Category Archives: Thoughts and Musings

Learning to Revise One Little Piece at a Time

As a writer, revision has never been my strong point. I don’t think I ever heard the word “revision” until I was training to become a teacher and learned about the writing process. In high school and college, I received notes to address in my writing from the teacher (usually in red ink) and I did what she wanted—and I felt proud of myself for pleasing the teacher. That wasn’t—and isn’t—revision, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I’ve struggled with revision as a result in my short fiction writing. I’ve been reading through Gardner’s The Art of Fiction and thinking about how to apply some of his thinking to my revision process, particularly his thoughts on sentence construction and rhythm. I think I may have come upon a technique that is helping me as I edit and revise my upcoming ebook collection Powerless: Stories. 

As I go through the text, I isolate a paragraph or, if the paragraph is super short, a small section by hitting “Return” several times before and after the segment. This makes me focus just on the section because it is the only thing I can see on the screen. The isolation has helped me concentrate more on the language I’m using and apply some of the lessons from Gardner. I can see a difference already in making my prose sound smoother.

I’m not sure why the isolation is so important in my process. Perhaps because the urge to just read on gets put off because there’s nothing else to read on to—at least right there on the screen. It changes my task from reading to revising by working in this piecemeal way. I doubt this addresses the totality of my revision process—or lack thereof. But, at least it is a way for me to start actually revising my work.

Wholesome + Gay Families

Honey Maid is out with a new ad that takes previous companies’ efforts to include gay families as normal in their advertisements to a whole new level.

What makes this ad so different?  Other ads feature gay families (in addition to the gay couple, the ad also features an interracial family, a single father, and a “punk rock” family).

The inclusion of a gay family in any ad says, “This is normal.” Honey Maid, though, goes beyond that and—explicitly—says, “This is wholesome.” Wholesome is an interesting word choice.  It means healthy, which goes beyond normalizing gay families. The message isn’t just “This is okay” or “This is acceptable.”  This isn’t a message of tolerance, or even acceptance—it’s a message that we should be striving towards what these families have.

Surely, some conservative’s head is exploding somewhere.

Oopsy Daisy: Saying ‘Sorry’ and Apologies

sorry parkers bros gameQuite happenstancely (is that a word?), I came across two articles about apologizing and saying ‘sorry.’

The first, “Sorry!” on Language Log, discusses the intersection between the frequency of “sorry” and culture, specifically the annoyance we might feel when we perceive people as apologizing too much. It’s important to note that what might seem to us as excessive “sorrying” is culturally appropriate for others. The distinction between Korean and Chinese cultures and their use of “sorry” is interesting and helps avoid grouping all Eastern cultures together as if they were monolithic.

The second, “The Key Components of an Effective Apology” on Lifehacker (which is about this post on Psychology Today), outlines five things you need in order to have effectively apologized:

1. A clear ‘I’m sorry’ statement.

2. An expression of regret for what happened.

3. An acknowledgment that social norms or expectations were violated.

4. An empathy statement acknowledging the full impact of our actions on the other person.

5. A request for forgiveness.

While potentially formulaic, these characteristics make sense to me. In other words, it’s not enough to say you’re sorry, you also have to be sorry and seem sorry.

In other words, it’s not enough to say you’re sorry, you also have to be sorry and seem sorry.

It’s a pet peeve of mine when my students do whatever the hell they want and then think it’s all better because they said, “Sorry.” That word has become license to do whatever you want to people, because if you say sorry afterwards, then you are in the clear. Never mind if the person saying sorry is even sorry at all, if they care about their impact on others, or if they would do the exact same thing later. I tell my students, “Don’t say sorry, just don’t do it again.”

I was in the elevator of my apartment this weekend, and this family crowded on with all their Christmas presents when it was clear that it would be uncomfortably crowded. “Sorry. Sorry,” they said. I wanted to say back, “You’re not sorry, because if you were sorry you wouldn’t be doing this!” But I smiled (okay, perhaps grimaced) and then had to squeeze my way off because—of course—they were going to the top floor.

I have a feeling LMFAO isn’t sorry at all (although, they really should be).