Category Archives: writing

Change is in the air

Or on the screen.

After a hiatus of, oh, forever, I’m back!

For those who have faithfully followed this blog (Hi, Mom!) since September 2008, thank you!

I posted like crazy for a while, and then I got married and moved countries, and then I really was “all thought out,” and I ran out of things to post about, and then I had a kiddo and untertook a house renovation, and I felt blogging was one of those things for which I no longer had time.

(I always have time for a run-on sentence.)

Then, I noticed: (a) I missed writing, (b) my mom missed reading my posts, (c) my time management skills were becoming less as I became less structured, and (d) my ability to prioritize was no longer a priority.

That’s right. Without a doubt, resurrecting this blog will help me fix those last two points.

Teehee.

So, in an effort to become even better in my roles as a faithful Christ follower, excellent wife, loving mother, educator, care provider and household manager (among other titles), I’m making time to write again. Because taking 5-15 minutes to do something just for me is kinda fun. And rewarding.

Plus, someday, LO may need assistance constructing a sentence, so I should probably stay current, right?

As I write more, you may begin to notice a few changes around here. Layout. Content. More frequent updates. Definitely more frequent updates. Please bear with any formatting changes that may occur as I change up the design (missing bullet points, etc.).

Of course, I am 30-weeks pregnant with LO No. 2, sooooooo, you have some of my divided attention for at least another few weeks.

Thanks for reading!

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If you consider yourself a writer

Do yourself a favour and check out the following story:

8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content by Pamela Wilson (via Copyblogger)

It doesn’t matter what kind of writer you are or what kind of writing you do, the advice is solid.

While you’re at it, immerse yourself in all-things Copyblogger. Great site. Great advice.

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Happy birthday, All Thought Out!

Happy 2nd birthday, blog! It's been a great ride!

Today, you, my blog, turn 2.

Two years ago, plus some change, you were but a gleam near my eyeball.

I was tinkering with the notion of starting a blog and found myself sorting through a number of questions. Should I blog? Why should I blog? What would I write about? Could I maintain a blog on a regular basis? Did I have enough interesting things to say? Would potential readers find those things interesting? Would I be heartbroken if no one other than my mother ever read you?

Oh, the uncertainty.

Out of that uncertainty, you, a blog of much randomness, were born and appropriately christened All Thought Out. I wrote a post about National Punctuation Day, a fitting topic for a writer methinks.

OK, maybe it was a little lame, but I was new; you were new. Back off!

From there, you took off. Not “off” as in you scored a million devoted readers right out of the chute, but “off” as in I posted to you on a regular basis and regularly received feedback from my mother.

(Thanks, Mom.)

In your first two years, I wrote about something or other 245 times. You may not think that a whole lot, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you so quickly after birth. I posted my thoughts about events in the news, about my life, about other peoples’ lives and more. Sometimes I wrote and published 4 posts in a day. Sometimes I let 4 days go by without a word. Never, I can happily say, did 4 weeks go by with nothing.

Remember that one time in May 2010 when I took on a writing challenge and wrote for 31 days straight, posting 21 times? Yeah, I remember that, too.

In the past two years, I’ve switched blogging platforms and became better at providing accompanying images and relatively interesting headlines and captions. I’ve thought long and hard about the sorts of things I’m willing to share with an unending audience and the sorts of things I’m happy keeping to myself. At such a young age, you and your contents are forever. A daunting responsibility. One of which I daily remind myself.

(No, Husband, I am NOT writing about you today.)

You have become a way for me to keep in touch with those who are no longer physically near me. A way for me to share about my daily happenings. You’ve been with me through some of my dating life, my engagement and marriage, my move to Canada, my “I’ve-Turned-Into-Martha-Stewart” stage, the end of one job and the beginning of another.

In sum, you’ve been great. And, the possibilities for you going forward are endless. And, THAT is pretty great. May our next year together (and those beyond) be equally fabulous.

