Why write about politics and religion?

never-discuss-religion-or-politics

When I started this blog, I remember saying I would never write about politics or religion.

Four years later, I’m writing about both politics and religion.   Though not every one of my posts covers these two divisive subjects, a good percentage of them do.    Sometimes I remember the promise I made when this blog was new, and feel like a bit of a hypocrite.

But then when I realize how closely our political situation (and religion too, since in America, right wing evangelical Christianity has become VERY political) ties in with narcissistic abuse and sociopathy, which was this blog’s original focus —  I realize I made the right decision in tossing aside my original vow to steer clear of religion and politics.

In 2019, narcissistic abuse is no longer a matter that only affects individuals, relationships, and families.   It’s the modus operandi of a criminal political organization or perhaps group of criminal political organizations that is affecting everyone under their rule on a nationwide, or even a worldwide, scale.    What is happening in the Republican Party — no longer your father’s, brother’s, or even your own conservative, small government, ‘family values’ party, but a treasonous terrorist organization of white supremacists and religiofascists that serves only the wealthy, white, straight, and male — is narcissistic abuse writ large.  Like it or not, all of us, to one degree or another, are affected by it.

Those of us who are horrified by what has become of America and the cruel way some vulnerable groups of people are being treated, and terrified by what Trump and his sociopathic regime may do to us next are most likely suffering some form of PTSD.    If we already were victims of narcissistic abuse, we are likely suffering a relapse of Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).  I know I sure as hell am.   Most days I feel like I’m just barely hanging on.   It’s hard to think or to function.   I feel constant anxiety, and sometimes depression.  When I’m not anxious or depressed, I’m in a white hot rage.   Peace of mind is a thing of the past, since I never know what fresh hell each new day will bring.    I know I’m far from alone.

Living in Trump’s America without being part of his cultish base feels a lot like waiting for your abusive husband to get home and not knowing whether he’ll beat you up again or mercifully just ignore you tonight.   It feels like being a scapegoated child in a family of narcissists, who blame you for everything that goes wrong, even though you don’t understand what you did wrong (and probably didn’t do anything).   You’re always anxious and on edge, always waiting for the “other shoe to drop.”  Narcissists like to keep you off balance, and Trump and his sycophants like to create the sort of chaos and say the kinds of things that keep us all off balance and constantly on edge.   What he’s doing isn’t any different than what your narcissistic mother did to you, and it has the same deleterious effect on your mental health.

Since 2016, mental health professionals say their caseloads are increasing, and most new caseloads are people suffering PTSD because of the trauma Trump is causing them.  Even if his cruel and hate filled policies don’t affect you or your loved ones directly, the threat of violence, the taking away of benefits and freedoms, and the mocking hatred is always there, like a black heaviness in the room.  The toxic rhetoric he and his base use against anyone who doesn’t act, believe and look the way they do never goes away, and it’s getting worse.  Now he’s goading his base (through his Twitter account) to actual violence against anyone who dares to criticize him or his policies.   I have no doubt he’s trying to rile up the police, the biker gangs, the gun nuts, and others to form a militia against liberals and progressives (and even moderates), truthtellers, and the lovers of democracy.    Make no mistake:  he’s gathering an army of brownshirts to terrorize, attack, and even kill anyone who isn’t on his side.

My point is that politics and religion in 2019 is very much tied up with narcissistic abuse and sociopathy, and to not address the fact this problem is now happening on a nationwide or even worldwide scale (and perhaps has been for a long time) is to deny that it is happening at all.  To not write about current events in light of narcissism and sociopathy would be irresponsible.

My first goal in writing about these issues is to educate and make those who might not have connected this presidency with the problem of narcissistic abuse more aware that it is happening.  With awareness and education, people are more equipped to see what is happening, when it’s happening, the various “tricks” they use (gaslighting, lying, blame shifting, demonization of groups, black and white thinking, employing “flying monkeys”, etc.) and take appropriate action or defense measures to guard against it.

