Posted in Blogging, Editing, Writing

Following the Blog Crowd

Today’s prompt by the Daily Post is fleeting, a tempting word to dangle in front of a writer! I could talk about fleeting thoughts, fleeting joys, fleeting beauty or the fleeting sands of time… all the clichés. We mostly try to avoid clichés and anything else bland, but still fall into the trap by following certain trends. Resonant writing, for instance, is something to admire, but there’s so much of it around I find myself recoiling. Do you feel manipulated sometimes? What if we ditched the resounding lines and dreamy philosophy and just said what we think?

It’s true that clear layout and good editing is part of good writing. If a word interrupts the flow of your reading, such as an unnecessary ‘I’ mid-sentence, delete it. If you make the same point repeatedly, cut the repetitions (unless they add something). If you’ve chosen an impressive word when a simple word would be less distancing, change it.

However, I liked Iridescence’s post about writing straight from the heart and deleting nothing — as opposed to constant editing, particularly when your memories are at stake. She is really referring to diaries but makes a good point — if we edit our thoughts and personal experiences too much, are we editing our own histories? Often when you look back you can’t understand why you said or did something, and it’s not till you come across an old email or diary entry that really says what you were thinking or feeling that it becomes clear. All the emotion comes back and you remember why… oh, I wasn’t such a baddie, then! Right.

Well, when writing a diary of any type, it’s important to keep that emotion in your language — don’t lose it in favour of ‘good writing’ or simplicity.

Real, true-to-ourselves writing isn’t just for ourselves, though. Sometimes I spend so much time editing and changing things to maximize flow or ‘sense’ that what I post bears no relation to my original thought. When I’m confused enough it’s not published at all, which I think might happen to this one. Well, plodding on…

The best kind of writing, I think, is smooth enough that the words don’t distract you. If you use long words or writing tricks to impress, bear in mind we all know what you’re doing — we’ve done it too!

There are so many beautifully-written posts that are not quite devoid of humour, character, personality or interest, but still fail to convince. Truly inspirational posts have something more to them than just elegance — some kind of meaning that you won’t get anywhere else, along with honesty, accuracy, and your own normal voice.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve learned anything from this post. I spent so much time changing it that I got lost, and don’t know what I’m saying any more. Nor do I know how to end it, so I’ll try a profound quotation I found on the internet.

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.
– Napoleon Bonaparte

Hmm, I don’t know. Does it fit, do you think? 🙂

Posted in Books

Gratitude Journals

Isn’t there a song that begins:

You gotta accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative and latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between?

For years I’ve been trying, but the negative insists on creeping in. As for the middling greyness, that confusing and disappointing place, that’s where I do most of my lurking.

Luckily it turns out there is help at hand.

It’s called, HELP!: How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done by Oliver Burkeman. It’s a collection of Guardian articles about his findings when delving into the murky world of self-help. I found it amusing and down-to-earth, describing situations and attitudes I recognized — for instance, unaccountable irritation when accosted in the street by charities. As with anything else, there’s both good and bad in the world of self-help and popular psychology.

One tip he liked — and the reason for my post — is the idea of writing in a gratitude journal. He says don’t force yourself to do it, as it must never become a chore — and only list 5 or 6 items a day.

Well, I’ve been writing one for over a month now, but (being lazy) I just add it to my personal journal. I don’t think I could have separate books with different things (can’t think how I survived school!) I have a small black ‘ideas journal’ (somewhere) but that’s as far as I go.

I wondered why it had to be a list of ‘gratitudes’ and not ‘likes’, but I suppose we are grateful they exist! However, grumpy things kept floating through my head while I was trying to think of nice things. This is frustrating when you’re writing a general journal that records all your thoughts (not just some), so when a friend admitted to keeping a gratitude list herself, ranging it alongside gripes in a steno pad, I gave in and allowed the more negative things a voice as well.

This wasn’t the advice we were given! I’m not sure gripe lists will encourage me in my drive towards positivity. This is the trouble with mixing notebooks with different purposes… or are they really that different? My friend claims annoyances swirl around in her head forever unless she writes them down, and then she forgets them. I know what she means, as once I’ve laid an annoyance bare on the page, I’m more likely to step back and laugh. My old journals always sound like someone else has lived my life.

