Category Archives: Writing

Thinking About Writing and Audience…

Published / by Tim / 3 Comments on Thinking About Writing and Audience…

Well, this little weekly blog is now a part of my story. It’s a very small part and it is usually pretty sanitized for public consumption. Somewhere along the way I realized that I’ve never really thought about HOW I pick the words that I share with you though.

“Who cares?” is the first question that I imagine popped into your head when you read that. It is the question I would have been thinking if you’d have written the first paragraph.

Well, I didn’t… until recently.

I regularly get letters, notes, e-mails and such from friends and colleagues. I normally get the impression that they are impromptu. Yet, as I consider my writing, I bet a lot more effort goes into these “personal” bits of writing than I ever see.

When writing to friends and family members, I realized that I have never written anything in just one draft. I wondered if that makes me weird. I read those “letters of note” websites and every letter on there is handwritten and error free. It’s like I’m the only one in the world who can’t put a complete thought together without thinking it through a half-dozen times. Handwriting a letter, for me, takes the better part of a legal pad and a good measure of ink.

As a result of all this thinking, I started reading personal communications a little more critically. Not just my writing, also the writing I receive. Not critical to find fault, but to consider word choice and usage; also to consider what might be left out or perhaps edited out and why.

As I was writing an e-mail to a friend this week I did something that I found interesting. Every time I deleted something from the e-mail I copied the deleted bit to a new file and made a quick note about why I was deleting it. I learned two things. I delete A LOT and there is always a pretty good reason for doing so.

I am terrible about writing a complete first draft before editing. I will probably force myself to practice this in the future but it bothers me to know that there are things I don’t like in the paragraph above or two pages ago. In the e-mail I mentioned above, I was responding to a story the friend had told me about their childhood and I began to tell my story. I realized my story was self-aggrandizing, perhaps even arrogant, and would likely come across as obnoxious. I deleted 475 words. Like I said, obnoxious. If that story ever needs to be told to my friend, I’ll tell it another time and in an appropriate context. In the e-mail I really wanted to show appreciation for my friend sharing and to communicate gratitude. I felt a lot better about the product without my story cluttering things up.

I wish I could remember who wrote it, but I read that an author said, “All writing is about the author, anyone who says otherwise is either a fool or lying”, or something close to that. I didn’t write it down. I’m not sure that I agree, which probably makes me a fool because I really am being honest here. All writing is about someone and sometimes it’s the author, but just as often it’s about the reader.

I think what makes a good writer is someone who knows the difference. It’s the person who know’s how to pick the right words to communicate what is necessary in the moment.

I am still not always sure how I pick the words I do but thinking about it hasn’t made me worse at writing. It may seem like a small thing but I think considering the small things will pay dividends in the long run. Sometimes we should indeed “sweat the small stuff”. What do you think?

Something fishy is going on here….

Published / by Tim

I am having issues with my intended post so I thought I’d share a story I wrote a long time ago. I never published this story anywhere and may wish I hadn’t now, but here goes nothing…

A Fish Story

The air was heavy as dawn arrived. The sun had been up barely an hour and already heat waves rose from the pavement. Droning insects and waking songbirds were the only living things to be heard. The rest of the world was still asleep.

It’s a two mile walk to Miller’s pond. I left early to beat the heat packing a peanut butter sandwich in waxed paper and my canteen.  If I were going to catch anything I’d need to have a line on the water soon. It was shaping up to be another scorcher and I wanted to get in an hour of fishing before the sun hit the water.

Miller’s pond is an abandoned gravel pit that connects to the Whisky river by a short channel. It’s one of the best warm water fisheries in the area. When the gravel company quit using the pit, they bulldozed the sides to eliminate steep drop-offs. In the bulldozing aftermath several large trees were left submerged in the water. The result was a superb habitat for bass.

Gigantic largemouth bass were believed to exist down there. My cousin claimed to have caught a five pounder there the previous summer. According to him, It was a fight to remember. For nearly twenty minutes he played the bruiser, managing to avoid the underwater hazards that could have easily snapped his line. As he told the story, I was inspired.

