On Repetition

“When we came out of the theater, we all agreed: the film was a waste of money, a waste of time, and a waste of energy.”

Ah, repetition.

People, particularly presidents of countries, cult leaders, and motivational speakers, use it frequently in speeches made to huge crowds. In this scenario it usually works well, gets folks on board, riled up, ready to drink the Kool-Aid.

Other people, like parents, also use it in speeches, sometimes very loud speeches, made to their offspring. In this scenario it has about a 50/50 chance of getting the desired result unless you parent as I do, with the occasional threat of bodily harm or, worse, the cancelation of somebody’s cell phone service. I know, threatening is not a politically correct parenting tactic but from my perspective it works, as evidenced by the disappearance of the small, crawling pests that used to shop my kid’s room like a Costco.

Often though, repetition is simply proof that the writer has never been properly introduced to a thesaurus. (It’s also proof that the writer doesn’t read, but I’ll beat that drum another day.)

Speaking of repetition, repeat after me: Thesaurus.com is your friend and Powerthesaurus.com is your best friend.

I don’t know how anyone – professional writers, business people, students – anyone, writes without consulting Thesaurus.com or Powerthesaurus.com. They’re always open on my computer, as are Google and Urban Dictionary, and I use them constantly.

Let’s say I’m writing about the menu at a restaurant, and let’s say it’s a five-star restaurant. How many times can I use the word food before the reader faints from boredom? Once. Maybe twice. People, I implore you, think. It’s a five-star restaurant. It doesn’t serve food. It serves cuisine, fare, a rare treat for your taste buds, gastronomic delights, died-and-gone-to-Heaven deliciousness.

What would you rather eat – food, or died-and-gone-to-Heaven deliciousness? That’s right: died-and-gone-to-Heaven deliciousness. And your reader would, too.

Repetition, when used properly, is a powerful tool.

Repetition, when used because you’re too lazy to crack open a thesaurus and find new, fun, interesting, cool, thought-provoking, exciting synonyms is a sure fire way to put your reader to sleep.

I have spoken. Don’t make me repeat myself.

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Happy-olas

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Gladiolas are one of my favorite flowers. Chris knows this and, as a surprise, he planted a dozen in front of our house. Aren’t they pretty? When I discovered them, I said, “Thank you, honey! They make me so happy!” To which he replied, “I know they do. That’s why I call them Susan’s Happy-olas.”

When I’m sitting here, doing my best to cobble together a few hopefully funny sentences, I glance outside and think, 500 more words, and you can take a break and cut a bunch! They’re a great incentive, and they smell a whole lot nicer than the wet dog flopped at my feet.

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Bling-spiration

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I always go to my desk dressed as if I’m at the office. Hair, makeup, heels, and today, this really fun ring I bought when we were in Napa. Or maybe it was Sonoma. I can’t recall. What I do remember is thinking it was a neat piece and it would come in handy (ha ha) for when I finally got back to writing and needed something to inspire me when I got stuck. It’s working pretty well. As I’ve previously confessed, I’m easily distracted. But at this moment the laundry is still in the washing machine, the dishes are still in the dishwasher, and my butt is still at my desk.

What do you do to help you stay focused on your work?

 

 

 

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Hoping there’s a manuscript in this mess

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On one hand, I’m proud that this coming Labor Day will mark four years since 500 Acres And No Place To Hide came out. On the other hand, I’m really disappointed that I’ve yet to write another book. I used to be rather prolific, really organized, and hyper-focused. These days I’m the poster woman/wife/mom for manic. One minute I’m at my desk writing, the next I decide to get more coffee, become distracted by the dishwasher, start to unload it but stop because I have a thought I need to write down before I forget, race to my office, pass my son’s room, remember his rugby shorts are in the dryer, dash down to the basement to retrieve them, throw in another load, fold everything, race back upstairs to put it all away only to discover a dirty bowl and spoon on my son’s dresser that sends me back to the kitchen where the half unloaded dishwasher awaits and I smack myself in the head for forgetting about it.

It’s tough to get a book written in this condition.

I have, however, filled dozens of notebooks like those pictured above with essays, snippets of conversations, and random thoughts, and have book ideas, lists of titles, chapter notes, and even entire chapters written and saved in more than two dozen files on my computer. I was looking at a lot of it this morning when it crossed my mind that there might be enough material for a new book. Of course I suddenly needed more coffee, went to the kitchen, decided I’d be much more inspired drinking out of my favorite orange and white coffee mug, couldn’t find it, realized it was in the dishwasher, began unloading the dishwasher and, well, you know the rest.

I’ll look at it all again tomorrow. I plan to make my coffee in my office so I don’t have to go to the kitchen. This should work until I need to use the bathroom, decide the towels need to be washed and if I’m doing them I might as well gather all the laundry, run down to the basement, and, you know, never come back.

S. xo

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