Everything I Know About Writing, I Learned by Watching Seinfeld

seinfeld

If you don’t believe, no one else will.

Telling a good story is a lot like telling a “good” lie. George Costanza once told Jerry, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” (Jerry needed to pass a lie detector test regarding Melrose Place.)

Writing a good story is very similar. You should appreciate the story (even if you don’t necessarily like what’s happening) and believe that it is happening – that you are merely writing what you see. If you believe it, the reader will believe it too.

Nothing is interesting.

Seinfeld wasn’t about something. There was nothing to be learned by watching the show. At the end of the 30 minutes, the four of them didn’t sit on a couch and talk out the misunderstanding that had occurred and then discuss how, in the future, they can use the lesson they learned from it. It was pure and simple entertainment.

Anything is game. It’s your job to make it interesting. Give the characters enough character to carry the story no matter what is going on. Make the reader love the character or despise the character – just as long as there is emotion connected to the character.

Sometimes an explanation is necessary.

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Elaine is a fan of the Big Salad, but when she asks George to pick one up for her, he seems confused. In the words of Elaine, “It’s like a salad – only bigger . . .”

Sometimes just because you understand what you’re talking about doesn’t mean it makes sense to everyone else. I make myself laugh all the time and then look around at no one else laughing and feel a little bit sad. But the problem is not them or me, it’s that I’m laughing at an inside joke with an outsider. (Many times the only insider is me – I find my jokes to be hilarious!)

I have done that with my writing. I’ll write a line I find quite clever, but without the rest of the story, I’ll still be the only one patting myself on the back.

It’s all in how you say it.

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“These pretzels are making me thirsty!” When Kramer stumbled upon the opportunity to have a speaking part in a Woody Allen movie, everybody had their version of how Kramer should say his one line.

The only way to know how to say a line is to know what else is going on in the scene. What just happened? Who is he talking to? Where is he? Will there be a response? Do the words themselves have an impact on the scene?

When you write, you see and hear your characters acting out the scene. The tone has to be portrayed. If the character has a raspy voice, the reader needs to hear that. Sarcasm should be understood. Words are only part of the story. Delivery is the rest of the story.

You want something you can relate to.

Jerry: Is this about me?

Elaine: No.

Jerry: Then I’ve lost interest.

For writing to hold the interest of the reader, they must be able to relate to it. Or it has to be short. Know your audience. They say you should write for yourself and not according to whether you think other people will like it. At least, that’s the philosophy I have adopted.

Do you have a specific audience in mind that you are gearing your work toward? Are you marketing it toward those people? Or is it more of a buffet where everyone just takes what they want?

Pirate Life isn’t for everyone.

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I’m talking about the puffy shirt. Without realizing it, Jerry agrees to wear a pirate shirt (for a Today show interview) that Kramer’s girlfriend designed. Of course, she was a low talker and Jerry couldn’t understand a word she said when he agreed to wear it. Kramer is adamant about Jerry wearing the shirt to promote his girlfriend’s “pirate line” of clothing. “But I don’t wanna be a pirate.” It doesn’t end well.

As for writing, if you’re not comfortable with where your story is going, don’t go there. It’s your story, not popular culture’s or anyone else’s. It will not be a good story if you are not for it. So write what you like and like what you write – or delete it. Only you can decide to be a pirate.

Do you.

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Elaine taught me how to be completely oblivious to negativity (and to everything around me, for that matter).

Write. While it might be wise to at least consider criticism, always remember the wise words of David Putty. “Oh yeah? I’ll tell you what’s stupid. You, stupid.” It’s possible I also learned how to argue by watching Seinfeld.

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How to Have Your Pudding

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“You’re ½ Momma, ½ kid,” says my 4-year-old. That sounds about right. Maybe more times than not, I’m a kid pretending to be a Momma.

Ever feel like this adulting thing isn’t really what your parents made it out to be?

I always assumed when you became an adult, something in you just changed to make you mature and intelligent and beyond the mind of a child. I waited for that magical moment to happen. And I waited and I waited . . . Nothing. My age says I’m an adult, but there was never any significant change that bridged some gap between childhood and adulthood.

