I Just Don’t Have Time to Read…

"Study drawing shows the allegorical figu...

“Study drawing shows the allegorical figure of Romance nude. She bends her head to read a book on her lap. Romance was one figure in a painting, The arts, in the north end lunette of the Southwest Gallery in the Library of Congress’ Jefferson Building.” Graphite drawing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all know ’em. They’re the people who look at you like you’ve just suggested resorting to cannibalism when all you did was recommend a good book. And they always have the same come-back: “I DON’T HAVE TIME TO READ.”

Unless you’re dead, you have time to read. That’s right, all you business men and women, mother’s of young children, military service members, cops, doctors, lawyers, professional thieves, hookers…even the really hardworking ones—the whole lot of you—if you’re not reading, claiming that you simply haven’t the time, what you’re really saying is that you don’t want to read, or that you’d rather do other things with your time. And that’s fine. You don’t have to read. But what I find interesting is that when propositioned with reading, most people seem to feel guilty for not reading, and feel the only possible response that might save them face is to say that they’re too busy.

Hey…if you’re not a reader, you’re not a reader. Just say it. But there’s not a man, woman, or child in America who doesn’t have 10–20 minutes a day they could dedicate to reading. We all poop, don’t we?

What I resent most is the implication that because I do read, I must not work as hard, or I must have far more free time on my hands. Readers can’t possibly comprehend the time constraints non-readers are under, and how such frivolous hobbies (like reading a book) simply don’t fit into their oh so important agendas.

Truth is: I don’t have time to read during the day, either. No…wait…I’m lying. I could probably squeeze in a few minutes here or there, but I prefer to focus on what I’m reading, and when you home-school two children, take care of a home, and are editing your own novel, time is limited. But I do read every single night. I shower, lay in bed, my husband and I turn on our bed-side lamps, and we read. I might only get through 2 pages before the ol’ eyelids close the curtain on another long day, but I read.

Next time you recommend a book to someone, wait for that crazed look to dance across their face, and then ask what they do on weekends, during the day, and in the evenings. Chances are they won’t say they’ve just been recruited to do a mandatory 24 hour, 7 day-a-week staring contest. And for all you non-readers out there: readers don’t have more time on their hands. We simply choose to pass on the latest episode of Honey Boo Boo, or watching celebrities flop off a high dive. We leave buffoonery like that to you.

© 2013 Sloane Kady

Land Of The Free and The Home Of The Illiterate…

Be stupid @ Amsterdam

Be stupid @ Amsterdam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OMG! B4 I start, let me first consider where 2 begin. Cuz this issue runz deep, and can b found anywhere and everywhere…

All right. That was almost painful, but I did it. I proved I can mingle amongst the illiterate masses, with all the TTYLs, LOLs, OMGs, and the like. But why would I want to? The answer is: I don’t, and you shouldn’t, either. In fact, I think everyone would do himself or herself a huge favor if they cut this nonsense out—immediately!

I’m certainly not the first writer to take note of, or complain about, the terrible, atrocious, pathetic hodge-podge of words and symbols that people pass off as writing, and I certainly won’t be the last. I just wish more people would go tell it on the mountain. But in truth, I think there’s no stopping the illiterate train. It’s chugging along, full steam, and no one’s throwing Mama from the train. That is, if Mama is the illiteracy bug that everyone caught right around Y2K.

Why’s this a big deal, though, and who’s it hurting? Well, it’s hurting everyone. Deliberately illiterate Americans are changing the face of the English language, transforming it into a bleached-blonde, blue-eyed, Botox ridden, ample bosomed nitwit. That’s right—where once the English language was a classy, elegant, well-postured beauty, we now have Barbie—with her cheesy clothes and Malibu dream house, and all her equally illiterate friends, from lifeguard Ken to Tiffani the flight attendant. That’s America people. If you roll us over, you won’t see made in China printed on our backs. It’ll say Mattel. We’ve become a cheap, plastic version of ourselves, and the English language is feeling it.

There are so many areas of life and society that have been impacted by our repugnant use of our mother language. It’s like the circulatory system, with arteries and veins, vessels and capillaries. Spill the poison in one major artery and before you know—BAM—we’re all writing acronyms and abbreviations, swimming in a virtual sea of typos. And the worst part is that we don’t care. One day our dictionary will look like codes, only to be understood by the Justin Beiber loving tweens of the world. We’re breeding a generation of people who not only look down upon education, but who seem to feed off each other’s stupidity, like a festering wound, spreading out its tentacles until everyone has dumbed themselves down. To understand where this epic fail took place, let’s party like it’s 1999, right around the time when home computers were becoming commonplace, AOL was still blowing our minds, and cell phones were replacing pagers, with the promise of immediate contact and zero privacy. Little did we know that our common means of communication would be the written word, but that’s what happened. Call me crazy, but in the way that we tend to improve at…well…anything when repetition is involved, I assumed that people would have become better writers, but that didn’t happen.

