Let’s Get Started!

Staring at a blank screen, or a blank piece of paper, is intimating at times. We seem to have so many ideas in our minds, but putting those ideas into the world physically can be a big step. What if it’s not the way I wanted it to look or sound? What if I can’t find the right words? What if………… I get it. It’s not easy.

But, and stick with me, it can be as easy as one word. I know that for me, the start to a writing day might mean opening an empty document and just writing/typing some words. Words that are bouncing around in my head; words of intention or purpose; words that are funny, or absurd; words that have meaning, or not. There is something about overcoming that initial obstacle of getting words onto paper.

There’s a great line: write drunk, edit sober. I think there’s something to this phrase. The loss of inhibition. The gained confidence. The lack of overthinking.

When I was teaching, I would sometimes have students write continuously for five minutes. At first, it seemed impossible and some kids wrote the same word over and over again. But, as time went on, they suddenly started to write sentences, then ideas. Maybe those ideas didn’t connect, but it was a way of getting words onto paper without having to overthink on the words of the perfect thought. A brain dump, if you will.

Setting yourself a timer to write, or type, words, just words, and see where that takes you. Sometimes there are gems hidden in that day’s quick writing, sometimes it’s just writing with nothing to take away. But either way, it warms up your brain to get going.

I like to think of athletes, athletes of all types! The warm-up is essential to the activity. The older I get, the more important it is to warm up my muscles before I play soccer, do a set of tai chi, lift some hand weights, or go for a run. I think that we need to be kind to our creative mind as well: we need to warm up! Don’t jump into something and expect to perform at your best. Sure, sometimes that happens when a wave of creativity hits. But more often than not, writing is work (wonderful and fun work), and so we need to let our brains warm up.

What are your secrets to getting started? How do you warm up for a writing session? I’d love to hear your techniques, tricks, and tips!

Feature image: hannah-grace-j9JoYpaJH3A-unsplash.jpg

All Things Adjectives

Sometimes things just don’t sound right. We maybe don’t know why, but they just aren’t right. This problem happens a lot when we hear or read lists of adjectives. For example, imagine that someone said this to you: A leather radical bulky black jacket. The adjectives might be accurate, but it just doesn’t sound right. Why? Well, did you know that in English there is an order that we use for adjectives? (Try: A radical bulky black leather jacket. Ah. That feels better, doesn’t it?!)

We love adjectives, and we mostly know how to use them. When learning a new language, adjectives are usually high on the list of learning. We love to describe what we see, hear, taste, feel, and experience. The adjectives we use allow us to fully share our human experiences with the people around us. (Just so it’s clear, an adjective describes a noun.) As listeners to stories, we often interrupt for details (adjectives) so that we can picture the story in our mind: What kind of dog? What type of car? What colour of hair? What kind of weather? We love those details: they paint a picture for the listener. So, maybe that’s why, even if we haven’t been formally taught the order in a few generations, we know when it’s not being followed. But why have an order in the first place? If you look at the order, it seems to place the more important details closest to the noun. But honestly, who really knows (if you do find out, please let me know!).

So what is the order? There are 10 different categories (depending on what source you are looking at) that adjectives fall into. When we’re writing or telling a good story, it’s important to follow the order so that the words don’t confuse the audience. Here’s the order:

  • Opinion: radical, beautiful, painful, unusual, useless
  • Size: big, small, giant, short
  • Physical quality: rough, sharp, smooth, soft, messy, thin
  • Shape: rectangular, round, square, oblong, flat
  • Age: old, youthful, young, aged
  • Colour: black, purple, orange, puce
  • Origin: Canadian, Calgarian, British, Kenyan, western
  • Material: leather, wood, metal, plastic, cloth
  • Type: all-purpose, three-sided, t-shaped
  • Purpose: cooking, cleaning, polishing, sleeping, roasting

But what about the Big Bad Wolf? Shouldn’t that be the bad big wolf? Apparently there are some rules around small groups of words that have parts of the word that repeat, yet have different vowel sounds. English. Rules for everything, but also exceptions to it all! Here’s a link to an article about this specific rule if you’re interested: Reduplication.

Punctuation. I know what you’re thinking: how do you properly punctuate all of these adjectives? Well, I hope that you don’t use 10 different adjectives in one description, but I guess you could. Punctuation comes down to the categories the adjectives are in. If more than two adjectives come from the same category, separate the adjectives with commas. For example, The painful, beautiful, exquisite, challenging film is a must-see. (I used the Oxford/serial comma, but it’s not needed here.)

Hyphens. You can’t talk about adjectives without talking about hyphens. Hyphens are joiners whose job is to glue words together, creating compound words. The biggest rule about hyphens is that if you can avoid using them, that’s good. The fewer hyphens the better! (That’s in general, really: they less punctuation on a page, the better…especially for business writing, but perhaps that’s a different post entirely.) Compound modifiers would include adjectives like cat-friendly house (not the house that is cat friendly), a state-of-the-art house design, or a family-owner restaurant. At times, hyphens help to add clarity to a sentence when needed. For example, Use the red colour-filter (not the red-colour filter). There are other hyphen rules (like for ages and numbers), but I think this is enough information to help you with your adjectives.

Adjectives at work (a random collection of examples):

  • I used to look after a well-tempered black cat.
  • A more talkative and kinder man you’ll never meet.
  • The long, cold winter might get you down.
  • She brought back fat, juicy BC peaches.
  • This is a kid-friendly pizza place.
  • I used to work in a well-run, organized shop.
  • Try to get a useful, cotton, cleaning cloth next time.
  • Make sure you follow the post-surgery check list.

First image: Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash