Vocabulary Differences

I use words differently than most people around me. Not in a way that hinders understanding, but my word choice sometimes surprises people.

Today at work, my manager remarked on my use of “unwieldy.” I actually realize now I said it wrong, because I said “unwieldly,” with an extra l. He said a lot of other people would have used “awkward” or another more common word.

Previously, another coworker was surprised by a word I used, though I cannot recall which word it was.

That got me thinking, why do I use a different vocabulary to most of the people I interact with?

For the most part, it’s fairly similar, with a few uncommon word choices. Sometimes I’ll use a word with creative liberty, like finagle. I don’t use that exactly as the definition, “obtain by devious or dishonest means” (according to Google). I have remarked to a friend that I was trying to finagle my hair tie (ponytail holder) out of my hair. It adds a layer of meaning that implies it is difficult and I cannot do it as I would normally.

Over time, I have encountered and learned a wide variety of words. I have admired odd or meaning-heavy word choices. I find it exciting and creative. That has likely contributed to my adoption of unusual and uncommon words into my vocabulary.

I tend to go through cycles of infatuation with specific words, interestingly enough. For a week or even a few days, I might really enjoy using unwieldy or finagle or some other word. (Sorry I cannot think of more specific examples other than those two at the moment.) Then I might find or remember another word I really like and start using it again.

When I think of a word choice that fits and feels correct, I use it, even if it may seem wrong or strange to other people. Most of the time, I have not had confusion with this approach, though it has been seen as amusing. I’ve also had cases where I learned I was using a word completely incorrectly and it did not work in my chosen context even with creative liberty. That happens. I learned and adjusted my speech and writing according to my newfound knowledge.

I enjoy surprising people with the freshness of unfamiliar or infrequently-used words. I’m not trying to show off or appear smart by using “big words” or words people don’t hear often. I’m trying to use the right word, and often that’s not the usual way of expressing that idea.

I love unusual words. Share your favorite uncommon word with me in the comments!

On Working Holidays

As someone with a service job, I have become accustomed to working on holidays. It’s not fun and I’d much rather be with family. At the same time, the free market explains why businesses are open on holidays and how people could change this if they dislike it.

Last year at Walmart I worked the day before Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday. Panera is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I worked today, Christmas Eve. Last year I worked Christmas Eve at Walmart.

The worst customers will lament the terrible fact that people are working on holidays. While shopping there.

If people voluntarily decided to stop doing business on holidays, companies will have no reason to be open on holidays. As it is, enough people want to go out and shop that businesses find it profitable to be open.

Most places have more limited hours for Christmas Eve and/or Thanksgiving and are closed on Christmas. If they didn’t, they might lose workers, which could prevent them from opening at all.

Money and employees drive a business. Serving customers well and when they want service has a lot of influence on business hours.

If everyone bought Christmas presents and food before Christmas Eve, shops would be closed that day. Those workers who were asked, “Why do they make you work Christmas Eve?” will not be asked that, because they will be at home with their families.

You can’t change the world if you don’t first change yourself.

Disaster Preparedness

Today I got a flat tire. Thank goodness I had a spare in the trunk.

It made me realize that it’s important to be prepared. Sometimes bad things happen and they’re usually unexpected.

I keep a camel hair blanket in my car in case I break down, especially now that it’s winter. I had a spare in my trunk in case of a flat.

Having some sort of plan where possible for if something happens can help. But it could also drive me nuts.

If I’m constantly thinking about what if there’s a storm or a fire or a flood or a car crash or some other problem, I’ll never do anything.

I can’t sit and worry forever. I have to do my work and live my life.

How to Start Worldbuilding

A great story has a great setting surrounding the plot. How do you create a believable, consistent world for your story?

The genre of your story will determine how in-depth you need to worldbuild to create a believable setting. Sometimes a barebones, “basically earth with different cities/countries” or “actually earth” will suffice. If you’re writing fantasy, though, you probably need to create a new world or at least rules for how the fantasy elements interact with the world. “Earth plus magic,” for example, has a lot of possibilities.

The questions you should ask:

  • Is this earth? If not, you’ll need to decide if your story takes place on a planet or just a country/region of a planet. You may not need the whole planet, but you could name it and create vague areas. Only put the detail work into the areas you’ll be using.
  • If this is earth, what year is it? How has earth changed between then and now? For futuristic fiction, decide on some general events and changes that have taken place. Flesh out the ones that will affect your plot. Have a timeline in case you need to make more history.
  • Do you need or want to create a language? Who speaks that language? Define the people group or context for the language. For example, in the Middle Ages most written work from educated people was in Latin. The Catholic Church services were in Latin. At that time, Latin had a specific context even though the majority of people did not speak or understand it.
  • Are the people human? If not, how are they different? How are they similar? Are there humans in this world? Will there be humans in this world? If you have multiple species consider how they interact with each other and why.
  • What religion do the main characters adhere to? What religion(s) are common among the people in the city/country/region/etc? Do they believe in god(s)? Are the god(s) real in this world? What are they like? What are the religious practices or rituals, if any? Religion plays a huge role in culture and has a large influence on people’s lives.
  • Who is in charge of the government or power structure? Are either of those present? Do the majority of people like the officials? Why or why not? Do the main characters like them? Why or why not? Have the officials influenced the city/country/etc positively or negatively? How?

These are some basic starting questions. As you create, more questions and their answers may come to mind. Feel free to create as much or as little detail for your world as you want or need.

Just don’t get so caught up in it you forget to start writing your story.

This Post is Clickbait

Clickbait is a negative phenomenon online where the title or featured image of an article or video entices you to click. Then the article or video does not discuss that topic.

This isn’t always how the word is used now, but it was a couple of years ago. The common usage is about it grabbing your attention. Hence, clickbait. But the word “bait,” has an implication of drawing you in for bad reasons.

That thumbnail on Youtube that never appears in the video and never discussed? Possibly clickbait.

That title that really grabs your attention but the introduction makes you doubt that’s the topic? Possibly clickbait.

I will say it happens that titles, featured images, and thumbnails can appear clickbaity but actually deliver on the promised topic. Appearing to be clickbait does not make something clickbait.

If you have the title “Why I Will Never Eat at (Restaurant),” that looks like clickbait. If you tell your story succinctly and don’t waste time getting to the why, it’s not clickbait. If, on the other hand, you follow the model of a lot of “storytime” Youtubers, and take a while to meanderingly get to your point, that’s sort of clickbait. It’s not entirely, because you do discuss the topic, but you waste time getting to the point.

Clickbait is bad because it wastes people’s time and makes them distrustful of your content. If you have a video or article that will seem clickbaity, I don’t think you need to specify that it isn’t clickbait. Rather, you need to grab and hold people’s attention and be aware of the time you are asking them to spend with you.

Don’t waste people’s time with your content and they won’t cry “clickbait” with every engaging title.

Focusing on Projects

I can be very easily distracted. But I can also sit and write for hours without realizing.

I start the day with a list of activities I need to do. I set out exactly what I plan to accomplish with the day at the beginning so I know how to spend my time. The specific amounts of time on each task isn’t important, it’s crossing each item off the list by the end of the day.

I keep a glass of water at my desk. I take care of my physical needs, then I get to work. I think only of the writing.

I sit down to write my blog post and I think. Even when I have an idea, I take a moment to think about it before writing anything. I don’t jump in immediately.

I stare at the blank page, let it stare back at me before writing words. They don’t have to be the right words, they don’t have to be organized, they just need to get on the page. I can fix them later.

I can’t go from blank page to masterpiece if I never start writing.

At first, I have to force myself to write. I force out a few sentences before I get into the flow. I have to get in the “zone,” that place of mental concentration if I want to build momentum. For a blog post draft, I might need only about thirty minutes.

Once I cut out distractions, I get to writing. I put one word after another, and keep going. I think about what comes next and the overall message. I pour out words until I reach the conclusion. I don’t look at the clock to see how long it took. I work to silence and the clacking of my keyboard or the scratch of my pen on paper.

I try to write as long as I can without a break. Sometimes that means staring at the page trying to find the words.

For a longer project I work as long as I can, then take a short break. If I can’t finish that in one go that’s fine. What matters is I put in the work and got in the zone.

I cut the distractions I can control. I make sure I’m awake and need nothing. I stare at the tauntingly blank page, then force myself to write until I’m not forcing it. My thoughts hone in on the the work and topic at hand. The words start to flow and I get in the zone. I make it last as long as possible or as long as needed.

Then I take a break and come back to do it again.

Indifference

“The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.” – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, p. 42.

Both love and hate are a feeling, indifference is the lack of a feeling.

This line in the War of Art struck me. I’d never heard or read something like this.

We so often view love and hate as diametrically opposed to each other, as opposites, and in a way they are. But the opposite of feeling is not feeling, apathy, indifference.

When we love or hate or are angry because of something, we have a feeling. We care about it in some way, positive or negative. If we’re indifferent or apathetic, we don’t feel anything.

In that way, Steven Pressfield is right.

As far as a spectrum of emotions, love and hate may appear opposite.

But they are really rivaled against indifference.