Writing


Hey Interwebs,

I know it’s been practically forever since I posted here…Cause I quit this shit.  But take heart, you can keep up with my non-ninja exploits over at DaveOdegard.com. Also, please checkout MadePossible.com, where I’m now Associate Editor.

It’s been fun.

-Dave AKA the Wordy Ninja.

As a semi-professional writer—I get paid to write stuff I don’t care about and can’t make a living writing what I love—I have amassed some solid skills:  a decent ability to bring much needed snark when it’s needed (3/4 of the time it’s needed ALL the time), amazing propensity for listicles (it’s like a list, but its an article), and an absolute love affair with parenthesis (I’ve got nothing).  But I also have a shameful secret.  Something dark and hidden within my very soul—I can’t spell worth a damn.

Recently, I was writing a thank you note to a friend.  It was in pen on personalized stationery—because I’m a classy guy.  I was writing a sentence in which I thanked the recipient for picking where to eat.  After I’d finished, I noticed that something was off.  I had spelled restaurant with only one “a”.  I then had to rewrite the letter, checking each word in the dictionary before I committed it ink.  Later, I was working on an article that was close to being past its deadline, when I noticed a simple typo yet no red squiggly line underneath it.  Somehow the spell check in Word had been turned off and after I activated it, my draft became a lit in red squiggles highlighting each and every mistake.  “Oh man,” I said, “I can’t spell worth a damn.”

Now, whenever something tragic like this comes out, there is always the search for who is responsible.   How could someone make it through grade school, high school, college, and graduate school and not be able to spell the word “restaurant” off the top of his? Who is to blame for this?

You know who’s at fault?  Modern technology.  If there’s was no spell checker in word processing programs and web browsers (including that blessed autocorrect that somehow managed to know by writing  “collegue” I meant “colleague”) I would have learned to do it on my own.  And I’m not the only one.  The Internet is littered with evidence of people who suffer from similar intellectual deficiencies, either posting a Facebook status message or writing a sign.  Could it be that having spell check, like when an overuse of antibiotics creates a stronger drug-resistant bacteria, is too much of a good thing?

It’s not that I don’t appreciate spell check (oh, I do), I just wish that having it around didn’t mean when I write something it looks like it as written by a dyslexic 10-year-old.  But what can I do? Spend my free time reading the dictionary and going through flashcards for SAT vocab words?  I’m twenty-six, I think it may be a little too late to learn how to spell “onomatopoeia” without having to look it up through Google.  I think my only course of action is to double check everything though the computer and just be thankful that I’m not so bad that I use texting abbreviations.  K, Thx.

[Pic via]

Hey guys,

I just want to let you know about a friend-of-a-friend’s blog and book about writing, Bang the Keys.  I’ve posted here before about my own lessons that I’ve learned (as recently as yesterday in fact) and Jill Dearman’s got a lot of good advice and exercises to try out.  I highly recommend you check it out.

-Wordy Ninja, Over and Out.

writingThe title of this post is a Latin phrase that translates to “no day without a line.”  It’s generally attributed to Roman writer/philosopher/historian Gaius Plinius Secundus, also known as “Pliny the Elder,” who himself credited the Greek artist Apelles for coining the expression.  It’s meaning is pretty simple: create something, anything—no matter how minuscule, everyday.  For a writer, it should be a commandment to live by—write at the very least one original sentence everyday.  I have a note card with the saying taped just over my computer.

To be completely honest, I’d had this quote around for years, but never truly lived by it until very recently.  There was always the advice given to me, and seemingly every young writer starting out, to “write everyday.” But the reason I think that I didn’t take it to heart, the same reason I’m assuming everyone else ignored that great pearl of wisdom, is because it turns the act of writing into work.  When you first realize that you love to write, it comes in spits and spurts, these sudden and quick fevered moments of creativity that sit you down in front of the computer, typewriter, or paper and pen.  It’s a fun addictive rush, but you can’t dictate when it happens. And if you try to write without it,  the process is daunting and not that much fun.  Unfortunately, it’s the only way to ever finish anything that you start writing.

