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It’s Been too Long a While

It’s been too long since I’ve posted anything here. Let’s just say June was a very bad month and let it go at that.

I promised to keep you updated on both Drafts and Ulysses, and I’ve failed on both counts. I’ll be making up for that—and a lot of other things—this month.

I’m surprised that I’m writing anything at all, to be honest; at 10 a.m. it was already 92° F/33° C. Even though it’s been almost 30 years since I left Alaska, my blood still hasn’t thinned enough for me to be comfortable with this much heat.

Yesterday I moved my “writing center” (laptop, iPhone charger, iPad, and iPhone) downstairs just outside the den-cum-office, which is the only air-conditioned room in the house. Even with that, I can only work about an hour at a time before I have to go sit in front of the AC and let it cool me down. And yes, I’m keeping well-hydrated.

Why So Many Devices?

Why so many tools? Because while I firmly believe that humankind has not yet evolved to the point where we can truly multitask, my ADHD keeps me hopping from thought to thought faster than I can process them, and so I try my best to write down those ideas before they disappear. My electronics have replaced my physical notebooks. And no matter how high the quality of Moleskine notebooks, by iPhone is just easier to carry with me.

And no, it’s NOTE “mole-skin:”

“We want people to feel free to say the name the way they want. Having said that, “moleskin” as a word is originally an English word. So the English pronunciation is ‘Mole-skin.’ But then you know, it was moved to France and over there, an ‘e’ was added and the French pronunciation is ‘mol-ey-skine.’” https://www.marketplace.org/2013/05/20/business/corner-office/moleskines-ceo-papers-advantages-and-how-pronounce-moleskine

Another Example

I wanted to find a couple of bookmarks in my browser to add to this entry—and I ended up spending 30 minutes sorting and rearranging my bookmarks. And no, I didn’t find the ones I wanted.

So I ended up spending yet another half hour finding and bookmarking some excellent references sites and tools, which I’ll add to my writer’s toolbox, an updated version of which I’ll be posting sometime this week.

In The Meantime

I’ll be spending the rest of the day doing a few mundane yet oh-so-necessary life tasks that we all would much rather not have to do—such as the laundry.

Until later,

Robyn Jane

Why I Write at Medium, and Why You Should, Too

Are you writer? Do you spend hours alone in your room, staring at the walls until 3 a.m. when you finally are exhausted enough to sit down and let the words come without you getting in the way? Do you look at what few friends you have and think, “She’d make a great character for my book”?

I'm writing a novel

Is this you?

Becoming a Better Writer

One way to improve your writing is by joining a local writers’ group or workshop. But what if you’re a shut-in, or (like me) don’t have reliable transportation to get you there?

Another way is by reading a lot. At least, that’s what most of the successful big-name authors say—and who am I to argue with them? But getting to the library, for example, can be hampered by the two instances I listed above.

Another drawback to reading a lot can be money, or, more specifically, the lack thereof.

Enter Medium

Medium “is an online publishing platform developed by Evan Williams, and launched in August 2012. It is owned by A Medium Corporation.[3] The platform is an example of social journalism, having a hybrid collection of amateur and professional people and publications, or exclusive blogs or publishers on Medium, and is regularly regarded as a blog host.” (Wikipedia)

In Plain English, Please

Think of Medium as a Facebook for writers—minus the trolls, divisiveness, and advertisements. But even that doesn’t to begin to cover what makes Medium such a great platform. Remember what I said about joining a local writers’ group? Medium is that very group on steroids: it’s an international writers’ group.

You can connect with other writers by interests, topics, location—either publicly or privately (which I still have to figure out).

For me, Medium is first and foremost a source of different writings (Medium calls them stories). They’re fresh, topical, and can include everything rom the latest abstruse scholarly article to fiction to poetry to you name it. But best of all—at least to me—is that I can post a story and know that people will respond on it politely and with thought.

Plus I get some great fiction, too!

Medium

If you don’t have it and consider yourself a writer, go get it! Right now!!!

A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Medium.com

Or, Yet Another Story Telling You How to Write Stories

There. I’ve gone and admitted it: I’m a curmudgeon.

Definition of curmudgeon

1: a crusty, ill-tempered, and usually old man

2 archaic : miser

— curmudgeonliness play \(ˌ)kər-ˈmə-jən-lē-nəs\ noun

— curmudgeonly play \(ˌ)kər-ˈmə-jən-lē\ adjective

Merriam-Webster.com

But here’s the thing: I’m 68 years old and so burnt out by modern life that I am proud to be, indeed, deserve to be crusty and ill-tempered.

“There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Attributed to Ernest Hemingway

I was like you once. I’d read article after article in books and magazines and on the internet all pretending to teach me how to become a gazillionaire best-selling author overnight.

Eventually, I saw the irony: none of those articles were actually written by best-selling authors.

They reminded me of the Creative Writing class I took my first year at uni. “I’m going to need your help,” said the professor. “The thing is, I’ve never taught creative writing before, and I don’t know just how the hell I’m supposed to put an academic grade on a creative effort.”

This, from an Oxford-educated Ph.D.

Nevertheless, I persisted. ( See what I did there? That’s called a trope, or for you younger whippersnappers, a meme.) I read and studied and studied and read for years, all the while filling copious notebooks with my writing. Notebooks I would routinely burn,not yet having learned the value of the history of my development as a writer.

