The Cleverest of All: A Fyodor Dostoyevsky Quote

fyodor dostoyevsky quote the cleverest of all

“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.”

Once a month? I thought calling yourself a fool (or idiot) only a few times a week was doing pretty well as an adult! And that is part of being an adult, isn’t it? Admitting that you were wrong and/or that you made a mistake?

Hmmm… Can anyone think of someone who seems utterly incapable of admitting that he/she made a mistake? (One might stick out…)

The Cleverest Man (or Not)

I think there are really two possibilities here:

1. The person knows inside that he/she made a mistake but is afraid of losing face by admitting it.

OR

2. The person honestly does not (and will not) accept that he/she made a mistake.

The first one is sad but understandable. It can be embarrassing and even frightening to admit that you made a mistake – will the person I’m talking to think less of me? Will I lose out on the job or the opportunity? Will it give the other person power and put me in a weaker position?

Despite the fact that being caught in a lie almost always does more damage than admitting our mistakes, I think most of us have done this at one point or another in our lives – especially in a confrontation when winning can easily begin to feel more important than telling the truth. You know, when you’re caught up in the moment, and you’re emotionally invested in the situation.

That’s about as human as making the mistake in the first place. Of course, as adults, we all know that we should go back later (once tempers cool) and fess up, and, yes, that often happens (explicitly or implicitly). At least, it happens if we value the relationship and want it to continue…

The second possibility is much more extreme. It takes an unhealthy dose of arrogance combined with a huge ego. So… narcissism. Maybe, even a god complex. In other words, not someone most people want to be around. Picture it: “I want to hang out with that one guy that always thinks he’s right even when he’s been proven wrong repeatedly!”

Said no one ever.

So let’s consider the converse of this quote. If the cleverest man is the one who calls himself a fool at least once a month, then the dumbest man is the one who never calls himself a fool. In other words, never admits his mistake(s). Ever.

I like this quote better all the time. Don’t you?

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Cultural Traditions + Technology = Interesting Trends: A Writing Prompt for Worldbuilding

writing prompt for worldbuilding woman hijab cultural traditions + technology = interesting trendsI live in an area where there’s a good amount of cultural diversity, so when I go out, I see people from many different ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, religions, etc. Maybe because I grew up outside a small town where such diversity wasn’t (isn’t) common, or maybe because I’m a writer (and tend to notice different details than many people), but I’ve started noticing interesting side effects when cultural traditions meet and merge with technology. Simply put, cultural traditions + technology = interesting trends.

Here’s an example:

Cultural Tradition: Women wearing hijab or other cultural head-dresses that cover their entire heads except for their faces

Technology: Cellular phones, especially smart phones

Interesting Trends: Using the hijab to hold their cell phones, thereby giving them free use of their hands with no extra technology or effort

Is it just me, or is that a brilliant idea? You’re wearing it already, so why not make it useful? It’s a logical response. And common! I’ve seen a variety of women in different parts of the city doing the same thing. It’s an interesting trend that has resulted from the overlap of a cultural tradition and technology.

So (you know what I’m going to ask), how can we use that in our writing?

A Writing Prompt for Worldbuilding with Traditions & Technology

Since you know all about the importance of traditions in worldbuilding, being a clever writer, you’ve already been brainstorming traditions for your world. Now, it’s time to apply the technology – and not only ways to complicate the plot with technology.

Here’s one method of attack for this, but, remember the formula: cultural traditions + technology = interesting trends.

  1. Brainstorm cultural traditions. It could be clothing, behaviors, rules, etc. The more options and the bigger variety, the better.
  2. Brainstorm technology. Don’t forget: technology doesn’t have to mean computer or electronics-related. Sailing ships are a level of technology. Swords, plows, cotton gins, and long bows are all different examples of technology. Heck, a stone was once advanced technology! So don’t limit yourself.
  3. Compare your lists and brainstorm ways they could intermingle. Is there a way to make the tradition an advantage for using the technology? Or vice versa? Does the current fashion in your world work really well for carrying / cleaning / concealing / climbing something?
  4. Adjust as needed. You might need to modify the tradition or technology to make them work better together, but looking at them together can give you ideas for how they can build on each other.

