Tag Archives: words

I Hate The Way You Buzzword

Normcore. YUCCIE. Bae.

If there’s anything the internet deserves bloody death for, it’s the proliferation of words that make me vomit in my mouth.

It’s one of those strangely ironic situations for a writer. We love specificity. If there’s a word best suited for that which you’re discussing, then go to town. It’s wordnerd time, motherfucker.

It’s like that scene in English Patient:

Katharine: l wanted to meet the man who could write a long paper with so few adjectives.
Almasy: Well, a thing is still a thing, no matter what you place in front of it. Big car, slow car, chauffeur-driven car.
Madox: Broken car.
Almasy: lt’s still a car.
Geoffrey Clifton: Not much use, though.

But for a good writer, it’s a sedan or a coupe or a sportster or a hatchback or a jallopy or a wreck or a rust-bucket. It’s not “a car”.

So, specificity — it gets us hot. It’s what we do. Got exact words? A shudder-worthy moment.

Language is a beautiful sonorous thing. It’s not to be sullied by your cheap 5-cent words cobbled together from laziness and the most fleeting of trends. Normcore? We have to have a word now for the way the majority of people dress? He’s in chinos and a sweater, okay? Not “normcore.” When one word covers it all, we turn everything into a homogenized whole instead of celebrating uniqueness.

I don’t know about you, but writing about unvarying collectives able to be encapsulated by a single umbrella word isn’t enthralling for me. That’s the writing equivalent of paint-by-numbers.

People talk now as if language has a seasonal life. Our words we choose are so temporary in nature that we risk being indecipherable to those who find our daily social media transcripts centuries from now. Provided we haven’t climate-changed ourselves into extinction, that is.

beatnik460

Because creatives have never gathered in the city (or worn turtlenecks or toques or hoodies) before: Beat writers and artists at breakfast in New York, late 1950s. L-R: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso (back of head), David Amram, Allen Ginsburg

 

Crimes Against Language: “YUCCIE”

The latest word to explode onto the internet is that of “YUCCIE.” It stands for “Young Urban Creative.”

A news guy I know said, “Yeah, but I sort of felt it needed a word,” about my latest rant on Twitter. Now this is a guy who shares some of the most compelling news I see, too, so I respect his opinion, but this makes my head explode.

Here’s the deal about the Young Urban Creative: It ain’t nothing new. Zero new. Nada di new.

You go back over centuries and the city was always where creatives amassed. They drew together because they needed to have community of others who understood exactly what their passion and raison d’etre is. This remains more true — and more readily found, thanks to the Internet — today.

Creatives, we have a different perspective on the world. It’s easy to feel really alone and forsaken unless we find others who are just as bent as we are.

Look at the culture around Moulin Rouge in the 1890s in Paris, and how it drew the absinthe-loving arts crowd into its fold before spilling out into the world. Look at the Beat writers in San Francisco. Or New York in any age.

Cities are the only place young creatives ever really feel at home. If young creatives are not urban, they’re the exception to the rule. Cities are where artists find themselves, usually, regardless of where they wind up later in life.

But hey, man. It’s the internet age. We need a word for something that’s always existed because it’s 2015 and no one’s got the time to write an actual sentence anymore. Or maybe because it’s not cool enough to just say “creative.” We love to define and codify things.

In Which I Play The Writer/Snob Card

Very seldom will you find me using a term that’s a trendy word. Yes, I’ll go so far as to say it’s beneath me.

This is for the same reason as a film should never be shot with a wardrobe that’s on trend. Have you seen Mystic Pizza, Pretty Woman, or anything else shot in the ‘80s lately? None of it holds up visually because they were all so beholden to the present fashion, trying to look hip, and now it’s dated and sad.

True of language as well. Use anything trendy and it sounds pathetic even before the year is out.

Get over yourself. Being timeless is where it’s at. Don’t fall for the “everything has a buzzword” fad. It’s really okay to use the existing one-million-plus words in the English language. Pretty sure that if you look hard enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

If we have a word for throwing someone/something out the window (defenestration), then rest assured, English has you covered.

Defenestration by TrappedInVacancy.

Defenestration by TrappedInVacancy.

Extreme Writing 101: Scab-picking

The phrase “Physician, heal thyself,” is meant to be a dry poke at the medical profession. You may be god-like, but you can’t fix yourself.

“Writer, heal thyself,” however, isn’t a poke, it’s a goal.