Now, no matter what I do, I always make sure that I write something everyday. It can be anything from a blog post (yeah, yeah, I know I only posted twice last week… Lay off!) to an addition on a current draft of short story, even facebook status or something on twitter.  As long as it’s creative and original, I’ve done my daily writing duty.  Of course, one or two snarky sentences posted online isn’t exactly what Pliny (or Apelles) had in mind, but it gets the job done—and trust me when you’re curled up, hungover, on the couch watching the Empire Strikes Back for the umpteenth time on Spike, tweeting “Han Solo is an intergalactic pimp that the ladies love and he knows it,” is tough.  The point is that it’s like exercise; even a little bit is better than nothing. The more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you get.  You not only find that you can write something pretty decent without those surges of creativity, but that a lot of those times you make yourself sit down to write, you get inspired and they come along anyway.   Living the rule of “no day without a line” has opened something up inside of me and made me a better writer.   I’m glad I finally started following  it.

[Pic via Flickr.com]

palinThis past week, I’ve been thinking about quitting—not about me giving anything up or renouncing anything in particular, but the actually act of quitting something.  First, Sarah Palin up and randomly announces she’s going to resign as a Governor of Alaska and then while I was joyously dancing, my friend Chris quit twitter.  Someone leaving twitter is hardly noteworthy. But it was a little surprising because Chris was one of the people who poked and prodded me into getting an account and tweeting (Shameless shelf-promotion: follow me @WordyNinja.)  Chris was also the person who got me into blogging and he also recently quit his blog, which was pretty popular.   “I decided to quit twitter and my blog because I just felt they were draining too much of my creative energy,” he told me later, “and I needed all I could muster to focus on my other writing.”  I can’t really hold it against Chris for wanting to quit.  If the constant writing grind for both were distracting him from what he truly want to do, then it was his responsibility to himself.

For the most part, unless it’s in regards to something negative (i.e. smoking or shooting heroin between your toes), quitting is viewed as weak.  It’s a sentiment my father made sure to impart on me while I was growing up. Phrases like “Always see things to the through,” and “Finish what you start,” were throw about.  And whenever I did quit some activity or association (Boy Scouts or the track team) he was sure to express his disappointment.  When I smoked about a pack of cigarettes a day, I used to joke to anyone who suggested that it was not the best for my health that “my dad hates quitters.”

But how often do we honestly see things through to the end?  I can only think of a handful of times where I’ve had the opportunity to follow something all the way to its natural conclusion—let alone done it.  Everything ends by quitting.  Got a new job? Quit your old one.  Need to move forward past a bad relationship? You’ve got to breakup.  If that extra activity isn’t an enjoyment anymore, why not stop and do what you really want to?  If you never quit, you would still be in situations after you were ready to move on and your life would be  stagnant.  There is something cathartic about saying “Fuck this” and walking away.

I get why Chris quit.  It was the only for him to move forward.  I haven’t gotten there yet—so I don’t expect I’ll quit blogging or tweeting anytime soon, but I hope to someday.

[Pic via Flickr.com]

200310679-002It’s late.  It’s late at night and I’m writing this post.  I could have done this hours ago.  Hell, maybe even days ago.  But this isn’t another rant about my problem with procrastination or lack of ideas to write about (God knows I beat those two horses to death!).  See: there’s nothing better than staying up late writing.   Chabon calls it “the midnight disease,” and its one of the greatest feelings in the world.  Ever scored a game-winning touchdown? Or saved a child’s life?  And his/her supermodel mom thanked you…sexually?  Yeah, those are great.  I mean what I’m talking about makes you rundown and question your sanity over debating word choices when you need to leave for work in four hours.  It isn’t that the writing is any better than from a normal time, I just love the idea that while everyone else in the entire world is sleeping, I’m creating something.  I know.  I’m a weirdo.

