If you feel like giving your ego a nice, solid punch in the gut, check out the following article.

15 Words You Need to Eliminate From Your Vocabulary to Sound Smarter
Jennie Haskamp  |  The Muse

Newsprint is on life support, emojis are multiplying faster than hungry Gremlins, and 300 million people worldwide strive to make their point in 140 or fewer characters.

People don’t have the time or the attention span to read any more words than necessary. You want your readers to hear you out, understand your message, and perhaps be entertained, right? Here’s a list of words to eliminate to help you write more succinctly.

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I included the link, but I’d actually encourage you not to “read more,” and I’ll tell you why. Any advice aimed at artists that begins with “never” or “always” should be regarded with extreme suspicion from the onset.

Sure, there are some solid “most of the time” rules that are good to know. Grammar is a key example if you’re a writer. You should almost always follow standard grammatical rules. But there are times when it makes sense to break them.

Like with fragment sentences. You know, for punch.

Forgive the trite phrase, but artists should be outside the box thinkers. The moment you start paying attention to rules, you’re limited. Held back. Enslaved.

Don’t do that to yourself.

Standards are good. Yes, yes, yes. There are best practices worth adopting. But never push back from an artistic impulse because someone (even one of your heroes) said to “never” or “always” do something.

Fuck that.

Find your own way and let your art shine through.

This week, I’d like to point you to another article. I do that from time to time, and not always because I’m being lazy. Today, it’s purely because I like the cadence and content of this interview.

If this article is any indication, Detroit artist Sydney G. James is a dynamic individual. The way she describes and deals with the tension between financial success and artistic fulfillment, for example, is both inspiring and practical.

Give it a read. Even if you don’t agree with everything she says, I think you’ll find it informative, interesting, and maybe even enlightening.

‘Be dope every day’ declares renowned artist Sydney G. James
Porsha Monique  |  Rolling Out

Chances are, if you drive down any given street in Detroit, it’s very likely that you may see the amazingly beautiful, larger-than-life artwork of Sydney James. Perhaps you may see her work in mural form on several buildings in the city’s historic Eastern Market area, or maybe at an intersection while driving through the city, or maybe in what appears to have been a vacant lot, turned into a field of dreams and beauty with the help of James’ magic touch. One thing is for sure, once you spot a James masterpiece, you’ll be in awe of her remarkable gifts.

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Bad days suck.

I’m not talking about when something truly tragic happens. Of course those days suck. I’m talking about days when you just feel off. Days when you misfire consistently. Days when you can barely put words into sentences, when little, stupid things annoy you to your core, or when people whose company you normally enjoy drive you bat-shit crazy.

Days like that have reverberating effect. Anything you do can be tainted by the general negative vibe, and that’s not good for much of anything. It can kill your writing, but it can wreak havoc on your personal life, too.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to combat a bad day. All too often, the source of the sourness is a little thing. If you can pin-point it, or at least find something to get you into a better frame of mind, it really is possible to turn a bad day into a good one.

Last week I came across this nifty little article, linked below. Give it a read. Better yet, bookmark that bad boy for future reference when you’re having a not-so-hot day. Don’t just mope your way through it. Do something to make it better.

15 Questions To Ask Yourself When You’re Having A Bad Day. This Is Invaluable.
tickld  |  Laura McCallum

I tend to think of Anne Lamott as a writer’s writer. Certainly, her book Bird by Bird was life-changing for me. She’s thoughtful, kind and (somehow) gut-wrenchingly honest, all at the same time.

Recently, she celebrated her sixty-first birthday with an epic Facebook post. Someone over at Salon saw it for the amazing thing that it is and promptly republished it in its entirety. I’m going to link to it below, but I want to say something about it, first–one part warning and one part challenge.

Lamott is a Christian. That’s the warning.

I don’t mean to imply anything good or bad about the Christian faith. She’s not a Bible beater. Not even someone who would scowl if you said ‘fuck’ around her. To my understanding, she’s considerably more open minded than that. However, she does say some things about God and Jesus in the stuff I’m going to be linking. If you don’t like that kind of talk, skip it, but please don’t skip the whole post. There’s some good non-God stuff in there, too.

Baby. Bathwater. Try to keep one even if you ditch the other. That’s the challenge.

Now that we’re done with the prelude, on to the good stuff. Per usual, I’ve included a snippet, but if you want to read it all you’ll have to click through. I know that means you’re less likely to comment here, and I hate that. If you’re feeling particularly charitable, consider coming back around this way and let me know what you think of her birthday post.

Anne Lamott shares all that she knows: “Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared”
Anne Lamott  |  Salon

I am going to be 61 years old in 48 hours. Wow. I thought I was only 47, but looking over the paperwork, I see that I was born in 1954. My inside self does not have an age, although can’t help mentioning as an aside that it might have been useful had I not followed the Skin Care rules of the 60s, i.e., to get as much sun as possible while slathered in baby oil. (My sober friend Paul O said, at 80, that he felt like a young man who had something wrong with him.) Anyway, I thought I might take the opportunity to write down every single thing I know, as of today.

