Hibernation.

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Now really is the winter of my discontent.

I know I’m misquoting – in Richard III’s famous soliloquy, Richard continues the line to say that the winter of the Plantagenets’ discontent is made glorious by the success of the Yorks in succeeding to the English throne and achieving prosperity for England. The civil conflicts experienced in the Wars of the Roses are over, and the turmoil of decades of striving for supremacy has subsided into feasting and celebration. Richard amd his family are in a pretty good place.

I, on the other hand, am not. I’m exhausted, I’m not sleeping, my pain levels are skyrocketing… and the hits just keep coming.

Many of the pressures and expectations are beyond my control, and because it doesn’t look as though things are going to back off anytime soon, I find myself having to give up something I love doing.

Consequently, I’ve made a really hard but necessary decision: I’ve decided to put my Book Squirrel in his nest and let him hibernate for a while. I will put off making a permanent decision about the until the end of the year, when I hope to be able to get some rest and some perspective.

I have spent five and a half years building up that particular blog, dedicated to Indie books and Indie authors, and working hard to develop a following. Now, it has all just stopped.
It hurts. It feels unfair.
Even so, giving the squirrel a rest is my own choice.

I am discontented, without a doubt.

Contrary to apparent popular perceptions, I can’t actually do everything, and I don’t have unlimited time or energy. Something has to give or else I’m going to break, and although it makes me incredibly sad, right now it’s one less thing for me to think about and feel guilty about neglecting.

I am calling it a hibernation for Book Squirrel.

Interestingly, the word hibernation comes from the Latin word hibernationem, which referred to the Roman army’s practice of passing the winter in a specific location or quarters. Interestingly, it was a military word long before it became a zoological one.

It was not until the 1660s that various plants and insects’ different ways of slowing down or suspension of growth during the winter months was called hibernation. Think of a naked deciduous tree, having cast off its leaves in autumn, or a bulb waiting underground for spring, when it would burst forth in furious growth and then bloom to show that winter had come to an end. It was later still— in the 1780s— that the term was used to refer to the way some animals go dormant or sleep through winter, which is the sense in which we most frequently use the word now.

It seems fitting, then, to respond to a winter of discontent with a squirrel’s hibernation.

I do plan to keep blogging here and on Shakespeare Nerd, so those of you who never followed Book Squirrel’s blog dedicated to Indie books and Indie authors will probably not perceive much difference.

To those of you who have come to love the Squirrel and his bookish enthusiasm: I’m sorry. I tried.

To my beloved Book Squirrel: I really am sorry. I’ll miss you. Bye for now.

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Sources:

Etymonline
Macquarie Dictionary

Hibernation
#language #words #blog

Hurly-Burly

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This morning I made a to-do list in addition to the one I live by from day to day. The intent of this list is inherent in its title: When the Hurly-Burly’s Done

That is a quote from the opening scene of Macbeth, where the Wyrd Sisters chant in the midst of thunder and lightning:

1st WITCH.

When shall we three meet again?

In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

2nd WITCH.

When the hurly-burly’s done,

When the battle’s lost and won.

3rd WITCH.

That will be ere the set of sun.

In the context of war, treachery, the death of a king and the consequent struggles of a nation, it means they will get together again when the mayhem is over. Given their manipulation of Macbeth himself, it’s mayhem they are actively involved and interested in.

While I am not in any way playing with anyone’s life or ambitions, nor the future of the country, there is plenty of hurly-burly in my life at this point in time .

Hurly-burly or hurlyburly is a word from the early 1500s which means commotion or tumult, which grew out of the  phrase hurling and burling which was used as early as the 1300s. Hurling time was the name applied by chroniclers of the time to the period of tumult and commotion around the Peasants’ Revolt against the young Richard II, led by Wat Tyler in 1381.

It is a wonderfully expressive word that is quite evocative of  the chaos and tumult of its meaning, particularly when delivered with a Scottish accent as it might well be spoken in Macbeth.

Juggling a show, a job, a couple of blogs and a personal life takes some coordination and requires self-care as well as caring for the needs of those around me. It’s busy and demanding, and it definitely feels like hurly-burly to me. Consequently, there are some things that will simply have to wait until after the hurly-burly’s done. The new list should help me ensure they aren’t forgotten.

Sources:

Etymonline.

Middle English Compendium

William Shakespeare, Macbeth

The Insidious Return of Impostor Syndrome

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Over the past couple of weeks, I have been an unwilling host to an enormous case of impostor syndrome.

This post  is not a plea for reassurance or confidence.
Nor is it an accusation against anyone else.

Rather, it is an honest, soul-wrenching confession of someone who doesn’t want to be a fake, but at times desperately fears she might be.