In talking with a friend over dinner last night, I likened writing to the extreme sports of the artistic world. No other art requires one to be so isolated and confrontational, so alone and challenged, for so long. It’s an endurance sport, one with almost impossible odds. You’ll never say everything you want to say, you’ll never be as complete as you want to be. You never get to the end and go, “WOW, look at what I did!” like when one climbs a mountain; you’re always flawed and missing a certain something.

There is no “right” way to write, unlike what the schools will tell you. Grammar isn’t even as rigid as you might think it to be. Schools of thought exist on many different grammatical styles. The most hotly contested wordgeek event of the year is the Oxford Dictionary releases annual new words. “Unfollow” was a big one last year.

There is a right way to do the writing, though.

From a place of truth. Honesty. Rawness. Forget what your mother taught you about picking at scabs. Rip that motherfucker off.

This book I’m writing is highly cathartic. I’m forcing myself to be more honest there than I am for you. It’s not that I’ve been afraid of sharing those truths with you… it’s just that I think it’s kinda like how women shouldn’t wear microskirts — don’t just give that away, honey.

You haven’t earned the right to know about my deepest, darkest passages. This needs to be a two-way street. Right now, I give to you, you take, I get nothing. But that’s the way of the blogging world.

In a year or two you’ll be able to buy your very own copy, and feed the belly of this beast. That’s when you earn it. And that’s not me being a bitch, that’s a brutal fiscal reality.

What, I’m supposed to eat idealism for breakfast? That’s how it works if I choose art, not ratrace? Really?

There’s not many things in this world that I love to do, am good at doing, and see myself wanting to do for the rest of my life. There’s nothing, actually — except writing. For that to happen, for me to pull these scabs, spend late nights staring in blackness at a cieling I can’t even see, as I think of topics I want to tear apart, I need to pay my rent.

At some point there enters into this a consciousness about you, my audience. I know you’re there. I can now engage in a monologue that’s both true to me, yet relatable for you.

It’s an interesting consciousness. An even more interesting exercise.

If I was in grade three, I’d simply explain it as: I find writing weird, and writing for an audience even weirder.

It’s something I know in my heart I’m very good at — but I see myself as being very good at writing the kind of thing I like reading; not necessarily “very good” at the craft as a whole. If I was GOOD, it would have to be harder for me, right?

Then again, I’ve never really tackled fiction. Who knows, right? But, still, I don’t follow traditional writing schools or all the Proper Things To Do. I’m not even very linear, I go all over the place. But nothing comes more comfortably for me in life than writing.

I was talking with writer friends about Twitter — they don’t follow me and I don’t know if they’ve even seen my Twitter stream, but I pepper the thing with one-liners. I’m all about the jokey stuff and scathing observations. And one says, “I don’t understand some people — how they just post all their best stuff, great one-liners. I mean, you could spend up to 60 minutes composing a single tweet…”

And I said nothing. I’ve never spent more than two minutes on a single tweet. Never! It just pops in my head and BOOM, there it is. There are so many areas in my life that DON’T work efficiently, though.

But there? Writing? It’s seldom a struggle, not anymore. For six years, I’d have better luck squeezing water from a rock than pushing out readable words, but once I found my way out of that writer’s block, I’ve never gone back.

At some point, you gotta figure out who’s the lion (the writing) and who’s the tamer (me), and then it’s all about remembering who’s in charge.

It’s my extreme sport. I’m always pushing to see what new thing I can say, what new button I can push. It’s what I really, really enjoy doing — whether you’re reading it or whether it’s gathering dust until it finds its way between covers or never sees the light of day. THAT’s my extreme sport. That’s where my life’s legacy will probably be found, in words I’ve cobbled together over decades and credos I’ve hammered out one phrase at a time.

There are people who go their who life without ever knowing who they are.

I may be broke, facing losing my job in the coming days, unlucky in love, always rehabbing, waging battles with ADHD, and any number of other things…

But I know exactly who I am, who I want to be, what’s important to me in life, and what I cannot live without doing — what’s as important to me as the air I breathe.

Writing makes me one of the richest people I know.

Hopefully I can take that figurative statement and make it literal in a “Holy shit, we’re capitalists?” kind of way over the next year — but not at the risk of losing my soul or my self.

Some prices can’t be unpaid. That, too, people can go a lifetime without learning.

Like I said, I’m one of the richest people I know.