Ads, Ads, Fried Termites: Perils of a Writer’s Mind

As you may well know, a writer’s mind is a constantly swirling inkwell.  I see, hear, read, experience things – and my mind right away wants to turn this new info into printed matter.  It’s in my genes; I come from a long line of storytellers.

After all these years I’m still trying to decide if this swirling process produces pearls or is a peril.  Is God sending these inspirations, wishing to speak through me – or is it that “muse” some people speak of that’s made chaos of what could have been my well ordered life?☺

I have dear friends whose minds seem to turn in orderly rotations around the fulcrum of “clean and neat.”  It’s deep in their genes and I admire the results they achieve in their homes.  May times I’ve decided to give up writing in favour of having a sparkling house like some others.  I edit for hours–days!–trying to achieve “clean, neat, and in order” in what I write but this doesn’t leave me time to give my physical surrounding that same care. ☹

Some women look at the world with their eyes, where I tend to see the world with my mind or imagination.  For example, if I walk through my house and see light shining in the windows, I might think about doing an article on light versus darkness; my friends will see that the window needs cleaning and get to it.  Or they make a mental note to do it later–and remember.

I make notes, too, but they get lost somewhere.  (The fate of many of my literal lists as well.)  Then there are times when some really brilliant idea or comparison pops into my head, but I can’t drop what I’m doing.  I do try to snatch a moment to rush to the computer and type in a title –and maybe a few lines– before I forget it.  When I’ve finished what I’m doing, I’ll get back to that file and let the creative juices flow.  If I remember.

Speaking of which, a few weeks ago I noticed a file in my hard drive entitled “Ads, ads, and termites.”  I stared at the screen for a minute.  What kind of ads was I thinking of?  On Kijiji perhaps?  But why the repeat?  And how do termites fit with ads?  I was mystified.  Maybe someday it’ll come back to me, I thought, and didn’t even bother to open the file.

Last week I saw it again and the fog started clearing.  “Ads, ads” wasn’t advertisements; this stood for adjectives and adverbs.  I was thinking about adjectives and adverbs, then read something about termites, and somehow a comparison popped into my head.  I’d been reading a missionaries’ letter –they are working in Cameroon– and they wrote something about termites.  But what?

Today I opened the file; here’s what I’d typed in:

Adjectives, adverbs, and fried termites  (Fried termites?)

The almost-pure-white butterflies flipped and flopped in lazy circles over the crisply sun-burned lawn, searching for a choice bit of vegetation on which to lay their tiny greenish-yellow eggs.

I know adjectives and adverbs have fallen into disfavour these days.  You’re supposed to cut back on them and rather choose strong nouns and verbs.  Like “The ivory butterflies twirled figure eights over what once was lawn, searching for some green spot to lay their eggs.”

But what does that all have to do with fried termites?  Whatever the case may be, I fear they will be forever linked in my mind now.

It will be just like the incident my mother-in law told me about.  One day while she was still a girl at home her brother Jake asked her a question: “When you see a falling star, do you ever think of onions?”

“Onions! No, never,” she answered.

“You will from now on,” Jake said with a laugh.

“Oh, brother!” she thought, but she told me his words have proved true: after that day, every time she saw a falling star she was reminded of that dumb joke.  And since she told me, I’ve thought of that silly “onions” joke, too, every time I see a falling star.

So be warned.  It’s possible that, from now on, every time someone mentions adjectives and adverbs you may find yourself thinking “fried termites.”

Perhaps I’d better find that letter, read it again, find out what my comparison was and tell you, too.  Right now the letter is buried somewhere in a pile of correspondence we received, but if I’d clean my house once…

Another Pearl that’s been forming in my grey matter:

A few days ago I read a post on someone else’s blog that really struck a chord with me.  It was about being a front-line soldier for the Lord.  My mind immediately flipped into the thought of –and started putting together an article about– the nature of an army.  I’ve asked permission to quote part of what she wrote because I think we all need to ponder this.  I’ll post her writing in a few days as an introduction, then my article will follow.  Spring cleaning can wait a bit longer, right?

Who Do You Work For?

Who Is Your Boss?

By Edgar A Guest

“I work for someone else,” he said,
“I have no chance to get ahead.
At night I leave the job behind;
at morn I face the same old grind
and everything I do by day
just brings to me the same old pay.
While I am here I cannot see
the semblance of a chance for me.”

I asked another how he viewed
the occupation he pursued.
“It’s dull and dreary toil,” said he,
“and brings but small reward to me.
My boss gets all the profits fine
that I believe are rightly mine.
My life’s monotonously grim
because I’m forced to work for him.”