Did I miss something? Did I not attend some required adulthood class – because I gotta tell ya, no one told me about it. Not that I would have gone, but at least that would explain a few things.

Then, I started to notice that I am not the only one who didn’t just magically transform into this adult version of myself. Most of the people I talk to don’t seem to really fit the mold of what, as a child, I imagined adults to be.

I mean we have jobs and kids and bills and all sorts of obligations and responsibilities, but is that what makes us adults – that and age? If that’s all it takes, well then, we got this adulting thing pegged. So for the rest of you slackers, here are a few Do’s and Do Nots for your journey into the mysteriously familiar world of adulthood.

Do: Take responsibility!

adult12Even though technically, we’re just older kids, the choices we make affect not only the present but the future of the world. And as the old saying goes, leave it better than you found it. The best way to do that is to pay attention to and get involved with what’s going on in our world. That means politically, socially, domestically, environmentally, creatively. Don’t just talk about it, do it.

Do not: Let someone else worry about it.

You got this. Remember when you wanted to do stuff for yourself, and you would tell your mom “I’m big!” so she would just let you do your thing? Go back to that. Don’t rely on the government or family or friends or strangers to clean up your mess. If you need help, ask, but don’t give up. Keep trying! Asking for help is different than expecting someone to do the work for you.

Do: Your homework.

If you are going to take an active role in the world, you need to know what youadult11 stand for. In the words of one Mr. Abraham Lincoln, “Put your feet in the right place, and then stand firm.” Know our history. Research policies. Examine motives (including your own). Learn continuously. Even after you get your degree, keep learning. That doesn’t necessarily mean more schooling, and chances are you’ll learn more outside the classroom than you will in an assigned seat. Knowledge is power – that’s not just a slogan.

Do not: Watch too much TV.

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Did I just say that? Yes, and do you know why? Because it will rot your brain. It pulls your mind away of more important matters. It has the potential to persuade your belief structure without your realizing it. It’s not real. (News programs especially included) It’s entertaining, and everyone needs a break from reality, but don’t let it become your reality.

Do: Your chores.

Grown-up chores are a little heavier than they were when we were kids, maybe. Now instead of just feeding the dog, we have to earn the money to pay for the food to feed the dog. It’s not just an 8:00-3:15 world anymore, or even a 9-5er for that matter. You can talk on the phone, go out with your friends. You can do what you like – but only after you finish your chores. “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” Take care of your responsibilities first.

Do not: Whine.

Not everyone’s life is the same. There will always be someone who has more than you. There will always be those who have less. Do not waste your time and energy begrudging those whose lives seem to flow smoother. Be grateful for what you have and serve those who have less and those who have more. You have no idea of the trials someone else has faced or what they might face tomorrow.

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When I was nine years old, someone described me as 9-going-on-30. Now, you could almost say the opposite. A little The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but only in the mind.

I think it’s pretty clear that adults are just older children. We still have rules and homework and chores. Some kids are just more aldultier than others – that’s probably a good thing. Keeps it diverse.

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Peter Pan Understands

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Pan is the image of freedom. Forever young (also one of my favorite Rod Stewart songs). No rules, no taxes, no fear. I don’t remember being a huge Peter Pan fan as a kid. I didn’t dislike him, I just didn’t think about him a lot. (I always liked the movie Hook though.)

And now that I’ve put on a few years, I realize my mind has deceived me, or I have deceived my mind. Either way, I tend to feel like I’m 16. I’m not. My body knows I’m not. My schedule knows I’m not. Everyone around me KNOWS I’m not.

PP BIRTHDAYI love birthdays (by the way)! They are my favorite holiday. But each year I am genuinely surprised at adding another year to my age. So in the theme of Peter Pan’s resistance to age (except in Hook), here are some of my favorite quotes from the movie.

Never say good-bye because saying good-bye means going away and going away means forgetting.”

pp going awayI take pride in my memory, but part of keeping my memories alive is intentionally remembering things. I either have to write things down or keep each person in my life so the things I forget are remembered by another, and I can again remember.

So come with me where dreams are born and time is never planned.”

