5 Primo Coding Secrets for English Majors

Last week, as I was trudging through the quicksand of changing my website theme, constantly sinking into the swamp of contradictory code and grasping at branches of CSS held out by travelers before me, I wondered if something positive could be pulled out of the mess. Aha! I could share what I learned with the blogosphere. Thus, in the spirit of passing on some recently, painfully-earned wisdom, I will share the most dominant lessons.

CSS code response = success
Source: Dreamstime.com

Have you ever forgotten to save your writing after a long stretch of creativity, only to have your computer crash and lose hours of your genius? In the old pre-computer days, this was known as “the teacher lost my paper.” Two weeks of my best creativity disappeared because I was too cheap to make a copy of my seminal work on the religious imagery in e.e. cummings’ poetry. It still bothers me, decades later! Back up your work. Here’s what that means when you are creating or making changes to a blog site.

1. Write down the changes you make–preferably as you go

Most writers know how and why to keep track of changes as they go, either by using a Track Changes feature or the primitive “print it out and make edits by hand” method. Version control becomes an issue when you don’t keep track. Also, what if you change something and you decide you don’t like it? You might want that original brilliant phrase back which only sounded mundane after a night reading Seamus Haney. The same logic applies to changes to technology. Continue reading “5 Primo Coding Secrets for English Majors”

100 Blog Posts and Counting

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I didn’t plan to spend so much time writing in my second act.

I didn’t plan to become a weekly blogger or to write a book about the Olympics.  I also didn’t plan to spend thirty years working as a cost accountant and process designer for a single company. That wasn’t what I dreamed of as a child. I am still in shock that we’ve lived in this house for two decades and that I have apparently raised a physicist and a music teacher.

I thought I’d be going out to museums more often and watch less television. I thought I’d eat more pizza although, now that I’m older, I wish I’d eaten less pizza. Plans–life plans–are like that. They’re really more like wishes.

In the Company of Writers

I spent a lot more time in my youth thinking about writing than actually writing, although I did harbor a notion that I would become a famous writer, someday.  I blame Freddy van der Gelder, this kid in my fourth grade class. We were supposed to write a sentence that included the word “beautiful,” then pass our papers to a neighbor. I wrote “The beautiful lake was shimmering in the moonlight.” His hand shot up, he was so excited to read it out loud. That was my First Like. Continue reading “100 Blog Posts and Counting”

NaNoWriMo: Less Counting, More Dancing

The more people writing, the better! Really, writing should be encouraged. We can never have too many writers, artists, dancers, or musicians. But NaNoWriMo as a Thing To Do has always been kind of lost to me, and as people are posting their word counts on social media, I just can’t help but explain why.

20171108 snoopy writing

You Can’t Count your Way towards Better Art

NaNoWriMo is about writing 50,000 words by the end of the month of November, which means writing approximately 1667 words every day.  But 50,000 words doesn’t necessarily equal a novel. Some stories can be told effectively and be commercially successfully in a lot fewer words. Many stories take a lot more.

Honestly, 50,000 for a “novel” might be a little on the short side. Good for children’s books, or if you’re Vonnegut or Hemingway.  J.K. Rowling’s books started shorter (Sorcerer’s Stone was 77,000) and then, as they got interesting, became decent-sized. Four NaNoWriMo’s worth.

A great painting is not made better by having more paint strokes. A symphony isn’t better by having 50,000 notes as opposed to 35,522 or 272,395. But NaNoWriMo by nature is built around counting. It was started as a community project to help a handful of San Francisco writers practice their craft in miserable weather. It clearly struck a nerve, since so many people want to participate. But the participation effort is about writing a certain number. The helpers include several ways to count your words or build word count apps. That’s what apps do. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo: Less Counting, More Dancing”

A Year’s Worth of Blogging

I didn’t plan to devote so much of my Second Act to writing. I thought I’d spend a lot more time watching old movies or re-reading Dickens. I always thought I might start writing someday, but when retirement came, I didn’t think that was Someday yet.

When I was a kid, I did think about “being a writer,” and I did study Literature in college. Unfortunately, I found the actual act of writing to be exceedingly painful, whether writing papers about Faulkner and Woolf or, later, trying my hand at fiction. I always got As on the papers, and everyone who’s read my fiction tells me it’s pretty good.  But it didn’t want to come out without a fight. I agonized so much over every description. I couldn’t get the hang of dialogue to save my life. So I gave it up and in one instance worth sharing, I even gave a pretty good Star Trek fan fiction book, abandoned at 250 pages, to my writer spouse who used it as the plot for her outstanding science fiction novel, Night Vision.

Meanwhile, I contented myself with lengthy fascinating analyses in my corporate job and was constantly whacked on the nose for being unable to limit myself to short, subject-less bullet points. No one who formerly worked with me is surprised that I am now so prolific. Except me, apparently.

This 52 weeks does come as something of a surprise, though. When I retired a year ago, I did put “Writing” on my Things To Do plan. But I also put brushing on my piano skills and taking classes, and though I can mash through a couple Bach inventions now with fewer errors and I can expound with great expertise on Opera and Philosophy, I wouldn’t call either an avocation. Nevertheless, I started writing every week, with a voice that was neither fiction nor drily analytical, and it seemed to flow. By now, this writing bug seems to have gotten into my blood. Even worse, I want to do it. Continue reading “A Year’s Worth of Blogging”

The End is the Beginning


Barbara in Montana likes my endings. From the time I started writing my weekly posts, she’s told me that she finds the endings are often the best part and reads them first.

Can you imagine how much pressure that adds to the process? Now, not only do I want something equally entertaining and interesting, thought provoking but not too heavy, words to make you go hmmmmmm and ho ho ha ha, but now ALSO the ending has to be Barbara-WORTHY.

I don’t really know where the endings come from.

Writing, inspiration, requires priming the pump which is why you have to be disciplined to do it every day or in a routine.  Usually, it’s a pretty rusty pump. You have to start with a few vigorous thrusts of whatever quality, to get it going and get the brown stuff cleared out. Then, it just goes. Not all of the words will be funny or insightful but enough of it will get you started. And then you don’t really know where it “came” from.

Continue reading “The End is the Beginning”