Writing

The Quiet House

How can you tell that you live in a houseful of introverts? When you have a three-day weekend with virtually nothing planned, and everyone in your house thinks that’s terrific.

On Saturday afternoon, my husband and I went in to Cleveland to see a terrific new Eric Coble play called Fairfield. If you live in Northeast Ohio, you should see it too. If you don’t live in Northeast Ohio, why then when Fairfield comes to your city, as I sincerely hope it will, you should go. How Eric manages to be so utterly hilarious about seriously uncomfortable topics confounds me. But he does. Seriously. Go see it.

Then on Sunday night we all four went out to *finally* see the new Avengers movie. Because, you know, Joss Whedon.

Also, we ran some errands. I did a ton of laundry. My husband did a ton of yardwork.

Please notice what is missing here.  We didn’t go to any picnics. We didn’t go to any parades. In fact, I lied about our weekend plans in order to avoid going out to Chagrin Falls, that bastion of evil, for Blossom Time. If you want to know what that is, then google it. I refuse to discuss it here. To be fair about my actual lie, we did kind of talk about possibly going away for the three-day weekend. Kind-of, sort-of. But these plans never got off the ground. Because we all think hanging around the house for a holiday weekend is an excellent use of our time. We are all the victims of total Introvert Inertia. And if that’s not a thing, then by golly, it should be. It’s definitely a thing at our house.

We were all a little tired out anyway, because my daughter and I spent Thursday and Friday, and my husband and son spent Friday, down at the College of Wooster because my daughter was taking part in an middle school writing event called Power of the Pen.  I suppose there’s no need to say that I think it is terrific beyond words that Ohio has an event like this for young writers. No other state has Power of the Pen. Only Ohio. I guess it makes sense, if you consider that Ohio has Wooster and Kenyon and Oberlin and a whole bunch of other liberal arts colleges with excellent writing programs. I’m beyond glad that my family lives in a state that has Power of the Pen. Back in my day, thirty years ago, the only school opportunities for middle-school kids were student council and sports. We live in a much better time now. I’m sure of it.

Next year, my daughter will be in high school, which means no more Power of the Pen for her. And my son adamantly refuses to consider taking part in this event, probably because it’s not soccer. So maybe next year, we’ll have the energy to go someplace for the holiday weekend.

But I seriously doubt it.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Blogging’s More Fun

Of course blogging’s more fun… that’s why we do it. Without thought of pay, fame, recognition (okay, a little bit of the last is always nice) we sit down at our PCs and blog, blog away!

More fun than what? More fun than That Certain Social Media Site, that’s for sure. You know the one, right? The one that’s so famous it had a movie made about it. That social media site. I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted with the whole TCSMS experience. I mean, even more than usual. I’m pretty sure it used to be better, back in 2008 when all you could do was type something into your status update. No pics, no links… gosh, people actually had to think before they posted something. I mean, there was certainly evidence that some people didn’t think a whole lot before they posted, but at least they were saying something.

Here in the halcyon days of 2015, TCSMS has devolved into one long painful bout of Show And Tell. For adults. Who aren’t supposed to need Show And Tell anymore, because we can converse with one another on more nuanced topics. Except that we don’t.

Look! Look at my pic of my adorable children! Look! Look at my selfie posing during my vacation! Look! Look at my kitty! Never mind that I post a kitty picture of this very same kitty at least a couple of times a week! Look at him this week! He’s looking out the window!

Look! Read this article! Laugh at this meme! Get a little weepy when this inspirational quote touches your heart!

Look! Anyone who’s really my friend will comment! Anyone who is really a decent person will share! I will know who you are when you do what I say!

Oh, my. Just stop. Please. Tell me how your day was. Tell me what your plans for tomorrow are. Tell me what you’ve read lately. Tell me what kind of year you’re having.

Don’t show me. Tell me. In your very own words.

Well, I guess that’s what the blogosphere is for. Writing, writing, and writing. Much more fun.

Of course, plenty of people link to pictures and videos and articles from their blog sites as well. But, in my opinion, on the more enjoyable sites these aren’t the content. They can add to the content, for sure. But they aren’t the centerpiece.

