This OnE WeIrD TrIcK Got My Motivation Back

Ew. I am SO SORRY about that title. That’s awful. But it’s true, there is one kinda odd thing I started doing maybe a week and a half ago that got me motivated to write more, and I’m going to share that with you now. But seriously, sorry.

So I have been on a slow but steady recovery from a bout of sorrow and grief, and it was super unfortunate that the place I was at in every word-related project I was working on at the time (my serial, my novel, and the book I was reading (A Casual Vacancy, lol I have a theme)) were all quite death heavy, but I knew I needed to push through on at least one of them, and Vacancy seemed the most pressing (Vacancy, my serial, not Rowling’s book which is, by the way, amazing). I needed motivation and inspiration, but from where?

I’m not proud of this, but I have a Pinterest. Hear me out. I both love and hate Pinterest. A link to a Pin should never come up in a Google search (Pins are the worst, almost never have any helpful info, and sometimes don’t even link to the actual image they’re showing!); however, the search feature on the site itself is pretty damn sweet. If you’re looking for actual how-tos or explanations, it’s a fucking crapshoot, but if you want images to create what the hipsters might call a “mood board,” this is where it’s at.

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but I realized I could use this to my advantage with writing. I even had a “Writing” board already, but didn’t put this together til now. I was stuck on Part 1.10, afraid to push Lorelei into the seance, so I was floundering over the basement description and just wanted to look at photos of caves and lakes. As I mentioned, Pinterest’s search is surprisingly adequate at returning what you’re looking for (the catch is that you need to have an account to really utilize the site correctly), so I searched “lake underground” and I got what I needed.

So you’re wondering how this is different from Google image search, eh? Well, you can “save” Pins to your own “boards” for quick access later. I believe the original intention of this was to save links with eye-catching images, but somewhere along the way the users of Pinterest ruined it by adding and not maintaining links to actual sites, so there are a lot of pictures of cool crafts with no explanation how they’re done. But still you can save as many images as you want to a board serving some greater purpose. And you can modify the description of that image/link to whatever you want. It’s usually already a description of whatever’s there (or supposed to be there), but if I’m brainstorming or looking for inspiration, I replace the description with what the image inspires for me.

Pintrest save

You can do this for specific places, of course, but it would work equally well for characters, atmosphere, and of course writing in general to save non-image based links (there’s functionality to save anything as a Pin, so you could take, say, this post and Pin it, and if you’re a responsible user, you’ll get the link right).

Once you’ve saved some Pins, you can go back to that board for inspiration when needed. Here’s a quick example of something I might throw together for a character:

Kimber Board

Since you’re using this for personal reference, I don’t object to losing the written attributions for images by writing over the descriptions, and if the images actually link out properly, you will still have the sources, which is nice.

Anyway, that’s my quick and dirty one weird trick that’s been quite helpful to me these last few days. Maybe you all already do this? Maybe there’s a better site for it? Pinetrest sure isn’t paying me to do this while simultaneously dragging them, so any suggestions you have, I’d love to hear!

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Figure of Speech: Paradiastole

My favorite euphemism was born one fine Sunday afternoon when a Jehovah’s Witness came proselytizing at our door. Husband answered, intending to politely explain we were already zealously devoted to the Dark Lord, when the good Witness spotted one of our cats, Bartholomew. When Husband saw the man’s eyes fall onto and then expand at the glorious sight he beheld, he waited, and, after a pause, the good Witness remarked, “My, he is plentiful.”

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Not named after the apostle, but does deserve a feast day.

Paradiastole utilizes euphemisms (you’re welcome for the two-fer FoS, by the way) to transform a negative into a positive, most frequently to recast a bad characteristic as a good one. While all paradiastole is a form of euphemism, all euphemism isn’t paradiastole. With any old euphemism, you’re replacing the offending word with a less harsh word without necessarily modifying the meaning (excusing the fact that all synonyms do carry at least very slight differences in meaning), but with paradiastole specifically, you’re purposely attempting to alter the listener’s perception of a word or concept by stating something is not what they think.

I feel like I probably use paradiastole in casual speech, typically when grasping desperately at some form of comedy.

“Ashley, are you sick? You don’t look so good.”
“Oh no, the red-nosed and eye-bagged look is so in right now. I’m not sick, I’m fashionable.”

or

“It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” – So sayeth all the developers at work.

But while researching this figure of speech, I realized this sounds remarkably like the exact kind of rhetoric that scares me. It’s the kind typically used to maliciously convince people to do things that are not in their own or others’ best interests, and it’s used to mask hatred and xenophobia, giving people an out for their horrendous beliefs.

It allows people to say things like “Donald Trump isn’t racist or a misogynist, he just tells it like it is, he’s bold, and he speaks his mind.” Intolerance rebranded as a virtue.

Of course this use isn’t new, it’s existed as long as language has for sure, but we can look back to Quintillian and his work in 95 A.D. (yes, 2000 years ago, hang with me) for more explanation. In Institutio Oratoria in response to being questioned in a court of law regarding a thing you cannot possibly deny, he states one should:

restate the facts, but not at all in the same way; you must assign different causes, a different state of mind and a different motive for what was done…you must try to elevate the action as much as possible by the words you use: for example, prodigality must be more leniently redescribed as liberality, avarice as carefulness, negligence as simplicity of mind.

So yeah, one of the greatest rhetoricians in history is suggesting you “play dumb” in court, but beyond that he is admitting that paradiastole is not necessarily a genuine use of a synonym or even a reunderstanding of the concept in question. It goes beyond the basest use of rhetoric–to convince–and acknowledges paradiastole can be used essentially to lie.

