On the day each of us was born our parents gave us a special name they pondered over for weeks or even months. Parents have been known to name their children after friends or relatives, places, objects, and myths. Many people who aren’t fond of their given name will use their middle name or a nick name. But does it really matter?
Let’s think about this, would Hulk Hogan have been taken seriously if he used his given name Terry Jean Bollette? How popular would dear Abby’s column be if it was called Dear Pauline?
How would using the scientific name for animals change your perception of them? Isa Eutamias as cute as a chipmunk?
Could you image calling our national symbol, Haliaeetus leucocephalus ?
How about having Meleagris gallopavo for Thanksgiving dinner?
Do you think you would watch a Geococcyx californianus cartoon?
I am often asked about my name. Once you say it a few times it doesn’t sound odd. It is a form of my given name. Why not just use my name? It’s not a bad name, just very popular among my generation. Early in my wildlife photography career I switched to using my initials in an attempt to get my work looked at and considered for publication.
Most publishers then and several now believe a woman couldn’t get the kinds of wildlife they were looking for. The train of thought here is that only a man would get close enough to capture the a bear, or alligator photograph that would captivate their audience.
Most photo submissions are done over the internet and don’t require any real interaction between me and the publishers that purchase my work. That means the majority of publishers assume I am a man when they review my work. Yes the check is made out to MR. S. J. Brown, but the bank will cash it for me.
Have you ever considered changing your name? Has someone’s name caused you to make assumptions about them?
The United States seems to be in crisis. According to the CDC, suicide rates have increased 30% since 1999. There were 45,000 suicides in 2016 alone! Naturally, we hear mostly about celebrities and public figures. There also seems to be a snowball effect. According to CNN, “suicide contagion” is a real phenomenon: when there’s one suicide, more follow. We put our celebrities on a pedestal, thinking they have it all. When they fall, we’re devastated. My mother said it best, “If you have money, fame, and love, but you’re still depressed, what hope do the rest of us have?”
But celebrities are just people. Like the rest of us, they have hopes and dreams. They have good days and bad, and they fail. We just don’t always see those failures, except if it’s a huge failure, then we see it on overdrive on the 24-hour news stations. But we haven’t seen their struggles to get to their height of fame. We don’t see the hours of acting classes they took—the number of roles they failed to get. The jobs they took just to pay rent. We only see the finished product.
Recently, I fell in love with the movie The Greatest Showman. Have you seen it? It stars Hugh Jackman, who sings many of the songs himself. My favorite song from the movie is “This is Me” sung by Keala Settle. (She plays the bearded lady in the movie.) I love that song, and it makes me cry every time I hear it. I wish I had her voice. I heard an interview with Keala, and she talked about the practice she put into the song before she could sing it without crying. That made me feel better.
Anyway, my point is that everyone stumbles and falls while they’re climbing to success. The same holds true for writing: how many drafts did it take for George R.R. Martin to write Game of Thrones? How many hours did he spend writing the backstory and developing Westeros for his books? We can only guess because he doesn’t talk about that in any of the interviews I’ve read. What we do know is that he began writing Game of Thrones in 1991, and it was released in 1996. That timeline demonstrates how long it takes from creation to publication. He didn’t start discussing the HBO show until 2007—16 years later!
My point is that success takes time, and it may not look like anything you expected. Mostly, you just have to hang on and take each day one by one. I remind myself of this every day. Like Anthony Bourdain, I suffer from depression. I also suffer from anxiety, which cripples me several days a week. But every day, I find a reason to get out of bed, and I find a way to get work done. Some days, I struggle to just feed the dogs, but on other days, I get through my entire to-do list. I work hard to make it through each day: I take my meds, I get out of bed, I look forward to the future, and take each day as it comes. And that’s what it takes.
If you find it hard to make it through each day, get help. Get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. Or talk to your doctor. Get help because we need you, and we want you to be happy.
~ Keri De Deo is author of the novel Nothing but a Song and owner of Witty Owl Consulting.
Do you want to flex your writing muscles more often? Stuck in a waiting room with too much time to sit idly, but not enough to dive into your WIP?
All of us have a few moments to spare for creative play. The next time you have a notebook (or a smartphone) and a little break, try these short, fun writing exercises:
Remember that song from the 90s about the color blue? This song. (Now it’s stuck in your head for the rest of the week – you’re welcome!) Everything in the song was blue. Pick a color and write a scene that is immersed in that color–but don’t say its name. Which emotions and moods go along with your color? What kind of character roams the scene? Write all around the color, filling in the details to express what you see in your pigment-saturated imagination.