My Epiphany

But no matter how many real authors I read–Hemingway, Stein, Corso, Ferlinghetti–I never achieved enlightenment, satori, or whatever you want to call it, until I had my epiphany whilst watching “Throw Momma From the Train.” The blinding revelation came when the Billy Crystal character uttered these profound words: “A writer writes.”

And reads. Now I can honestly claim that all those hours I spent in the library at Brooks Air Field in San Antonio during my high school years were preparing me to be a writer…although my inner curmudgeon insists on honesty, and so I have to admit that wasn’t why I was doing it.

I was avoiding my depression. That’s what 50 years of hindsight—which is always 20/20—shows me. It was something I had been struggling with since birth. I just didn’t understand what was going on until I was in my mid-30’s, when I started on my first antidepressant medication. Later, through years of therapy, I was finally able to see what I had really been going through whilst hiding in the library.

Still, one of the benefits of being me is that I have always been blessed (or cursed, depending on your point of view) with an excellent memory. How excellent? I still remember things that happened to me when I couldn’t have been much more than 2 years old. And while everyone of my generation can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was shot, I can recall the same details about standing in the street in front of my grandparents house on Kingsland Avenue in the Bronx, where we all gathered to watch Sputnik fly overhead.

And while I recall all of the adults being terrified, had I had the vocabulary at the time, I would have said, “Most excellent! Far fucking out!”

It was one of those days in the library when I first devoured Martin Caidin’s Cyborg, which would one day become the basis for television’s Six Million Dollar Man. It was also when I discovered the collected works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and in them, Sherlock Holmes.

My Emergence as a Writer

I never consciously thought of myself as an author; that title seemed too exalted for my scribblings. But here I am, 50 years later, and I’ve come to realize that that’s exactly what I am, for good or for bad.

So when other people ask me for My Secrets to Becoming an Author™, I can come up with no better suggestion than what Billy Crystal said: “A writer writes.”

Even when you have no idea what to write. Again, quoting Hemingway, “Write one true sentence.” It will all flow from there. Write.

And read: you can’t become a great (or even a mediocre) writer unless you read a lot of books. I don’t care what the subject is: just read. Study the author’s technique and language. It sounds easy, but for me, reading as an author is one of the hardest things I ever do.

Harder, because while I’m reading for enjoyment, maybe even trying to figure out whodunit, I’m also trying to see how it is written, how the author is using her command of language and technique to tell her story.

Ultimately, then, writing is a skill or an art. And like any other skill or art, it takes practice.

So stop reading what this curmudgeon has to say, and go write something!

Goodbye, Facebook

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
And whether pigs have wings.”
The Walrus and the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll

To which I would add “And to ask myself why the fuck am I still on Facebook?”

Do you remember the early days, when Facebook was the best way to chat with friends? To reunite with family members? You know what I’m talking about: the time before it became a toxic waste dump of advertising, lies, and politics? Or is the use of those three words in a single sentence considered redundant?

Like many of you, I used to check Facebook several times during the day. Hell, at one time I would even check it in the middle of the night when I got up to pee.

Well, droogs, I’ve had enough. Facebook has started to suck the life out of me. Instead of being a communications tool, it has become a psychic vampire, a tool for manipulation, and a disseminator of lies and disunity.

I’m tired of waiting for Facebook to grow up. After all these years, it still can’t decide what it wants to be when it grows up. Hell, it can’t even decide if it wants to grow up!

Security breaches. Stolen data. Refusal to accept responsibility. Facebook is the Han Solo of social media: “Hey, it’s not my fault!”

In short, Facebook has gone over to the Dark Side. It has joined the armies of Sauron.

I deactivated my account once before, and then thought better(?) of it and came back, only to discover things had gotten worse. This time, I have not just deactivated it—I’ve actually cancelled it.

If you need to talk to this humble Hobbit, I can still be reached by email, via this blog, or on my Medium.com account.

On Writing For Medium

How To Find Your Voice and Become a Superb Writer

Save your work, then step back and preview it. Periodically, as I am going along, I “listen” to what I have written. This ensures it still sounds like “me”, that it flows and represents the way I want my story to come across. –Enrique Fiallo

This is a crucial step, and given today’s fast-paced cyberspace, perhaps the hardest. I spend far too much time on social media, with the result that I feel pressured to respond to the latest Facebook post or Twitter tweet and so most of my responses are flippant, with no real thought behind them.

But Medium is different. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m different when I’m in Medium. I like to think it’s because my visits here have taken on a somewhat ritualistic flavor: I spend time brewing a fresh cup of tea (using whole leaf tea, naturally) and engaging in deep-breathing exercises while it brews.

I then sit down with my mug of tea and open the Medium app, usually on my iPhone. I peruse (yes I do know what the word means) article titles, and click on ones that seem interesting. Sometimes – as in this case – I’m prompted? inspired? to write a response.

But this isn’t Facebook and it’s not Twitter. This is Medium, and I don’t want to come across as some young smart-ass punk (can I even be that at 67 years of age?), and so I do my best to respond in a deliberate and thoughtful voice. (I save my smart-assery for my blogs.)

Once I’ve finished my response I then go over it, making sure it is coherent and consistent. I delete a comma here and add one there, change a word to one that makes more sense or gives more clarity.

Above all, I want to communicate clearly, and if doing so requires me to break some arbitrary rule of grammar, so be it.

After, it’s my voice.