Tag: 2018 May Group Writing

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One of my favorite time-wasting activities is a word game in which you take a grid of letters and spell as many words as you can within a certain period of time. See that H-O-R-N there? Ooh! That spells “horn”! And if you add that S next to the H, you have “shorn”. And if you leave […]

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Group Writing: Small Beer

 

Words. I enjoy words, I enjoy writing, I enjoy wordplay, nicknames, puns, and a well-told story; what I do not enjoy is the formal English language. And anyone like me who has formally studied foreign languages realizes just how much they don’t know about their own language and, upon further examination, just how hard English really is.

Years ago, I took an English class and wondered if I was in the right class as they started talking about present past participles — clearly this is a physics or chemistry term. Later followed by a discussion on gerunds which, as we all know, are in the same family as gerbils. It was only a matter of time until the nightmares began, being caught in a blackened forest of subordinate clauses and chased by infinitives and sentence fragments as I slowly sink into the primordial ooze of objective, subjective, and possessive cases.

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My father, who passed away in 1968, was a gregarious and charismatic story teller, as well as an English grammar zealot. Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” was his favorite reference book. On the other hand, my Mom, who is 90, is a lifelong lexophile. Whereas my Dad loved to captivate audiences, my Mom simply […]

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We have all encountered leaders whose response to problems is to turn it up to 11. Both the volume of their words, and the choice of words goes off the scale. This has limited effectiveness over time. The shock value wears off or nerves fray, producing unproductive responses. And then there are the rare leaders […]

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Korzybski, Words, and Abstraction

 

Korzybski. I’m not sure where or when I first heard the name. I do know the who, though. H. Beam Piper was the finest writer that most people have never heard of. He was primarily a science fiction writer from the mid-1940s to 1964, when he died. He introduced me to many other writers and ideas. James Branch Cabell? The time theories of J. W. Dunne? Charles Oman’s The Art of War? Carl von Clausewitz? All of these and more were referenced in his works. And Korzybski.

“That sounds like Korzybski,” Pierre said, as they turned onto Route 19 in the village and headed east. “You’ve read Science and Sanity?”

Power of Words: Table Talk

 

Growing up, supper was served at the dinner table. Attendance was mandatory. There was no television in the house to distract or draw us away as quickly as we could eat.

When we were done eating, the table was cleared, and a large pot of tea was put on the table. This was the signal for family talk, which could turn into a verbal free-for-all. From this, on top of all the books in the house, augmented by frequent library trips, four young people turned into very expressive adults. Our parents set the expectation that each of us could speak for ourselves, and be part of a conversation with adults.

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In an earlier piece, I wrote about the power of the written word, and how its effects on the life of the protagonist of the first novel, Don Quixote. Fast forward a couple hundred years and migrate about seven hundred miles north, you’ll find another novelist doing something very similar. This time, it is Gustave […]

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Group Writing: Advice from C.S. Lewis

 

I’m that strange breed of engineer that likes words and likes writing. I relish the exercise of formulating a thought and laboring to fashion it in a manner that makes a concept accessible to others. I wrote poetry when I was young, Bible studies in my 20’s, and a wide variety of technical and policy documentation throughout my career. Some years ago, I even started blogging out of an innate need to write, for myself and anyone willing to suffer as my audience. Of course, practical considerations (e.g. life) have relegated this craft to my “I’ll get back to it someday” bin of unfulfilled wishes. But I digress.

Writing creatively and succinctly was never really a focus during my student years. While I believe I am suitably proficient in the use of language and vocabulary, I find that getting beyond words as commodity to words as art to be a difficult chasm to span in my compositions. Bridging the gap between formulations that are essentially disposable to those that weave vibrant tapestries of expression is no small feat, and frequently seems beyond my humble capabilities. Yet, I still have aspirations.  So, when I come across what I consider sound writing advice, I hold onto it for review. Such it is with a letter that C.S Lewis once wrote to a young fan, that includes some interesting suggestions for writers.

The Power of Words: ‘I Can’t Get Enough Words!’

 

My older cousin Rosetta was off to college when I was still in knickers. My aunt said she was brilliant, finishing high school and college early. She went on to teach school in New Jersey for thirty years. I only saw her on holidays and a few vacations at her dad’s cottage in Butler, PA.

We recently began to talk by phone after all these years. She still has the same musical voice. Even on a serious topic, she sounds melodic. Her voice is clear and concise, no stutters, sputters or slang, and it’s also a link to the familiar. When I hear it, our deceased relatives pop up in my mind, laughing around a feast of turkey, stuffed cabbage and homemade pumpkin pie, or the sound of cards being shuffled, knocking on the table and the scent of cherry pipe tobacco.

One year she came for a holiday dinner. Her hair was long and blonde, and she wore a dark blue velvet mini-dress. “Hi Uncle Will and Aunt Mary!” she exclaimed. I was dressed in fringed bell bottom jeans, a silly t-shirt and wore a floppy yellow hat with a peace sign to hide my pimply 7th grade face. My Uncle Al practically boxed my ears upon arrival. A devout Catholic, he hollered that the “peace sign” was the cross upside down, a mockery! Those ‘words’ delivered a verbal punch. I quickly yanked my hat off embarrassed, but all I remember thinking was, I want to grow up looking like Rosetta.

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I don’t know of a place with more people who are all about words, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find twelve more volunteers to write about their experience with The Power of Words. Group writing was founded to try to bring in fresh voices to starting conversations. With group writing, you don’t have to […]

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Sesquipedalia: What’s Your Favorite Big Word?

 

I have always loved words. The bigger or more abstruse or obsolete, the better they are. When I was perhaps twelve, I discovered a wonderful word: Sinistrorotatory. What’s it mean? Same as widdershins. Wait, you don’t know that one either? Lævorotatory. Still not helping? Well, let’s break it apart.

Rotatory means spinning. Sinistro comes from the Latin word for left, sinister (Hi, @randywebster!). So that means it is rotating to the left, or counter-clockwise or anti-clockwise. Yes, there are five fun terms for the same thing. I love the English language. Do you?

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Do you want me to beat your head in?—Mom It was probably not easy raising three rambunctious boys, all born within a fifty-month span. My mother had a unique way of addressing misbehavior when we were young. She would often ask a question to get our attention, such as, “Do you want me to beat […]

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Words and a Mother-in-Law

 

Julia grew up poor. Her parents were Polish immigrants who barely spoke English. She was three when the stock market fell and she grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. She never finished high school, instead getting a job to help bring in money in hard times. She was intelligent enough. She continued to learn throughout her life. But, she always felt inferior because she had never finished high school.

After the war, there were some good times. She could spend the money she earned on fancy stockings she couldn’t get during the war. She could go out with her girlfriends. She worked as an artist and illustrator. Then she met a man, married, and stayed home to raise two girls while her husband worked as an electrical lineman for the city. Both of her daughters grew up to graduate from college before that was the norm. She must have encouraged them to get the education that she never had, that her skilled trades husband had never had.

Words, Words, Words. Word!

 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Words don’t just have power. Words are power. Events that defy description may as well never have happened. Objects with no name are useless. Our entire perception of reality is shaped by the words we know. The complexity and capability of the neural pathways in our brains depends on the language we are exposed to as infants. Words are essential in making us who we are. Communication can happen without words, but only the most basic concepts or emotions. We need words to grow.

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In Group Writing, Ricochet members claim one day of the coming month to write on a proposed theme. This is an easy way to expose your writing to a general audience, with a bit of accountability and topical guidance to encourage writing for its own sake. Haven’t participated in Group Writing yet? We’d love for […]

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