This FoS isn’t always used maliciously. Sometimes you must convince someone of something that isn’t necessarily true. Or you think you must. I’m sure there are at least a few politicians who, even though they know they are lying, think they’re doing it for the greater good, and an argument can be made that intent is more meaningful than outcome.

Per Aristotle, “whenever one calls oneself wise rather than cunning, or courageous rather than overconfident, or careful rather than parsimonious” that’s paradiastole. And you could say that’s…fibbing, to “euphemize” it.

So when do we lose the actual meaning of the words used to usurp the truth? Just as Obama’s “change” became horrific to conservatives, making America “great” again has become synonymous with a joke for liberals (though I would argue one was true and one is not).

I love that language is always evolving–when a language stops changing and moving, like a shark, it dies–but like any good English major, I fear change in language a bit. I love certain words, and I hate the potential loss of them, especially when losing them hinges on some fucko wanting to kinda pretend to not be a dick. And like how pervasive truthiness is now (Stephen Colbert really called it, man), paradiastole is rendering a major change in communication as well.

So how can you use paradiastole in your writing? Well, do you have a character with a blaring personality disorder?

Writing Nest

I’ve heard tell that people who work from home need to cultivate a work-specific space to keep themselves on task. This may not apply to everyone, but in my experience I like to feel “in the zone” in order to do serious writing. When I was in high school, I had a desk in my room and a desktop, no laptop, so my work (including terrible, terrible fiction) was done at that desk. When my butt hit the chair, a switch flipped, and I turned into an author. (I also turned into a monkey because there was a spot on the wall I used to prop my foot up on, equal with my shoulder (I don’t fucking know) and I eventually wore the paint away. Gross.) Over a decade later, I realized this might be exactly what I need now.

So I made myself a writing nest. See, before, I used to go “OK I’m going to do some serious writing today, but first I need to gather all this nonsense and get comfortable!” But now I just have all that nonsense right there in an already comfortable (but not too comfortable) space, so I just need to plant my ass and go.

My writing nest is currently a corner of our living room. Husband and I inhabit an open concept bungalow which, as I’ve mentioned, gives shape to a weird living room, but the desk nook I’ve carved out fits perfectly. I wanted to not face a wall with my back on an open space (always be vigilant!) This allows me to survey the whole house at one time which leads to a simultaneous pro/con: I can see everything. If the house is messy, it’s distracting, but it’s also motivation to keep things clean. But if I can see everything, I’m not concerned with what I’m potentially missing like if I were locked away in a room or even just turned away. That’s only a vague concept, but it works for me. Mostly I just don’t want some ghost sneaking up behind me.

So here’s the set up:

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Cat included.

The desk was a cheap Amazon purchase. I originally wanted white because I got carried away with the aesthetic I see all over YouTube, but the fact is I’m a messy bitch and black matches the color of my soul anyway, so here we are. The side table is one of, if not the first table Husband and I purchased when we moved to Florida. It provides space for animals, stuffed and real. I wanted to forgo a traditional desk chair for a couple reasons. I don’t really care for arms on chairs as I like to sit cross-legged, and since I knew the nook would be in the living room, I thought a living room chair would be more elegant. I was fucking spot on.

I know what you’re thinking: “Is she really so extra that she needs a laptop and a Chromebook at the same time?” The answer is yes, so let’s just move on from that.

The whiteboard came from Costco, and is for to-do lists and plotting. I like to plot with sticky notes so scenes can be moved around, and the whiteboard provides a nice corral for that. Added LED string lights because the internet told me I have to. Thanks, Target! The large calendar is obviously for a desk, but I need it on the wall. It’s staying in this photo, but it keeps falling down, so I’m not utilizing it to its full potential. My life is hard, you guys.

I know I have a lot of stuffed animals. It’s a problem.

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A few details:

And finally my view out over my realm:

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Dining table COVERED in nonsense, thankfully shadowed in the back.

So there you have it. A space where, when my butt hits the chair, I’m in writing mode. Or The Sims mode. Wait…did I…did I do this right?

Figure of Speech: Zeugma

I first heard the term zuegma in a course on Shakespeare. I don’t remember the Shakespearian example given, but the second was from Alanis Morissette’s “Head Over Heels”:

You held your breath / And the door for me

That’s stuck with me because it’s such a perfect illustration of the term. But this post would be too short if I stopped there.

Loosely, zeugma is a figure of speech that defines when a single word is used to convey two separate things. Zeugma come in a variety where the word in question is used once to convey the same meaning twice or to convey a literal and figurative meaning of the same word, usually a verb.

Some of my favorite examples:

“Out teeth and ambitions are bared” – “Be Prepared,” The Lion King

“You are free to execute your laws and your citizens as you see fit.” – Star Trek: TNG

“She came right on time and repeatedly.” – I don’t know if this is from something or I just made it up. I’m sorry and you’re welcome.

I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to zeugma. It’s clever, it’s unexpected, and it’s often used to underscore something more dramatic or sinister than what’s on the surface, so you could call it tricky. It’s almost like a little joke that makes you snicker, but when you fully comprehend the punch line you’re a bit alarmed with yourself for having laughed. In any case, it’s my favorite figure of speech.

I think we often say something is a “figure of speech” when referring to a specific idiom (“kick the bucket,” “six feet under,” “pushing up daisies,” and lots of others that aren’t morose), but FoS are all of the ways to express those idioms and the rhetorical devices we use to turn writing from just words into something worth reading.

I feel pretty strongly that creativity, writing and rhetoric specifically, come from within. You can be taught about certain things and then utilize them once you’re aware of them, but whether you utilize them effectively or cleverly is up to what you’re born with. If you’re a writer-type, you probably naturally utilize zeugma without even knowing what it is, but once you’re aware of the tool and how it functions, you can put it to its best use. And, in the best of cases, you can break all the rules around it.