6.05.2019

Not writing has made me feel very irritated

I have been working a lot and have used my downtime to read books, go to the gym, go to Mitsuwa (where I went today), play tennis, socialize, and just lie around like a blob because I can't afford to get sick (I work for myself via my own decade-old business, so no sick days or paid vacation or personal days or anything like the rest of the working world has). During last week and weekend, I'd get an idea to write down in my journal, here at this blog, or in my fake blog, and I wouldn't write, just continue on the treadmill of work/rest life, and tell myself that I'd do it when I "had time." I technically had time, but I just wouldn't take out my computer or paper-book journal, and I figured it didn't matter. But by Saturday night I was getting very irritated, and by Monday I felt like I was having an emotional meltdown. I had been doing what I had to, but I did not carve out time to create anything, and it really was wearing me down and making me nervous. So yesterday when I had a tiny slice of non-work and non-workout time, I wrote something in my fake blog real quick, and it took the edge off but not totally. So I wrote again this morning before work, and I'm in the process now of writing more. Basically, I need to write something that is not work-related, just creative, within my control. Not evaluated, just put out there. If the internet was how it used to be (I have a lot to say about the good ol' days), more people would be reading what I create here, but I guess that ship has sailed on the social media/pictograph sea.

I've written about the need to create, to control something when life is out of control (not in a dysfunctional way but when decisions are in other people's hands and you have to produce and perform for them), but I need to follow my own advice. I've become a habitual observer, walking down the street seeing people and scenarios that make interesting stories in my head, but I don't put them down anywhere, which makes my head fill up and cause a bottleneck that has to be smoothed out.

Writing isn't the only answer; I can also express via audio and video, but writing is the fastest way and only requires simple tools and a simple process: typing on a computer or writing on a piece of paper with a pen. Also, I often want to process my observations via words, and I can do it via fiction or via straight reporting, though doing it honestly via Twitter or here would get me in trouble. If I were rich and didn't need anyone's approval, I would really post what I think of what I see, but I don't have that luxury (and not many people do).

5.22.2019

It's ensure, not assure

In my copy editing/proofreading gigs, and even in other jobs that don't primarily focus on text, people often use "assure" when they really should use "ensure." For instance, I've seen people mistakenly write "They used that instrument to assure they would be accurate." That is not correct because "assure" means, according to the Cambridge dictionary, to "promise" or "make certain" or "say with certainty...that something is true," as in "I assure you that you will get the job" or "The mayor assured the people that corruption will be investigated during her administration." Basically, it's a way to let other people know that they shouldn't worry about something. I assure you that what I'm writing is true.

"Ensure" simply means to make sure of something. So you ensure that you have your bus pass. You ensure that all the doors are locked. You ensure that you've done all the necessary paperwork. Basically, when you're thinking "I want to make sure," use "ensure."

Here's a visual: the name of the drink Ensure implies that you want to make sure, i.e., ensure, that you get all the nutrients you need.

5.15.2019

the Sun or the sun?

I was proofreading something that referred to "the Sun," but I wasn't sure if it should be capitalized. My hunch was that it shouldn't be, but when I did a search online, I found conflicting results. For instance, NASA capitalizes it in a student worksheet, but they could be doing that for stylistic purposes. Meanwhile, The Atlantic, which seems to take language and writing seriously, does not capitalize it.

After seeing various examples online, I assumed it's standard practice to not capitalize it, until I saw a discussion on Quora, with an answer by a highly educated science person: "The International Astronomical Union rules in this context, and they say that the names of each planet, each planetary satellite, each asteroid, each comet, each star, each stellar/planetary system, and each galaxy is a proper name and, therefore, a proper noun to be capitalized." Then he says that not capitalizing it is fiction-oriented. But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, aka MIT, one of the most prestigious science and technical institutions on the planet, instructs people to not capitalize it. And the MLA style guide (by the well-known Modern Language Association) makes the same conclusion.

So I'm assuming it should not be capitalized, thus I corrected what the author wrote. Now that I'm writing about it, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but when I saw it, it made me think about it for the first time, since I don't usually have to deal with the issue. I even discussed it with a professional writer, who didn't really know the answer either, which made me even more curious and concerned about doing the right thing.