Recently I was doing scans of an old handwritten 2009 journal. I have a vague plan to back these things up, but it’s tedious work. In any case, back in 2009 I was writing about the need to pay attention to the more positive things in life rather than be critical about myself and everything else. Presumably that thought goes back even further, but every time you think of it, it seems new…

Well, I may not have a separate pad to flip through when seeking happy inspiration, but I thought it would be fun to ransack each month and find the best. Each day’s list seems coloured by mood, and I don’t know why that surprised me! I imagined them as simple lists of items and random thoughts, but sometimes I was tired and angry, other times amused and chatty — and you can tell what sort of day it was just by the lists.

The following are my June gripes and gratitudes, whittled down. Obvious items such as friends, family, health and chocolate don’t appear, though originally were there. Couldn’t remove coffee — I would have had withdrawal symptoms! My hand shook every time it hovered over the delete key, so I had to leave it.


(1) Spiders who run very fast to a spot just above your head, then vanish in the blink of an eye.
(2) Fundamental attribution error (FAE).
(3) Boredom and procrastination.
(4) The way the most recently changed post in Notes automatically moves to the top of the list as soon as you click on an older note… and suddenly you’re back on the most recent post instead of the one you were trying to switch to. It throws you off balance.
(5) Yes, we have no aubergines.
(6) SPAM!!!! (Stomp stomp stompstompstomp).
(7) Apps with adverts all over, even when you’ve paid.
(8) Not having enough time or light in the day!
(9) Eternal terms and conditions.
(10) Technology moving so fast that people get left behind.
(11) Getting spam from a Honey and having to double-check it wasn’t ‘my’ Honey.
(12) When Mum turns up the volume, a bar appears on the TV screen, blanking out whichever subtitles are there. It seems to stay there for quite a long time while you’re on tenterhooks, wanting to know what they’re saying, and then she clicks it again, and it stays on for another long time. Drives me absolutely bats.
(13) Being bombarded by charity adverts.
(14) The entire Textilus document is indented, and I can’t un-indent it.
(15) Feeling too hot. Who put on the central heating, and why??
(16) Not seeing in time that the Grumpy Mule coffee I picked out is decaffeinated.


(1) Bed and sleep.
(2) Rain.
(3) Song ‘Butterfly’ by Danyel Gerard.
(4) Coffee.
(5) Spider plants.
(6) New ideas — new ways of doing things.
(7) Homemade rice pudding, full of spice.
(8) Energy and enthusiasm.
(9) Those who are genuine.
(10) Zone-out days (Furry Blanket Days, in my case).
(11) Ty Beanie snails.
(12) Being safe from wolves.
(13) The existence of people who write things like gratitude journals.
(14) Cats with a sparkling sense of humour. (Nobody ever told Samson he shouldn’t hit women. He smacks every woman in the house who goes past — human or feline).
(15) The cat in the Caveman’s Prophecy game who’s just like Delilah, especially her plaintive mew.
(16) Fried mushrooms with egg and bacon.
(17) Tumbler tomato plant tumbling with tomatoes.
(18) Learning and mellowing through the years.
(19) Still being able to use Bryce when so many other Mac users have lost access to it.
(20) When I remember to wear my hair as a pigtail and it doesn’t get so much in the way when I sleep. Didn’t remember tonight…

I took so long polishing this post that June is long gone and July is nearly over. Hopefully there’ll be a list for July too; doubtless not till near the end of August! Watch this space.

Posted in Blogging, Writing

Why Do We Write?

The Daily Post asked: “Who do you write for? Who do you think of when drafting a post?”

I’ve been having trouble recently with both journal and blog, so this question comes at the right time. It occurred to me just a few days ago that my life experiences are the same whether I blog about them or journal. It’s too complicated approaching the same life from a multitude of different angles and platforms, so I’ve stopped trying. However…


In my personal journal I write what’s in my mind. My internal monologue finds expression! Minus all the “who left the milk out of the fridge?” bits, which are mostly too small to be on the radar.

It’s interesting to re-read old journal entries and I’m always surprised by how much I’ve forgotten. Old dreams could have been a stranger’s, as they’re so new to me. Snatches of conversation are funny, so I make a particular effort to include those. They are the first to go from your memory, so if they are not in your journal, they’re nowhere.

A recent example is a small victory I had over Mum. I like the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but not the old one from the 1970s. Mum is not keen on Johnny Depp and kept telling me the old film was better. Well, we saw the old one the other day (orange faces, bubbles, thin chocolate rivers and Tiswas foam), and eventually she said “you’re right…. Johnny Depp IS better!”