I stopped a third young man to ask
his attitude towards his task.
A cheerful smile lit up his face;
“I shan’t be always in this place,”
he said, “because some distant day
a better job will come my way.”
“Your boss?” I asked, and answered he:
“I’m going to make him notice me.

“He pays me wages and in turn
that money I am here to earn,
but I don’t work for him alone;
allegiance to myself I own.
I do not do my best because
it gets me favors or applause—
I work for him but I can see
that actually I work for me.

“It looks like business good to me
the best clerk on the staff to be.
If customers approve my style
and like my manner and my smile
I help the firm to get the pelf
but what is more, I help myself.
From one big thought I’m never free:
That every day I work for me.”

Oh, youth, thought I, you’re bound to climb
the ladder of success in time.
Too many self-impose the cross
of daily working for a boss,
forgetting that in failing him
it is their own stars that they dim.
And when real service they refuse
they are the ones who really lose.

From his book Just Folks
©1917 by the Reilly & Britton Co.

What Passion!

It’s All In The Delivery

The actress Helena Modjeska was highly regarded for her ability to breathe life and emotion into her performances.  One day she was giving a dramatic recitation at a dinner party.  The item she recited was well known in her native Poland and she delivered it with such zeal and passion that, even though they didn’t understand any of it, her listeners were moved to tears.

Now that’s talent!  And what was this wondrous piece of literature that could so touch the emotions of her listeners?

The Polish alphabet.

Wonderful Land of Raining Minutes

 

One of the Dec 26th daily challenges at The Write Practice was to imagine it was raining unicorns. Children would be delighted, but I couldn’t get all that enthused about that as I have little interest in unicorns, also I fear they’d trample my garden. Especially in the course of falling from heaven. So I altered it to something much more appealing to me.

What if it rained minutes from heaven?

Can you imagine the delight if one day it would shower extra minutes – or even if every day it would rain ten minutes’ worth of extra time? How we’d all race out to grab up the extra minutes we need to finish our various projects! I’d be out there scooping them up into every available container. Wouldn’t you?

We all complain about the lack of time. If it rained minutes even once a week, would we be able to gather enough to lengthen our lives by a few days or even a few years? And then would we fill these minutes productively? Would you and I get the things done we think we’d get done “IF I only had a few extra minutes”? Maybe I’d get a few more books read – or written!

Would we be selfish with the newly gained minutes? If I went out with a huge basket – and I assure you I would! – and later discovered that an invalid had been unable to even gather an extra hour, would I share?  Would I give up the precious minutes I’d gleaned to help another, or would I hoard each one for my own use?

What if it rained minutes? If you’re like me you’d rather see them trickling down from the sky than trickling away into that huge drain we call YESTERDAY, like they do now.

You may gather as you read this that I have a major problem with time management – and you’re right. I haven’t yet learned to put into practice the words of that old hymn, “Give every passing minute something to keep in store. Work for the night is coming when man works no more.”

It may be wise to begin with the question, “Would more minutes help – or am I just fooling myself?”

What about you? How many more minutes would you like to have every week to improve your life or vocation?

 

The Salesman Gets A Shock

by Edgar Guest

The salesman saw his shabby clothes and eyed him head to toe;
so rough a looking man, thought he, could not be good to know;
and since he sold expensive cars, which only rich men buy,
to sell to the ragged-looking man he did not even try.

The stranger walked among the cars and looked the models o’er,
the youthful salesman passed him by a dozen times or more;
not once he paused to talk to him; he scorned the proffered smile
and looked about for richer men who might be more worth while.

The manager came out at last and saw the shabby man.
His hand went out in welcome as he shouted, “Hello, Dan!”
“Hello, Bill,” said the shabby man. “My daughter wants a car
and I’ve been noseying around to see how good they are.

Send up the red one over there; she likes to cut a dash.”
And reaching in his wallet he drew out the price in cash.
“My women wear the style for me. You know my ways are quaint.
My word,” said he, “I think that boy has fallen in a faint!”

They brought the youthful salesman to, and sent him home to rest.
“Don’t ever judge a man,” said they, “by how he may be dressed.
You lost a good cash customer, but write this lesson down:
‘Not all the worth while people strut in worsted ‘round the town.’ ”

From his book The Light of Faith
© 1926 by The Reilly & Lee Co.

Courage: Not A Spark But A Fire

Courage
by Edgar Guest

Courage isn’t a brilliant dash,
a daring deed in a moment’s flash;
it isn’t an instantaneous thing
born of despair with a sudden spring.
It isn’t a creature of flickered hope
or the final tug at a slipping rope;
but it’s something deep in the soul of man
that is working always to serve some plan.