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In the category of ‘better than I can say it’, I’d like to repost something by my talented friend, Cynthia Robertson.

Without sounding preachy, she manages to cut to the heart of an unsettling trend: “What bothers me is a tendency to shame people for expressing their truth. The truth of their experience as they experienced it.”

I could not agree more.

If you find that tidbit interesting, please click through and read the full post. And don’t forget to comment on Cynthia’s site. Comments from readers mean more to us writers than you might know.

The Emerging Shaming Culture
Cynthia Roberston  |  cynthiarobertson.wordpress.com

A few weeks ago I was dithering around on FB, a place I mostly haunt without posting, as I am curious (nosy) about people’s lives, but a somewhat private (secretive) person. One of my friends posted this by a former MFA program instructor. I read it and thought, yeah, that’s probably pretty much what it’s like; I bet one must read a ton of poorly written stuff: how awful must that be?…

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I did not come up with the image below. In fact, I don’t even recall where I came across it. I only know I’ve had it tucked away in a folder on my PC for a while now with the intention of one day sharing it here.

Today is evidently that day.

One of the more interesting points it makes is this:

“…writers have the ultimate power to influence others. With a powerful and evocative story you can activate your reader’s brains and make them feel like they are experiencing it first-hand, influencing the emotions you want them to feel.”

That’s just one of the little gems packed away in this illustration. I apologize for the fact that it’s a hair blury. Hopefully you can still read it all easily enough. It’s certainly worth it.

If there’s something there that really resonates with you, tell me about it in the comments.

amazing-facts-about-writing-and-the-brain-640x2255

I love it when I come across something so well articulated that I wish I’d written it. Well, I love it and I hate it. The petty, childish part of me feels somehow cheated, which is silly and nonsensical but true nevertheless. However, a more mature part of me wins out the vast majority of the time and cheers my fellow writer on.

Such is the case today.

Cynthia Robertson has crafted some thoughts on the concept of “writing what you know” that are worth reading. I don’t even have much of anything to add, she did her part so well. Instead, I’m going to point you to her site and nudge you to go check it out.

And by ‘nudge’, I mean glare at you via the internet until you click through and read her stuff. It’s good. Damn good. Go read it. Now.

The Real (Secret) Meaning of “Write What You Know”
Cynthia Robertson  |  cynthiarobertson.wordpress.com

As a young writer I never fully understood the advice write what you know. Like a lot of others, I assumed it meant that I should write about only those activities I’d personally taken part in, and not about those I hadn’t. Not surprisingly, my early stories were filled with characters who had crappy jobs and went to a lot of parties, backpacked, fished and rode horses. (They still do have characters who ride horses.)

But what, I wondered, about the writer who wanted to write about characters having sword fights, dying of plague, or being sold into slavery? Or hey, how about walking on the moon?

Happily, ‘write what you know’ doesn’t really mean that we should only write about being an astronaut if we’ve actually been one…

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Like a lot of modern writers, I do the vast majority of my work sitting in front of a computer. That means I’m pounding away on a keyboard for hours a day. A few months ago, on the suggestion of a friend, I took the plunge and purchased a mechanical keyboard. (I got the Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate on sale for $50 off. That’s it pictured above. There are plenty of solid brands out there. I went for the best value.)

Here’s what I can tell you: the keyboard you use does make a difference.

My typing is, believe it or not, slightly faster, and the keyboard is easier on my fingers and hands. Because I previously used a super-slim keyboard, it took me a few days to get used to the added bulk, but I highly recommend the change. If you spend a significant amount of time typing, you’ll likely notice the difference, too.

If you’re not sure what a mechanical keyboard is or how it differs from other keyboards, here’s a great article from PC World to give you the scoop:

Mechanical Keyboards: Should You Switch?
Patrick Miller PC World

Ever stop and think about how your average, everyday PC keyboard doesn’t have the same satisfying “click” that it used to? Well, some manufacturers still make mechanical switch keyboards that feel like the classic IBM Model M–and if you spend your work (or play) time typing away on a PC keyboard, it might be worth your while to switch out your membrane keyboard for a mechanical one. Depending on what you use with your PC, a mechanical keyboard could help you type more quickly and more accurately, and it will last far longer than a standard PC pack-in keyboard will.

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Why do we write?

There are as many answers to that question as there are writers. The truth is, sometimes we’re quite proud of our motives, sometimes we don’t really know what they are, and sometimes we’d rather not say.

The following set of letters is fascinating, entertaining and weirdly inspiring. If you’re a fan of Charlotte’s Web, you’re sure to find them interesting.

A Book Is A Sneeze
Letters of Note

In September of 1952,  a few weeks before the publication of Charlotte’s Web—the now-classic tale of a pig, Wilbur, who becomes friends with a heroic spider named Charlotte—its author, E. B. White, was asked to explain why he wrote the book by his editor at Harper & Row, Ursula Nordstrom. On the 29th of that month, White responded with the following typewritten letter and explanation, both of which have been kindly supplied to Letters of Note by HarperCollins.

Transcript follows. Read More…