PP SCHEDULEI imagine a place where I can spend my time recording my day dreams, and I don’t have to stick to any type of schedule. I disdain having my free time planned out. I can see the good in it at times. But then it becomes something I have to do instead of something I just do. Why does that matter? I don’t know, but it does. My days are pretty mapped out – and it’s just something I have to deal with. But if I had my way, I would waste so much time.

Little boys should never be sent to bed. They always wake up a day older.”

To quote Doc Holiday in Tombstone, “Live, Wyatt.” Time moves faster every year. We all know that by now. My definition of living is probably different from many others’, but whatever it is you are here to do, do it.

Side note: Girls should be sent to bed early. I have found that an early bedtime is the best discipline I can give. They hate going to bed early – I don’t blame them. It’s been a fantastic tool for me!

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The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.”

Sylvia Plath said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Doubt and insecurity feed off of themselves. They expand and multiply, and unless you choose to cut them off, they will own you. You worry about what others will think, what they will say, when the truth is – only the most insecure people will ridicule your passion.

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Erin Hanson wrote the words “What if I fall? Oh, but my Darling, what if you fly?”

Do you fear failure, or do you fear the success? Either way, fear is a liar. The first time I read those words, it was an unexpected realization, an awakening. Who is fear that I should give in to it? Fear has only the power that I allow it. I fail . . . and hopefully will many more times. At least I will have tried.

I find failure much more pleasing than standing in fear.

You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”

So I’m a little bit sappy. I don’t care. This is such a beautiful statement, and it almost rhymes.

This reminds me of a C.S. Lewis quote I recently pinned:

“Love is not an affectionate feeling but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

 

 

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New Ideas – Something Borrowed, Something Bleu

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I was trying to think of something worth saying but drawing a complete . . . blank (Grosse Point Blank). It’s not a block – it’s just my mind being lazy. Maybe the real problem is that there really is nothing new to say. Everything has been said and said again. There’s the old adage, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But there is also the saying that goes “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

So maybe it should something like “If at first you don’t succeed, try again with a new approach.” That makes more sense to me. It’s a little less feel-good and a little more “it’s all about perspective.”

But if you are experiencing a creative ellipsis, how do you come up with a new approach?

*Raises hand* Oh, Oh! I Know, call on me!! – Crash a wedding!

Something Old

wc something oldWithout old, new does not exist. There are old ways of doing things, old habits, old problems, old food, old clothes, politics . . . The list goes on and on, and a new idea typically requires something old. Tired of the same old recipes? Throw something new in the pot. Want to kick an old habit? Replace it with a new one. Tired of the same old political scene? Get on the scene yourself.

Most of what we know and see is old. The age-old trap of doing things the way we’ve always done them hasn’t improved anything. Freshen it up with your own thoughts.

Something Borrowed

wc borrowedCall it inspiration; call it motivation; call it . . . grabbing at straws. But whatever you want to call it, you get ideas by looking around at what other people have done or are doing. That doesn’t mean you steal their ideas, but something entirely unrelated might be sparked by another’s work, whether through the piece itself, a color, a shape, a word, or your own train of thought chugging down their path.

Inspiration can even come from a blank wall if you use it to bounce your ideas. A song lyric can bring back a memory. A color can paint a picture. The clouds form pictures every day. Look at your own work for motivation. That’s all the work of others’ is – open to interpretation for your next work.

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Something Bleu

Blue can be so many things – a feeling, a taste, a shade, a name.

Your work is versatile, multifunctional. Just as you see the work of others, everything you create is open to another’s interpretation, whether you want it to be or not. Misunderstanding is guaranteed. So reuse your own work from a different perspective. Use every definition you can imagine, while still leaving it undefined.

wc appleThink about the apple. An apple is the picture of health. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. An apple is also the image of poison and death. It is American Pie and the Evil Witch. It is red. It is green. It is worms and brown decay. It is a beautiful fruit and the picture of mortal sin. How will you represent the apple today?

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Something New

This is all you. You bring the new. You’ve looked at the old and the borrowed. You examined the bleu. So what now? What did they tell you that you can dissect, manipulate, and improve?

