Elderfox's Blog

Thoughts of an elder writer-in-progress

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I often ask myself. . .

“Can You be Too Old to Write?” by Rob Parnell : You may be surprised to learn that one of the frequent questions I’m asked is, “Am I too old to write?”
And the funny thing is that it’s not just ‘older’ people that ask me this question. Sometimes, new writers as young as eighteen and nineteen seek my advice on this issue – apparently wondering whether they’ve missed the boat if they’re not studying journalism or creative writing or some other ‘writerly’ qualification by the time they’re twenty. Of course it depends what you want out of your life – and where you think writing stands in the myriad of possibilities available to you – however old you are. The good news is that there are no barriers to writing success based on qualifications.  A good writer is a good writer – as far as anyone is concerned, including readers, publishers, editors and agents. You’re neither too old nor too young to write. If your writing is effective at conveying ideas, emotions and information, you’re in! Frank McCourt, famously, was sixty before he got his first book, Tis, published to critical acclaim.  Many popular writers start relatively late in their careers when they realize that the many day jobs they’ve had just aren’t satisfying them.

It’s become almost a cliche that writers’ own resumes have a jumbled mess of a career – and life – before they begin writing full time. As I say, it depends on what you want, what is right for you, at any particular point in your life. You can’t teach the urge to write. You also can’t teach someone to improve they’re writing. This may sound odd coming from someone like me – but I know it’s true.

Here’s why:   Writing is like a personality trait or a bad habit in people. You can’t change it or stop it or get any better unless you want to change. And just like all those despairing spouses who desperately wish their partners would change – it ain’t gonna happen unless that partner makes a conscious effort to alter themselves – and doesn’t just do it because they’re being hassled, cajoled, advised or forced to change.  You’re never too old to write. But, “Am I too old to write?” is not actually the right question. The correct question is, “Am I too old to improve my writing?” And here we see the interesting part. Because my experience of  teaching writing is that older people are often more receptive to instruction – and can improve quickly, because they want to.

Younger writers on the other hand may be much more obstinate about their failings – and cling to bad habits when they’re being screamed at (like all those frustrated spouses!) to change them. And by younger I don’t necessarily mean ‘young’ – I mean newer writers – as in people who’ve really only started to take themselves seriously as writers, whether they’re nineteen or ninety. It’s a mindset issue. A professionally minded writer is always open to criticism – however much it hurts. When criticized for a bad writing habit, you may think that the reader is being pedantic – that they’re missing the point and not looking at the writing as a whole. But this is the point. Unless you clear up the bad grammar, the typos you consistently make and the little stylistic elements that grate on the reader, then you will always fail to keep the reader focused on your writing – and whatever it is you’re trying to say. Little things like ‘point of view’ switches in fiction, consistently using the wrong punctuation and insisting on inappropriate formatting of your manuscripts are all things that ‘get in the way’ of your writing when trying to impress someone with your words.

Your age is irrelevant when it comes to these issues. Writers of any age can – and do – make these mistakes. But also, writers of any age can improve their writing – if they want to. It’s about being open – and willing to change for the better. To me, this is one of the reasons why writing keeps people’s minds agile. Because writing requires this mindset of ‘Can I?” – an acronym meaning, Constant And Neverending Improvement.

Writers of any age can be good enough to get published, even self publish, and impress the world.  There is no age barrier to writers, only a mindset barrier. Because if you ever feel you’re too old to improve or learn more, then yes, you’re too old. But if you keep wanting to get better, even if people tell you that you’re the best (or worst) writer in the world, then you really do have all the qualifications, life experience, empathy and talent you’ll ever need. 

Keep writing!rob@easywaytowrite.com
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell’s Easy Way to Write

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DAILIES

Apparently I’ve had a few days of lookiloos at my blog, but no comments other than those I receive from my LOYAL Best Friends!!!  Oh, and I made AOL News front page with my Facebook note liking the story of the elder gentleman who is driving a hitch of percharons around the country(?)  How about that!!!  (me…dancing in a dimming spotlight). 

J J will be going to work this week, YAY! It’s part time and minium  wage, but  it is a also a new job learning situation for her.  ( No, obviously, it is not in insurance–the 17 years of knowledge  she had in that business got her nowhere in the employment game even though she was sending 3-4 resumes a week.)

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DAILIES

Yes, I missed yesterday…which is not a good thing for me.  I have a persistent “block”  re writing even though I have a “start” file of several story ideas.  I’ve been fascinated by our frontier-west history, as well as Washington state ghost towns. So it’s not that I don’t have numerous ideas.  I’ve had my work critiqued, been given very positive comments (although I apparently have “adjectivitis” according to some readers).  However, perhaps the praise has impressed me with the idea that what I continue to write has to live up to that expectation.  Of course it doesn’t, so I abandon beginnings, but the ideas continue to nag at me.  So before my mind or body decides to call it quits, I intend to reach for that illusive “The End”.

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DAILIES

I get mail (the regular–go to the mailbox and get an envelope to open, etc. ) And today I received a “Congratulations On Your Nomination!” from a Hunting Club in Minnetonka, Minnesota.   And the free gift I will receive if I join (at only a “$1 a month”) is either a cookbook or field knife set with belt sheath”.   AND “only serious hunters are nominated“.

 Now, first off I am not and never have been a hunter. Possibly interested from a research point of view, YES.  However…”it’s no secret among my friends and family that: I am (NOT) a dedicated  hunter, so I am (not) exactly the kind of person this club is always looking for“.  And the free membership card entitles me to “test hunting gear and keep it free” and that includes “Firearms, GPS systems, outerwear, hunting trips, bowhunting gear, bags” as well as  “North American Huntermagazine “…filled with great insider know-how that will help you get lots of game just like those piectured in the eye-popping photos from cover to cover’

Now I AM NOT panning this advertisement, I am simply (really really) curious as to who thinks I can benefit, and who nominated me for membership, in the North American Hunting Club to field test hunting products and enjoy all the other benefits and privileges of membership.  Hummm?