Of course he is. 🙂

I can be bored by my journals too, skipping over reams of stuff about computer blips / projects (e.g. how I reorganized my back-ups… that was a major process taking weeks). I still write about this stuff, partly because I need to vent (“the cloud is evil!”) and partly to clear my mind and work things out.

I used to think a journal was somewhere to write about your problems, but that doesn’t mean spilling vitriol about things and people. I get more of a buzz from re-reading light journal entries and so I don’t go down the agony aunt route often — not any more. Been there, done that, tore the T-shirt to bits…

I don’t enjoy writing about bad or unsettling experiences anyway, avoiding them altogether — though if I’m already upset, I might hint at how I was feeling. As a result, it’s more of a positive ‘thinking’ journal than a full record of my experiences.

It’s the little things that count, really. I don’t want to read about the big things, even more than ten years later.


Ah ha! My blog is trickier.

It’s supposed to be a place where people can glimpse a particular way of life, but my dreams and conversations won’t interest anyone else… so I don’t write much. I’m no teacher or guru so can’t turn it into a tutorial corner, though I’ve helped people occasionally. It’s more of an ‘experience’ corner where I’ll say what I had trouble with and how I solved it, and maybe someone else will find that useful. A recent example is my little ArtStudio disaster (The Mountain that Walked).

I’ve found my own links and tips useful! If I do something only rarely (such as make a home movie), and have a problem months or years after I first solved it, I won’t remember how to do it again. It’s better to have those tips on my blog than my journal, as they’re easier to find. I still feel shy about blogging such experiences, though, as it usually means writing about my own mistakes.

It’s a good time to face that, as I’m still reading ‘Being Wrong’ by Kathryn Schultz. People do make mistakes — like it or not, they’re a fact of life. She suggests errors can be valuable and creative, and it’s not as though we have a choice anyway.

It occurs to me that blogging and journal-writing offer ways of dealing with the process of being wrong! Otherwise, perhaps, there would be nothing to write about or discuss. If we never got a thing wrong and didn’t experience reality differently from others, what need of information or thought? How would life even go on?

That’s me, anyway… I write for myself while trying to be useful, but feel dubious about putting any of it in a blog post.

Talking of past mistakes, I managed NOT to lose half of my doodle today. If you stand back far enough (or too close perhaps), starting it may have been the real mistake! Or the true mistake was my beginning to take it too seriously in the middle, so that now I can’t draw a single tiny line without redrawing it a hundred times.

What about you… what mistakes have you made, corrected, re-corrected or avoided today — and did you write about it? 🙂

Posted in Observations

The Important Things: My Answers

Doubtless his lot is important in his own eyes; and the chief reason that we think he asks too large a place in our consideration must be our want of room for him, since we refer him to the Divine regard with perfect confidence; nay, it is even held sublime for our neighbour to expect the utmost there, however little he may have got from us.
~ Middlemarch (George Eliot)

Sarah has posted some questions on her blog Stars and Rainbows — I can never resist answering these!

1. What is the one thing that makes you happiest, each day?
A peaceful day in which nothing has to be done or faced, and no fires have to be fought.

2. What is your biggest dream?
A more insightful, thoughtful and understanding world.

3. If you could meet your 16-year-old self, what advice would you give to her/him?
Keep in touch with your friends if possible, and keep that diary going! One day you will want to remember, and sometimes what you have written is a surprise… often good as well as bad. Also record your dreams… those are of interest too. Photos are good too, but they are never as evocative or as useful, somehow, as your own words from the past.

4. What is your most prized possession?
My sight. 🙂

5. What did school teach you?
That you learn more when you take an interest and get involved in your studies, especially when you choose additional books of your own (from the library or wherever). I didn’t hear at lessons, and sometimes didn’t hear what our homework was to be, and so home-study and planning were particularly important.

6. What has life, thus far, taught you?
That there’s no point banging your head against a brick wall, and that some people will believe what they want against all reason. Just accept you can’t please all of the people all of the time, and that so long as you get on with some people most of the time, you’re fine!

7. How would you describe your style?
Best when light…. but I keep forgetting that! 😉

8. What is your favourite thing about blogging?
It’s a way of getting your view across, while discovering and talking to other bloggers. It’s a way of venting steam, preferably without scalding anyone. Your blog is a record of your past thoughts and actions, and sometimes a reminder to get on with something that you were putting off and blogged about ages ago…

It’s also that moment when you think “what could I blog about today? It could be absolutely anything!” and feel an anticipatory thrill.