I may well be a poet and author, but I haven’t managed to write much at all in the past few months. I have a collection of poems edited and ready for publication, and I can’t quite seem to manage that next step. Part of that is being extraordinarily busy — the other part is fear that it won’t be welcomed or appreciated by readers.

The play I have been co-directing for Camperdown Theatre Company has been in full swing of rehearsals, set design and construction, venue preparation and various other elements of production and promotion.
My co-director is sensational, and the cast, crew and set are all excellent. My doubts keep telling me that they would all have done just as fine a job without me.

I have a three-quarters-written blog post that I have been working on for a couple of weeks now I know what I want to say, I just haven’t had time to write it. This has been a source of both frustration and disappointment, particularly given that it involves two of my favourite things: words and Shakespeare!

A good proportion of the demands on my time over recent weeks has come from a considerable increase in my teaching load, which arose without warning and with some urgency: unexpected events meant that the school needed people to step up, so I did. That my boss asked me to do it demonstrated  confidence in my ability and professionalism. I know I am a good teacher, but I’m not feeling that way at the moment. I have been so stressed and stupidly exhausted lately that I feel like I am continually not quite keeping up.

All of this combines to play on my insecurities and doubts about myself.

Last week I hit a real low— I knew it was happening, I could recognise it for what it was and analyse it as it was happening, but I could neither stop it nor escape it. And the barbs came thick and fast:

You’re a fake.

Give up now – nobody will even notice. Your poetry sucks anyway. Nobody would miss you if you didn’t show up. As if anyone actually wants to be with you.

You’re a terrible friend.
All you do is hurt people.

You’re so selfish – thinking about your own feelings instead of what others need.

You’re useless.Do you even know what you’re doing?

Maybe that student is right: you’re a terrible teacher and a horrible person.

Pathetic, feeling sorry for yourself like this. Who do you think you’re kidding?

A day as lousy as this is exactly what you you had coming.

It has been quite awful. The emotions that rage within me at these times are raw and powerful, but they are also subtle and stealthy in the ways that they lurk in the dark corners, preying subtly on every raw nerve ending and every perceived failure. The tears have often been close to the surface, and have been quickly blinked back each time they threaten to overflow. The sense of powerlessness has been overwhelming.

On one level, I know those accusations are not true but, at the same time, it honestly feels as though they are. The more my brain says those things, the more believable they become.

I also know from previous experience that it won’t last. It may come and go, but it’s not permanent.

That doesn’t make getting through it any easier, though.
Because … what if it *is* true?

That’s the fear that keeps me from confessing how I feel until afterwards. Even if I told someone, any reassurance they gave me would be met with the doubt that they might just be saying it for my benefit. I would continue to doubt the legitimacy of any encouragement they might give me. So, I just hold on and wait for it to pass. So how do I weather this kind of storm?

I have got through it with the support and encouragement of a few key people who remind me that I am valued, loved and wanted.
They have helped me in small ways to do what I needed to do, often without realising they were doing that. None of them knew the truth of how I have been feeling.

Support from a colleague helped me walk into the next classroom.

A message from a family member asking hopefully if I was leaving work and coming home soon reassured me that  I was missed, and would be welcomed when I got there.

A little kiss on my forehead and ‘I love you’ from my niece reminded me that I didn’t have to prove anything to her.

The sensitive empathy of my dog demonstrated, like she has done so many other times,  that love is sometimes as unconditional as it should be.

A kind word of appreciation from a couple of different cast members made me feel valued, despite my doubts.

Once again, all those things demonstrated that I don’t need to be able to control the storm. I just need to be able to know where I can find shelter.

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Author’s Note: the fact that I have posted this means that I have started to come out the other side of this negativity. I’m okay.

Writing Tips: Avoiding Sentence Fragments.

We all know the basic elements of writing a sentence  in English: starting with a capital letter and finishing with some kind of ending punctuation appropriate to the form of the sentence, be it a statement, a question or an exclamation.

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Most people have mastered the fact that each sentence should communicate one key idea, and that they can use punctuation and conjunctions to extend that idea.

However, the use of sentence fragments is a problem I notice frequently, both as a teacher and as an avid reader. They are not the sole domain of people still learning to write: a novel I read over the weekend was littered with them, which frustrated me so much I was sorely tempted not to finish it.

A sentence fragment is a little bit of a sentences that don’t make sense on its own, and really needs either additional information or to be attached to the previous or following sentence in order to make sense.

It’s one thing to speak or send a quick text message using sentence fragments. We do it all the time without thinking twice. When writing for someone else to read our work, though, it’s important to express complete thoughts and to make sense on the first reading.

Example: I have been busy today. Writing this essay. It’s hard going.

