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]

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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]

reporter

I have a confession to make: I’m always pushing against my deadlines.  As a semi-professional writer (I write articles for my day job but don’t get a byline…I think the phrase best describes my situation) this is never an ideal trait to have.  And with the blog to keep somewhat regularly updated and various freelancing projects, I’ve always got a piece that’s either in the pipeline or due.  Most likely due.

I don’t have any problem coming up with the ideas for stories, doing the research and legwork, or even actually writing; I just can’t seem to do all that in a perfectly timely matter.  I’ve ranted and raved here before about my habit to procrastinate, even written about not having anything to post because of it.  But this is a little different.  It’s not that I don’t get my articles/essays/fiction in on time (every now and then I do blow a deadline), it’s that I tend to get my stuff in at the last possible minute.

I wish that I could just plan ahead, write something, and turn it in well before it’s due.  Instead I’m always working on a piece literally within minutes of its deadline, and thus not getting a proper head start on the next project—so the vicious cycle continues.  On deadline day, I’m usually running around, muttering “Why do I always do this to myself?!’ while a certain colleague/friend who has already turned his stuff in and posted on his blog (twice!) will cry out “I’m so boooorrreed.”

But there is an upside to it.  I’ve found that pushing hard up against a deadline prevents me from going off into diatribes, fussing over clause packed sentences, or packing too much detail into a description, giving my under-pressure writing a concise and clean feel.  It’s also an adrenaline rush.  There’s nothing quite like turning those feelings of panic and desperation into fuel for manic productivity and the following sense of accomplishment.  And it’s addictive.  But lately, I’ve been thinking about what else I could accomplish if I just managed my time a little better.

I think that the reason that I’ve never REALLY tried to fix this problem is because I was always able to pull it off.  Not matter what, I turned in that paper I started the night before it was due and got at least a B or finished the short story in time for my workshop.  I never had the push to change my ways in a moment where it all came crashing down and I completely failed to get any of it done.  Maybe the fact that I want to change this habit without hitting rock bottom is a sign that I’m growing up.  Maybe this can be the beginning of something new.  Maybe I can move past the thrill seeking and concise writing benefits of running up against my deadlines and finally be the get-things-done-in-advance writer I want to be.

This my Monday post for the blog and I’m finishing it up on Sunday night.  We’ll see how it plays out from here.

[Pic via Fromdistance.com]

bush_confusedIt’s Monday. I’m tired and regretting not calling in sick. I also want to get a post up before noon, but I’m having trouble thinking up what I what I want to write about. So I’m staring at a blank screen while my brain sputters and skids—searching for something, anything, to pontificate on. I could cop out and just write up a list of something funny, like “Things I don’t care about” then copy and paste the current trending topics on twitter with a smarmy sentence or two for each entry [editor’s note: lists are super easy to write because they don’t require the hardest thing to work out on paper, transition of thoughts]. Or maybe I could just dump some embedded videos in here and leave it at that. The thing is: I didn’t start this blog to write those types of posts. I started this because I wanted to challenge myself into not just writing regularly, but with depth and aimed at some semblance of quality.

It’s not that I don’t have any ideas. I’ve got a whole Word .doc of things I want to write about. From something in a current events type of vein, like a rant that’s been building up inside of me about how stupid newspapers are for wanting to charge for online content, or something personal, like how I am physically unable to piss if someone is at the urinal right next to me. I can write up another review for my most recent completion off the Summer Reading List or do another Profile in Awesomeness. Or go in a new direction, like exploring the recently discovered pleasure of watching classic 80’s cartoon shows on YouTube. It’s just that all those posts would take more time than I have to write today.

I’ve posted here before about my problems with procrastination and I feel like maybe I should have prepared something to write ahead of time, but I’ve been crazy busy lately and have a lot more to do today for my day job (and other stuff). Basically, I just want to quickly crank something out that I don’t need to do a lot of research or thought to put together, but is still a memorable post.

Maybe I should write about how I’m trying to come up with something to write about?

[Pic via ScienceFaster.com]

I love evolution.

I love evolution.

Being an open-minded guy living in New York, I have a wide variety of diverse friends and acquaintances. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Gay, Straight, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Fat, and Skinny; basically I can get along with anyone. I even have a few friends who voted for McCain (though I find if we don’t talk about the election, there’s less of a chance for fisticuffs). But there’s one group of friends that I’m at my wits end with: Vegetarians and Vegans.

It’s not like I’m a big meat eater or anything. One of the big staples in my recipes-I-know-by-heart mental category is Cuban black beans and rice (other meals include spaghetti and ramen noodles) and I prefer soy milk in my coffee. But I just can’t take it anymore.

The tipping point for me was yesterday, when my buddy Chris posted on his blog an argument for the pros of vegetarianism that cites a study claiming meat eaters are 30% more likely to die prematurely from cancer or heart disease than non-meat eaters. For Chris, this is somehow proof that the eating habits of an herbivore will automatically make him live longer. It’s a classic case of confusing correlation with causation. Yes, if you are a vegetarian, you are more likely to be healthy and live a longer life. But that’s because a lot of people who are vegetarians are also health conscious (which meat eaters can also be). You can be a vegetarian, not workout, and eat crap—last time I checked, french fries, donuts, and Funions didn’t have any meat in them—and then drop dead of a heart attack. I wonder what percentage of people who have a balanced diet, work out on a regular basis, and are also likely to live a long life compares to people who do nothing for their health.