9. What is your favourite meal? Describe it, in a way that will make the reader want it.
Prawn curry! The rich tang of the curry sauce steams and curls under your nose. The plump sultanas glisten alongside sweet pink prawns, nestling on a bed of pearly white rice. At your side sits a large, finely etched glass of chilled white wine — we like ours to be dessert wine. Sometimes you also have a crunchy spiced poppadum —  I love to break mine into big pieces for scooping up the curry.

10. Imagine you are off on an adventure, and you need to pack a bag of food. What will your picnic consist of?
A Cornish Pasty or an onion bridie, if I felt a little more adventurous than usual! Sometimes cold quiche, or cous cous mixed with roast vegetables. Normally (more boringly) it would be a Marks and Sparks sandwich with a pricy little bottle of Coca-Cola.

11. What is the one thing that you wish everyone could understand?
It’s communication that’s important, not how one communicates.

Posted in Books, Writing

A Month of Books

Managed to sort through my books and put them away. The following pictures show my idea of ‘tidy’! There are hundreds more books in other bookcases and rooms.

The third photo (just above) is the reject pile… am ‘signing them off’ from my book database (when not feeling too tired and unmotivated). In the picture you can just about see a few Dean Koontz novels, including The Taking (large white hardback), Demon Seed (red) and Velocity.

Decided to see which books I’ve read in the past month (information taken from my journal):

The Taking (Dean Koontz) I already referred to it here.
Mr Murder (Dean Koontz) DK raised a sub-theme in this book of the importance of stories and novels.
Icebound (Dean Koontz) Very good. An Alistair Maclean type thriller. It’s the only one of DK’s novels I passed to Mum to read, as I didn’t think she would like the gory or supernatural occurences in the others!
Reader’s Digest Good Health Fact Book Mum brought it home and I read some of the sections and pondered! So it counts a little bit.
The Good Guy (Dean Koontz) Pretty good. You wondered who ‘Doorman’ was.
Demon Seed (Dean Koontz) Scary. Finished it in three hours.
Lightning (Dean Koontz) Better than I hoped. Quite science-fictional.
The Darkest Evening of the Year (Dean Koontz) Comment from my journal: “…too much about dogs and arsonists, but struggling on with it.” One of the villains had a perspective on women who write diaries! He believed there was no meaning in life, and it was dangerous to imagine there was. I had the thought that if you’re a prawn, you might end up in a dish of Stir-Fried Prawns with Pak Choi. I don’t know what that means.
Panicology (Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersey-Williams) About fears whipped up by the media. Less lightweight than I expected. Some of it was of interest, but in other places I felt it was as much opinion as anything. People’s priorities differ, and nobody has a crystal ball.
Outsider (John Francome) – my current reading. Interesting, but running some risks where I’m concerned. Will see…

In my journal, shortly after my comment on whether there’s meaning in life for prawns, I mentioned reading an article, by Louis Menand in The New Yorker, on why people read diaries. It said we get a better idea of what people are ‘like’ from seeing them through the eyes of others — so diaries mentioning others are more interesting (and illuminating) than those focused on self.

Again, it depends on priorities! Imagine if something happened and people had to live underground. It might be all you knew, if you were born there… but there could be an archive of books and diaries about living on the surface. In those circumstances, you would absorb all the bits about the warmth of the sun on your skin, and birds warbling away to themselves.

Just a thought…

PS: Checked the difference between diaries and journals — I definitely write the latter, though not as creative as I would like! Sometimes wish I could write less, so that ‘taking your diary with you’ would mean a couple of moleskin pocket books for the whole of your life. That’s because I worry about space, storage, flood and fire. (What would you save in a fire? I expect a multi-volume journal would be left behind). But this post is quite inspiring. Happy journalling! 🙂

Posted in Writing

Saving Old Journals

About a week ago I found some old journals and have been typing them up. I suppose there’s little point having electronic back-ups unless the data is kept somewhere safe (a remote location). Any ideas? I could give CDs to family members, but how do I know they wouldn’t go and read them? 🙂

‘Promptly lose them’ would be more likely. Several years into the future, after my journals and computers have all been flooded out or burned to a crisp or whatever, I would ask the family members for my back-up CDs, and they would reply “what back-up CDs?”

I have to find a lasting, secure, accessible location that I wouldn’t forget about. (“Opal sesame!… no, that password didn’t work. And where is it anyway? This cave? That one?”)