That’s not saying it’ll be easy, and it may not be as clearcut as the example I gave. Still, if the exercise makes the different pieces of your worldbuilding interact more, that makes them more realistic (good enough for me).

It can also…

  • add character quirks (Who said that everyone has to use this combination? It could be something only one person figured out – or maybe only one person sees it, and it becomes a trend.)
  • make your world more unique (Build it, and readers will come. Build it, interweave the parts in new and interesting ways, and they’ll come in droves – and rave about it to their friends. [That’s how fandoms are born.])
  • send your plot in less predictable directions (If your plot is driven by something that is more unique, it will be more unique in turn. If the plot ends up boring or clichéd even with this, then, check what’s driving your plot. Odds are, you went off course somewhere.)

So, say that you don’t manage to think of a clearly symbiotic relationship where the technology utilizes a tradition (although it could be as simple as a handy place to put your glasses). Try it in reverse (usually much easier). If nothing else, see how the two could work together.

What do you have to lose?

Vocabulary Changes Everything: Communication Is a Zombie

communication is a zombie

Just like that

After you get out of high school, vocabulary isn’t really something you think about (if you ever did). Sure, you talk, read, and listen, but you don’t think about the size of your vocabulary while you do it. You know the words you know – except when you forget them (usually in the middle of a sentence in front of someone important).

That’s even true for me and my overly-analytical self. Well, it was. But recently I’ve been reminded of how vocabulary changes everything – both your vocabulary and that of the people around you.

Why Vocabulary Changes Everything

Vocabulary Is Like a Zombie’s Tendons

It’s true. Vocabulary is like a zombie’s tendons: if enough of them are missing, things start falling apart. Sure, it might keep flopping or twitching, but it’s not making connections anymore.

What? Too macabre?

Now, you’re either smirking, rolling your eyes, or going “Huh?” And all because of 1 little word: macabre. That’s what I mean by connections. If you don’t know that word, reading it didn’t help you understand that sentence at all. I might as well have put a blank there. Or a little bracket (insert some strange, French-looking word here). Either way, there’s a disconnect in understanding between too and Now that the reader basically had to jump over and make a guess about what they missed.

Ok. Back to our zombie analogy. If macabre was the only tendon that the zombie was missing, nothing’s going to fall off. Yeah, the pinky finger might be a little loose, but 1. the word wasn’t integral to the paragraph, and 2. only one word was missing. That’s not going to do too much damage to the zombie (I’m enjoying that simile a little too much).

Words work together to help us communicate by connecting ideas to sounds, symbols, and their order. The fewer words you know, and the more the understanding begins to fall apart. So if you’re trying to communicate through writing, speech, etc., knowing enough words is pretty dang important.

If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who’s travelled without knowing the language. You better hope the nonverbals match (just sayin’).

Why Don’t We Notice?

So back to the fact that we rarely ever think about our vocabularies (despite the fact that they’re oh-so-important). Remember how I said earlier that I’ve been reminded recently of how vocabulary changes everything? Well, here are the situations that reminded me.

  1. The $2 Word: For my friend’s birthday, a big group of people went out to celebrate – a couple of people I knew but mostly people I didn’t. I used a multi-syllable word without thinking about it (because it’s a word I know that means what I was trying to say…), and I got a “Woah, big word!” reaction. Cue thinking, “It is?… Umm, ok. Yeah, I guess.”
  2. Subtleties: I’ve been taking classes a lot lately, and I’ve had some teachers that throw in subtle inside jokes when they’re talking, which is great! I mean, it definitely makes class more entertaining – until the rest of the students are giving you weird, sideways looks because you’re laughing, and they don’t know why. The joke went right over their heads.
  3. Shakespeare: My grandpa made the mistake of telling me that he has never enjoyed Shakespeare (sob). Being me, I, of course, made him watch The Comedy of Errors. Granted, it was performed by a Vaudevillian juggling troupe, so, it’s not what you’d call a dry performance. Still, he kept saying that he didn’t have any idea what’s going on (although he enjoyed the circus tricks), and I began to realize that in the recording, some of the more vital words are slurred or glossed over (it’s an old recording). And, naturally, I began to analyze how hard or easy it would be to follow if you missed those words. You can guess the answer.