I was armed with a 4 weight fly rod given to me by my grandfather for my sixteenth birthday. The rod was assembled and finished by grandpa in a class he had taken before he died. He had never used the rod, but it was beautiful. The blanks were matte black and the line guides were wrapped with red and silver thread. It had a dark brown, marbled wood reel seat with a flawless cork grip, and stainless steel hardware. He had inscribed his initials in the reel seat. He’d been proud of his first attempt at rod building. At first, I felt guilty about using it but grandpa would have expected me to fish the rod and not just sit and look at it.  I was counting on a big fish to put the rod through it’s paces. I picked out a frog pattern fly and a couple chartreuse poppers along with an assortment of terrestrial flies to complete my arsenal. With all my gear I set out. My vest felt good on my shoulders as I walked.

Miller’s pond is one of the best kept secrets in the valley. It’s a great place if you’re the only one there. It is crowded if more than three people try to fish it. It’s not a tiny pond, but there isn’t much access to the water. Having been a gravel pit, it is a remote place that has become wild and overgrown with curly maple, cottonwood and blackberry vines. The best way to fish the pond is to take a float tube down there and get out in the middle. As for me, part-time work at Smith’s IGA doesn’t buy float tubes. I had to do without and play the game the best I could from shore.

When I arrived, John Worrel was already camped out in my favorite spot. Worrel is not one you want to crowd while fishing. He’s territorial like a grouchy old dog. He makes a lot of noise if you disturb him.  I climbed down the bank to a spot about 15 yards away from John, he nodded in my direction and went back to snoozing. It was cooler in the cottonwoods down by the pond. The sun was now above the horizon, but it was not yet on the water. There were clouds over the hills to the west.

I stripped 20 feet of line from my reel and laid a roll cast down along the bank just beside a submerged log. The frog hit the water and began to do it’s work. Seconds later a hit.  The smaller fish in this water attack their meals, coming out of the water as they slam into their prey. It is always a spectacular sight to behold. I lifted the rod and the hook was set. The fight that ensued was dramatic but short-lived. I landed a nice little bass. I released that fish and cast toward the submerged log once again.

A minute or two passed before I began stripping in the line. Slowly the fly moved among the light weeds and nothing happened. Another cast , again nothing. The next cast laid out closer to the shore in a patch of dense weeds. Almost immediately I hooked another nice bass. This fella fought with a little more energy and  flair, a couple of good jumps and runs from the feisty fish.  During the fight I spotted what seemed to be a larger fish just past the submerged log feeding in the shallow water about 40 feet down the shore on the edge of a dense float of lily pads.

Having successfully landed and released my second fish I moved down to the edge of the brush to shorten my casting distance to the far side of the submerged log. I flipped my frog to the lily pads. It landed on top. I left it lay until all traces of line movement stopped then lightly tugged the frog into the water. With short, quick strips of the line my frog was swimming through the lily pads. I repeated this several times with no luck. I decided to try one last time.

The hit was a slightly more than a bump followed by a firm tug. I lifted the tip of the rod to set the hook. The largest bass I had seen exploded out of the lily pads and danced briefly across the water. For just a moment I stood there slack-jawed.  This was quite possibly a five or six pound fish. Reality hit as my rod tip bent and strained under the weight of the fish. My reel came to life and I knew this monster was headed for cover. If I let him go he’d probably end up winding around some unseen debris and break off. I had to take control.

Taking control in this situation was more than a matter of simply yanking the fish around. A degree of finesse would be required to firmly steer the fish where I wanted him to go. I began to wonder about my knots, would they hold? What about my tackle? The idea of being in control began to seem silly.

My line went slack. I reeled in line as fast as I could; nothing. I continued to take in slack line and the big fish ran once again, taking all of the slack and bending the rod almost double. The hook was holding in his jaw. I knew if I didn’t play it right, it could all be over as suddenly as it began.

Worrell was awake now and watching. It took something fairly significant to get his attention, and I had it now.  I put as much pressure on the fish as I dared without busting something. From time to time the fish would dance across the surface of the water. He was enormous and beautiful. He would run deep, trying to escape, trying to hide. My rod strained at the weight of the fish.

The air was dense with humidity and the sky had grown dark. Clouds were moving in from the west. It was strange how the clear sky could go cloudy so fast. I had always felt  that fishing is better when it is overcast. This was a welcome turn of events.