Courage isn’t the last resort
in the work of life or the game of sport;
it isn’t a thing that man can call
at some future time when he’s apt to fall.
If he hasn’t it now, he will have it not
when the strain is great and the pace is hot.
For who would strive for a distant goal
must always have courage within his soul.

Courage isn’t a dazzling light
that flashes and passes away from sight’
it’s a slow, unwavering, ingrained trait
with the patience to work and the strength to wait.
It’s part of a man when his skies are blue;
it’s part of him when he has work to do;
The brave man never is freed of it.
He has it when there is no need of it.

Courage was never designed for show;
it isn’t a thing that can come and go;
it’s written in victory and defeat
and every trial a man may meet.
It’s part of his hours, his days and his years,
back of his smiles and behind his tears.
Courage is more than a daring deed:
it’s the breath of life and a strong man’s creed.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by the Reilly and Britton Co.

Father

by Edgar Guest

Used to wonder just why Father
   Never had much time for play;
used to wonder why he’d rather
   work each minute of the day.
Used to wonder why he never
   loafed along the road an’ shirked;
can’t recall a time whenever
 Father played while others worked.

Father didn’t dress in fashion,
   sort of hated clothing new;
style with him was not a passion;
   he had other things in view.
Boys are blind to much that’s going
   on about them day by day,
and I had no way of knowing
   what became of Father’s pay.

All I knew was when I needed
   shoes I got ‘em on the spot;
everything for which I pleaded,
   somehow Father always got.
Wondered, season after season,
   why he never took a rest,
and that I might be the reason
   then I never even guessed.

Father set a store on knowledge;
   if he’d lived to have his way
he’d have sent me off to college
   and the bills been glad to pay.
That, I know, was his ambition;
   now and then he used to say
he’d have done his earthly mission
   on my graduation day.

Saw his cheeks were getting paler,
   didn’t understand just why;
saw his body growing frailer,
   then at last I saw him die.
Rest had come! His tasks were ended,
calm was written on his brow;
Father’s life was big and splendid,
   and I understand it now.

From his book, A Heap O’ Livin’
© 1916 by The Reilly & Britton Co.

Qualities of a Quality Man

A MAN
by Edgar Guest

A man doesn’t whine at his losses;
   a man doesn’t whimper and fret
or rail at the weight of his crosses
   and ask life to rear him a pet.
A man doesn’t grudgingly labor
   or look upon toil as a blight:
a man doesn’t sneer at his neighbor
   or sneak from a cause that is right.

A man doesn’t sulk when another
   succeeds where his efforts have failed;
doesn’t keep all his praise for the brother
   whose glory is publicly hailed
and pass by the weak and the humble
   as though they were not of his clay;
a man doesn’t ceaselessly grumble
   when things are not going his way.

A man looks on woman as tender
   and gentle, and stands at her side
at all times to guard and defend her,
   and never to scorn or deride.
A man looks on life as a mission,
   to serve, just so far as he can;
A man feels his noblest ambition
   on earth is to live as a man.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
published 1916 by The Reilly & Britton Co

(And I daresay this man will be able to hold his head up to others and be able to look himself in the mirror every night. We ladies should be aspiring to these virtues, too–not to be self-righteously sweet but to be a REAL person, gentle, caring, and faithful to our Creator. It’s our calling to be a woman men can respect.)

Passion For Passive Voice

Attending a writing workshop, the subject was raised as to passive versus active voice.*  It was explained to us by the workshop leader that the PV is seen as a grave error by modern editors.

Later, while a lovely walk in the country was being enjoyed by me, my mind was settled into by a brilliant thought: a writing should be composed as completely in the PV as possible, that its virtues may be exemplified more clearly!  Thus this writing is being offered to you as an alternative to thinking being promoted by short-sighted editors. (Wherever a slip into the active voice is deemed necessary, proper ID will be made by AV.)

One thing that was explained to us by our instructor was that the verb “to be” is always used (by writers) to form the passive voice.  Hence, we were told, a careful examination must be made of each “to be” verb in every form, lest a passive voice be allowed (by careless writers) to slip in.

The passive voice is formed (by anyone) when the subject of a sentence – the doer of the deed – is hidden (by the one telling the tale) somewhere among stated or implied end-of-sentence phrases, the object of the sentence being forced to lead the way.

Hence the active-voiced “I slipped on a banana peel” is turned into the passive “A banana peel was slipped on” — by me, but I may not prefer to add that part, lest (subjunctive) I appear clumsy.  After all, it might have been dropped by someone else, which makes it their fault anyway (AV), right?