This example sentence  fragment can be corrected it in any one of the following ways:

  • I have been busy today, writing this essay. It’s hard going.
  • I have been busy today. Writing this essay is hard going.
  • I have been busy today: writing this essay is hard going.

While it’s true that some writers use sentence fragments for stylistic effect, and may do so very effectively, it’s also true that they need to be proficient in constructing sentences and paragraphs so that they are able to make that technique work for them.  They are useful in writing conversations, communicating a train of thought, tacking on afterthoughts, or reflecting a nervous, excited or angry character.

Most people who write sentence fragments are, alas, painfully unaware that they are even doing it. Their sentence fragments don’t work for them, because they don’t communicate ideas clearly and effectively: in fact, it tends to have the opposite effect.

As writers, we should avoid anything that frustrates or confuses their readers, particularly if they hope to develop a broad and loyal readership.

This highlights the importance of careful proofreading and editing in the writing process.

One of the most effective strategies for finding sentence fragments is to read your work aloud. Your voice and ears will alert you when things don’t sound right, much faster than your eyes will discern it. This is because your brain already knows what you intended to say, and tends to make written errors almost invisible to the eye when reading silently.  

Hibernation
#language #words #blog

Avoiding Sentence Fragments.
#writingtips #writingadvice

Writing It Instead Of Carrying It

When this image appeared on my Instagram feed this morning, my immediate response was “Yes!”

Image text: Remember. If you are not speaking it, you are storing it, and that gets heavy. Christina Isobel.
I don’t know who created this image. I acquired it via Instagram.

This is why I have been writing and posting poetry and blog posts to help me deal with my feelings about my first Christmas without two very special people in my life, my father and one of my closest friends, both of whom passed away within five days at the end of June.

I have been doing everything I can to make Christmas joyful. Part of that has been working through my feelings and accepting the changes in life that have happened in this mixed up and turbulent year.

It is not that I have no joy or excitement. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to celebrate or focus on the positives in life. It means I need to works out how to manage the shades of guilt I experience when I feel joy, and the weight of sorrow at the very same time as enjoying the lightness of excitement and anticipation.

I fully realise that Christmas is very different for many, many people this year. Lockdowns, halted travel plans and distance have made sure of that. Like me, many people are grieving. Others are facing different sets of challenging circumstances.

The fact is, though, that it is my life that I am living. I have to manage my grief and work out how to balance things for myself. Nobody else can do it for me, and it has to be done. To refuse or fail to deal with my feelings isn’t healthy.

So, I write poetry and blog posts. I blurt my feelings and ideas down onto the page, then shape and craft them into something that both expresses how I feel and lets  others in similar situations know that they are not alone, and that their feelings are not wrong or abnormal.

That is my Christmas gift to the grieving people of the world; empathy, understanding and the room to feel as they do without judgment.

Writing It Instead of Carrying It
#emotions #grief #WritingCommunity

Is ‘Doomscrolling’ The Word Of The Year?

So, it turns out I was right in my observations about the word doomscrolling.

Doomscrolling has just been announced as the Macquarie Dictionary Editorial Committee’s Choice Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year 2020.

You can still vote in the People’s Choice category if you’d like to have your say.
Read the full article, see what the other options are, and vote here: Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year 2020

Source: Macquarie Dictionary

Hibernation
#language #words #blog

Doomscrolling.
#wordoftheyear #words #blog

The Everyday Person’s Guide to Writing an Excellent Book Review

A friend asked me recently how to write a book review that goes beyond whether or not they liked and enjoyed the book.

Having posted some time ago about things to avoid when writing a book review, I thought it high time I wrote something more positive and helpful in the interests of helping people review books more confidently.

A good book review doesn’t have to be long or academic. 

Using everyday language is absolutely fine. You don’t have to write like a professional reviewer or an English teacher to write a meaningful or helpful review.

Some websites where readers post book reviews require a minimum length, which gives you room to say whether you enjoyed the book and why. One or two sentences will do the trick. There is no obligation to write any more than that if you don’t wan to. 

If you do want to write more, try these ideas: 

  • Why did you like or dislike the story?
    Remember that others may like what you disliked, and vice versa, so always try to be kind. Feel free to say a book wasn’t to your taste – and try to identify why – but avoid comments like “this sucked” or “I hated it”. They are not helpful.
    Similarly, “Best. Book. Ever!” is of limited use if you don’t say why.
  • What important ideas did the story make you think about?
    Themes such as love, anger, justice, revenge, pain, fear, overcoming… anything that is relevant to you or to a lot of people are helpful points for comment.
  • Were the characters likeable? Where they relatable? Why or why not? Was there something we could learn from them?
  • Did the writer’s style impress you in any particular way? Were there images or word pictures that you liked? Did it make you laugh, or imagine vividly, or feel genuine emotions of one sort or another?
  • Was it easy to read and understand, or did you have to really work at it?
  • What other kinds of people might appreciate the book? Think about interests, age group, and genres or categories here. 