I was the king of all nighters.  Just ask any of my college roommates—I even drove one to the brink of insanity by disrupting his sleep so much (Don’t worry, he was from Poland—they don’t count.).  I don’t think I ever started working on a term paper before 11PM. And for my graduate school thesis?  I was up till 2AM every night, except when I slept all day on Sunday.  I would even stay up late writing my own stuff just for me.  I could stay up the entire night without any sleep and make it into work the next day.  Of course, I’d be groggy, but that’s why there’s coffee.  Glorious, glorious, coffee.  The thing is: I always remember being able to do this.  Even as a little kid, I would stay up late reading or drawing my own comic strips until my dad came in and yelled at me to go sleep.  And then I would pretend to go to sleep so he’d leave me alone and I could get back to work.  I think it’s why my parents won’t let me move back in with them.

But that’s all over now.  Now, if I don’t get at least six hours of sleep, I’m a zombie.  And coffee, my sweet nectar of the caffeinated peppy Gods?  Well, you know how a drug addict’s body builds a tolerance to their narcotic over time and they have to increase the dosage to keep attaining the same high and then they end up just taking massive quantities to feel normal? My bladder can’t take it.

In the end, maybe it’s a sign that I’m no longer a kid anymore.  That I need to tackle my writing in a more mature, orderly manner, and not just with a childish manic excitement.  Still makes me feel old though.  Now if you will excuse me, I’m off to get some sleep.

DC[Editor’s note: The Wordy Ninja went to see Kevin Smith at Carnegie Hall last night and didn’t get home till very late and, because he’s like an old man/baby, is exhausted and in a cranky mood.  Also, he was NOT picked to ask his question.  So today’s post will be a list.  Deal with it. ]

I’ve been described as a cynic, an angry young man, and the “real life Dr. House.” Okay, no one ever called that last one, but I am contemptuous of rules…And save lives, damn it!  Once, just after meeting a friend’s girlfriend for the first time, she turned to him and asked “Oh, wait…is he the angry one that hates everything?” To which my friend smiled and nodded.  In keeping with that statement, I present a recently devised list of human beings that make me tremble with anger.  If you see yourself here take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  Also, feel free to add your own entry in the comments section below.

  • People who walk slowly in the middle of the sidewalk AND are overweight.
    You can’t be one and the other. If you walk slowly in the middle of the sidewalk, you should be skinny so I can easily weave around you.  If you take up a large amount of space (Hey, I’m not judging.  I like pizza too.)  then either walk fast or stick to the sides cause I am tempted to shove you out of the way.
  • Women who find Dane Cook attractive/funny.
    Apparently, these ladies exist.  I guess when you have all the charm and wit of a college fraternity’s resident date rapist you can not only have a mediocre movie career—but also become some sort of lame sex symbol.
  • Guys who wear t-shirts while swimming.
    Look, I’m not exactly rocking six pack abs over here.  I’ve had my husky times and have gone to the beach, but come on guys, you’re not fooling anyone.  What do think will happen? Some girl will see you and say, “Mmmm…I bet he’s got a really hot body under there”?  No!  Everyone knows what you’re hiding.  Oh, and to the rocket scientists who wear white t-shirts: You do know they become translucent when soaking wet, right Chubs?  That kind of defeats the purpose, no?
  • People who wear sunglasses indoors.
    Sunglasses were created to block out blindingly bright sunlight.  And if you’re wearing them in the one place were there is no sunlight (like the subway) and you’re not playing poker, you’re basically letting everyone who sees you know that you wear sunglasses to look cool and are thus a shallow prick who only cares what people you don’t know and who don’t know you think of you.
  • People who respond to celebrities they follow on twitter.
    I feel this action is only acceptable if your actually friends with said famous people or calling them out on some bullshit.  But if you’ve ever tweeted something like “Hey @BradPitt, just say Fight Club on cable last night.  You were awesome!” then you’re a moron.
  • Writers who cop out and put together pieces that are just lists because they’re too lazy to actually create segues from one thought to another.
    I think I need to start going to therapy.

[Pic via MySpace.com]

Next Page »