I will always go back to what I said in Write Better in 2 Easy Steps – Ask yourself questions. Questions are imperative to my creativity. If there is a question, then there is information to be found and divulged and built upon. More information leads to more questions leads to more information.

And then, before you know it, you have multiple concepts that have the potential of generating even further possibilities through interpretation.

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Whatever you are doing – writing, designing, presenting, planning, teaching – while it’s usually good business sense to have a style associated with your name, to keep your clients engaged, an open mind and variety will lure in new opportunities.

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Milk, Drugs, and Time Travel – Creating the Best You

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Remember those milk commercials from the 80s where the awkward kid looks into a tall mirror and then their reflection turns into their future cooler selves, and the cool future self tells the awkward younger self that there’s a lot to look forward to if you drink your milk? Then the kid starts guzzling the milk.

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That was also around the time of the drug commercial where the dad finds his son’s drugs, and he says, “Who taught you to do this stuff?” And the son says, “You, alright? I learned it by watching you!” Then the grim-voiced narrator comes on and says, “Parents who use drugs have children who use drugs.” I wonder, if that dad had looked in the mirror while drinking milk and his older self had advised him to lose the drugs and stick to the milk, would that have made a difference in his life, and in turn, a difference in his future son’s life?

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There’s a song called Dear Younger Me that I really like. I like the idea of trying to guide my younger self with my future knowledge because it’s impossible. We can write letters to our future selves, but our past is gone. There is no space-time continuum, only memories. That’s the difficulty and distinction of time – it’s a concept. But to be able tell your younger self something – that has the potential to change your present self and future self. For some people, that’s the whole point. For others, where they end up is where they want to be, they just want to save themselves some struggle and maybe a few regrets. I tend to think, though, that the struggles and the regrets are necessary to get you where you are.

All that being said, even if there were no negative consequences in writing a letter to your younger self, there is still the question of whether you would listen to You. If there is anyone I might have really listened to, it would probably be Me. I’ll rephrase that because I listened to plenty of people and sometimes even agreed with what they were saying, but I was the one in the moment and in the situation, so I still went with my own thoughts.

You know how, when you were a kid, grownups would give you advice and say they knew what they were talking about because the same thing happened to them when they were kids and they already know the outcome? And part of you wanted to listen, but the bigger part of you was not only not listening but thinking about what you were going to do instead. You had it figured out and just because this didn’t work for someone else, didn’t mean it wouldn’t work for you. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

If I thought I was more capable than everyone else, the last hurdle would be to become more capable than myself. So, I can’t say that I would have listened to Me.

Now for the real question – if I could go back in time from this moment with the past and present knowledge I carry up to this point in my life, what would I tell my younger self?

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Complaining is for Losers! I would tell myself “yeah, life isn’t fair, blah, blah, blah.” (Because younger me really appreciated condescension) “Recognizing that is good; how you use that fact is what will determine your joy. If you dwell on the things that are out of your control, you’ll lose precious time rehashing the past, which we’ve already established is over and unchangeable. If you accept the truth and take control by not letting the uncontrollable control your thoughts, you’ll find peace.” Pretty simple, really.

Take more pictures and keep a better journal. I have a pretty decent long-term memory . . . if I’m remembering correctly . . . but my file manager had to push life lessons out of my brain to make room for all kinds of quotes and song lyrics – the important stuff. So having my past saved on paper and pictures would really be optimal for me.

Choose to be happy. You are such a peaceful little rebel. Now, stop it. All your peaceful rebellion takes a toll on your physical and emotional well-being. If you want to rebel, just be happy. Plan for the future, not against it. This will pay off beyond what you can imagine.

Give in to distraction. The more you try to pay attention, the less interested you become. Let yourself be distracted by little things. Create calligraphy with your notes. You listen and remember easier when you can create something with it.

ReFocus. You need distraction to work effectively, but you get distracted from your distractions and end up pretzelized – that’s hard to come back from, every time. I still struggle with this, so starting right now, figure out how to limit your distraction time. Good luck. You’re counting on you.