I’m getting a strong sense that a TCSMS tantrum is imminent, the kind where you say all the unkind things that you’ve been suppressing for far too long and flounce away from the site, signing out for one last beautiful time. I did that, once. I announced that I was leaving TCSMS, and I stayed away for quite a few months. I think I’ll do it again. Minus the tantrum and the flounce.

I don’t think there’s any point in announcing it this time, though. I don’t have much I want to say there, anymore. I’m not a jumper and shouter. I don’t wave my hand in the air for attention. And that’s all the site has become. An online forum for people who want your attention — quickly! — right now! — and then move on to the next thing.

Okay, that’s what I’m doing. I will log in once a day to see if anyone’s left me a private message, just in case, and then I’m out of there.

I’m pretty sure I won’t miss it.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Now They Pay Me

Guess what, blogosphere? Guess what I get to do as part of the new job I started in January? I get to write blog entries on work time! For legit! I mean, I’m not just sneaking in personal blog entries on my employers’ time out of boredom and resentment, the way I did at my old job. I am on our library’s readers’ advisory team, and as part of that, I get to blog about books I’ve read! Yes! I’m getting paid to blog!

Of course, my library blogging is done under my real name. I don’t think I could sell them on my pseudonymous blogger identity. Not that I’d want to, anyway.

Because there, you know, I’m representing the library, and I have to be more careful about what I say and how I say it. I have to try for humor without too much snark. Not like here, where I can simply write whatever I want because nobody knows it’s me. My safe, safe world of pseudonymous blogging.

I’d just like to add that my grammar, usage, and punctuation are flawless in both kinds of blogging. Unless you don’t like the Oxford comma, in which case you will have an issue with this particular choice of mine. I care about perfection in both contexts. It’s just in the real world that I feel I have to watch my tone.

I just finished reading a book about Dorothy Parker. I’m not sure if it’s the best book there is about Dorothy Parker; in fact, I imagine that she, like me, would take issue with some of the English language usage chosen by this author. In any case, this author makes the point, at the end of the book, that Dorothy Parker gave American women a voice during the first half of the twentieth century. She became famous for saying all kinds of outrageous things, and for writing immoderately clever prose, and for turning out formally perfect and witty poetry.

I think the author was also admiring her bravery for saying all the outrageous things that she said, for not falling into the trap of being nice all the time. Sometimes I wish I had a little more of that. But then I remind myself that Dorothy Parker was also a profoundly unhappy person. Maybe if you’re that unhappy, that’s when you care less about the consequences of what you say. I have noticed, myself, that it is very difficult to be witty and kind at the same time. Wit often comes at the expense of other people’s weaknesses.

So it’s a new challenge for me, at work, to be amusing and bright while imagining the library director looking over my shoulder and judging whether or not what I’m saying is appropriate. Because at work they know me. And it’s a little scarier to put my writing out there.

I’m also enjoying the irony of having prepared myself for blogging at my current job by sneaking around blogging at my previous job. I do have some familiarity with WordPress, and I do have a certain tone I like to adopt while blogging, even if I feel the need to adapt that tone for public consumption.

And blogging for work has reminded me just how much I like it. So I’m back. I’m thinking of trying for twice a week, the way I did at the beginning, when I was all ambitious and disciplined. Twice a week. Yep. Because I’m the only one who is going to make myself do this.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Ring It In

Well, here it is, the very last day of the very first month of the new year, and I’m getting in a new blog post, just under the wire. Happy 2015 to everyone!

It’s about time to be writing something, anyway, especially as I may as well finally accept that I will not, in fact,  be sending out any holiday greeting cards to friends and family this year. I bought the cards, and I even asked my husband to stop and buy holiday stamps; but yet, I could not make myself send cards out this holiday season. Possibly because it’s been kind of a difficult year. We had a death in the family, and I was very unhappy at work. I guess my joy was at a low ebb, back there in December.

But! I got kind of a terrific Christmas present this year: a job offer two days before Christmas! Yes! I have had the undiluted pleasure of submitting a resignation letter for a job in a truly toxic workplace, the frustrating yet affirming experience of being treated like dirt during the period of my two weeks’ notice (affirming, you ask? Yes, every moment affirmed my decision to get the hell out of there), and the happiness *and* the stress of starting a lovely new job, where I am working alongside kind, helpful people in a nice, busy library.

Still, all that change is kind of distracting, you know? It makes me twitter-pated (name that Disney movie!) and a little less on top of it than usual. I’ve been late to two volunteer shifts, and I didn’t send out any Christmas cards.