Do you remember the game, “If You Were An Animal You’d Be…?” (Well, if you never played it, you’ve missed the opportunity to feel bent out of shape when someone suggests you’d be a chipmunk. It still stings!) This exercise is a little like that game. Come up with an antagonist who’s like a vulture. What does he wear? Where does he live? Is he a loner, or does he hang out with other vulture-types? How about a best friend who’s like a golden retriever? Faithful, enthusiastic, and sometimes a little ditzy…
See if you can link a character with his or her animal doppelganger. Have fun with this!
Scents can evoke powerful memories: the cologne your ex-boyfriend wore, the ripe, baked mud smell of an island at low tide, the aroma of homemade waffle cones at the ice cream parlor. Pick a scent and, without mentioning it, write a few paragraphs about the memories or images that come to mind. Need suggestions? Try cardamom, the ionized air after a summer rain, or smoke curling from an ornate, polished pipe.
Just because you’re stuck in a seemingly-endless checkout line or waiting at the DMV doesn’t mean you can’t redeem the time by sharpening your imagination and honing your writing skills. Try these short, fun exercises the next time you’ve got a little chunk of time. Who knows? You may even unearth a character to incorporate into your work in progress.
How do you pass the time while you’re trapped in traffic or waiting rooms?
Cole Smith is the author of Waiting for Jacob. She’s a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia–the best Virginia! She enjoys good coffee and great stories, and shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at www.colesmithwrites.com.
All of my online friends know I am a wildlife photographer and Author. Hubby and I travel quite a lot and visit out of the way places to get close to critters.
What few people realize is I have a day job. For years hubby has asked me to quit my day job and write and photograph full time. I may just do that one day, but not yet. Wildlife photography is expensive. Yes when we travel I skimp on accommodations and meals, but I still have to put gas in the car and film in the cameras and replace equipment from time to time.
When we are on the road I promise hubby one decent meal a day and a bed to sleep in. That means Knights Inn instead of Marriot. Our breakfast id generally served through a drive thru window and lunch might be peanut butter and crackers. However dinner is generally a nice meal.
The income from wildlife photography and writing are sporadic at best. Yes I have sold a single image for $500 dollars. I have also sold an image for $25 which doesn’t cover the cost of getting the image. The latter is much more common and that is why I work part time.
So what does a wildlife photographer do when she is not out in the field? This wildlife photographer is a cosmetic merchandiser. Yep I play with makeup. That means I go into grocery stores and stock their makeup departments. Then I tell the computer what I want it to send to the store and what to stop sending because it isn’t selling.
This job allows me to be done work for the week at noon on Thursdays. This leaves me over 3 days a week, every afternoon and every evening to write, photograph and submit. On our longer trips my boss covers my territory and is very glad to see me when I return.
It’s actually not a bad job, I have had worse. How about you what was your worst job? What was the best job you ever had? I will be back on the road again soon, but I look forward to reading your comments when I return.
Thanks for stopping by.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website http://www.sjbrown.50megs.com.
I’m in the midst of writing a novel due to be released in January. I’m also writing a paper for the library districts history symposium. Additionally, I’m thinking of taking the nanowrimo challenge this November.
So you may wonder why I chose ‘Some Thoughts on History’ as the subject of this post with the other projects on tap. Quite simply, I’m constantly in awe of what I find as I research and write. What history has to share with those who look is priceless.
I’ve chosen to share the thoughts of thinkers who also have their own ideas on the subject. While we may not always agree, to know history is to know ourselves.
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston S. Churchill
“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” Michael Crichton
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell
“History, like love, is so apt to surround her heroes with an atmosphere of imaginary brightness.” James Fenimore Cooper
“Study the past if you would define the future.” Confucius
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” Carl Sagan
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” Franklin D. Roosevelt
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?” Marcus Tullius Circero
“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Rudyard Kipling
“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” Winston S Churchill
“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” Elie Wiesel
Some quotes are funny, some were thoughtful and others somewhat controversial. All are important, for history is who we are, and to delve into that well of knowledge is something that is precious to ourselves and those who will follow after.
Happy reading, and enjoy your own form of creativity for you are sharing your history with the world.
Doris Gardner-McCraw -Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women’s History
Ah yes, Mark Twain. “Huckleberry Finn”, “Tom Sawyer” and so many more stories this man, born Samuel Clemens, wrote for the world to experience. Ernest Hemingway once wrote of “Huckleberry Finn” that ‘modern American literature came from that one book’.
There are many who admire his work, others who wonder what the fuss if about. We each have our opinions about his work. I personally always loved “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and “The Prince and the Pauper”.
There are many reasons to like Mark Twain, but for me it is more a sense of understanding of the area he grew up in. I myself grew up about an hour from Hannibal Missouri, where Twain spent his childhood. The Mississippi River was a major part of my early years, much like his. While I didn’t work on a river boat, I did spend many a day boating on the river, fishing and swimming. He even spent time in Keokuk, Iowa just across the bridge from Illinois, my home state. He helped his brother Orion Clemens put out the Keokuk Journal.