I think what bothers me the most is that being a vegetarian (or vegan) is a betrayal of your human nature. Your genetic ancestors fought and died for you to reach this point. If the hunter gatherer caveman that you directly descended from watched you turn away a juice steak, he’d smack you on the head with his wooden club. We’re omnivores, the cutting edge of evolution—it’s how we became the most power animal on this planet (beating out bears, lions, tigers, sharks, and kangaroos). All the other species envy and want to be like us. Just look a cow in the eyes and tell me he doesn’t wish he had the ability to kill and eat anything he wanted.

We’re on top of the food chain, behave accordingly.

So it’s been a few months since I started this blog. And things seem to be getting pretty solid-I haven’t quit yet, or gotten into any confrontations with commentators that have led to them tracking me down and stabbing me. I’d like to thank all the people who’ve made comments and sent me e-mails (especially the ones threatening to stab me). So far, it’s been a lot of fun and real worthwhile experience. I just wanted to break the third wall here to get some administrative stuff out of the way. First off, I’ve updated my blogroll with some new friends and old ones too. Please click on them, they’re cool. I promise.

Also, “Who That Ninja,” my biography page, is now Who Dat Ninja. You may wonder why I would change it to such a grammatical incorrect title. Basically, my friend called me out on making a half-hearted 30 Rock reference and I was shamed into it. Personally, my favorite Tracy Jordon faux movie is Black Cop, White Cop. With the tagline: “One does the duty, the other gets the booty” how could it not be awesome? Oh, and the page is updated with a little more information about me…Stalkers.

You may also notice that I’ve changed up the What I’m into page. I’m going to try and make more of an effort to keep it up to date as I go, but I’m not making any promises. I’ll be trying to get more post ups as well. I’ve gotten into the routine of around two a week and I’m going to step it up to about three. Moreover; I’ll be more proactive in responding to people’s comments. I’m adopting my friend Chris’s technique of going in via editing and pasting my replies directly into the original comment, though with my own voice and style.

Thanks and keep reading.

-The Wordy Ninja.

You ever do something that you thought you never would? You know like sky diving, illicit drugs, drunken lesbian experiences (ladies, you can e-mail me full details in 800 words or less…video too if you have it), or killing a hobo. Well, that’s what this is for me. Yes, for me anyway, writing a blog is like two beer soaked college girls making out and than repeatedly stabbing a beloved 20th century stereotype of American homelessness.

I never got the whole blog craze. “But you’re a writer,” people would say. “It should be right up your alley.” The whole concept just seemed like white noise to me-as if everyone was trying to talk at once. And the most prominent examples struck me as moronic and insipid narcissism, just read any celebrity’s “official” Web site and soak up the overused exclamation points and texting abbreviations if you don’t agree with me (The CIA should seriously consider using Kim Kardashian’s blog for interrogation purposes.). The word alone is probably one of the most hideous arrangements of a vowel and consonants in the English language. It rolls off the tongue like vomit and leaves the same taste. And then they slap an “-ing” at the end of it to make it a verb. “Blogging” sounds like some sort of sex act and not even a good one (though I would enjoy saying, “Oh man, I was totally blogging this girl last night!”). And when something sounds like it may be dirty, the mainstream media wants to get in on it. Professional MTV reality show contestants “write” about how awesome the new season is going to be and CNN cuts to an overweight partisan hack who runs his or her own web site (which somehow gives their opinion credence) with the title “blogger” under their name. “I’ve got better things to do,” I thought and went back to writing page upon page of work which I was too scared to ever show anyone.

So what changed my mind to make me want to start a blog? Well, like most everything that you swear you’ll never do, it just takes getting mixed up with the wrong crowd. When I discovered that one of my friends not only ran his own blog, which he contributed to practically daily, but had been doing so for almost year, I was shocked. It was like discovering that my father was living a secret gay lifestyle, and then writing about it online for everyone to read. He showed me his process for writing posts and interacting with his readers (You can checkout his blog here). And it seemed like a lot of fun.

The whole thing reminded of these lectures from professors who specialized in studying digital media that I sat through in college. “You missed it,” they used to say. “Your generation missed the heyday of the Internet.” To them, when people first started plugging their computers into phones line and connecting with each other, when it was just that bright green text on a black screen, it was pure and honest. It wasn’t about Google hits or porn, but human connection and sharing ideas. But when corporate America got interested in the technology for marketing purposes, they turned this new form of sincere two-way human interaction into just another television, a one-way medium. Maybe blogs are a way to get back to those original ideals of the Internet. That what I had always thought of as a self-centered need to express one’s opinions was just honesty. That the people who I had ridiculed had more courage than I ever did.

When I asked my friend if there was any advice he could give me about starting a blog, He told me that I should “write about things that are funny.  Like boobs.  That are funny-looking.” After a noticeably uncomfortable silence, he added that I shouldn’t be surprised if the only ones who end up reading my blog are my cat and brother. “It takes time to build an audience,” he said. “And really, chances are your brother is lying and your cat just reads it because he feels bad for you, so just be patient.”

Patience aside, I’m worried (and not just because I don’t have a cat and I’m an only child). Maybe no one will read this, maybe someone will and hate it—and then (worst of all) seek me out to tell me how lame I am. When I told another friend who blogs about the subject of this post, how I thought I’d never do a blog, she sighed. “Yeah, that’s pretty much everyone’s first post,” she said. Great, I’m not even that original. I’ve got a lot of work to do…