Writing Short(ly)

How many words does it take to tell a story?

One could argue that using fewer words conveys more meaning and requires more thinking.

Brevity is king.

In fact, many writers prefer to tell stories in short form, guiding the reader on a literary journey – in 100 or fewer, 50 or fewer, only six words, or even 140 characters. Writing shortly, often under the umbrella Flash Fiction, goes by many names. Here are a few:

  • microstory
  • short story
  • short-short story
  • flash fiction
  • six-word story
  • the 140-character story (also known as twitterature)
  • micropoetry

 

cover of a book, how to write short, by roy peter clark

No matter what it’s called, each short-form story has a similar quality:  the writer carefully selects and places words to tell a story. Similar to micropoetry, brevity is key.  Every. Word. Counts. 

 

book cover: 140 CharactersThough I was introduced to wordplay at a very young age (and always encouraged to write and tinker with language), it was not until 2009 when I discovered Twitter and short-form writing (beyond poetry) for the first time. I blogged about it in 2010 and again a few years later {here}. Turns out, short-form writing has a long history! Consider Telegraph messages… stop.  😉

Fast-forward to 2015, when I discovered an interest in visual art – an answer to writer’s block. As I tinkered with colors to heal my heart and head, my writing voice returned and I discovered that ‘writing short’ played a key role in my art pieces.

Carefully selected and places words are often seen, but just as often not seen – buried under layers of color and texture. When you purchase my art, there’s a good chance you’re purchasing my words, too, even if you never see them!

Now in my third year creating visual art, I am reflecting on my journey and continue to think about the process. I am seeing how my earliest pieces are simplistic, childlike – the efforts of a newbie artist, and I’m okay with that. Because I’m also discovering how ‘writing short’ fits into my own artistic style.

I see a growing collection of my words – many blended with colors, some standing strongly in stark black and white, while others hover quietly on brown patina’d book pages and the private pages of my writing journals.

Still, others stick quietly to our fridge and tap me on the shoulder when I walk by, or are pulled from my word notebooks and added to my photographs. Then there are the carefully chosen quotes by others that convey my deepest feelings…

All tell my story.

 

What would your story say?

Ten Tips: Keeping Art Brushes, Sponges, and Stamps Usable

One of the things I learned from our first Creative by Discovery Mixed-Media Art Party was that sharing tips I’ve learned about the process in the past three years is a “how-to” I can gladly contribute. Here are a few things learned along the way….

Ten tips for keeping brushes, sponges, and stamps usable… (because it gets expensive replacing them!):

  1. Do not leave brushes/sponge brushes in water for long periods of time.
  2. Do not let paint, ink, or adhesives dry on brushes, sponges, or stamps. Let them rest in a brush tub, to keep them moist. Use the scrubber in the bottom to gently loosen paint.
  3. Change water often when painting, especially with watercolors.
  4. Use paper towels, a fabric cloth, and/or baby wipes while working on a project – rinse and wipe tools when switching between tools during a project.
  5. Use the correct brush for acrylic vs. watercolor paint. Acrylics are too harsh for natural hair brushes and will damage them.
  6. Avoid pushing, jamming, or squishing brushes, sponges, or stamps into paint, ink, adhesives, or other mediums.
  7. When finished, clean brushes and sponges in warm soapy water and pat dry.
  8. Lay brushes horizontally to dry to avoid water running from bristles to ferrule (thing that looks like a collar).
  9. Store brushes upright once they are completely dry. *Never store brushes with bristles facing down.
  10. When finished with a stamp, use a product like StazOn to clean the excess ink, especially when using permanent ink. Gently pat the stamp with the cleaning product. Follow with a dry cloth or paper towel. Gently pat the stamp and let it air-dry.

Want to learn more tips and tricks for playing with colors?  Follow RobinLK Studios on Facebook for the latest information.

The Counting Game….

Snippet of a Grocery Receipt
Things That Begin With C

 

  • chicken
  • Crystal Light
  • cat food
  • coffee creamer

Creating my list for a quick stop at the grocery store is a mental game for me:

  1. Make a mental list.
  2. Repeat it a few times out loud.
  3. Count the items.
  4. Keep the numbered items in my head.
  5. Enter the store.
  6. Go to it!

I’m sure people wonder why I have a quizzical look on my face as I stand between aisles. Actually, who am I fooling? They aren’t paying any attention to me. They’ve got their own lists and looks.  I wonder:  Are they playing the counting game, too?