Well. Deep breath. As of January 20, the two people in our household who work are fairly happy at work. As of this past September, the two people in our household who go to school are fairly happy at school. Could it be that 2015 might be a year when we can just coast along in the status quo without making any big, life-changing decisions? Knock on wood…

The only thing is, and I suppose there is no harm in admitting it now that I have received my final paycheck: I used to write this blog on work time. Oh, yes. I was so frustrated and unhappy at work that I was blogging on company time. I can’t do that now that I am happy and busy at work; also, I respect the people around me and my current library enough that I wouldn’t do that anymore. Unless I get to contribute to a blog on the library website or something. But that wouldn’t be with my super-secret pseudonymous identity, believe you me.

So now the proof is in the pudding: Do I have the self-discipline to keep going with this on my own time?

Time will tell.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Stuck at 5,000

Yes! I am once again taking part in NaNoWriMo this year! Except, perhaps it’s more accurate to say I *was* taking part, because I hit 5,000 words and I was really proud and then I just got bogged down and bored with the whole thing and I stopped.

Still, I did learn something this month: I like writing fantasy more than I ever knew. In fact, I tried to put a more realistic family scene in my story, and I ended up just skipping the whole scene because I just didn’t care. I really had fun with the fantasy parts, though.

Except for the other thing I learned, which is that writing fantasy has its own set of challenges. I chose a by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach this year, just to see how effective that was for me, and I guess the answer is that I would do better to take some notes before I get started. If I’m creating a world that has its own backstory, I think I might have better momentum if I’m not trying to create the backstory at the same time I’m trying to push the plot forward. I start questioning whether or not my premise makes sense, whether it’s believable or not, and I’m pretty sure that’s where I got bogged down.

But, oh, look. See what I’m doing? If I have to create a backstory before I even start, I may not ever even get started. My gosh, my inner editor is loud, constantly yapping away and very hard to ignore.

I just need not to worry about it and Keep On Writing.

Ha. Easier said than done. I know, intellectually, exactly what I need to do (see above). It’s just doing it that’s the problem.

On the other hand, maybe taking on a big project like this isn’t the smartest thing at a time when I’m also conducting a job search. It’s very tough to put a lot of energy into TWO projects that make you feel insecure.

I guess that’s really why I decided that diving back into reading was a better way to handle my stress this month. Because that’s just what I did.

National Diving Into Reading To Alleviate Stress And Insecurity Month.

It’s got quite a ring to it. Don’t you think?

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie De Hoy

Subject, Verb, Object

I love words, and sentences, and paragraphs, and stories. It’s why I’m a blogger. I blog solely for the sheer love of the thing, because it makes my life fuller, and because it cheers me up to feel that I’m making efforts with my writing.

However, even I didn’t enjoy studying English in school very much. So many English classes consisted of identifying the subject, verb, and object of a sentence.

Subject, Verb, Object. Subject, Verb, Object. Absolutely ad nauseum, believe you me.

Sometimes we got a little crazy and learned about direct objects and indirect objects. But then it was back to Subject, Verb, Object (pick which kind). Subject, Verb, Object (pick which kind). I mean, yawn.

I’m thinking about this because I realized, in the course of reading blogs that I follow, that my knowledge of restrictive and non-restrictive clauses was shaky at best. Particularly when it came to using that or which to introduce a clause.

I mean, I get it now. I did a nice handy Google search, found a site that ended in .edu, and educated myself about clauses and how to introduce them. I won’t get into it now, because that’s really not the point of what I’m writing.

I’m just wondering, now that it’s far too late, why my grade-school English education relentlessly hammered Subject, Verb, Object into my brain until it was so repetitive I was ready to throw my pencil across the room. Why all this repetition, when a whole world of sentence structure was still out there, waiting to be discovered?

I had a sixth-grade English teacher who taught us to diagram sentences. I remember prepositional phrases, compound sentences, complex sentences, and even compound-complex sentences. But even then, I don’t remember ever learning about clauses, either restrictive or non-restrictive.

As a side note, Mrs. Parker, said English teacher, was always telling us about the grateful students who would come back years later and thank her for teaching them to diagram sentences. Maybe my life and career have gone the wrong way (how could that be? I’m an English major!), but I have never once had cause to use my finely-honed sentence-diagramming skills. Still, diagramming sentences was certainly more complicated and engaging than yet another year of Subject, Verb, Object.