While typing up the journals in Microsoft Word, I wondered how big each file can be without risk of it corrupting. I consulted the internet, and ’32MB’ is a figure that comes up a few times. As straight text, it wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m starting to add photographs as well. I tend to buy bright notebooks, ensuring each journal is distinct and recognizable. Keeping photos of the covers on the Word documents would be a good cross-reference (as well as a souvenir, supposing that something does happen to the original journals).

As you see, I’ve got it all worked out (except for one or two details), and am doubtless doing it all in the most labour-intensive way possible.

2005 Journal Cover

Here’s the cover for the 2005 journal I’m typing up just now — I bought it in Woolworths for £1.49. Let’s see if there’s a journal snippet I can bear to share… this was from before I started blogging, so it’s unlikely to be repeating anything I’ve already said.

Friday 21 January 2005

Mum abandoned me by the bears in Cancer Research UK. I nearly bought a Disney bear video but decided it wasn’t my scene. So I trudged back to her house, rapping myself at every step with her windscreen wipers, and had bread and margarine for lunch.

Then I walked Thundercloud, sat with my sloth and played ‘Kings and Aces’ on Mum’s computer. Then we reorganized Mum’s I.E. toolbar.

When Mum came home we shared a dish of fish. I showed her the toolbar and then she drove us out to feed Jim, then drove me and the sloth and the new kitchen mat home and I tried to watch Cadfael on ITV3 but it wasn’t subtitled, though the TV Guide said it was. The last time they had Cadfael (a week ago) it WAS subtitled. But it wasn’t subtitled before that. They confuse me.

I wasn’t really in the mood to watch TV anyway, so I turned the TV off without a mumble. I forgot how I started that sentence because I wouldn’t have ended it that way. Very sleepy. Read a letter from Annie.

Wrote an email to Joy about the newspaper article she sent me a week ago. ‘Did the animals sense the tsunamis?’

At some point during the evening I got quite heavy-hearted and wasn’t sure why. I had a feeling I would remember something specific if I thought about it hard enough but I didn’t want to. Though later I remembered I felt sad when Annie said in her letter that she can’t stand Jim Carrey. Mum said the same yesterday – “I wouldn’t watch Liar Liar if you paid me.” I know he overacts but I’m not sure where this strong dislike comes from.

Oh yes, E was telling us this morning that Emma came home from holiday and her parents have a Siamese cat that just turned up on their doorstep and they were trying to find the owner – rather reluctantly as they didn’t think it was possible to find owners. They wanted information on why Siamese cats were so loud and wouldn’t stop yowling. Then E emailed me and said they found the owner and it was the next-door neighbour, who didn’t want the cat any more.

That’s it right there… the defaulting Siamese owner depressed me. There we are trying to say “yes we want to know where our cats stray to,” and this person just didn’t. What are they going to learn from that?

I was sitting here eating an expensive Baci chocolate. A little gold slip of paper fell out of it when I unwrapped it. It said ‘Love asks me no questions and gives me endless support.’


My racing frog (introduced in my last blog post) was 3rd in today’s race, and has qualified for the Superfrog this coming Sunday. He won’t do well in the Superfrog as he’s too young and new, but it’s nice for him to get in this early. This morning he caught a Praying Mantis powerboost in his trap, which is better than yesterday’s Thermal Core and Pike Scales. (Strangely. Is that a statement about the power of stealth and cunning?) Cross your digits for him…

Click image to supersize…
Posted in Blogging, Christmas and New Year

Dear Diary, I’m Not Ignoring You

I recently read an article saying most diarists name their diaries and address them directly. I don’t, and I’m not convinced that the ‘dear diary’ approach is all that common? I’m intrigued by the idea, though, and tried it last night in my private journal.

Dear Diary

Have you had a good Hogmanay? Who did you spend it with? I’m afraid I was spending my own Hogmanay with Blog. I hope you weren’t lonely or jealous. I quite agree, we have enough problems already how would I ever be able to talk to you if you were having nervous breakdowns or going through spells of not speaking to me?

Blog got in a mood too the other day. I wanted to grumble about Christmas cards, but Blog refused to let me publish it, saying it was unworthy of me and unworthy of the Christmas spirit. If Blog censors everything I write, and you get jealous and turn your frosted plastic back on me, 2006 will go largely unrecorded.

I thought that would make you sit up. Happy New Year anyway.

Lots of love from Diddums XXX