Happy birthday!

Love,
Jill

PS. It’s once again National Punctuation Day.
PPS. You share a birthday with Husband. Happy birthday, Husband! (Oops, yes I did write about you.)

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The chore I hate the most

I can't say that I love dusting anymore today than I did all those years ago.

When I was home last, and cleaning out a closet, I found a stack of papers from high school. Apparently, I didn’t throw away many completed assignments. And, thankfully so, because you never know when you’ll want to look way back just to see how far you’ve come.

When I was in Grade 9, I wrote this persuasive essay:

Down with Dusting

Did you ever have a rule at home when you were young that you hated ever since you could hold a rag? Something that Mom said you had to do about four times a week? Something you never brought up in hopes that your mother would forget? Dusting should be forbidden in everyone’s home because it’s hazardous to people’s health, never seems to ever be entirely done, and is a terrible way to consume time.

Dusting is very hazardous to people’s health. Dust inhaled into the lungs can collect instead of filtering back into the atmosphere. It can bother delicate and sensitive tissues. This can cause uncontrollable sneezing and watery eyes.

Another good reason to abolish dusting is because it never seems to be all the way done. The dust rises into the air and settles again when I blink or turn my head. What is the reason for dusting if this is what really happens? Dusting also has to be done at least four times a week or else Mom goes ballistic. Other members of my family always ask me when I’m going to dust, even if I just did.

The last reason dusting should be ruled unlawful is because it is a terrible way to consume time. It’s a very boring process that takes a long time to complete. I have to shake out all the doilies and coverlets and then re-arrange all the miscellaneous items to look like they did before I started. As soon as I finish one room, there’s at least three more to be done.

In sum, dusting houses really isn’t necessary. It takes a long time to dust, but a short time for the dust to settle. Dusting should be ruled out of everyone’s household because it’s hazardous to people’s health, never seems to be all the way done, and is a terrible way to consume time.

Do you feel persuaded?

I’m going to step out on a limb and guess that our class was working on constructing strong thesis statements and organizing ideas into five-paragraph essays—ones with an introduction, body and conclusion. And, perhaps, we were toying with the expression “Tell people what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you told them.”

I’m also going to guess that I absolutely hated dusting and wrote this just before or just after having completed my weekly chore. Forgive me, Lord (and Mom). I was a bitter duster. And, I probably bruised my reader with this vindictive essay. Awesome.

Poor Mom. I’m pretty sure, looking back, that she never really went ballistic. That was Dad. OK, I kid; I kid. But, ballistic. That’s a great word.

My teacher’s comments? “Jill, I totally agree! Your essay is very organized and you clearly express your ideas! You have few surface errors which is fantastic! Keep up the good work!”

Hooray for exclamation marks!

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Latest greatest job posting

So, I was milling about Craigslist earlier when I happened across what is now my all-time favourite job posting.

toronto craigslist > city of toronto > jobs > writing/editing jobs

Joke/story writer (Anywhere)


Date: 2010-06-06, 4:57PM EDT
Reply to: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX [Errors when replying to ads?]


I am very busy guy and need conversation topics for business meetings and group lunches I am on regularly. I need statements like “so question… here’s this scenario. what do you guys think?’ or “hey did you hear about…” etc. they should be funny and light but also intellectual. if you are a comedy writer or a guy who drums up interesting conversations easily let me know. it is not my strong suit. thanks.

  • Location: Anywhere
  • Compensation: let’s discuss
  • This is a contract job.
  • Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
  • Please, no phone calls about this job!
  • Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Forgive me for laughing out loud, Mr. Job Poster, but HAHAHAHAHAHA! What a great post! I’ll get you started (for free):

“Hey, guys! Did you hear about Touchdown Jesus going up in flames?”

The longest sentence ever

Let's try diagramming a 197-word sentence next, please.