And I was lucky enough to have an eighth-grade English teacher who taught us about gerunds, infinitives, participles, and the passive voice. However, he was definitely more interested in style and usage than sentence structure. He made me a better writer, in those tender years of my adolescence, and I loved his class.

But, somehow, clauses eluded me all through my grade-school education. Unless I just don’t remember them. Still, look at how much I do remember. And I love this stuff. I love thinking about sentences and how they’re put together. I can’t believe I ever would have forgotten learning about clauses.

I’m not exactly sure what my point is. I’m certainly not about to use my experience as a springboard for complaining about my teachers, and I was lucky to have three strong English teachers in a row in middle school, or the woeful condition of public education thirty years ago.

Probably teaching absolutely all the ins and outs of complicated sentence structure was just out of fashion then. It’s probably stayed out of fashion since then, too.

But, you know. My interests are rarely in line with the prevailing popular culture. I’ve even been reading articles that suggest that blogging is on its way out, and it’s all about twitter now. Well, I very much like meandering on. I did create a twitter account, because I couldn’t live with the possibility (remote) that someone else might steal my pseudonymous twitter handle, but my experience has mostly consisted of getting desperate-sounding emails from the twitter people encouraging me to get more involved with their product.

Still, here on my nice little blog I can talk about myself a lot, and go on and on about clauses and sentence structure. Much better than racking my brains to come up with witty one-liners on twitter.

Twitter might be a little too Subject, Verb, Object for me. And I’ve had more than my fill of that.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Silent “W”

Here I stand, all, all, alone… shrieking into the void about the poor neglected silent “W.” You know, the “W” that appears in “wrought iron.” That silent “W.”

Speaking of wrought iron, why in the world am I constantly reading the word “wreaked” as the past tense of  the verb “to wreak,” as in “to wreak havoc?” The past tense of “to wreak” is wrought, everyone. Even if “wreaked” did not happen to sound exactly the same as “reeked” (and is there a more stomach-turning word than “reeking” in our language? If there is, I don’t want to know about it), the word wrought sounds very much more powerful and resonant. Why would anyone use “wreaked” when “wrought” is so, so much better?

**Note: my inner editor, who never knows when to shut up anyway, is totally in crisis right now. Because in the above paragraph, I used a lot of quotation marks and some italics to designate the word to which I’m referring. All those quotation marks, and there are far too many, look weird and overdone. But using quotation marks and italics in the same paragraph? Appalling inconsistency? Well, I say this, without italics or quotation marks: Pipe down, inner editor. This is a freaking blog post. Chill out and continue your blogging rant already.

Anyway, back to the silent “W.” If I have to read the word “nerve-racking,” minus its silent “W,” one more time, my inner editor and I are both going to flip. It’s “nerve-wracking,” WITH the silent “W.” For goodness’ sake.

And don’t get me started on people who think “baited breath” is acceptable usage. We’re not talking fish bait, we are talking about how your breath has temporarily abated due to shock or stress. “Bated breath” is the order of the day.

My point is, if you’re going to write spine-chilling, overwrought (oh, look, a silent “w”) prose, just please, please, please, do it right.

Cheers and adulation for the silent “W!”

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Purely Spontaneous

This may be completely obvious to anyone who’s ever read this blog (and thank you, thank you if you have!); however, I have decided just to come right out and say it: I never edit a blog post. At least, I don’t edit in any serious way. I will re-read it once or twice before I publish, just in case I made any glaring spelling or usage errors, but that’s the extent of my editing process.

In fact, last week I tried what WordPress described as the “improved posting experience, ” merely because I occasionally like to kid myself that I’m really cutting edge with new technologies and I’m not afraid to try them. However, the new posting experience delayed my posting for probably about seven minutes, and those seven minutes drove me absolutely batty. Clearly, I am not a very patient person. I want to write it and publish it and get it right out there. I am back to the classic posting experience, and I am extremely comforted by the link I can see, right over there, that says “Publish immediately.” If not sooner! Impatient me!

I don’t know, blogging just seems to be a form of writing that is spontaneous and casual. I don’t want it to come across as over-thought and over-edited. And with my current process, there is small danger of that!