Before I go on, let me be the first to say that I’m no stranger to typos. In fact, I make a ton of them, and I’m usually the last to spot them. Because of my great memory, I tend to gloss over mistakes. I know what I meant to write, my brain fills it in, and my eye doesn’t catch the typo. I do it all the time, but I’m always mindful of my writing, and my typos can’t be blamed on laziness. Sometimes I simply don’t understand a specific grammar rule, or maybe it’s too subjective for 100% certainty. For example: affect and effect still kick my ass, and I’m sure I’ve flubbed them on several occasions. But enough about me.

Back to where we were. Yes, home computers…everyone started chatting…then came texting. Time went on and as they say: the rest is history. Now-a-days we do nothing but write; we hardly even talk on the phone. We text, tweet, email, blog, post on Facebook, yada-yada-yada. There was once a time when writing was considered formal. If you sat down to write a nice letter, you wrote in long-hand, you tried not to torment your reader with typos, and you certainly wouldn’t have ended your letter with TTYL. Someone would’ve thought you were possessed, I’m sure. Or just stupid.

How is it that in a society and in a time when we write so damn much, we’ve managed to lose all respect and appreciation for the English language? We’ve butchered it to death. I’m not sure these young people understand the dangerous power they wield. What was once considered a grammatical error is now accepted as proper simply because it’s a common error. There are college professors who’ve made exceptions for some of the most common typos, because society has conformed to failure, and teaching students the difference between correct and incorrect frazzles our politically correct sense. Because of these exceptions, we’ve replaced our rules with excuses, and now those excuses are the rule. Hey, if everyone makes the same mistakes, let’s file it under the acceptable category, because there’s no use teaching if no one’s going to listen, right? Yes, young, illiterate people, you are quite literally changing the rules of grammar, the rules of spelling, and the rules of punctuation, and not because you have a better method, but because your ignorance has trumped academia. That’s not exactly something you want your generation to be known for. As for me, I don’t want my language mutated by girls who think the mall is the Holy Grail and boys who haven’t grasped the concept of pants on ass – not under.

The most outrageous aspect of deliberate illiteracy is that the perpetrators don’t seem to mind other’s perception of their lack of intelligence. Take me, for example: I’m terrible at advanced math. I never advanced past algebra. Maybe you’re bad at science or history or art. We all have areas where we never excelled, and that’s fine. It’s totally normal, in fact. But when you show intentional and flagrant disregard for the written word, you’re making a statement, and it’s not the statement you want to be making. Here’s the thing: if I can write and speak well, no one’s ever going to know that I bombed algebra. No one’s going to know that I wasn’t a history buff. No one’s going to know that I thought beige paint was more exciting than science. No one will know because we don’t use these areas of academia in our every day lives, with every person, and in every bit of correspondence. You know what we do use, though? We use our voices and our writing. We speak and write every day, and it is the one and only indicator of our level of intelligence. Unless you’re walking around with an idiot sign on your face and pants below your ass, until you speak or write, not too many assumptions can be made about you. But then the clouds part and light shines on marble head. You open your mouth and speak, you open your computer and construct an email, and now we know what box to put you in and what to scribble on the side of it with a big, fat Sharpie. Will it be “stupid” or “intelligent”? That’s up to you. But make no mistake—we will put you in that box. Cool thing is, there’s a way out of the box you’re in, provided you don’t like it.

We fill out applications; we utilize our writing skills. We make resumes; we utilize our writing skills. Emails; writing skills. Texting; writing skills. Blogging; writing skills. Tweeting; writing skills. Interviews; verbal skills. Telephone conversations; verbal skills. Meetings; verbal skills. Every day dialogue; verbal skills. You see, we utilize the English language every day of our lives, and it’s one of the most powerful representations of ourselves. In fact, you can fail in all other areas, but if you excel in English/writing, you hold the power to achieve greatness, and all without anyone being the wiser. Just don’t try to become a rocket scientist, because you’d probably suck really bad, and no one wants to wear the “Suckiest Rocket Scientist” shirt.

I’m not judging or making jokes at the expense of the truly illiterate. There are those poor souls who suffer from learning disabilities, there are victims of terrible school systems, and there are those whom, no matter how hard they try, will never excel as writers or public speakers, because maybe they excel at something else. What I am referring to are the able minded fools who toss their privileges to the swine, opting for illiteracy. The ones who hold strong to the idea that education is for the weak, nerdy, unpopular kids. If you’ve got a brain and if you’ve been blessed with the ability, do yourself and your fellow-man a favor and pick up a book, take a class, read online. Do whatever you must, but please learn how to formulate a coherent sentence. And for the love of all that’s holy, learn the most simplistic middle school curriculum. ‘Their’ and ‘there’ are not the same. ‘Too’ and ‘to’ are not the same. Learn what an apostrophe is for and how to use it. Try to grasp commas. At the end of a trailing sentence, three dots will do — not seven, or nine, or twelve. And never, ever use texting techniques in your writing, because it’s not simplistic. It’s stupid, overrated, and it breeds laziness. Unless you want to shovel fries for a living, take one small step now to improve yourself, you little reading rainbow, you.