Yesterday I added Chobani yogurt, celery, and cheddar popcorn to the cart {bonus!}.

Seemed to be a C sort of day….  😉  How do you keep your brain sharp?

 

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Grammar Gremlins, Shoddy Spelling, and Cantankerous Typos

We’re often told first impressions matter. What does a first impression say about you and your business?

Business owners and fellow bloggers/artists/writers/creative types, could grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and unnoticed typos be sending a message you didn’t intend?

I enjoy wordplay – crafting narrative text – creative messages and stories from found words and ideas that roll around in my head {or smack me when I least expect it}.  I also get plenty of inspiration from reading others’ wordplay, too.

But there’s another kind of writing – informational, daily text – signs, menus, advertisements, messages, invitations, flyers, projects for the workplace, etc… the content of everyday life, including business. I like to read and create this text, often describing myself as an ‘information junkie.’

What surprises me about daily text is how often it’s riddled with sloppy writing in our increasingly informal culture (in the U.S, anyway).  For a few years, I used the local newspaper in our community to teach writing. There were so many errors that students were surprised the publisher went to press each week.

Are business owners lazy? uneducated?  Definitely not. Their mistakes are, however, plentiful.

To be clear – we’re not talking about literary novels or academic papers, here.  Instead, we’re talking about ephemera – items designed to be useful or important for only a short time. Does that make the poorly written text acceptable? Goodness, no!

We’re talking about your business presence…. your livelihood. Your street cred.

 

We’re talking about writing basics that impact a business’s image:

Lack of editing that leaves mistyped words or too many words: Using “and” when you mean “an” or typing “the” twice and not not noticing.  {See what I did there?}

Incorrect word choice:  Its vs. it’s, farther vs. further, the triplets: two, to, and too; or quiet and quite. How about whose and who’s? Is it every day or everyday?  (Hint: Each applies at a specific time.)  How about apostrophes? All of these are frequent mistakes. Sloppy. Unnecessary.

Spelling errors:  With so many resources at our fingertips, spelling errors are just plain careless.

Because I read and write (a lot) for my ‘day gig,’ I see them every day – grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and typos that negatively impact a business’s (or person’s) image. We could chalk it up to busy-ness. We all have too much to do and not enough time to edit our message. Right? Wrong.

Prospective customers/clients want someone who is polished, with attention to detail, because if you’re careless in your message, where else will you be careless?

These are the place I see the most offenders (sometimes, even creeping into my own writing…..eek!):

  • Marquee signs
  • Restaurant menus
  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • Websites
  • Newspapers
  • E-mail
  • Newsletters/Flyers
  • Advertising
  • Work-related papers

Just recently, I saw two glaring typos:  the misuse of it’s and its on a state’s Visitors page (used three times/two were incorrect) and the use of and when an was intended on the page banner of a fellow artist’s website. Uneducated? Absolutely not! Completely missed? Absolutely.

Think of it this way:

It’s like that time you miss a button or forget to zip your slacks. The person who notices might understand and probably feels badly for you, but won’t say a word. He figures you’re busy.  Or careless?  Ouch. He’s embarrassed for you. The person walks away, making a mental note of your lack of attention to detail or carelessness.

Your prospective customer/client may think the same way:  You’re (too) busy, you’re careless, or you don’t have a good grip on language basics. No matter what the customer/client is thinking, I’m betting it’s not the message you intended to send.

Potential buyers look for someone who is polished and attends to details.

 

So what’s a blogger/creative type or small business owner to do?

1.   Find an extra set of eyes. For a few dollars a month, ask someone to take a peek at your content: blog posts, website, flyers, menus, marquee signs (drive-by editing.. nice!)…. and give you feedback.

2.   Hire someone to write content/develop materials for you.

No budget? How about bartering?

In my 30+ years writing and 20+ years teaching writing, I’ve developed many projects and have been asked to help others refine their message, either by creating a written piece for them or editing/revising/proofing a work in progress.

  • Recommendation letters
  • Résumés
  • Annual Performance reviews
  • E-mail messages
  • Advertising
  • Blog posts
  • Articles
  • Teachers’ How-To
  • Curriculum resources
  • Community resources
  • Grants
  • College Application Essays/Letters
  • Book drafts (two manuscripts in progress)

Give your prospective customers/clients one more reason to select you.  Show them your attention to detail, often missing in today’s hectic world. It may be the very thing that sets you apart from your competitor.

