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In the meantime A small personal study of music you probably shouldn’t listen to if you’re a bit down. This is by no means complete, comprehensive or even fully considered, but I have listened to these tracks, and a lot more, recently. As I listen I wonder what was in the mind of the creator of each song as he wrote it. It makes you wonder, if wondering is your thing.
I feel sure it’s a list that can grow as, usually, Cloudies have their faves for all occasions. Perhaps this lot should come with a health warning:
• Blue Oyster Cult – Don’t fear the Reaper
• Fleetwood Mac – Little Lies
• Elton John – Your Song
• Mark Knopfler – Sailing to Philadelphia
• Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
• Bread – Make it with you
• Pogues – Dirty Old Town (best version of many)
• Gordon Lightfoot – If you could read my mind
• David Gates – The Goodbye Girl
• John Denver – Rocky Mountain High
• Simon and Garfunkel – The Sound of Silence
• Don Maclean – American Pie
• Paul Simon – Still crazy after all these years
• Jim Croce – I had to say I loved you in a song – (This is when I realised that if only I could write music so much that is not, could have been – but I can’t)
• And then, as the little hound agreed to bugger off I hear The Eagles playing Take It Easy and it doesn't seem so bad after all
It’s just a personal list, I expect there are others I may have played. Who can say.
As I said at the beginning. My apologies.
Is there a facility that, for a suitable reward, could perform this task for me?
Woe is me!
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This is a part of a longer blog I wrote about libraries and cruising and choosing books (http://sarahontarquilla.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-magic-of-books.html if you are interested in the whole thing). I understand that if you are writing and hoping for publication that the first sentence is important - as of course are all the other sentences which make up the MS as a whole - but it just made me wonder about the readers point of view.
When I was in the library I realised that I was just skimming along the shelves looking for a cover or rather a spine to catch my eye. I would then read the title before deciding whether or not to even pull it off the shelf. Once I had selected one I would turn to the back cover to look at the blurb before deciding whether or not to take it out on loan. Sometimes I might flick through a couple of pages and read a couple of random bits but I never turn to the front page. So much then for that all important first sentence!
Maybe it’s just me? Do other people choose their reading material based on the first sentence or just random luck or some other tried and tested formula of their own? Some people like to stay with a certain genre. Sometimes it is the unexpected tome which is the most enjoyable, the one picked up just on the off chance or a pointer from someone else.
So my question is, do any of you actually read the first sentence and make a decision to buy/borrow a book based on that alone? Have you ever had a book in your hand, sat down to read it, read the first sentence and gone no further? Would you be interested in a book just because it broke all the 'rules' and started with a weather description/waking up/looking in the mirror? What makes you pick a book?
The madness of the words has consumed me. I spend hours in my day bouncing words off the walls of my skull. The padded cell for my mind.
Here's part of the problem. I'm a Taurus. If you follow astrology, even a little, a Taurus is bull-headed, stubborn. I can be sometimes, I'll admit. But, it is the perfectionist aspect of the sign that contributes to the madness. I can't just settle for a word that works just fine. No, that would be too easy.
There's something else that drives me further into that downward spiral. I am writing fantasy, a futuristic, alternate reality, fantasy. I could easily make up a word, or substitute one for another. But, the minute I do, the new word becomes another I can not settle on. It dosen't sound right, feel right, look right. Whatever. It's madness. One of those vicious cycles that just swirls and grows more daunting by the moment.
Then there is a little voice somewhere in the fray that whispers, "Who cares? Does it matter? Why can't you just use the same old words everyone else does? Magic. Power. Energy. Talent. Gift. Craft."
"CRAP! They're all crap." I cry. "I care! It matters to me. I can't use the same old words because they're the same old word!"
Then the voice says, "How can it matter? You're not even a real author."
To which I reply, "Yet! I'm not a real author, yet."
Then the words and all their counterparts, in every language I've looked up, roll over me like a tidal wave and batter me until I escape into sleep.
Only to flood my mind, once again, when I wake.
Giving up the occupation which has provided sustenance for me, my several ex-wives, my children and the Government for over five decades initially proved frustrating. I had been involved in aviation since leaving school, initially as an engineer then as a pilot. In the Royal Air Force where HM The Queen taught me to fly, mainly because she had more aeroplanes than anyone else, I flew fast jets - really fast (1400 mph + VAT), slow stuff like C130 Hercules and was involved in a bit of rock throwing with the USAF in the Asian thing. After the RAF, I flew Boeings for several airlines, most of which went broke and finished up flying Boeing 757 and 767 for a company which we flight deck folks called Last Resort but better known to the public as First Choice.
Most of the rubbish that I have written over the years has been during transatlantic cruise, where I could leave the actual flying bit to the First Officer. Nowadays I am Facilities manager of a large care home and I have all the time in the world, but, alas, the muse appears to have deserted me.
This is irritating but I hope to recover with appropriate treatment and medication, administered by several of the lovely young ladies employed by the company.