While reading a novel a few nights back, I came across the longest sentence I have EVER read in my entire life, and I thought it too good to not share.

“The granddaughter of immigrant Danes, Emily Soren with snapping blue eyes that at times seemed green and oatstraw hair in a braid near to her waist or pulled back peasant-style under a kerchief, whose first words to Hewitt Pearce were “I know who you are” and last ones a year and a half later were “Keep the tears for yourself, Hewitt, I don’t want them anymore” was by any reckoning from the moment she uttered those first five words or even the moments before as she approached him that early summer day carrying to his car the tray with his cheeseburger and strawberry milkshake just in the way she walked toward him seeing something he’d never seen before or the near-invisible hairs along her forearms that struck and entered him with a force both stunning and long-expected like brushing against an electric fence jolts, the one person on earth he was born to meet although it would be years of pondering that would allow him to see the multiple strands that led up to that time for both of them and those same long years pondering the events and likewise strands that led to her final statement.”

Whew. HOLY SMOKES, YOU ARE THE LONGEST SENTENCE EVER! is what I thought. I had to put the book down just to draw a breath. That’s a 197-word sentence, in case you’re counting.

The sentence is so awesomely long that I had to read it to Husband who decided that if he were to ever encounter such a sentence in any book he were reading, he’d put the book down for good. And, that was tempting for me, too. But, curious to see where the story goes, I soldier on.

However, if I had been asked to diagram that sentence in my English Language class in college, I’d have surely thrown my hands up in the air and walked out the door.

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Tell me a story in 55 words

An excellent cartoon by Tom Gauld for The Guardian.

Could you do it? Can I do it? Hhmmm.

In my attempt to write every day this month, I combined a word-count challenge with the Story A Day in May challenge. I’ve been writing 250 or more words every day (except that one day when I could not be bothered to write more than 10 words) for the past 12 days. Today is Day 13. I’m so proud.

Each day, the creator of Story A Day in May, whose challenge caters to fiction writers, posts writing prompts. They are useful for getting the creative juices flowing. I’ve ignored most of them, but I filed the prompt for Day 8: 55 Fiction, because it looked like an excellent exercise in constraint.

In 55 words, I am to write a story with a beginning, middle and end. Title is not included in word count, and it cannot be more than seven words. The story needs at least one character, some sort of conflict and conflict resolution. And, the last sentence should provide some sort of “shock” value.

I like brevity. I like concision. I like shock. How hard can 55 words be?

So, here’s my first attempt at 55 Fiction:

From Poor Syntax, Joy Springs

It was the worst thing she’d read. The sentences were incoherent; words tumbled one after the other, tripping each other, entangling one another. Grammar, appeared; out, of, nowhere. Descriptions fell flat. Actions under-performed. There were no plot lines, no character development. Heck, there weren’t even characters! Then, realization dawned. She’d found her misplaced to-do list.

Awesome, yes? Ha! In retrospect, this story contains way too much “writing humour,” but I ran with the first story that popped into my head. All in all, this type of exercise is perfect for helping me (or any writer) whittle words down to the bare bones of a message or story.

Which will help make my blog posts and Twitter tweets all the sweeter. Speaking of Twitter, check out the prompt for Day 13: Twitter Story:

“Write a story that would fit in a Twitter post (whether or not you’re on Twitter). 140 characters (yes, that includes spaces). No more. Maybe less. Go!”

Now, THAT is a short story.

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Say what you mean to say in 140 characters or fewer

Oftentimes, the fewest words mean the most.

A year or so ago, I shared my stance on greeting cards and how I rarely pick up a card that has more than 25 words inside, let alone purchase it. To recap: I’ve always felt that you can express an emotion to someone in 25 words or fewer.

In recent days, I’ve taken on a Twitter account (late bloomer, I know), and I’ve been adjusting to expressing my thoughts in 140 characters or fewer. I’ve also been looking at Mother’s Day cards.

