Food for Thought

Words are crucial in writing of any kind, that’s what writing is all about after all. In any language, strange expressions exist, and English is no exception. Two of the ones that get my attention the most involve cheese and corn. Yes, you read that right. The expressions are synonyms, too…or maybe for the purposes of sticking with the food theme, we’ll refer to them as “cinnamons.” No? Okay, anyway.

They’re used when referring to something as cliché or predictable: “Oh, that’s so cheesy.” or “Man, is that ever corny.” So, they’re totally inter-changable. My “beef” with these expressions is that there doesn’t need to be two food related expressions that mean practically the same thing, one will suffice! Having two expressions that mean the same thing makes me confused about which one I should use and why they’re both important.

I have the same problem with other expressions that have unnecessary duplicates. We writers know that having more than one way to say something is a good thing, but there is such a thing as having too many options. So, the question is clear: Is something cheesy or corny? Which word best describes something that is cliché? Personally I tend to use “cheesy” more often than “corny”, but I don’t have a reason for that. What are your thoughts on the cheese vs. corn debate?

On another note of expressions that aren’t entirely useful, there’s the idea that sometimes they are hard (if not impossible) to explain to someone who doesn’t know them.  This is especially true when someone is new to the language or doesn’t have much experience in the more colloquial part of a language.  I find that I have the same problem when I am reading in Spanish or having a conversation with a native speaker.  I miss some parts if it because they’re colloquial expressions that just do not translate into another language.  Then, when I ask what it means, they are at a loss as to how to tell me what it means even if they are trying to find a English equivalent.

That leads me to the question of why expressions change from language to language. Shouldn’t there be a universal understanding? But, then again, languages belong to different cultures and each culture has their own customs and, thus, expressions. Each culture has a right to have their own expressions, which explains why “cheesy” is not able to be understood in other languages. I just wish that there were a couple that could go from language to langue so that everyone understood them universally.  But, that’s just my opinion.  Do you think that some expressions should be universal, or that different ones in each language are a good thing?

What are some expressions that you think could be totally omitted from spoken and written language? Are there some that you’re more likely to use in writing than in conversational language or vice versa? Go ahead and share them!


Image Credit: thefinsters.com (Google)
Image Credit: thefinsters.com (Google)

NaNo Prep: Student Style

As this year’s season of NaNoWriMo approaches, I find that I am nowhere as prepared as I have been in previous years. Being a full-time University student can really take a toll on having a fully thought out plot. A couple days ago I got to thinking that maybe I don’t have to have a completely fleshed out plot, maybe I can be like most writers and just figure the story out as I go. I’m not intending on writing a long novel this year, as I simply don’t have the time, but even so, the idea of not plotting every little detail out totally terrifies me!

I’m an organizer by nature, and my writing process is no different. I wrote a blot post a while back about how spontaneous plots differ from from planned out ones, and still think that both have a lot of potential. That being said, I still have to plan out everything before November 1st, otherwise, it’s going to be a rough 30 days.

Normally, in NaNo season, my plot will change as I start to write and find out that, no, I can’t write 2 000 words on how pretty that forest is. You realize pretty quickly that if you’re bored while writing the chapter, then your reader is going to be even more bored. So, you need to adapt to a new style of writing so you don’t fall asleep while in the middle of a sentence.

Successfully completing NaNoWriMo, is hard. I mean, the goal is to write 50 000 words in 30 days! Regardless of whether you get to 2 000 or 100 000 words, it’s really tough going. Other than attempting to make your word count sky rocket, you are trying to breathe life into brand new characters, keep your plot from deflating due to plot holes, and shut down your inner editor that keeps nit-picking every 50 words or so. Oh, and while you’re dealing with all those issues, you have to still do everything in your normal life. For 30 days. Is it just me, or does that sound totally nuts? Yup, but it’s a lot of fun, too.

My advice is to totally immerse yourself in NaNo life during November. The website has plenty of ways for you to get involved locally with NaNoWriMo. After all, you aren’t going to be the only one in your town or city that’s participating, and a huge project like this is always better when you have a friend to do it with.

