about them.

My experience says that men have much more difficulty with expressing their feelings than women. Obviously, that generalization is subject to countless exceptions. Some women don’t know how to or refuse to express their feelings, especially when it comes to loved ones. And likewise, some men have no difficulty whatsoever in discussing their feelings, to significant others or family members.

What’s the reason for this reluctance to talk about our emotions? There are probably as many reasons as there are people who can’t or won’t. And while I make no (ridiculous) attempt to change this, I do have some gentle suggestions to make.

Many of us who have lost those closest to us did so without ever hearing the feelings that they had for us. It would have been soothing to hear a, “I’m so proud of you” or “I’m glad that you’re my daughter” or something along those lines. While I have many family members and friends who are lavish with their compliments or gratitude, some kindnesses and words can never be duplicated.

As one who feels strongly about articulating how we feel about others, I urge you to waste no time in telling those closest to you how your life is defined or amplified by their existences. For me, I find myself also guilty of not telling those closest that they are as wonderful as I find them and how proud I am of who they are and what they have achieved.

My irreplaceable and uniquely magnificent children should know that they are my greatest gifts and that I am grateful that they call me Mom or Mommy or Mother.  If you are likewise blessed, waste no time in detailing how you feel, in spite of how often you’ve said it or thought about saying it. This is not done in the spirit of anticipating last breaths but more in making every breath matter. Shalom.

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Take your time

Occasionally, I encounter a client who appears to have trouble putting words together in cogent sentences. On the other side of the continuum, I have clients who create work in breakneck time, sending it to me “to make sure that it’s right.” In both cases, these situations result in work for me. But I wonder about the ways that we each interpret pace and speed.

It’s been some time since I was graded on my writing or had it evaluated for a contest. Somehow, I can’t forget a client years ago who said that my work was so bad that he could have had better from his third grader. But as hard as I try to remember writing under pressure, I simply don’t recollect writing faster or slower, depending on the context. It appears that we all define speed in the same individual fashion as we do many other dynamics.

Driving on a 55 mph highway, 59 is speeding. As I travel. I often see drivers who are doing 75, 85 or 90, clear examples to me of extreme speeding. But do these drivers think of themselves as speeders? My guess is no – they are simply getting to where they need to be in as little time as possible.

Observing them and race drivers, I wonder if some of us have a need for speed? While I admit to improve my time for each 5k that I complete, time is vastly secondary to the victory associated with finishing.

Somehow, we all feel about pace or velocity as we do happiness, success or serenity. As in the case of those desirables, we have no need or right to create legislation or normalcy. It’s true that I would feel safer without drivers doing 90 behind and beside me. Identifying or citing them is ultimately the responsibility of local law enforcement but I admit to feeling happy when I see one of them pulled over by a police officer.

As for my slow, methodical writers, do what you need to feel right about what you write. My job remains the same, a responsibility that I eagerly and happily assume. Shalom.

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Once again, I am amazed and enthralled by the cornucopia of inspiration that I receive from sitting in the patio. Following the brutal wind we experienced yesterday, I am grateful for the light breeze and the flourishing of blooms on geraniums, marigolds and pansies.

Sitting quietly and receiving energy from my surroundings, I notice a solitary grasshopper who shares the nearby rocks. He stays still for a very long time and if it weren’t for the movement of his tiny legs, I would wonder if he is still alive.

Under no circumstances would I put an end to him or chase him to another spot. He is as much a member of the community as I am. Without knowing exactly what he eats, I respect the fact that he occupies a specific place in the great chain of nature. As much as I have the right to do my part in this nature community, so does he.

Many years ago, I had a wonderful, irreplaceable friend who welcomed me to a new city and extended the most hospitality I have ever known. She was a dedicated wife and mother as well as being a prolific gardener and cook. We observed many insects in our gardening and canning endeavors, and I will never forget that every time she had to kill a bug, she would implore, “Go to God.”

This is not to say that I don’t kill critters who are uninvited house guests or those who attack my thriving plants. But for the most part, I welcome Mr. Grasshopper, Mr. Bumblebee and the numerous species of birds who partake of our food or nectar.

Whenever we lose sight of the rights and privileges of those around us, we disrupt the rules of life and survival. Each time I hear of murders, rapes or other atrocities in this community we call civilization, I shudder at the thought of what that person could have represented or given. While Mr. Grasshopper will never win a Nobel Prize or invent a cure for cancer, I am grateful for his presence and that of his fellow residents on our earth. Shalom.

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Just plain scared

Something that I have never been able to understand is why so many folks, large and small, are obsessed with the supernatural. Some of it is the taste fairy thing. While many are intrigued by love stories and thwarted romances, a huge number find ghosts and scary stuff entertaining.

Through my experience in education, I have been fascinated by the connection between many kids and the spine-chilling. Every one of them has a tale of horror and unexplained phenomena. Mom, cousin, aunt, brother, grandma or next door neighbor has either seen, heard or found evidence of some form of paranormal.

Trying to explain it, I identify several possible reasons. Kids often want to outdo parents, teachers and peers. It may simply be convenient to do so in realms for which there is no scientific, hard proof.

Another possibility is the inherent unpredictability of the supernatural. We spend countless hours with the finite in the form of math, spelling, history and science. All of these have immutable explanations. Perhaps some of us have need for worlds that defy traditional descriptions.

Or it may be that it’s simply fun to be scared. Many never outgrow the adrenalin associated with being frightened. One student reported that she loves “mystery in my world.” Another indicated, “It’s creepy and it’s cool to watch.”

Horror is entertaining, in small quantities. As one who dabbles in fiction and concentrates on non-fiction, horror is not my preferred genre. However, if I run out of good topics in the classroom setting, it will always be provocative and attention-grabbing to bring up horror. Maybe we all need a bit of scary and unexplainable in our worlds. Shalom.