Each time I would take line the fish would rip it away again. It was a tug-of-war that seemed to go on and on. I was feeling a creeping fatigue sprawling up into my shoulders. I knew the fish had to be tiring. A light drizzle began to fall. It was warm rain and uncomfortable. I became angry.  Angry at the fish, angry at the weather, and angry at myself for not using heavier gear. This could all be over if I’d had the sense to use heavy tackle.

As the battle wore on, the rain fell faster and harder. I was drenched from rain and perspiration and the fish clung to the bottom of Miller’s pond as though he were tied there. I hauled on the rod and reeled in the line. I was putting my tackle to the ultimate test. Soon, I realized I was gaining on the fish; the rain was pounding me. Worrel had moved into the shelter of some nearby trees to watch.

I could see the outline of the fish close now. I could taste victory. The fish would surrender to me. I was now his master. Just seconds from claiming my prize there was an unexpected flash and a boom. The lightning dazzled over the field across the highway. The boom was deafening and the air was electrified. The charge energized the fish. In a last effort he broke the surface and shook his massive head, throwing my fly. I watched him move away slowly into the deep water. His seemed to have an attitude of nonchalance, as though there was nothing to concern to him here. The fish had won and he knew it.

I stood in the driving rain, stunned, defeated, soaked to the skin. Worrel chuckled quietly to himself, a man who knew what I was feeling. I collected my fly and hung it in its keeper. I sat down on a stump and took out my sandwich.  As I ate the soggy, sticky sandwich, I knew there would be other days and other fish. I was unconsoled. The rod had held up and that was good. I think grandpa would have been happy. I remembered him and smiled. The rain stopped. Sweat began beading on my neck and forehead. In the distance I heard rolling thunder and I knew it was time to go. I finished my sandwich and trudged the long way home.

Wandering in the world…

Published / by Tim / 4 Comments on Wandering in the world…

So, if you have been following this blog at all, you have probably guessed that it is a huge experiment and exercise in… something… for me. Faith? Perseverance? Courage? I don’t know…

What I do know is that for the last two weeks I have been trying to make the blog fit my life and it has been resistant. I have been dealing with issues of trust and friendship and I wanted to write about those things, but they were too… personal… too…raw… too… private.

What I have discovered about blogging is that blogging people fit in to one of two categories (well… there are probably more categories, but I only think I want to talk about two…) There are the “I will tell you everything about me” bloggers and the “I have something I want to say, but I want to remain kind of private too…” bloggers. I am one of the latter.

I have things I want to talk about, but at the same time I don’t necessarily want everyone to know every little thing about me. There have been many times that I have actually wanted to completely unplug and just not have a presence online. But then I think about the blogs I read and I  imagine that some of the folks I read regularly have felt the same way. Then they write, share and connect and it is all very beneficial to everyone.

Sometimes the fact that I have a blog and my own little “web space” kind of freaks me out. What am I thinking? What do I have to offer? Who do I think I am putting stuff out there for people to read? Well… the answer is, I’m just a guy who likes to talk and think and read and share. So it seems like writing for my little no-name blog is reasonable. Even if Brenda, Amy, Nancy, Renee, Apreil, and Luann are the only ones reading, it’s still worth while. The act of writing is… healthy, beneficial, cathartic.

I feel like a wanderer who has wandered far from home. This blog has proven itself both inspiring to me and lonely. I missed my Monday deadline for the first time this week. No one said anything. Initially I figured, what’s the point? Why bother? I soon remembered that when I started this blog, I am writing for me. I invited everyone else to come along and read, comment, or whatever.

I am back. I am not going to write about trust because I don’t really have anything to say about it now. I have issues trusting people, that’s it. It’s not because they are’;t worthy of trust, but because I am cynical and jaded for now. I suppose I could explore that a bit, but I don’t really want to. I just want to keep wandering and looking for the gems that appeal to me to consider here.

If you want to participate, I love hearing from you… if you just want to read and be silent, that’s fine too. I’m still here. I haven’t given up. I just needed to remember why I started doing this in the first place… It’s for the fun of writing and sharing.

On that note, if you have something you would like to write and share, let me know. I’d be glad to let you post here… It’s not a high pressure place… The people who are reading regularly are really quite wonderful. I’d love to have guests post if you have something to say…

The Monday that just wouldn’t.

Published / by Tim / 1 Comment on The Monday that just wouldn’t.