As I said, I’m really struggling with my prep this year. I have a great plot, but I just don’t have a huge chunk of time that I can sit down and work out the potential issues and plot holes. What are some of your favourite ways to prepare for NaNo? What are some tips that you have to share? To those of you participating in this crazy adventure, happy writing!

Image Credit: ywp.nanowrimo.org (Google)
Image Credit: ywp.nanowrimo.org (Google)

The Bus

In the past year or two, I have used the public bus system to get around town. I always find it fascinating, the different kinds of people that are on the bus with you. There are two different routes I usually take, but I don’t go on the bus often enough to be totally comfortable. By that, I mean that I sit by the window, staring obsessively at the street signs to make sure that I get off at the right stop. Yup, that’s me.

On my adventures on the bus, though, I’ve learned that some people are comfortable no matter where they go, and it totally freaks me out! I mean, I can’t even listen to music while I’m on the bus, because I’m so scared that I’m going to miss my stop and end up God-knows-where and no way to get back to anything familiar. Then, there are some people that sit on the bus with computers out and headphones in, working away like it’s no big deal!

I’m jealous of those kinds of people, mostly because I am very dedicated student, so any time that I can get to work on homework or do some class reading, I’ll take it. The bus is not one of the places I can relax, though, and I wish I could be productive instead of staring listlessly out the window for the whole trip.

Due to the fact that I don’t take the bus everyday, I can understand how I am never comfortable enough to listen to music or chat with a friend sitting close by. Even if I did take the bus everyday, though, I still don’t think I’d ever be able to put loud music on and start writing a paper in the middle of a bus ride.

When I write, I go into another world completely and have basically no idea how much time passes or what’s going on around me at the time. There was once in middle school, when I had finished my work early in class, so I was reading a book. One minute, everyone’s working away and I’m happily reading, the next minute, the teacher is accusing me of being rude and disrespectful because I wasn’t paying attention to the explanation she was giving.

It turned out that I had been reading for an hour, and in that time, the class had finished their work and the teacher had moved on to the next subject. I had no idea that anything was even going on. I never read in class again!

So, to you multitasking people on the bus, I envy your skills, and hope that you never miss your stop!

Image Credit: http://www.freeclipartnow.com (Google)

Out of curiosity, does anyone else have the same issue as me on the bus, or am I just a fluke?


How Not to Be an Ostrich

For all students, school can get insanely stressful when the busy period hits. For university students, that is pretty much everyday of the semester. The intense course load, the all-nighters and struggling to maintain a social life while juggling school and work commitments…sometimes it’s all too much and all we want to do is be an ostrich and bury our heads in the sand until all of it is over. Am I right?

Image Credit: politicalviolenceataglance.org (Google)

Personally, I’m buried under a mountain of work from school and, though I have this same luck every year, I find myself kind of panicking that I won’t get it all done in time. There are only so many hours in a day, and by staying up late every night working, the next day is a drag and is counter-productive. I haven’t been able to find a way to be rested, and get all the work done, but I’m still searching around and trying new things.

I can’t do anything about the work load, unfortunately, but I do have a solution to managing the stress. Going for a walk or some other kind of physical exercise is the best way for me to burn off some excess worrying. It doesn’t take away all of it, of course, but it helps me get back in charge of my own life. Seeing all the work in front of you is terrifying, but taking a step back and observing the big picture really helps calm you down.

I take half an hour everyday and no matter if I’m in the middle of writing a paper or studying for a midterm, I stop and do my exercise. I also take that small pocket of time – half an hour – to watch an episode of my favourite show on Netflix or listen to some awesome new music. That way, I don’t notice the exercise so much, I’m focusing on the music or the movie/TV show. When I finish, I’m tired, but I’m also much calmer. I’ve regained that equilibrium in my life, and I know that I will get that studying done, and paper finished, even if I am running low on time.

Physical exercise is great for our health anyway, as is stated in this article ( one of many) so it’s a good way to keep yourself in shape. I have found that I have more energy when I’m finished, and it makes me eager for the next day to come, so I can do it again. Taking that short 30 minutes makes all the difference to me, it forces me back into the world that doesn’t involve school, and shows me that I have to remember that stressing myself out over every single thing isn’t going to help anything.

That’s my method of quieting the madness down for 30 minutes a day. What are some of yours?