This combination got me thinking: What if greeting cards contained 140 characters or fewer? That’s, like, 20 to 27 words, depending on your vocabulary. And, PERFECT for concisely expressing sentiment. Genius!

So, let’s practise with Mother’s Day.

Now, you know your mom best. If she had to pick between a short message crafted by you or a dissertation exploring your love for her, written by someone who doesn’t know you, which one do you think she’d choose?

You’re right! She’d want both, because she’s your mom, and she loves most everything you say or do and everything written by or about you. Or that has your named signed to it. But, if pressed, I bet she’d go for the message written by you. Because you are you! And, you are hers.

So, maybe you’re not a writer. That’s OK! You don’t have to be. At the end of the day, your mom wants to know that you care about her and appreciate her. But, she’s a mom, so she would never expect you to express either. Because mothers are givers, not takers. You’re already ahead of the game by simply wanting to express to her your feelings for her. The fact that you’re willing to tell her that you [insert verb here] her or you [insert verb here] about her will mean more to her than receiving any card you could purchase and sign your name to. No matter how many or how few words are in it.

I promise.

Here are some ways you can say “Happy Mother’s Day” in 140 characters or fewer:

  • There aren’t enough words in the dictionary or thesaurus to describe my gratitude for you, Mom. Thanks for being you. I love you!
  • I doubt that you realized just how AWESOME I would turn out, while you were birthing me; but, I appreciate your effort. Happy Mother’s Day!*
  • You are such a selfless and modest individual that people frequently overlook one of your greatest accomplishments: YOU ARE MY MOTHER.*
  • Thank you for not telling me that unprotected sex could lead to me being the parent of a child who acts just like I did. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!*
  • When I think, “I can’t,” I remember you did. And so much more. You are my inspiration. Thanks, Mom!
  • Mom. Thank you for birthing me. For loving and keeping me. For raising and feeding me. For always praising me. You are dear to me. The end.
  • Someone said, “The patience of a mother might be likened to a tube of toothpaste–it’s never quite all gone.” Thx for your toothpaste, Mom!
  • To thank you for all of the hard work and support that you gave throughout my entire childhood, I bought you this card. Happy Mother’s Day!*
  • I will always be grateful for the 50% of my genes that came from you, with the exception of the high hairline. And nose. Happy Mother’s Day!*
  • I am deeply appreciative of the kindness and benefits received throughout my childhood. One might even say grateful. You are the woman!*
  • The world is a better place because of you. And your decision to have a child like me. Way to bring your “A” game, Mom! Thank You.*

Now, go write something for your mom. Or call her instead. She’ll be pleased as punch.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms and, especially, to you, Mom! By the way, your card is in the mail.

*Compliments of my brother Joshua, who possibly missed his calling as a greeting-card-saying writer.

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Leaving my mark

"If only we had made our walls out of chalkboard," thought Jill's parents upon seeing their daughter's propensity for signing her name everywhere.

I have a thing for permanent markers. And ink pens. And maybe permanent-writing utensils in general. Markers, Sharpies, ink pens, gel pens, glitter glue pens, you name it; I’ve had it, plus five. Maybe I’ve always loved how something so permanent can come out of something so small. Maybe I’ve always like writing. Or, maybe I simply loved inscribing my name everywhere and anywhere.

Which I did, beginning at a very young age. For all to see. Forever.

Growing up, my parents and siblings used to find my name written all over the place. On my bed’s headboard. On my bedroom walls. On their bedroom walls. On windowsills. On the glider on the front porch. On the bottom of the bathroom drawers. It was never a glaring mark, rather one for which you had to search. Kinda like finding Waldo of Where’s Waldo? Only with fewer red and white stripes. And less surrounding chaos. At least my family always knew where I had been.

I used to love that Where’s Waldo series.