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Back to the Future

So that’s what I would tell my younger self to help improve my future leading up to my present self. Oh well, too late now, I suppose. Or not. Mwah –ha-ha-ha-ha! If these are the things my present self would say to my past self, mightn’t they also be things my future self would say to my present self? Maybe they are. Maybe this is actually a letter inspired by my future self for my present self. Maybe I’ve been sent back to this point to change my path . . . or yours.

On a completely unrelated note, my girls and I have watched Back to the Future I and II multiple times in the past couple of weeks.

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So, what would you tell your half-your-current-age self if you could write a letter today that you would read back then? Is the younger you the awkward kid seeing its older, more confident reflection? Or were you more together then than you are now?

My $0.02: Write yourself a letter. If nothing else, getting mail is always exciting!

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Getting the Most Out of Introverts

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Who doesn’t love a personality test? I do! I don’t give much credit to most of them, but they’re fun. However, the two that seem legit are Motive Matters (Peace is my motive.) and the test that is here (I’m a Mediator – INFP). I took this once before and then took it again recently with a couple of friends. Of the three of us, I am the only introvert, so guess what we’re talking about today!

For years, I believed my introverted tendency to be a flaw. I mean, leaders are the center of attention, right? They speak well and loud. They can talk to anyone, with not a drop of insecurity discrediting their purpose. People want to be around them. None of these characteristics are characteristic of me.

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I stick to the walls. I tend to have my face in a book. I don’t like to talk over other people. I need time to think about my words before I use them so I don’t say things I don’t mean. I like people (that wasn’t always true), but I don’t speak much in groups, usually for one of two reasons.

1.) I have nothing to add to the conversation.

2.) I’m listening to and processing what others are saying before I contribute. If I speak without understanding, then I’ve contributed nothing but wasted everyone’s time.

I have a great respect for extroverts – their natural drive to get involved and be heard. When I feel that drive to get involved or to put myself in the center of attention, it’s not as simple. I play the part when I need to, but it is work.

Introverts have plenty of ideas and insight to offer, but they just don’t hand it out willy-nilly. You have to respect their space in order to derive what they have inside.

We don’t need special treatment, but there are a few things you can do to ensure you are getting the most from your introverts.

Share Information

Introverts like to think about a topic for a while to come up with ideas to improve or build on the issue. That is how you will get our best work. I hate to shortchange anyone’s brainstorming abilities because we do have those too. But we are likely to contribute less possibilities, as we are considering the ideas of others and how those ideas would look in the big picture.

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So if you are going to have a meeting to discuss an upcoming event, let the participants know ahead of time what you are looking to discuss.

Want Not, Ask Not

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If you already know what you are going to do, DO NOT ask for our input. It sounds self-evident, but sometimes people ask for ideas simply to say they asked or to make members of the team feel involved. If our ideas are not necessary or warranted, then don’t waste our time or your own. If we put thought into something, we expect genuine consideration. That doesn’t mean we always have the best answers, it just means we don’t need to work under false pretenses.

Listen

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I think Stephen King said it best: “The quietest people have the loudest minds.” But, we are not going to fight for the spotlight. We will not talk over someone else (for the most part). If we’re a part of the group, we expect to be listened to as much as anyone else. We have ideas, and we may see possibilities that haven’t been conceived yet, but if you don’t listen, we won’t talk. It’s not stubbornness or self-pity; that’s just our makeup.

So the one thing that these three rules have in common is R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Extroverts deserve the same thing. We’re not asking for the moon, just a respect of skill and knowledge and the combination of the two. It takes all different kinds of personalities and vision to get the best product.

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Communication 101

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In this post, I will sum up everything that you need to know about communication. No college credits will be awarded, but you may as well skip the class because you can learn it all right here.

How you doin’?

Tell me how you really feel. Usually that statement is drenched in sarcasm, at least that’s how I would say it. Honesty isn’t something that is sought after anymore it seems. Maybe it never was, I don’t know. But when I ask someone, “How are you,” I’ve asked because I want to know.

If that person doesn’t want to go into all the details and tell me what’s going on in their life, what makes them happy or what makes them sad, that’s fine – no pressure. But if I don’t want to know – and sometimes I don’t – then I won’t ask. How are you is not a greeting. It’s a question. Questions require answers. And the answer to this question varies. It is not the same for everyone on every day.

