The Journal, Monday, 1/16

Hey Folks,

I love being my age. It’s a built-in excuse for being grouchy about all manner of things. Woohoo!

A couple of days ago, I wrote “One of my Brooklyn guys (that’s him on the left) dropped in to say, ‘Hey, whadda you know from females, am I right?’ To which I replied, ‘Wull, yeah. But it has to be done, right?'”

Then I forgot to add the pic. (sigh)

Okay, so THAT’S him on the left.

Topic: Words (and Grammar and Syntax)

When I was teaching grunt English at ENMU-Roswell a billion years ago, I went to the bookstore one day to sign for a shipment of textbooks I’d ordered.

There, stamped on the box in bold black all-uppercase letters was “GRAMMER BOOKS.”

A poignant moment, that.

But I don’t fault the warehouse workers who inked the stamp and applied it.

And amidst the storm of unruly comments and laughter from the bookstore workers, I was gracious. I forgave whoever put the stamp together in the first place.

But secretly I hoped he or she wasn’t also an aspiring writer.

Daniel Webster once said (paraphrasing here) that common use trumps denotation. But I don’t think he meant that to be used as an excuse by professional writers.

Words, grammar and syntax are the tools of your trade. Know how to use them.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch started this with a small post on Facebook: “When did ‘alright’ become all right? (She grumps after seeing the WRONG spelling in an ad for a national magazine. Sigh)”

My first comment was “So called ‘professional’ reporters once said troops had found a ‘weapons cachet’; they also constantly use ‘likely’ when they mean ‘probably,’ and interchanging ‘infer/imply’ has become acceptable in many circles. The dumbing down continues. Check out the film Idiocracy if you haven’t seen it. Great stuff.”

Seriously, if you haven’t seen Idiocracy yet, find it, rent it, buy it, something. Watch it. It’s a very funny film that almost made me cry. And not because I was laughing so hard. But because it seems prophetic.

My second comment (because this stuff annoys me practically to no end) was “Oh, and I’ve seen ‘a myriad of’ used in two separate articles (one in Smithsonian Magazine and the other [I believe] in Archaeology). So I’ve seen myriad mistakes, a veritable plethora of mistakes, by alleged professionals, the likes of whom would have Cronkite and Murrow spinning in their graves.”

Why Cronkite and Murrow?

Because they were consummate professionals who would be eternally embarrassed had they misused a word due to their own ignorance of the language. An ignorance that shouldn’t exists because they’re professionals.

Writers should take pride in their profession. But instead, increasingly in our dumbed-down society, writers are shifting the responsibility for their writing to the reader: “It’s good enough. The reader will know what I mean.”

I’ll bet you wouldn’t want your heart doctor going in to see whether mabye he could clear that stuff out of those little round tube-thingies leading to your ticker.

Maybe readers will know what the writer means, but not necessarily. And if they don’t, that’s the writer’s fault, not theirs.

My point is, if you want to make your living using words, be more than familiar with the language. Know what words mean, how they’re spelled and pronounced and their proper use. Know the formal rules of grammar and syntax too. If for no other reason than so you can break them, intelligently and intentionally, to create a particular effect in the reader. (Like writing a sentence fragment for emphasis.)

And when some moron slaps a “grammar police” label on you, smile. They’re only acknowledging your superior knowledge and work ethic, though I suppose it would seem sweeter if they actually realized it.

Okay. Grouch session over.

* * *

My kitten constantly acts as a muse, feeding my imagination. When we’re together when a noise of undistinguishable origin occurs, she’ll jerk her head around and look at me as if to say, “Uh! What was that?” Then her eyes narrow as she says, “We don’t really know, do we?” Then, most often, she licks her right shoulder (her version of dropping the mic) and walks away.

Of Interest

See Dean’s Chapter Seven: Writing a Novel in Five Days While Traveling (

Also, it should be Free Fiction Monday over at Kris’ site (

Today, and Writing

Rolled out at 2:30 again this morning after sacking out at halftime of the (cough, boring) second NFL game last night. Let’s all get together and ban field goals of less than 50 yards. Or until the last two minutes of the game. Or maybe altogether.