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2/13 Daily

 I borrowed “Patience” (and need to ask : where are these found?  Not being much of a PC person I most often just stumble onto relevant items for my blog.  And right now I’m in my C3pt zone.  I’m attempting the Romance genre–hey it’s about a man and woman falling in love–of course it’s a bit more than that– which reminds me, I have to contact the police department … child welfare … and rodeo stock producers…hummmm. 

C3pt?–Courage, Passion, patience, talent.

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Better Late than Never

Yes, put me in for A Post A Day…I  REALLY  REALLY  need the challenge!  I am an “Elder”now,  but a “fox”, not so much… but, well, maybe once, I can remember–never mind, that was then, this is now, and I’ve got a novel to write.

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Did you know?

I received the following in this mornings e-mail and added them to my “phrase book”.  It’s interesting  how words/phrases follow us down thru centuries…

In George Washington’s days, there were no cameras. One’s image was
either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed
him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others
showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not
based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were
to be painted. Arms and legs are ‘limbs,’ therefore painting them would
cost the buyer more.  Hence the expression, ‘Okay, but it’ll cost you an
arm and a leg.’ (Artists know hands and arms are more difficult to paint)
*******
As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year
(May and October) Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their
heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford
good wigs made from wool. They couldn’t wash the wigs, so to clean them
they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake
it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the
term ‘big wig.’ Today we often use the term ‘here comes the Big Wig’
because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.
*******
In the late 1700s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one
chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was
used for dining. The ‘head of the household’ always sat in the chair
while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who
was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal.
To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called
the one sitting in the chair the ‘chair man.’ Today in business, we use
the expression or title ‘Chairman’ or ‘Chairman of the Board.’
*******
Personal hygiene left much room for improvement. As a result, many women
and men had developed acne scars by adulthood. The women would spread
bee’s wax over their facial skin to smooth out their complexions. When
they were speaking to each other, if a woman began to stare at another
woman’s face she was told, ‘mind your own bee’s wax.’ Should the woman
smile, the wax would crack, hence the term ‘crack a smile’. In addition,
when they sat too close to the fire, the wax would melt . . . Therefore,
the expression ‘losing face.’
*******
Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and
dignified woman, as in ‘straight laced’ wore a tightly tied lace.
*******
Common entertainment included playing cards. However, there was a tax
levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the ‘Ace of
Spades.’ To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards
instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were
thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren’t ‘playing with a full
deck.’
*******
Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what
the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV’s or
radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs,
and bars. They were told to ‘go sip some ale’ and listen to people’s
conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at
different times. ‘You go sip here’ and ‘You go sip there.’ The two words
‘go sip’ were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion
and, thus we have the term ‘gossip.’
*******
At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized
containers. A bar maid’s job was to keep an eye on the customers and
keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who
was drinking in ‘pints’ and who was drinking in ‘quarts,’ hence the term
minding your ‘P’s and ‘Q’s.’
*******
In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters
carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It
was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to
prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method
devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four
resting on nine, which rested on sixteen.. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon
balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There
was only one problem…how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or
rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a ‘Monkey’ with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make ‘Brass Monkeys.’ Few
landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than
iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far,
the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs
would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, ‘Cold
enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.’ (And all this time, you
thought that was an improper expression, didn’t you.) 

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WHO. . .WHAT. . .WHERE

 

As a writer in progress, I often look at pictures and in them see a place, a character, an emotion , a plot concept.   

Take, for instance  that  distant  figure  above  at the end of the road, or is it a driveway?   Is  s/he leaving, returning, out for a stroll, waiting?  Is s/he a main character?  Or is the main character watching the figure, and is afraid, curious, surprised?  What? Why?

At other times, a character arrives with my Muse and they hang around waiting to be given an opportunity to do something .  Of course I’m supposed to figure out, what that something  is all about .  If it doesn’t happen, Ms Muse invites the person  to wait in the holding cellar (which is getting pretty crowded),  then she slips something bitter into the coffee I’m drinking, and wings off into the ether, muttering what I’m sure are muse oaths.

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HOLDING THE LINE

NOTE: There will be those among the readers of these writings who are not going to appreciate MY opinions.  However, I believe everyone has the right of an opinion and you are free to express yours regarding the subject matter.

Via the grapevine, our AKC (American Kennel Club) is having to deal with financial problems (who isn’t) and has chosen to provide opportunities for mixed breed dogs to participate in various “athletic” and obedience events in an attempt  to add to their coffers.  And I applaud the idea, if for no other reason than giving owners of mixed-breeds a reason to train and keep healthier pets.

However, in doing so, the prospect of urging people to breed indiscriminately to the extent of mixing purebred lines with another, i.e. the so called labradorsXpoodles; pugsXbeagles, and yes, even great danesXcane corsos, etc., and furthering the “mistakes” by advertising them eligible for AKC registration.   Now there is no denying accidents do happen, and YES mixed-breeds can make fine pets, and many of our purebreds were of mixing breeds by dog  breeders  of long ago.   However, I do resent the AKC recognition and trials for mixed breeds.  The AKC is and always has been (to the best of my knowledge) created to invest in and protect the purebred breeds, their owners, breeders, clubs, handlers, shows, etc. Mixed breed events could be left to Dog Clubs, 4-H clubs, Humane Societies’s and others, because,  in my opinion, the American Kennel Club, by default, is promoting indiscriminate breeding: i.e., those who will do it to make $s off an uneducated public.

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