Use This for That: Electrical Tape on Whiteboards.

Once upon a time in a land across the sea, I lived a different life and earned my bread as a teacher. There are many quick, useful, and above all cheap tricks of the trade that I gathered along the way but one that has translated well into my writery endeavours has been electrical tape.

And before you even ask. No, it’s not for researching a torture scene.

Electrical tape alone won’t do much for a writer outside of fixing a broken pencil or inspiring yourself by making a stick on Poe mustache. However, if you apply said electrical tape to every writer’s favorite office eyesore, the whiteboard, it’s a game changer. Well, really it’s a minor fix to a minor problem. But wait until you try it. At that point the skies will open and a T-Rex on a dirt bike will do a double backflip over the heavenly rays shining down on your new awesome whiteboard. Or you’ll just feel satisfied with your work. You know, either/or.

Big charts on whiteboards have endless uses. Easy to see, impossible to avoid, I use mine to track the hours spent doing various writing tasks. Also I use it to chart how often I work out. Please ignore the X below. Monday was a busy day. I really should have gone to the gym but I was cleaning up the house and rearranging some furniture and you know how hard life is.

ANYWAY, a chart made solely of dry erase marker ends up being redrawn over and over and over and over and… As a teacher, I’d die a little inside every time my eraser clipped the edge of a carefully drawn box.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I discovered, while making a grid for my classroom schedule, that electrical tape makes awesome straight lines, it never erases, and unlike duck tape (look up the history you “duct” devotees) it doesn’t leave behind any of that ungodly ectoplasm. You can take it off, rearrange it, restick it. or start fresh and the white board will always be good as new.

This may be old news to some but if not, give it a shot. Electrical tape is cheap and can often be found collecting dust at your local dollar store.

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Hmmm#7: Being Wrong and The Aftermath

Sometimes we can be wrong.

KAAAASCHPEEEWWWWWW!!!!!! *splatter…splatter,splatter… plop,plop,plop,plop,plop* (wipes brain from shirt and eyes and hair and, well, you get the idea.)

Sometimes we just aren’t right. Sometimes our position isn’t correct. Sometimes our stance is indefensible. True things don’t need anyone to argue for them. They are true in and of themselves and sometimes we might not believe or understand those true things. It’s okay. It’s normal. It happens.

It also never feels good to be wrong. When we find ourselves in this uncomfortable position we have some choices to make. The questions for this week revolve around those choices.

 

If you discover that your argument, stance, belief, etc, has been shown to be wrong should you:

a) Continue to argue a lost cause in order to maintain some sense of … I don’t know something. Often getting louder and angrier.

b) Concede graciously. Then  work to understand the correct idea and change your way of thinking.

c) Pretend that your losing side is somehow related to the winning side and so therefore has not completely lost.

d) Concede to the winning side, only to retain your original beliefs and look for easier people to debate so you win next time.

e) Explain that you understand that your opponent is right or at least partially right but also explain how that doesn’t necessarily mean you are wrong.

 

I could go on and on with other options but I don’t feel I need to. Here is the deal. This week I’ve thrown out a bit of a trick question. There’s really only one right answer. Usually I strive to keep these questions open and broad so that you can find your own answers that are applicable specifically to you. With this question, the deeper thought comes from analyzing your answer. If you answered B, congratulations you’re not a self-serving, truth-denying, jerk. If you answered with any of the other letters, then I have some follow-up questions for you.

Why did you answer the way you did?

Can you really find a convincing way to justify that answer?

If so let me know.

 

*Hint- One other lEtter can be acceptable in some situations.

Short Stories Are Gummy Vitamins…

and  wind sprints, and x*y=52, and batting cages, and bending that note 30,000 times until you sound just like Slash. Short stories can be great practice. In some ways, I think they’re the best practice for writers.

Setting the immense practicality of short story writing aside for a moment, they’re also just a blast to write. The freedom of knowing that if this story sucks, you’re only out a few hours to a few days work makes you bold. It makes you fearless. I’m revising and polishing my first ever novel and beginning a second. I can still feel some couch cushion armor tied around my body and I still haven’t taken the wok helmet off my head quite yet. I’m getting better at taking risks but still, it’s scary.

Short stories? Those little itty-bitty things. That’s where I can go crazy. I can let my freak flag fly. I can try a bizarro situation on for size and see how it fits. I can concoct new story telling recipes and see how they taste. If I make a delicious cake, I can serve up slices to anyone who wants to read. If I make a turd sandwich, I can quietly slide that one-off the counter and into the garbage. It’s much harder to trash a turd sandwich when it’s as big as a novel.

Okay, back to short stories as practice. Unlike a novel, where you are bound to a set of characters with specific voices, in specific settings for 50,000 to 150,000+ words, short stories allow you to create new people in new worlds and new situations every 1,000-ish to 30,000-ish words. This opens up a lot of opportunity for practice in all arenas of writing. Think about it. A new world to build every few thousand words. That’s a dozen unique worlds you’ve created in the time you would have built one for your novel. New villains, new heroes and heroines. New problems to solve. New mysteries to weave. All with much less investment.

When you only write novels or novellas, it’s like practicing for a full marathon by only running full marathons. Not my idea of useful. Plus, there’s all that awkward nipple chaffing. Who wants that, even metaphorically? Taking breaks from your magnum opus to tell the story of Danielle Danger and the Quest for the Hidden Jackalope  can be refreshing and get you in the groove if you need to write some humor into your novel. Maybe you’ll stop to pen Terrence Tango P.I. : The Case of the Confiscated Corpse when you need do limber up for some mystery writing. Just like weightlifting, you can focus on individual writing muscles and make sure they are fit and healthy.

Now, please don’t think I’m trying to prescribe any sort of specific regimine here. I’m still a noob in the world of writing. I’m wading through the same shallow sea of extremely personal writing tips and advice as everyone else. It can be confusing and contradictory at times. I’ve seen these tips delivered as helpful suggestions and as gospel. “Try this out and see if it works for you” vs. “If you don’t do exactly _____ in exactly _____ way, you should probably just unplug your laptop because you will never amount to anything and you are not worthy of the title of writer.” I am firm believer in the former. From what I can tell, most successful writers are too.

Finally, don’t forget to read short stories. That way you can learn from the mistakes and successes of others. You don’t have to take all the lumps by yourself.

 

*Before anybody grabs their well-worn, “I’m so offended” megaphone and starts ranting and looking silly, let me settle your insecure little heart.  Yes, short stories are unique and complete pieces of writing  in and of themselves and are not solely a means of practice for the mighty novel. You are absolutely right. The fact remains however, that we learn through practice and practice is repetition. The shorter the duration of the activity, the more practice cycles and variety you are allowed. Thus, the utility of short stories as practice tools.