I have been thinking about this blog post all week. It just isn’t materializing. Well, let’s say that it has materialized multiple times, but my internal editorial review mechanism isn’t allowing any of what has materialized to become a post.

Draft 1. Too critical and negative.

Draft 2. I would like some cheese with the whine.

Draft 3. Lacking direction and focus.

Draft 4. The revision was worse than draft 3.

Draft 5. Self righteous.

Draft 6. Self-indulgent.

Draft 7. Sanctimonious

Draft 8. Is this one right here…

Yeah, this post is going nowhere, or so it seems.

Ever feel like that in life? Where you wake up with the best intentions and by the time you walk in the door at work you know that the day is off to a rocky start? What do you do then? My temptation with this post was to simply say, “Yeah, I’m not writing anything. So there.” But who does that hurt?

Not doing something because it is difficult is no way to live. There is always something to learn. Sometimes it seems that life makes us work for every inch of progress. That’s ok though. During the great american gold rush, thousands of would be millionaires set out in search of fortune. The fortune came easy for some, they got lucky.  There was, however, a vast majority who struck it rich who had to work hard, dig deep, chip away at every boulder in the way in order to find the gold.

Writing this blog, and perhaps writing in general is like that. For some it seems easy. but for most of us, it’s hard. It takes showing up. It takes patience, fortitude, perseverance and the willingness to show up again and again.

Well, I showed up. The ideas showed up too. Now if we could just get on the same page, everything will be hunky-dory. If you are feeling like things are on a dead-end road, look a little closer. What’s standing between you and the gold? Go after it. Don’t stop. Some days will be blah but eventually you will strike a rich vein and it will make the plodding days worth while.

Keep going!

Keep moving forward…

Published / by Tim / 1 Comment on Keep moving forward…

Welcome back.

This week I have been struggling with what to write in this space. My drafts have been clunky and blah and I have not found much inspiration in them. It’s been work to get words on the page. I guess sometimes you get what you get.

Applying a critical eye or falling asleep... Who knows?

I believe that when the writing gets hard it’s pretty important to keep at it. I’ve often taken breaks from writing when the going gets tough. One or two days turns into a week, turns into a month. I find that I must set aside 30 minutes (an arbitrary amount of time I chose) to write every day or I get lazy and sidetracked from making any forward progress.

As I write this, I’ve realized that this idea relates to almost everything I do. Writing, exercise, relationships, yard work, all requires a stick-to-it mentality and a time commitment on a regular basis or the quality of the outcome suffers. I’m certain that daily practice in the things that matter is a key to success.

I sometimes find myself sinking into, what a great friend called, a “jaded worldview”. It’s the debilitating view that everything is pointless, meaningless, and generally icky. It’s a dark and negative outlook that reeks with dark notes of vapid sarcasm. When I have a jaded worldview it limits my desire to practice the things I know help me move forward. To combat the jaded worldview I decided to adopt the practice of the “Disciplines of Heart” I read about on Michael Hyatt’s blog. If you are interested in “self-improvement”, Michael has a vast collection of good ideas.

The “Disciplines of Heart”: Reflection, Rest, Recreation and Relationships make sense to me because much of what I am doing to maintain sanity in life falls nicely under these categories. The disciplines simply help me focus on doing a few things really well. 

This blog is an output for the Reflection discipline. In my week of writing and contemplating the world, what comes out here is a reflection of sorts. The blog is also a form of Recreation.  The act of writing and noodling with words is fun. I believe it also plays a part in the Relationship discipline, in that, it’s a way to connect with you and learn together (although I think face to face relationships are the focus).

In the spirit of learning together, I thought I’d share the things I’m currently reading and listening to for my own self-improvement. This week I’m reading, Children and Other Wild Animals: Notes on badgers, otters, sons, hawks, daughters, dogs, bears, air, bobcats, fishers, mascots, Charles Darwin, newts, … tigers and various other zoological matters by Brian Doyle. I continue to listen to Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. I’ve cut back on the number of books I have going at any given time in the hope of actually finishing books. It’s an effort to move from being a starter to also being a finisher. From time to time I may do a mid-week post reviewing these books, or albums or whatever catches my attention. 

I’m hoping your week is full of adventure. Leave a response to tell me what you do to combat the “jaded worldview”.

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