Did you notice the pattern of when vocabulary went from a background habit to an actual thought? Every single time something called it to my attention, someone else reacted either by not understanding or acting surprised (given additional emphasis to a word they didn’t expect).

See, even though we don’t think about it that way, vocabulary is very much a social creation. Growing up, we mainly get our vocabulary from the people we see most: our family and friends. We also gain vocabulary from our watching and reading habits (reading grows vocabulary the most although movies can help), and we tend to have similar taste to the people we hang out with.

What that all boils down to is that the people you see most are going to know most of the same words you do. Sure, there will be some words that don’t crossover, but there’s a lot of overlap.

That’s why we don’t notice or think about our vocabulary: if everyone understands the words everyone else uses, there’s nothing to draw our attention to them. My friends and family wouldn’t have thought twice about the word I used at my friend’s birthday dinner; however, we probably wouldn’t know some of the words those people’s friends and families use.

What’s the moral to the story?

I don’t know – I don’t write fables!

Sorry.

Zombie-wise, all I can say is that when it comes to keeping those bones together and moving, vocabulary changes everything. And thanks to mine (and some macabre imagery), you may never think of communication the same way again. (You’re welcome.)

Poetry Writing Prompt for Free Verse

Plank Page Pen Cup ready for Poetry Writing Prompt for Free Verse

Have tea. Will write.

This poetry writing prompt for free verse is really a tactic for overcoming free verse writing block. It’s particularly handy for people who are writing poetry on a schedule for the first time (the ones used to writing poetry only if the muse takes them), for those new to poetry and trying to dip their toes into free verse, and for any time when your brain just doesn’t want to write poetry.

Free Verse Writing Prompt

It’s pretty simple. All it really takes is a topic and some imagery. Here’s how it works:

  1. Pick a topic. What scene, moment, activity, career, person, etc. do you want to write about?
  2. Write a sentence or 2 describing it. Pick out the core traits or features you want to emphasize. This is still in the brainstorming section – it’s not necessarily a poem yet.
  3. List metaphors, similes, or other imagery that capture that impression, the essence of the subject. You’re looking for a more abstract, less literal way to describe one or more of the traits listed in step 2. Something that captures the idea or feeling of that trait but is also open to interpretation – it could mean something else.
  4. Take your favorite metaphor and write the first few lines of your poem.
  5. Keep going and try to match the mood/ambience of the first lines. If you get stuck, take the idea you’re working on and go back to step 2.
  6. Repeat as needed. Until it feels finished – you’ve painted enough of a picture to capture the motion, the moment.

Then, let it go. You’re finished.

Well, you probably need to pick a title, and after a while, that ends up the hardest part. Should I be literal and pick a name that summarizes the poem? Should I pick something that relates to the poem but that most people won’t get how it relates from reading the poem – or that has a relationship to the poem that is also open to interpretation? Should I take the easy out and call it “Untitled” or use the first line?

Ugh.

Worry about that later. Like someday when I do a naming writing prompt. When I have it all figured out (*loud guffaw*). For now, have some fun! Use this poetry writing prompt for free verse and write something interesting, entrancing, or tragic. Make the reader feel. Then, you can worry about the naming.

A Letter Named Ethel

letters typewriter a letter named Ethel

Don’t look for Ethel. She’s not on there.

Once upon a time, there was a letter named Ethel. Being a nice, helpful little letter, Ethel helped people write words like coil. Words with an “oi” sound. So like any vowel worth its salt, Ethel lived her days helping people understand words – because that was her purpose. That’s what made her happy.

And life was good. People came to her when they needed a specific job done, she did it, and honestly, she thought the biggest conflict in her life would be deciding whether she was a diphthong or a hiatus (if you don’t like linguistics jokes, you’re in the wrong place!).