Life is good. Lo, I am a happy geezer.
'Whether you write literary fiction, commercial fiction, women’s fiction, children’s fiction, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, or anything in between there’s an agent to suit both you and your work coming to this year’s event. Don’t miss the opportunity to have two incredible agents or book doctors read your submission and talk to you in person about your work. Each year people get taken on as a result of these meetings.'
There is no mention of non-fiction at all - or does 'anything in between' cover this? I don't know if many word clouders write non-fiction? At the moment I find it difficult to put a sentence together, so York is nor for me but for others?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that we're all word nerds on this site. Even those of you who do things outside, perhaps play a sport, you too have a word nerd inside of you, chewing up friends and hobbies, and spitting out obsessions with well-crafted grammar and syntax, nay, twin loves of the stuff.
I'm sort of joking a bit of course yet not really, but I like words. I like reading things crafted with them, and trying out a few of my own. I like being able to think of something, and lo! it pops into being. And if I don't really like it, I can muck about with it until it's just what I wanted. It's alot like being a god. That's an apt comparison, because being like a god is exactly the sort of thing a nerd would secretly aspire to.
One of the things I like about words is their part in the structure of language and communication. They're not just utterances, oh no; they are tiny little mechanisms that interface directly to our emotional and internal selves. If you think the whole cyborg, man-machine thing was a leap forward, then words are most certainly for you. The most basic, atomic form of written communication must be the letter. Or is it? Perhaps it's the typeface, the penstrokes. I do my writing in Times New Roman, because it has serifs and other hangy-down bits that make it look quite grand and serious, like having a portico. Sometimes I use something sans-serif, for a sleek, clean design; but no capitals - modern fonts are all about extreme egalitarianism, free from the baronial constraints of the more traditional lettering. In each case, the typeface affects my thoughts, my motivation levels, even my mood. It may well be that this is down to the fact that I am a highly credulous individual, easy to influence, but it works out not too badly most of the time.
So from the shape of the letter, we assemble the letter itself. I can't remember if it was on here or elsewhere but someone recently talked about synaesthesia - the mixing of senses, experiencing of sound as colour, and so on. From that conversation came a big outpouring of anecdotes about how some people think of days of the week as having a colour, numbers having a personality and whatnot. Letters are like that. I posted just a short while ago about how some letters convey one sense or another. I used the letter 'k' as an example - to me, the letter 'k' is quite severe, like a dominatrix. It towers over the reader and makes demands that must be obeyed, and so words containing it might tend to carry a sense of that imposing nature, should that be what the writer wishes to impart. The letter 'm' is the opposite, like a mother cradling a baby. Could it be because the acoustic properties of the 'm' sound, much like Buddhist monks and their chants of "om", resonate through the body, bringing mental calm? Is that why infants across the world coalesce around the word "mama" when calling for their mothers? Dunno; but I like the idea that that, in my view, is the mechanism by which words carry their payloads of meaning from the outside world into us via our senses before depositing them into our nervous systems, where we interpret them and extract that meaning from them.
Words, then. These popular collections of letters share, or inherit, the acoustic characteristics of their component letters, but they also have a cultural significance of their own. I like the word "iridescent". The first 2 syllables suggest a shimmering, rippling effect, and the third and fourth contain a ghostly susurration. All told, it's an evocative sound, just saying it, but it's strong and powerful too, ending as it does with an abrupt 't'. Maybe there's a link between the sounds of the syllables and the meaning of the word. Maybe that's why the word means what it does. Words represent, to me, the shift from base-level sounds to higher meanings – akin to the difference between animal noises and human speech. But they also have shapes. Sometimes a word is chosen because of its shape. In my earlier post, I compared the word "stroke" to "caress". The former has tall letters, a 'k', a 't'. It has its place, but the gentle tones of 'caress' are all made from letters of one level, and as a notion it is, to me, more intimate than a stroke. Weird, eh?
Then there are sentences. By now we've gone beyond the physical and into the purely artistic. We're engaged in creating; manipulating exactly the right raw materials to evoke an emotion or an image or an idea, or even just to perform an action. Our tinkering has got well under way. We’re no longer concerned with the way the words are made; we’ve considered all that and are looking to put together something greater. Sentences are representative of complex thought and sensation. We can build a fairly comprehensive thing or relationship with a sentence. But sentences have shapes too. Their length, their cadence, and of course the words and letters in them can all be stretched and compressed to imply speed, distance, tension, size, movement.
And last but not least: paragraphs. We're into the realm of larger goings-on here. Time is a factor. We don't yet need to consider too much outside the immediate moment, but certainly having an eye looking forward and another back is useful. Events are set in motion; they rumble on, run together, cause one another, separate, and cease - and the paragraph ends.
There’s more of course but I’m tired, so I’ll just say g’night all, and thanks for reading! :)
(this blog is in no way related to the "word nerds" podcast. or the book. I just liked the fact that it rhymes)