Whenever such convolutions are made in sentences (by the writer), there must always be a “by”–written or not.  For purposes of clarification during this essay, these shall be duly marked (by me) in brackets.

During our workshop it was explained to our instructor that the passive voice can be used (by writers) to remain anonymously humble – or leave someone else anonymously humble.  The self-promoting “I” can be buried forever (by the writer) in the “back forty” of the sentence.

And not only “I & me” but any other indication of something outstanding being done by someone among us.  Several reasons may be offered (by whoever wants to) for this: if some action has been taken (by whoever) that may be deemed (by the hearer) offensive, the perpetrators can be forever hidden (by the teller of the tale.)

Likewise, a solution can be found (by someone) without any congratulatory pat on the back to the finder thereof.  And if it was a poor solution it will be unknown (by the ones upset) on whom to put the blame.  Thus the most words can be used (by the prudent) with the least information actually being revealed.  (This same policy has been specialized in by government officials for ages.)

Passive voice can also be used (by writers spilling their lifeblood–or someone else’s) to avoid total humiliation or acrimonious legal actions.

Of course, objections to the use of PV are usually raised by word-count-conscious editors.  The most said (by writers) using the least words remains (AV) ever the passion of those insensitive red-pen types.  That all shall be blabbed up front (by the writer), subject first, is insisted upon by them.

Nevertheless, a continuous demand shall always be held forth (by those afraid of offending) for the obscurity of PV.*  So let it be learned by us to execute it well in our writing endeavours.  Should it be wished by modern editors to execute it literally, theirs will be the loss in the end.  Much will remain unwritten to avoid embarrassment.

(*Dangling &/or confusing clauses may be one undesirable result.  By using great vigilance, avoidance of these can be accomplished.)

Anonymity is wished for by the author lest she be blacklisted by the aforesaid editors.

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This week I plan to post reprints of articles I’ve written for “The Craft of Writing” in our His Imprint E-newsletter and/or articles I wrote in connection with a writing class I took in 2010.  Hope you enjoy them.

INNOCENCE LOST

When I was a teen my Mom & Dad F owned a café and we sold tobacco products.  Almost every day, among my other jobs, I would refill the wooden rack with the various brands of cigarettes.  When people came in to buy a pack I would hand it over and ring up the sale.

I never thought twice about the right or wrong of it; it was simply part of my job.  I didn’t smoke, thus I had no interest in those packages other than to fill the racks.  I had no craving for what was inside.  On the contrary, I’d seen a few pictures of tar-blackened smokers’ lungs, looking about the colour of the fresh asphalt being spread on the highway outside our door–and I sure didn’t want mine to look like that!

So, even though I was aware of evidence coming forth about cigarettes causing cancer and other diseases, as far as my own personal interest is concerned, I was handling them innocently.  But the time came when my Dad got cancer as a direct result of smoking.  It started in his sinus, erupted in open sores on his face, ate away at his nose bone and eye socket, and spread to his brain.  He looked so awful as the cancer messed up his face!

After that I hated tobacco.  Not the actual product, but what it could do to people’s lives–what it did to my father and so many others.  First of all, all that money going up in smoke.  The years of slavery; innocent babes living in smoke-filled homes, having their lungs damaged every day.  Then the suffering and death, whether from cancer, emphysema, COPD or other diseases.

While I oppose smoking for health reasons and the waste of money, I hate it for what it has done to someone I love.  When I was looking for employment, I refused to work at any jobs where I’d be involved in handling and selling tobacco products.  I can’t claim innocence anymore.

I believe this is a small taste of how God hates sin.  Not only is it an affront to His righteousness, but it separates mankind –His own beloved creatures, made in His image– from Him.  He also sees what a devastating impact sinful pursuits do to the lives of those affected, first of all the person in bondage to sin and addiction, then the effects on his/her family that result from this bondage: spouses and innocent children sold into slavery, neglected, abused.

When we are His children, we need to respect our Heavenly Father.  When something causes as much suffering, criminal activity, bondage and death, when it separates people from Him eternally, we can be sure Our Father hates it.  And when He hates something, let’s not think we can partake in just a little “in all innocence” and He won’t mind.

Scripture tells us that He will permit our innocence for a time and not hold it against us, but there will come a time when, through His Holy Spirit, He reveals His will to us more fully.  Then there’s no going back.  If we know it’s wrong, we are going to be held accountable.  “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”

(This is the first of two related articles.  Part B to come: “Ticket to Perpetual Fame”)