There is something about mid-west sensibilities that Twain tapped into and enhanced in his chronicling of the human condition. I think that may be the part I admire most. He tried and was unsuccessful at jobs until he found his calling. While he had his critics and still does, his observations and ability to make you laugh while making you think is still as relevant today as it was in his time.
Many wildlife photographers strive to photograph large critters. I admit Buffalo, bears, and moose are always on my wish list when I am visiting their homes.
But the little critters that also live in those areas are often more of a challenge, that makes getting the shot even more enjoyable.. Their size allows them to hide more easily; it also makes them harder to find in the lens.
Dragonflies seem to zoom from one location to another stopping only for a brief second or two to pose.
Preying Manaus don’t move quite as fast, however their coloring helps them blend in with their surroundings.
Ladybugs are a bit easier to spot due to their bright coloring. But their tiny size makes a macro lens necessary. With a macro lens I need to get very close to my subject.
Some critters that are a little larger are not easy to photograph, like snakes. Most of the time when I find a snake it is either on the ground or in the water. That means to get a decent image I need to either get on the ground or in the water with the snake.
Birds are also challenging. Smaller birds tend to spook more easily. More often than not once they know I am close by they fly off. Since I can’t fly once they take flight I have lost the opportunity to get the image, even with a telephoto lens. However every now and then I get lucky and find a co operative one.
The little things in life can often be enjoyable. Every now and then when I am having a bad week I will treat myself to some chocolate. I also enjoy sitting on the porch and watching the fireflies in the yard.
What little things do you enjoy?
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Seems, every time I find something I really like, it gets discontinued. There have been several programs over the years that I used a lot and then they were no more. Remember the sheep?
I want you to know I spent a half hour trying to download a version of the Scmpoo Sheep. I was unsuccessful. Yesterday I was trying to find a Google Calendar that would work on my sidebar. I used to have Google Desktop, and I loved it, but of course, it was discontinued—I imagine it’s at the sheep farm where retired computer programs and games go. I spent a couple of hours trying to find a sidebar that would have a notepad and a calendar. I wanted them both to stay open when I was working on other things on the internet.
Then what happens, I end up downloading all these zip file openers, and download managers that I don’t need, so I have to waste more time taking them back off.
Why-O-Why can’t you just get what you ask for or get a no way answer? What would you rather get, a stumbling through of all kinds of programs that unrelated to what you are searching for or a plain old No-No Way Jack-Nope-Not Possible-Thanks, but no thanks? Technology Woes and Time Sucks.
And why would you ask about sheep and your search gives you wild and crazy zig-zags? How are they related?
Family Tree Maker, I bought the original, the Family Tree Maker II and then III, IV, and V. Now it’s useless. I’m hoping I can get my family tree information which I saved on a CD (before DVDs), to transfer to my computer so that I might update it someway. I gave a couple of feeble attempts and didn’t get anywhere, so I know this is going to be a major time suck.
I did find a program that would allow me to upload my videos from my Camcorder after the original program discontinued. It took me a while, but at least I can still use the recorder. I figured out a workaround for my very expensive digital camera that is only a few years old because that program discontinued too.
Records, 8 track tapes, cassette tapes, micro cassette tapes, VHS tapes, CD’s, DVD’s, Flash Drives, External Hard Drives, Cloud Storage, and so it goes. I’m not sure if there is something newer, perhaps you know.
Normally I try to find solutions to the Woes, but in this case, I think the solution is, don’t try to bring the past back. What’s gone is gone. I even donated things from my garage yesterday, a perfectly good microwave, because I updated to a built in one, my TIVO, my Qualcomm communication system, a GPS, and some other old electronics. Maybe some Geek can revive these expensive electronics that have been discontinued or replaced by newer models.
How many old cell phones do you have lying around? How about Wireless headsets? What programs did you love that are no more? Do you spend a lot of time trying to find comparable programs?
Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. Her newest book is an Advanced Coloring Book and she has one that is freshly published with 11 other authors.
A couple of months ago, I wrote that I’d planned to write about Ernest Hemingway but decided against it. I changed my mind because I wanted to be erudite but that night just didn’t have it in me.
The truth is, I never have erudite in me. I am not an erudite person. If people read my master’s thesis, they might think I’m erudite, and maybe I was, a little, when I wrote it in 1985–I used a lot of semicolons–but overall, I am just not erudite. And I’m too tired to pretend I am.
So I’m going to write a little bit about Hemingway, but in a non-analytical, non-literary, non-scholarly, generally shallow way.