Anyway, why I was fascinated with signing my name everywhere, I’ll never know. It’s not like “Jill” was an awesomely cool name to sign over and over and over. And, I certainly wasn’t the sort of child that went looking for trouble because surely leaving my name everywhere wouldn’t help with any excuses I could create.

“Jill! Did you write on the wall?”
“No, Mom. It wasn’t me.”
“It’s your name.”
“Oh.”

See? Not original at all. Why I didn’t stick to sidewalk chalk on concrete and pencil on paper, my parents will never know.

Maybe I just really enjoyed seeing my name in print. And, I wanted everyone else to see it, too. Maybe I just really loved writing utensils. And, my name. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful my parents had a sense of humor about it. And, still have a sense of humor about it, as they ask every once in a while what I’m inscribing my name on these days.

Nothing, Mom and Dad. Nothing at all.

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How many words can a WordGirl word?

Like WordGirl, I, too, am on a quest. But, one that has me writing more often, not necessarily defending the world from individuals with poor vocabularies.

During my I-Need-To-Find-A-Job time yesterday, I re-stumbled across the Inkygirl.com blog by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. I say, “re,” because I’ve seen her site before. Probably when I was last hunting for a job, trying to figure out how I could be a writer AND be gainfully employed. At the same time.

A freelance writer and illustrator based in Toronto, Debbie’s site is dedicated to things of interest to freelance writers, like writing markets and the publishing industry and how writers can churn out their best work ever. Most importantly, she draws witty cartoons about the writing and publishing experience. They are comical. They make me laugh.

Anyway, every writer knows that the best way to become a better writer is to read, write, write, write, get feedback, read, write, write, write, get feedback, read some more, write some more, get a lot more feedback and so on and so forth. It’s an unending cycle, because a writer can always be a better writer.

Even though I call myself a writer, I haven’t always practiced that process. Oh, the truth! It hurts! I write when I feel like writing, which is hit or miss, unless I’m being paid to write about something, in which case, I write to fulfill a obligation. That isn’t to say I do not write well (or without double negatives) when being paid. It’s just that I don’t write just to write because writing makes me a better writer.

This is for two reasons: (1) sitting down and writing just to write is, well, daunting and (2) writing just to write doesn’t pay bills. It’s a catch-22. You write because you want to be paid. You want to be paid, so you have to be a better writer than a lot of other writers. In order to be a better writer than all the other writers, you have to write, and not necessarily for pay.

Which leads me to the reason I’m mentioning Debbie and her blog. Monday’s post was a Weekly Wordcount Check-in wherein she asked her readers how they were doing with her challenge to them to write 250, 500 or 1,000 words per day, six days a week for an entire year. The goal of the challenge is to get writers writing. Because that’s how writers become better writers. By writing every day.

Yesterday’s post was a nod to Julie Duffy’s Story A Day challenge, which is as it sounds: a challenge to writers to write each day during the month of May. Writers are tasked every day with writing stories of any length. They may opt to write 50, 250, 500, 1,000 or 50,000 words daily, depending on their goals, workloads, etc. The goal once again is simply to write.

So, I’ve been thinking about a challenge of this nature. Can I really think of something to write about every day? My life isn’t that exciting. And, I’ve never been much of a poet or fiction writer. Well, I can construct haikus. But, I don’t even post to this blog every day.

And, I know 12 readers who are quite sad about that, too.

So, you see where I’m going with this. Two hundred fifty words aren’t that many words. I’m already at 537 with the preceding sentence. I always want to be a better writer. This challenge is perfect for getting me moving in that direction. And, May is my favorite month of the year.

Hhhmmm. To challenge myself or not to challenge myself? When I put it like that, not taking the challenge seems like a cop-out. So here goes. While I can’t promise that I’ll post my 250 or 500 words of randomness every day, I can promise that I will be writing. And, that whatever I’m writing will be random.

Because, well, I want to be a better writer. And this is a perfect opportunity for doing just that.

Now, I wonder if I can count this post toward Saturday’s word count . . .

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