Also, when I try to write fiction, the editing part is the part that just kills me. Nothing I write ever sounds good enough, none of my characters ever appear natural enough, and as for my attempts at a plot, oh my. Editing is when my brain takes up its scalpel to dissect every sentence I’ve written and show me why it’s terrible. I’m pretty sure that if I ever started editing a blog post, I would never publish anything. And how will I get better if I get stuck in the editing process? And stay there, paralyzed, too afraid to go on?

I’m actually thinking about maybe trying NaNoWriMo once again, and I think this year I will do myself a favor and just not read anything that I wrote the previous day. I’m sitting here, right now, imagining myself committing to the double discipline of writing a certain number of words per day (how many is it again? Do they say? I haven’t taken part in NaNoWriMo in so long I can’t remember) AND of resisting the temptation to go back and read what I’ve already written.

Oh, yes, AND  the discipline of keeping this blog going for November, too. A triple crown!

Do I have it in me? The discipline to do all of this? I guess we won’t know until November 30.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

The Slacker Express

I’ve been noticing lately that a lot of the bloggers I follow are talking about Current Projects. She’s working on a short story, he’s on the second chapter of a draft for a novel, and so forth. And National Novel Writing Month is coming up in November, so I imagine I’ll be hearing even more on these topics as we journey further into autumn.

I am feeling like a complete and total slacker. Why?

Guys: This blog is my writing project. It’s really all I’ve got. I’m hoping that plodding along writing blog entries will improve my writing somewhat, but who really knows?

My bar is low: either I’m writing blog entries, or I’m not writing at all. That’s how it is for Hobbie DeHoy, who occasionally suspects that her passion for reading crowds out all other passions, especially writing. You know the piece of writing advice that tells you if you want to write, you should read? Well, I seem to have that part down. It’s moving on to the actual process of writing that seems to be the problem.

There are some things that make me feel better. One is, some writers don’t become published until way later in life than I have yet achieved (I just turned 43. A prime number! I love those.). For example, Laura Ingalls Wilder was in her sixties when her Little House books came out. Another feel-better is, my friend Sandy who published a book after her kids went to college and told me that she never could have done it while her kids were living at home. And Sandy is brilliant, so there is yet hope for me. A third feel-better is reading the blogs of the admirable Jenny Lawson and John Scalzi and realizing that they have been blogging for years.

So who am I to be hard on myself after a mere six months of blogging?

Oh, right. Being hard on myself is something I do even more often than reading. It’s very easy to do. Very.

Aw, maybe I’ll get a writing project going one of these days. Maybe not. When I do, you all will be the first to know.

Because you can bet I’ll be too self-conscious to tell anybody else.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy

Upstairs/Downstairs

No, I don’t mean the television show. Which I’ve never watched, by the way, even though I’ve been told that I would like it. But I always just like reading better than television, you know? So why choose more TV?

I mean that right now I’ve started a new reading pattern. I have one book that I’m reading when I’m upstairs and one book that I’m reading when I’m downstairs.

I started this in the hope that I will spend much less time wandering around the house trying to remember where I put my book down. It seems to be working fairly well in that way. I know my upstairs book has to be somewhere upstairs and my downstairs book has to be somewhere downstairs. I seem to have cut down on my “wandering around feeling lost without my book time,” which is definitely good.

Now that I’m thinking about it, though, this division seems to indicate that I’m feeling a lack of passion about either of these two books. I’m not experiencing that total immersion in either one. I’m not simply dying to get home from work and read one or the other. Of course, it is the first week of the school year for my kids and transition times always make me feel tired and hollow inside while I try to cope with the anxiety that transition times inevitably bring. Still, the passion seems to be missing.

Also, both of my books have long lists of characters and a lot of complicated shifts in time, place, and voice, and I’m starting to get confused.

You know, now that I’m writing and thinking about this, I don’t think I like this upstairs/downstairs idea very much. What’s the point of reading if the passion isn’t there?

I should finish one book, then finish the other, and then go back to wandering around again.

Which book should I finish first? Oh, dear. I know if I put one down I’ll forget who is married to who and who is in what city for what reason in the other book.

You know what? I don’t care. I’m picking the one set in Italy. There.

Back to wandering.

Love you & leave you,

Hobbie DeHoy