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Feel like you could use an extra set of eyes to proof, fingers to develop, or time to  brainstorm?  Click on the Writing tab or send me a Message on the RobinLK Studios Facebook page.  Would be happy to talk about your business needs.

Sunday Morning Ideas….. {Six Word Wednesday}

 six-word story about sunday mornings

Sunday mornings quietly await our ideas….

6

What’s your six-word story today?

Share with us in Comments or over on FB…  🙂

Art + Writing = Creative by Discovery!  Find us on Facebook:  RobinLK Studios

Ghost Dog…. {Six Word Wednesday}

 

What I saw when I looked at these words….

Ghost dog, sail sand and sky.

 

Do you see a six-word story in these words? 

6

Share with us in Comments or over on FB…  🙂

Art + Writing = Creative by Discovery!  Find us on Facebook:  RobinLK Studios

Foolsgold…. {Great Reads}

cover of Foolsgold by Susan G. Wooldridge
credit: amazon.com

After reading poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, I couldn’t wait to read Foolsgold, another visit into Ms. Wooldridge’s wordpool and its impact on others (and herself). Ordered while still in the earliest chapters of poemcrazy, I anticipated more delicious conversation by an approachable author whose love of collecting, love of words, and love of collecting words all fit neatly into my own life perspective.

Disclosure:  I chose to ignore reviews in which readers mentioned a different tone in Foolsgold and references to the author’s personal struggles as they related to the book.

Turns out, her struggles are the heart of the book. The ‘nothing’ she refers to in the subtitle felt like the overarching feeling coming through in her words, her voice wavering between sadness, depression, melancholy, and wistfulness. I suppose it could be argued these words are all synonyms of one another, and therefore, redundant. Perhaps a reflection of what I felt as I read her chapters?

I struggled to stick with the book, often putting it down after only a page or two, not engrossed with every word, as I was in poemcrazy, which I wrote about {here}.  I often felt like I was listening to a sad friend as we talked … and talked…. and talked….. and talked…… while she said goodbye to someone. Then, as often happens when we’re going through something extraordinarily painful, there were glimpses of happiness in her writing…. brief moments of clarity, understanding, acceptance, and a look toward a future worth exploring.

Unfortunately, these fleeting glimpses could not balance out the palpable sadness in Ms. Wooldridge’s chapters. Late in the book, she talks about the comfort she found in writing as she dealt with great loss in her personal life – that the process was cathartic for her.  As someone who’s experienced both the death of a parent and a painful divorce, I understand the need for catharses, but as a reader eager to experience an author’s love of wordplay, I was disappointed in this book. It read more like a deeply sad and personal memoir, and less like a book about wordplay and exploring creativity. Perhaps more research on my part would have prepared me for this?

But I stuck with it, determined to read all that she shared. Looking ahead to figure out how much more I had to go (not a good sign!), I could see the short chapters tumbling toward 50. I decided this would be the connection to my own life – 50 chapters to share her discoveries as I turned 50 and made my own discoveries.  Instead the book promptly ended at chapter 48. What??? How could that be?? Who ends a book at chapter 48?? But with further thought, it made sense. Ms. Wooldridge wrote the book as a journal during her daily struggles. As she approached the final chapters, you could hear a more positive look toward the future. The End. No need for the completeness of a nice round number like 50. Like life, the book had stops and starts. And stops. At the end of chapter 48.

To close on a positive note, I shared in my review of poemcrazy, that the frequency with which I fold corners in a book speaks to the content – that there was something that caught my eye.  Foolsgold was no exception… plenty of turned pages, circled words and phrases, underlined quotes, and my own notes about things I read, connections I made to her words. Two chapters in particular resonated with me, 20 and 21, each for different reasons, but in both, rich language and connections that moved me, from working with kids in a juvenile facility to the language of colors. Ah, words and colors – two of my favorite topics, especially when blended! 🙂

In a book that underwhelmed me, I made note of the words with the ‘familiar Susan tone’ that pushed their way through – like tiny flowers blooming through a broken sidewalk – and caught my eye.  Thank you, Ms. Wooldridge, for those moments of wordpool you. Much appreciated by this fellow collector of words!  🙂

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Find “It” ….. {Monday Motivation}

 

credit: Foolsgold by Susan G. Wooldridge
credit: Bird by Bird, by Ann Lamott
Find what ‘it’ is that makes ‘creating’ your Happy Place…..
Is it the process? The product? Small pieces that help you manage the project?
Figure it out and get after it!
Happy Monday

🙂

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