I’m no better though – usually, when someone asks me how I am, I will say “fine”. I say this because I assume it was asked as a greeting and the asker doesn’t really want the low-down on my feelings.

Small Talker

As a writer, I tend to observe other people. I watch their actions and reactions, but I think I haven’t paid attention to a very important aspect of communication – talking. I’m not big on small talk, but maybe you have to engage in the smaller things to make it to the deeper content.

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I know that’s not true with everyone though. When my daughters have a practice, I usually sit alone and read (if I don’t have any of my other kids with me) – one of my favorite ways to spend my time. A few years ago, I was doing this at a basketball practice and a lady sat next to me and talked for about 15 minutes. (That’s all the time that was left in the practice.) But in the 15 minutes, we both told our life stories. It was odd and very interesting. I’d never met her, she didn’t know who I was, and we had a really great conversation where we both had something to say and a willingness to listen to each other.

OK, but not everyone is like that either.

When did our conversations become: “hey, how’s it goin’?” “Fine, you?” “Good.” Smile. And . . . scene.

More than Words

Some people prefer talking, even talking face to face, over texting or social media greetings. I have become comfortably accustomed to texting. I favor it to the point that I’m tempted to let the phone ring and then just shoot a text asking the caller what they wanted. But I guess that takes away from the communication – I miss the sound, pitch, tempo, excitement, anxiety, temperament, confidence, insecurity, eye contact, blushing, tears, trembles, smiles, pacing,  and on and on and on.

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When I watch a movie, I don’t want to watch a bunch of texting and posting, I want to see human interaction. So why do I expect less out of real life – out of myself? I write myself a pass out of the human experience because sometimes I’m awkward – OK most of the time I am awkward

Like right there, if you could read it the way I said it in my head, that sentence would be a lot funnier than it seems just written out.

We miss out on the greatest parts of our stories by not talking or not being face to face – by not communicating. It seems so simple. Maybe my next post can be something like 3 Ways to Communicate Without Electronic Devices, but I don’t know if I’m up to the research.

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Write Better in 2 Easy Steps

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When I was working on my bachelor’s degree, I did an internship at the campus Learning Center. My job was to tutor the students with their writing assignments. Some students seemed to believe that meant that I would write their papers for them. Now, I won’t lie, there was a part of me that wanted to tell them what to write sometimes, but that would have made it my story and not theirs, so of course, I would have had to put my name on it.

Everyone has a story to tell. And one of my favorite quotes goes something like – there are no boring subjects, only boring writers. I don’t know who said it or if I read it or how it got in my mind, but it definitely holds water. So if you think you’re not a good writer and/or that your topic is boring, here are the two tips I can offer that will help you liven it up.

Ask

So, how would I – a non-teacher and introvert – tutor these students to write a paper about their own topics using their own voice and make it worthy of an A? Well, because I am not a teacher, I didn’t feel like instructing was the way to go. So, instead I asked them questions. I asked them questions about their topics and what they wanted to tell about the topic, how the topic intersected with their lives. I got all psychological on them and asked them stuff like, “How did that make you feel?” and “Why do you think that is?”

Their answers only brought more questions. They needed to see how everything they were telling me was related.

Asking all of these questions fit perfectly into my introvert scope – I don’t like to waste time with small talk with someone I don’t know. I want to know their stories. I like to know the details that led up to and were results of main events. So this was a chance for me to cut through the small talk and get down to the meat of it with total strangers, and it was fantastic for me, and they got the tutoring they needed to write their stories.

Answer

Their answers would dictate the direction of the stories and personalize them because they used their own perspective to relate to something that might seem unrelated to them. Anytime you can make a connection, you become invested in your writing. And most of the time, if the writer is invested, the reader can feel that, and the writing becomes more interesting.

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Ask and Answer

We wouldn’t have to go through the whole paper that way (some assignments were reeeeeallllllly long) because once they got the hang of how to ask their own questions, they were set. They already knew the answers. So they would leave and write the papers on their own at home, and suddenly, it wasn’t such a daunting task because they became a part of their own writing. You don’t have to be a writer to write well, you just have to find a way to connect to your writing.