Then, everything went wrong. O and I started marketing to Ethel’s customers. “Why have another letter?” they asked. “We can help you make that sound and make your life easier at the same time!”

At first, Ethel thought she didn’t have anything to worry about. After all, who wants a letter that can be pronounced different ways? That was so silly! Her customers would surely realize how much simpler language was with a letter for each sound!

But they didn’t. Fewer and fewer people came to Ethel when they needed an oi sound. Soon, no one even knew her name, and when she told people what she did, they stared at her in puzzlement, “But that’s what O and I do!” Then, O talked to Y, and people began to have more and more options – options that didn’t include Ethel.

From then on, Ethel grew quieter and quieter, fading into the background, until only a few scholars even knew she’d ever existed.

True story.

No, seriously. There was a letter named Ethel that represented the sound now made by combining o and i. That’s right. A letter named Ethel. Ponder that for a minute. When you’re done giggling, we’ll move on (Seriously? A letter named Ethel? Is there one named Agnes? Or Roger?).

Once you get over the name (and since it took me a weird, random short story to do that, I get it), start thinking about the fact that our alphabet used to have a letter that has long been forgotten. In fact, we used to have 6 more letters in our alphabet. That’s right. 6.

  1. Eth,
  2. Thorn,
  3. Wynn,
  4. Yogh,
  5. Ash, and
  6. Ethel.

It sounds like an ancient version of Snow White (or maybe “Snow White and Rose Red”). Maybe, with a “Hansel and Gretel” crossover.

Anyone want to write a fairytale about 6 lost letters?

A Resolution Update from twytte

It makes more sense to post updates on my goals on twytte since the time I spend on the resolutions affects those posts more. So if you want to know how it’s going, that’s the best place to look.

Remember my 3 goals for the year, “3 New Year’s Resolutions That Aren’t Going to Be Easy“? Well, it turns out I may have understated the case. So far, my New Year’s resolutions have a catch 22 that’s got me in a kind of loop – when I start doing better at one, I start […]

via My New Year’s Resolutions Have a Catch 22 — twytte

Literacy Will Be Dead: A Margaret Atwood Quote

literacy is dead margaret atwood quote reading and writing democracy will be dead as well readers and writers

“Dunn Dunn DUNNN” seems appropriate and inappropriate at the same time…

If there are no young or old readers and writers, it’s hard to argue the statement that “literacy will be dead.” Who will teach the young readers and writers if there are no old readers and writers? But what about democracy? Not to argue with Margaret Atwood, but being able to read and write hasn’t helped democracy a lot lately in the U.S. In fact, at first glance, it’s hurt it.

But let’s think about that a little more.

Let’s say that a lot of people’s votes were influenced by Russian trolls online. Aren’t identifying credible sources, recognizing fact from fiction, and general reading comprehension all reflections of your reading ability and training? From what I’ve seen in person and online (election aside), the number of people without those skills is huge. And it’s growing.

And it’s affecting our democracy.

Hmmmm… So will improving reading and writing skills help our government? Is it too late? (Is it never too late?) Reading skills aside, is it even possible to keep people from believing random stuff posted online that they want to believe?

So is this a slippery slope argument, or does this Margaret Atwood quote have a point?

The Most Common Colon Error Ever: Make It Stop!

Colon errors make happy smiley angry

How I feel when I see this colon error

The colon is one of those punctuation tools that people tell you not to use if you’re not sure how to use it correctly. One problem: people think they know how to use it when they don’t. Which leads to the most common colon error ever – and, no, I’m not being as dramatic as you think. I see this colon error every single day, and it drives me crazy.

Wondering what the most common colon error is? Let me give you an example.

The correct way to use a colon never includes:

  • What I just did [coming between a verb and its direct object(s)]
  • Interrupting a thought (especially a sentence)

For some reason, people think that if you have a line that leads up to a list, the line ends with a colon. Maybe, or maybe not. It depends on the line. If the line is a complete sentence, then sure. Use a colon or a period. If the line is only part of a sentence (like the one in the example above), then DON’T USE A COLON!