5.08.2019

The friendly French guy

I took a couple of French classes online, and while I didn't ace the second class (probably because I was working a lot, plus successfully finishing Nanowrimo), I really enjoyed studying it. There was a ton of grammar and vocabulary to learn, and there were lots of activities and quizzes and the awful final, which I bombed, even though I studied more than a few days for it. I was very upset about it, and still am, but at least I can still see the Friendly French Guy for a few more days (because even though I paid 100 bucks for the digital book, it has an expiration date, which I think is totally unfair).

friendly french guy relaxing at cafe

In every chapter, he lectured about grammar, and seemed very happy to be sharing his knowledge. He had a French accent, of course, and was always upbeat.

friendly french guy teaching grammar in his living room

I wish the publisher would let the French-challenged, such as moi, continue to access the site, so that we can continue to be entertained and tutored by Mr Friendly French Guy, who will become just a memory eventually :( I will miss him. Goodbye, Friendly French Guy :(

4.21.2019

Still fake blogging

It looks like I haven't been a productive writer because almost two months have passed since the last post, but I have been writing, just not here. I mentioned before that I have a fake blog, and I've even told people offline, but no one has read it. I don't even know if strangers have stumbled upon it because I can't see any stats. But even though I don't know if I have an audience, I've become pretty obsessed with it and post there once to a few times a week. And when I'm not writing, I'm thinking about it, like what would the person be doing now, how is the person feeling, etc. I listen to people talk or they tell me what they've been doing, and the conversations give me ideas about what to write. I never thought I'd be so into writing fiction because I'm not a fiction-type of person, but it's sort of taken over my mind at times.

There are not many personal blogs out there anymore because people are posting their lives on social media, and blogs have become more informational than a form of journaling, which makes my pursuit seem anachronistic. Social media is fine, but it's not as deep as journal-type blogs were, and I miss that aspect of the internet. Online expression is more superficial and utilitarian now, and greed has taken over certain segments of the internet to the point where it's hard to find more authentic voices.

I do more practical posts at my podcast-related blog and post here, of course, but what I like about the fake blog is that I can do something personal in someone else's voice, and it's very satisfying and fun. I also have a way to channel my thoughts in an alternative world, which is very different from my real life. It's a way to offset rut-related feelings by imagining "What if..." to create a different path to explore.

If I were a gifted fiction writer and disciplined and driven about it, I'd try to write a book from my bloggy sketches, but right now, I just enjoy blogging. I don't know if other people feel the same way as I do, but I think the online writing world is not as interesting because long forms of expression exist in a different way, and have been replaced by short bursts of self-celebration. I sort of wish we could go back to the "good 'ol days" of the internet before the mercenaries took over, and I wonder if written creativity will continue to thrive for those who still want to bypass the professional gatekeepers.

2.24.2019

I already have exposure

I have met people who fancied themselves as business people (meaning they're pretty much failing at it or are inept or are too cheap to pay anyone) who wanted me to produce content for free, telling me I'd get "exposure." For instance, one person who was building their digital identity after their broadcasting one was fizzling told me about a website they were either creating or had already created (they were vague), and they wanted people to write for their blog. I asked them how much they're paying the writers, and they said "oh nothing, you can get exposure." Obviously, the person hadn't done their research or assumed I was new to the digital world because I had already been blogging for years, and had even gotten paid for doing blog posts for other people or had gotten paid for editing them. By the time the has-been mediaite had met me, I had already experienced professional writing, and at that point was picky about who I'd write for, for free.

Another time, a person who was working for a company asked me to not only write something, but go out into the community, interview people, record the interviews, edit and make them sound pretty, post them somewhere, and they would be broadcast, again vaguely somewhere at some time. I asked how much they were paying for such a project that sounded like it would be both time-consuming and energy-expending, and they said that I would have to find the advertisers, and besides, I would get "exposure."

In both those instances, the people asked me; I didn't approach them, so I assumed since they asked me, they would have something to offer more that just "exposure." They didn't even bother to offer a gift card or another kind of perk. While the has-been was an individual, the other person worked for a business that had been set up by someone else, and even they didn't have the money to pay for a service that they requested.

I have had exposure for years, which I built up. Some of it has been through work, so I happened to get paid for it. Other exposure has not been for work, but has led to paid work. That's what exposure does: it gets your name out there so that people can do an online search and find out what you're able to do. But after a while, it's not as necessary, unless you have a goal in mind.

For instance, once I started teaching others about podcasting (and after I'd gotten exposure for my own podcast), I wanted to write about it. So I contacted a publicity pro whose excellent website, The Publicity Hound, did not have such information. It took a while, but I was able to write a two-part article about it. More recently, I wrote another how-to podcasting article after contacting the International Association of Business Communicators, whose website didn't have anything about it either. I didn't get paid to write those, but the difference was that I contacted them and knew they were a chance to get exposure. It was my goal, and I took action to achieve it.

But I also wrote a couple articles for free after someone asked me. In that case, I had been wanting to write about my experience doing technical editing, since I'd been toiling at that alone in obscurity, and I wanted to communicate with the larger world about it (since I'm not a solitary-loving introvert). I was at a meeting of the Society for Technical Communication, and the newsletter editor, Robert Delwood, was talking to me about my experience. Then he asked me to write articles for the newsletter, and since no one gets paid to write for it and it's an organization (not a business), I didn't make such an assumption. And he didn't have to say "you'll get exposure" either. It was just a request for a contribution. What resulted was a description of my struggle, and another about the importance of grammar.