By 3 I was ready to start on the novel. Then I went to Dean’s page to check for comments. Then I scrolled down farther in Facebook, found Kris’ post, and came here to write all of this.

I actually felt my brain kick on around 3:30. (An hour to wake up?) Incredible. Anyway, writing this stuff is almost as much fun as writing the novel, so it’s all good.

After I wrote the topic above, I copied/pasted it over to my big blog.

And just like that, it’s 4:45. I have to let the chihuahua and the other cat out of their kennels (where they like to sleep). So I’ll start on the novel around 5 this morning.

Well, more delays. The girls (cats) both went outside, so I went back outside to make sure the little one stayed in the yard.

While outside, I started reading Dean’s latest (see “Of Interest”) and in about five minutes a very light snow started falling.

Snow is water, and I’ve heard that water is bad for computers, so back inside, then out with my flashlight to circle the house, driving cats ahead of me, to get them back inside too.

So now, 5:40-ish, I’m starting on the novel again. Three full hours after I got up. And I have a routine appointment with my doctor at 10:30, so I want to get as much done as I can between now and then.

6:30, 800 words added and I’m taking a brief break.

Well, that turned into a shower and getting dressed for the day. A little after 7, back to the novel.

A good session, though I’ll have to cycle back through this very detailed chapter carefully later to make sure all the details are in place. In to make breakfast around 8, back to the novel around 8:45.

I read back over the most recent chapter (the detailed one) and added very little. Close to an hour, mixed with popping up and down to do other things. At quarter to 10 with a little over half my word count done I stopped writing at a good place. I’ll start again after I get back from seeing the doc.

Back later than I expected at 1:20. Then I heated up some beef tamales and ate. I almost called it a day after that because I also have some work I want to do on the 4-Runner. But I’ll write a bit longer and see what happens. So 2 p.m. back to the novel.

Well, I knocked out a couple hundred words in almost an hour. I also talked with my wife and let the cats out and back in about four times.

I’ve had an old quilted black bomber jacket for several years that I really like. The only thing it’s missing is a hood, so Miss Mona is making one for me.

The jacket was finished and the girls went into the house just before 3 p.m. So I moved myself and my computer out to the Hovel to get a little writing done. (grin)

Well, for the first day in awhile, I didn’t reach my goal. But I stopped at a very good place. Had I continued, probably those 36 last words would have ended up in the “cuts” bin.

I sense the end of this one is near, although (thankfully) I can’t see it yet. We’ll see.

Back tomorrow.

Fiction Words: 2964
Nonfiction Words: 1350 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 4314

Writing of The Claim (novel, working title)

Day 1…… 4391 words. Total words to date…… 4391
Day 2…… 3632 words. Total words to date…… 8023
Day 3…… 1416 words. Total words to date…… 9439
Day 4…… 2673 words. Total words to date…… 12112
Day 5…… 4284 words. Total words to date…… 16396
Day 6…… 3159 words. Total words to date…… 19555
Day 7…… 3834 words. Total words to date…… 23389
Day 8…… 4953 words. Total words to date…… 28342
Day 9…… 4982 words. Total words to date…… 33324
Day 10… 3618 words. Total words to date…… 36942
Day 11… 3133 words. Total words to date…… 40075
Day 12… 2964 words. Total words to date…… 43039

Total fiction words for the month……… 44667
Total fiction words for the year………… 44667
Total nonfiction words for the month… 10940
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 10940

Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 55607

2 thoughts on “The Journal, Monday, 1/16”

  1. Thanks for bits of humor this a.m. When I leave home every day or most days…though my favorite days often involve not leaving home…I see a sign that says “drive slow” though my favorite version of that is the sign that’s says “slow children playing”…good to know that even slow children enjoy playing outside near the traffic… but that’s a matter of punctuation. A well placed comma might help everything but the word “slow.” You do know, however, what English majors have for breakfast. That would be “eggs over easily” A happy day to you, too, Harvey.

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