Yes, colons are used with lists, but colons should not be used after a verb – unless the sentence ends with the verb. A colon should not interrupt a sentence unless quotes are involved (which interrupt the sentence anyway), yet I see this happening over and over again.

So what makes this so hard?

It’s like people remember that colons go with lists, but not the other half of the rule. They think, “It’s a list, and it looks funny to have the word hanging out there by itself without the rest of the sentence to finish it. I know! I’ll add a colon!”

Nope.

If you want to add anything (if you can’t stand leaving the last word before the list alone by itself before hitting that “Bulleted list” button), add an ellipse. Technically, it’s not necessary, but it is correct.

If you want to use a colon correctly, use…

  • An ellipse instead of a colon after a verb that doesn’t end the sentence (like I just did)
  • A colon after a complete sentence before a list

See that? That’s ok. That’s not a colon error. Here’s another correct way to use a colon.

These are my top colon errors to avoid:

  • Using a colon between a verb and its direct object(s)
  • Interrupting a thought with a colon

Notice how the line before the list is a complete thought – even though it ends with the verb (ok, it’s an infinitive phrase, but to people who don’t remember what that is, it’s a verb). If you replaced the colon with a period, the statement would still make sense.

That’s how you know it’s ok to use the colon. That’s how you avoid making the most common colon error ever.

Got it?

Articles Are Important. Don’t Believe Me? Here Are 3 Examples to Prove It.

Articles: a, an, and the. Three little words that are often overlooked or outright dismissed, especially by math-minded people or people with English as their second language. No, really – I do a lot of editing for writers in both categories, and from experience, I can tell you that both definitely tend to skip articles. I’ll tell you the same thing I tell them every time I edit: Articles are important.

Don’t believe me? I can prove it with these 3 examples.

3 Examples to Prove That Articles Are Important

 1. Why “the” is important

To a lot of people, the is a filler word. It’s a word you pronounce differently to sound funny or pretentious. A word you’ve used for so long that you don’t even know its definition. In fact, you’ve probably never even thought if it as having a definition. But it’s a word – of course, it has a definition.

the: a definitive article used to denote that a person, place, or thing is unique

In other words, you use it to indicate that something is special or one-of-a-kind. It’s a way of being specific. And you might be surprised how vital it can be to certain phrases or sentences…

the is important articles are important

Did she tell a secret, or did she simply drop something?

Can you honestly tell me that those two statements mean the same thing? I mean, really, people – that’s a pretty big jump in meaning from putting in or taking out 1 little word!

 2. Why “an” is important

Ok, an doesn’t have as much of a definition going for it. The definition is basically “the definite article used before a word beginning with a vowel.” But it adds so much more meaning than that by helping you distinguish between different options.

Picture a fancy dinner party – you’re talking to a sexy writer for a big-time magazine who, naturally, starts boasting about recent interviews. You hear one of the two statements below…

an is important articles are importantHow would you tell the difference between these two homophones without an? Putting in an unnecessary article can make as dramatic a change as dropping a necessary one (Although, honestly, I’d be more interested in the 2nd statement…).

3. Why “a” is important

A is an‘s counterpart. The other side of its coin. The dark side of its moon. The an for words starting with consonant sounds.

Ok, I’m done.

Seriously though, a is just as important as the other two definite articles. It makes your language more precise and really helps you express yourself clearly. And if you still don’t think articles are important, just wait. I have saved the best example for last, and it is my personal favorite because it very clearly illustrates exactly how valuable the word a is.

a is important articles are important

It’s an important distinction to make. Especially to a police officer.

WIFE: Bail? Why do you need bail?
HUSBAND: I dropped an article.

There you have it: 3 examples to prove that articles are important. They can help you communicate, improve your chances of getting a date, and keep you out of jail.

*cough*

Ok, ok. They can help you with the first one, which can help you with the other two. You’ll definitely impress English lovers more if you use them correctly (and they’ll laugh at you less). Believe me, writing book, sentence, or even ode without them, doesn’t make most understandable creations in long run.

Any questions?