Ok, so it might seem like I'm self-promoting, which I sort of am, but I'm also making a point: if people want something substantial done and especially can afford it, they should pay. They shouldn't make the "exposure" argument unless someone suggests it, e.g., if someone says to them, "I have no online presence. Can I write something for you? I need the exposure." But for a business person to try convince someone to give them free content via the "exposure" argument is not good business.



2.10.2019

Wanting to know lots of languages has diluted my ability to get better

I have a problem that a lot of people don't face because they're usually focused on one thing or just a few things, or they're boring and don't do much other than what they need to. My problem is language-oriented, which is apt for this blog, since the theme is supposed to be language, and is the reason why it was created (though I ended up writing about other topics, which caused me to get dropped from lists and publicly questioned, though this was before social media exploded).

My problem is that I want to understand everything I read or see, and I can't. For instance, I started studying Swedish after I saw shows and movies and listened to lots of happy, shallow Swedish dance music that was created for the world stage. I wanted to find out more about the artists and actors, so I searched online for information. The best was in Swedish, so I attempted to study it, and barely succeeded. I cannot converse and barely understand anyone. It's frustrating. Then I tried reading Swedish sites, learned tips, etc., but I barely made any progress.

I also love French and really just want to read anything in it and try to understand some shows, such as Maigret. I'm such a fan of Bruno Crémer that I ordered his memoir, Un Certain Jeune Homme, from the UK, and when I got it, I could barely understand it. So I put it to the side and after I took an online French course and learned about the imparfait tense, I could understand it better. But what about the news in French, and websites, and videos, and more? I still have trouble.

And then there's Spanish. I studied that a while ago and have been teaching mostly Spanish speakers English for several years, and while I don't need the language to teach, I'd like to understand what they're saying to each other. And I teach in an area where there are many Spanish-speaking stores, so I could easily practice it there. I also see Spanish speakers all around Chicago and would like to get involved. But that's a lot to learn to be able to converse.

Then there's Japanese, which is probably my "best" language, though it is very difficult to read and I still don't understand everything I see on TV, so I try to practice reading and listening often, though don't know enough to ace it.

And there's German and Portuguese and Italian, all which I've studied and was intense about, but nothing enough to put me in the "capable" category.

So I've been overwhelmed by opportunities and interest to learn those languages but am not brilliant enough, nor do I have a photogenic memory to remember all the vocabulary and grammar and meaning of it all. My mind is struggling between desire to do it all and frustration because I'm not a super-language-human. I've met some people who know a few languages, and obviously I'm envious that they have that ability. What's odd is that people think I'm good at language, but I think it's because they haven't attempted to learn anything, other than what was required in school.

Then an ESL student told the class about a video she saw about learning languages (pasted below).



Chris Lonsdale says people can learn any language in six months. He said he learned Mandarin that way, and at first I was skeptical, but I saw a video of him giving advice to Chinese people about learning a language, and he sounds fluent to me! He even has slides in Chinese!



He seems so confident and effectively communicative. Even though I have to watch his video again to really learn the concepts (though I briefly wrote some down), one thing I realized is that I have to think about *why* I want to learn those languages, and zero in on that aspect, because I will never be totally fluent and capable in any language, other than English. He says that it's important to make language learning relevant, and since I'm not planning on living abroad again, I don't need those languages for survival, so that's not my motivation. In order to make a language relevant to me and to thus have motivation, I need to make it relate to my personal goals.

I hadn't thought about my language goals. I just wanted to somehow absorb it and proceed like a blob and have a kind of download into my brain. That is not possible, unless I'm a Borg or some character in a sci-fi movie. I can't approach language learning like a blob and assume I'll learn through osmosis or mere exposure. I need to figure out why I'm doing it.

Right now, here are some vague goals, which need to be refined and pursued more intensely:

Swedish: I want to read about the actors and singers in Swedish. And I want to go to Sweden, though they speak English and there's not a lot of pressure to be perfect. Spanish: I want to talk with people in Chicago. French: I want to be able to read the book I bought. And I want to go to France, where I'll have to be able to use it. Portuguese: I want to be able to read about Brazil. I've been there before and did okay, but I've forgotten it all.

Japanese and German are more general, because I want to be able to know them well enough to use them in those countries. So if I narrow down my goal, I want to learn them well enough to be able to talk with people and function on a trip there.

Maybe I'll feel more motivated as I define my goals more. I would much rather be super-smart and dive right in, understanding everything to be able to fully function in all kinds of languages, but that's impossible.