Remember that every book is unique, so some things will be more

Writing about ideas like these will help you to write a review that is interesting in itself, and will encourage the right readers to choose that particular book. In that way, you’ll help both the author and prospective readers at the same time. 

This will also help you to avoid retelling or summarising the story and giving spoilers that might put prospective readers off or make them feel as if they no longer need to read the story to find out what happens.

The Everyday Person’s Guide to Writing an Excellent Book Review
#howto #readerscommunity #BookReviews

The Intensity of These Times

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There are many ways people have found to refer to this era of Covid-19 and all its baggage: widespread testing and temperature checking, social distancing, hand washing and sanitising, and the wearing of masks. 

One of the most common is ‘these times’ and variations on that — these strange times, these difficult times, these awful times, and so on. There are myriad adjectives one could choose, although some are more socially acceptable than others. 

Recently, I’ve observed that people have started to capitalise the term as These Times in blogs and social media posts. 

This interests me, because of the way in which the language is being ever so slightly adjusted to add weight and significance to the term. Those capital letters are acting as an intensifier.

Intensifiers are those parts of language that add strength to what we’re saying or writing. Words like ‘absolutely’, ‘completely’, ‘terribly’, the commonplace ‘very’ and even the humble little ‘so’ are all intensifiers. Some people use expletives to do the same job, especially in spoken English. The meaning of the sentence doesn’t change if they are removed, but the sense of degree or importance in the words around them isn’t necessarily communicated if those intensifiers are not present. 

By capitalising those Ts, writers are communicating their assumption that their readers will know exactly what they’re talking about. And, in These Times, there is little doubt that they will. 

Having Dropped — And Temporarily Lost — The Ball

I’ve been absent.

It seems that I haven’t just dropped the proverbial ball when it comes to blogging regularly, I’ve gone and lost the jolly thing.
I last saw it a couple of weeks ago, when it bounced a couple of times before rolling away through some very prickly bushes and falling into a seemingly bottomless hole.

The thing is, life since that drafted virus unleashed itself on the world has been tumultuous.

I could tell you I haven’t written anything, but that’s not true. I have written some really great lessons and three entire new units because what I had planned (and written) previously wasn’t going to work in an online learning environment.

I could tell you I didn’t have a quarantine project, but that isn’t true either. I’ve had two, both of which happened by necessity rather than design.

Project One: reinventing my career
Initial Observations: Teaching from home is a whole lot more work than it sounds. All that extra time online is very tiring.
Final Observations: Challenging and exhausting, but enormously satisfying. Most students engaged really well. More positives than negatives.
Verdict: Aced it.

Project Two: supporting my father as he spent a couple of weeks in hospital before transitioning into residential aged care.
Initial observations: Lots of phone calls. Mountains of paperwork. Huge emotional adjustments.
Further Observations: Decisions are hard, even when you actually have no choice. Emotions are hard. Being on one mental and emotional roller coaster while your dad is on a completely different one can only be dealt with by hanging on for dear life and completely faking any appearance of knowing what you are doing.
Verdict: Aced it. Especially the part where I looked like I knew what I was doing.

It should also be mentioned that these two significant challenges occurred simultaneously. I didn’t have time to scratch myself, much less spend any more personal time online than I did.

So really, I’ve achieved far more since mid-March than is apparent from my nonexistent output of either blog posts or fiction.

I admit that I have seriously contemplated walking away from writing and/or blogging. Even while considering that, I knew that was the stuff of emotional and mental exhaustion, because I still have ideas and plans bubbling away in the back of my mind. I am not ready to quit, and I would be letting myself down if I did.

I will get my mojo back, even if I’m not sure when that might happen.

Stay tuned, folks. I’m not dead yet.

On Offending Facebook’s Community Standards Yet Again…

Apparently, yesterday’s blog post about supporting our young folk through the Covid-19 pandemic was offensive to Facebook’s community standards. They took it, and the shares people very nicely did because it was a positive and commonsense post, down. They gave no explanation except “Your post goes against our community standards”. 

What? How?

With all the rubbish stuff people are posting, I am at a complete loss as to why something constructive on an important topic was removed.  

Was it because I named the virus correctly instead of using the more generic term?  Was it because I mentioned kids and teens?

I’ll never know. The great bot overlords at FB’s censorship department don’t explain things. They’re too busy censoring the wrong posts and thinking themselves clever for it.

It is yet another reason to stick to WordPress.