© 2013 Sloane Kady

Writer’s Break…

Shit Fountain sculpture

Shit Fountain sculpture (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was it Stephen King suggested? Oh yeah: do nothing but write. All day, every day, just write. Take no breaks, unless it’s to use the bathroom. But even then—don’t. Hold it if you can.

That’s all well and good, and I’d love to achieve that one day, but for the time being, I’m still human, and I prefer not to get a raging UTI.

I’ve read a lot of things that left me with the impression that if I didn’t dedicate every waking moment to writing, I wasn’t a “serious” writer. You know the type. They don’t have kids, maybe they’re not married, and they don’t have a hundred other things to get done in a 24-hour period. They eat, breathe, and sleep writing. They are… “The Serious Writer”.

Hey…I eat, breathe, and sleep writing, too. But I’ve got other responsibilities. I’ve got a husband and children whom I adore more than writing and breathing and sleeping and eating. I’ve got other duties that must be tended to each and every day. I’ve got stresses. I’ve got worries. I’ve got life oozing out of my ears, and sometimes that life doesn’t allow for writing. Sometimes I even get run down. Shit happens.

I know you, my fellow writers, will understand. You can have an awesome run. Maybe one week you’re a frocking powerhouse of talent, cresting the rim of your writer’s mug. Nothing can stop you, and if someone tries—watch out—’cause you’re on a roll. Those are the great weeks when everything lines up perfectly, the writing Gods bless you, and you make massive progress. It’s a pretty fine feeling. But then the next week rolls around and that heaping pile of feces hurls right into your fan. Maybe you get sick, the kids get sick, or a sudden, unforeseen worry falls upon you. I mean…come on, it’s life. There’s a virtual smorgasbord of crap that can drop out of the sky at any moment, and when it does, maybe you’re like me and your creative juices go dry, as arid as the damn Mojave on an August day. The question is: what do you do with those days, or weeks, or months?

I feel guilty when I neglect my writing, when life gets in the way and I can’t muster the motivation to clobber away at the keyboard, or even formulate an intelligent sentence. The worst part is: those are the times when stinking doubt and, dare I say pessimism, drop by for an unannounced visit. They raid your fridge, leave stinky drool stains on your guest room pillows, leave wet towels on the bathroom floor, and just before leaving—because your defenses are down and your hopes are in the toilet—they bend you over and screw you up the back side. That’s right. Pessimism just raped you, and it didn’t even stop to think about your feelings.

Okay. Maybe that’s a bit on the dramatic side. But hey, we writers are working on nothing but faith and hope that all our hard work will pay off. We pour our blood, sweat, and tears into huge undertakings, all without the promise of success, a paycheck, or even a pat on the back. So, when pessimism comes around and wipes our stock of confidence off the shelves, we’re left with a very clear, very certain feeling that there is no certainty at all. Then the dreaded “what ifs” come into play, because they get along with doubt and pessimism like bath houses and gonorrhea. Too bad doubt can’t be cured with antibiotics?

Yes, we’ve been raped of that essential hope that writers need to keep going. Dramatic or not, that’s what a couple bad weeks can do to anyone, and for a writer—for someone who’s working their heart out without a promise in the world—things can get stormy real quick. We’ve all heard about those artists who use their pain and trials to fuel their work, and maybe that’s what people think we writers do. As for me, I’m not one of those writers. Sure, I use my trials as learning experiences, and later I can use them as motivation for my writing, but I need contentment and a bit of security in order to flourish. Does that make me weak? No. I don’t think so. But it does make me human.

So, what do we do with those weak moments, with those bad days when we can’t find any motivation? For me, I try to remember that this too shall pass. Then I cut myself some slack. Not too much, mind you, because I’m getting back on the damn horse, whether it kills me or not. But I allow a little down time.

I don’t have any magic answers. No one does. Everyone deals with their own struggles in their own time and in their own way. But do know that you’re not alone, you’re not unique, and by God, you are a serious writer, even if you have to take a little break, or if your schedule simply doesn’t allow for 5,000 words a day. You know how motivated you are, you know how passionate you are, and you know how much work is required to breathe life into your dream. But you also must know, as is the case in nearly every situation in life, that you have to care for yourself first or you’ll be no good to your loved ones, to yourself, or to your reader. So, If a break’s in order, if you’ve beaten the proverbial horse into the ground and need to come up for air, jump on the easy train, all the way to restoration-ville, and do it now because your future as a writer depends just as heavily on it as your sanity does. Don’t build your dreams on a shit foundation…because, well…you are the foundation.

© 2013 Sloane Kady