They would bring their papers back when they were finished, and we would go over them mainly for grammatical and structural errors. It was a good gig for me. The students were happy; I was happy. The director asked me to come back and work there after my internship was ended.

But the point is that these students, ranging from freshman to graduate students who thought they couldn’t write, wrote great papers all because they put themselves into it. They didn’t just copy and paste what they found online, changing a few words to keep from plagiarizing. They had their own thoughts to offer, and offer them they did.

pie

Easy as Pie

Mmm . . . did someone say pie? Oh, I guess that was me. Well, before I get too far off track, let me just say, it really is that easy. Ask yourself a few questions about your topic. Write down your answers. Expand on those sentences to bring your story together. Even if it doesn’t sound easy, it’s worth a try. Whether you are writing a report for class, a letter to someone you care about, or even if you’re trying to write a blog post, this is a good way to get started, and the rest will come. If it doesn’t, ask yourself a few more questions. And then, have a piece of pie.

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5 Ways to Improve Story Time

 

books

I think Dr. Seuss books were meant more for adults than for children. I mean, the sing-song rhyminess is great for any age, but I didn’t pay real attention to stories as a kid. Now I do, and I like them too. So much fun to listen, so exciting to read. There’s a lesson to be learnt, if only we’ll heed.

OK, so I don’t have quite the same rhythmic effect as the good doctor, but now more than ever, I appreciate what I read more when I add a little dramatic effect. It makes me appreciate all the parents and teachers who do dramatic readings for their kids.

Llama, Llama, Red Pajama is probably one of my favorite books to read to my girls because there are so many vocal effects one can add to the story with varying tempos, volumes, and voices. It’s fantastic, and my girls love it almost as much as I do.

So here are five ideas that you can use to add a little pizzazz to story time.

  1. Pre-read and re-read

It can be difficult to get the right sound effect when you are reading it for the first time. You might take a breath when the sentence you just read really needs to run on into the next sentence. And of course there are the times when you read a sentence at a temperate volume, and then it says, “whispered Molly.” You have to pre-read the story to be able to demonstrate the emotions that are being displayed – especially if what the characters are saying is opposite of how they are feeling. You have to pre-read the story to know why those emotions are being shown. And sorry, but one read-through does not an expert make. Read, read, and read again!

  1. Act and react

You might not have the natural gift for acting, but your kids don’t know that, and they don’t care. It’s great when you have the sound down, but the kids need to see that sound as well. If a character is sad, you need to look sad. When the character is scared, feel the fear. The kids need to see and hear in order to feel it and understand it. And when something happens, you need to be just as surprised as the character. It doesn’t matter how many times you have read the story in preparation or played out the story to your kids – you are the characters! You are each and every character. And each time you read the story should be like you are experiencing it for the first time.

  1. Look at and involve the kids

Your eyes will show a lot since you are actually acting out what you are reading, so be sure to make eye contact with your kids. It also makes them feel like a part of the storytelling instead of just the audience. They are experiencing it with you. And after you have read the book a few times to your kids, they memorize the words. I like to pause sporadically in the story and let the kids fill in the words they know.

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  1. Ask questions

So the story is over. The End. But you’re not quite done yet. This is the best part of the involvement. Ask them questions. You can make sure they understand what was going on and why, but even better – you can ask them what they would have done differently. Why did the character make that decision? What are some other decisions they could have made instead or in addition to? What would you have done? How do you think the story would have ended differently with your decision? Make them think and get creative.

  1. Have fun!

This is the most important part of it all and what will make any story a success. If you are having fun, your kids will have fun, whether they like the story or not. This is time with their parent(s)! And no matter how well you tell the story, it is the time with you that they will remember most. My kids’ memories of the things we do together are different from my memories of those same times. I think of all the things I did wrong or could have done better. But they tell it, it’s like they were looking through rose-colored glasses. I’ve come to understand though, that’s not it at all. They had a blast, not because they can’t see my faults, but because spending time with their parents is fun!

These are just a few things I like to do when reading books with my kids. Now, when they read stories to me, they do the same things. They use different voices. They get involved with the story. It makes it more fun to read and to listen!