My working vocabulary has never been large, so I used thesaurus.com to find both synonyms and antonyms for erudite. I didn’t approve of the antonyms, so I put a few touches of my own on some synonyms, as one knows if one read the preceding paragraph.
(Using one in place of you and I smacks of scholarship, but it’s the only thing in this post that will smack of it.)
The antonyms I objected to are uneducated, ignorant, and uncultured. They don’t necessarily apply. I have a couple of degrees and I know a few things about Hemingway. As to culture, I make no claims, except to say I like opera, at least the old-fashioned ones with melodies, and I am never tempted to laugh when the soprano starts to sing.
I can say that as a young reader and writer I did not get Hemingway at all. My negativity may have been nothing more than a 1960s rebellion against the sensibilities of our parents. . . .
While some would claim that the passage above [from A Farewell to Arms] is strong, clear, lean, direct and pure, all I could see was dry, repetitious, undecorated, and dull, a movie star without makeup.
Well. I liked The Art of X-Ray Reading–I enjoy reading literary criticism and analysis, so maybe I’m a little cultured. But when I reached that passage, I absolutely fell in love with it. Because I didn’t get Hemingway at all either.
No, I lie. I didn’t like Hemingway. I’m a baby boomer, too, but my distaste for his books had nothing to do with the generation gap.
I didn’t like him because of all the fishing.
In my junior American literature class, we read “Big Two-Hearted River.” I’m sure it was a truncated version. But it seemed interminable. Nick, the main character, goes out into the forest to fish. He walks, sees a grasshopper attached to his sock, takes a nap, wakes up sore, sets up his tent, eats (pork and beans, spaghetti, and canned apricots), drinks coffee, kills a mosquito, and goes to sleep, all methodically, every move described in detail. But most of what Nick does is fish. Fish, fish, fish.
My grandfather took me fishing a couple of times, and I liked the way he did it. In the evening, he set out trotlines across the river, and early the next morning he went out again to run the lines. Looking back, I see it as inhumane, and I wouldn’t do it today. I think trotlines are illegal now, so he wouldn’t do it either.
But the thing is–my grandfather didn’t stand out in the middle of the river, baiting his hook with grasshoppers, and hoping to catch one fish at a time. He used Crystal White Soap and caught lots of fish all at once. Fishing wasn’t so much a sport as an art or what might now be called a practice: he was meticulous, every movement deliberate, as methodical as Nick. But not nearly so boring.
Regarding the story, it might have helped if I’d known that after serving in World War I, Nick is trying to adapt to life at home, where no one understands what he’s experienced. But I was a sixteen-year-old girl, so it probably wouldn’t have, not really.
Years later, I took a graduate seminar in the novels of Hemingway and Faulkner. It’s amazing what a little education can do. Close textual analysis under the direction of a formidable scholar and professor (and a thoroughly delightful man) forged in me a sincere appreciation for the novels.
Excluding The Old Man and the Sea.
I expressed my negative feelings (quietly) to a classmate. She asked if this was the first time I read the book. I said yes.
“That’s the problem,” she said. “If you’d read it in seventh grade, you’d love it.”
Sure. Old man, boy, boat, sea, alone, forty days and forty nights, catch, sharks, dreaming of lions.
Nothing but fish, fish, fish.
And that’s my shallow, non-erudite dissertation on Hemingway.
(Does anyone out there appreciate how difficult it is to compose a blog post with fifteen pounds of cat lying across your forearm, elbow to wrist, whence he has access to keys that can wipe out everything? IfHemingway had used a computer, with all those six-toed cats, he’d never have published a thing.)
My memory of “Big Two-Hearted River” was helped along by Sparknotes.
What word or phrase will I cling to this year in my writing journey? It must be inspirational (to get me going), motivational (to keep me going), and strengthening (to not let me bog down with discouragement from helpful and not-so-helpful critiques).
Since I didn’t formally ask or answer those four questions at years end, (which you can read at that website), I thought perhaps it wasn’t too late to ask myself one at the first quarter of this year. It takes some thought. Perhaps it will answer my personal mission statement as far as writing: I write to tell the stories racing around in my brain, and to create entertainment and insight for my readers.
I think what I should repeat to myself is, just believe in my calling and do it! Along with that I have to face my fears of putting it out there and having a negative review. Which should be expected, at least with a negative review, someone had enough passion (albeit not the reason for passion I would want) to write a review!
How would I handle being a politician! The answer is of course, I wouldn’t. But hopefully I could handle a bad review.
As with most writers, real and present life issues interrupt. And help me support any other issues I have with putting off writing.
So I have two questions for readers today: 1) How do you handle your fear of putting your writing out there? 2) And on a different note, how do you handle inner thoughts on your characters, with or without italics?