Since most of us can’t go “no contact” with Trump (unless we have the means to emigrate to another country), we must stay vigilant and aware of the myriad ways he and his “flying monkeys” abuse us (he abuses his own base too, but they are in denial, like the cult members they are).  At the same time, we can’t forget about our families, our friends, and try to enjoy our lives as best we can.   The little things in life matter too.   We can (and must) take breaks from the news, and focus on more positive things, and try to find joy wherever we can.

Remember that even in the most depressing and darkest of circumstances, it is possible to find joy.     Read The Diary of Anne Frank for inspiration and strength.    If you believe in God, pray.   If you don’t, do positive things for yourself and others.    Give (and get) lots of hugs.  Volunteer.  Adopt an animal.   Do good things in your community.   Everything you do makes a difference.

Don’t put on horse blinders and pretend what’s happening isn’t, but in the midst of all the black chaos, take time out for joy and friendship.  Also remember that Trump is an angry, lost soul who has neither joy or true friends and never will.   You are better than that and that’s why he hates us.

The other reason I write about politics and religion is because it’s a way to personally cope with what’s happening.   Just as I wrote about my own abuse as a survivor of a narcissistic family and emotionally abusive marriage in order to heal, it’s also necessary for me to write about the ways I feel abused by Trump and his regime in order to keep my sanity.   Otherwise I might completely give up hope and put a bullet in my head.

*****

Further reading:

Narcissistic Abuse in Trumpistan

We Need a Lot More Awareness About Narcissism and Sociopathy

Why do people read (and comment on) blogs they don’t like?

Originally posted on November 19, 2017

question-mark

This is going to be a pretty short post.   Someone who I won’t name had been commenting frequently on my political posts, and their views are almost the polar opposite of mine.   I can’t say this person is exactly a troll, because their comments weren’t offensive or abusive enough to qualify as troll comments, but their views were certainly at odds with mine and he/she wasn’t always very nice about it either.

I asked this person why they were reading my blog since what I have to say seemed to anger them so much, but got no reply.    He/she would be silent for a few days, and then make another negative comment.

Now I get that not everyone is going to agree with me, and I don’t expect them to.   I wouldn’t even want everyone to agree with me 100% of the time, because that’s boring.   Healthy debate is good.   Different points of view can make you think in different ways and consider other points of view.  But this person wasn’t open to civilized debate and seemed to disagree with me about just about everything I said.

Today this individual said they were unsubscribing.  It didn’t hurt my feelings; my only reaction was, what made you wait so long?  It wasn’t as if there was any doubt about where I stand on certain issues.

I really wonder why some people waste their time reading blogs they disagree with or don’t like.  If they just HAVE to read blogs that make them angry (like the pleasure you get picking at a scab), why do they bother commenting?    I really don’t get that.   If I don’t like a blog, I don’t bother reading it.  There are so many other things I can do with my time that are more productive and give me more pleasure than making myself angry or upset reading a blog I hate.    There are so many good blogs out there that give me great pleasure to read, so why would I read one I dislike?

Making changes.

changes

It’s time to change a couple of things about myself.   Laziness has been a factor in both, though there are other things involved too, and this post is where I will explain it all.

The first thing I’m changing is I’m going back to church.

Due to Trump’s far right evangelical base’s racism, greed, and general lack of empathy, and the twisted perversion of Christianity known as dominionism infiltrating many evangelical and fundamentalist churches, and also the highest echelons of our government (and corrupting every one of our vital protective institutions while violating the Founding Fathers’ idea of the separation of church and state), I’ve been finding the term and even the idea of  “Christianity” offputting.

I believe this is deliberate psychological manipulation enacted by people and organizations who (much like radical extremist Islamists) use religion as a weapon to control human beings and to justify cruelty, callousness, and even torture.  (Christianity was also used to justify slavery during the Civil War and many of the worst atrocities in western history).

What these individuals and churches are practicing is not Christianity at all.  These are Pharisees and false prophets, wolves in sheeps’ clothing.  Some followers may be hapless victims of their cult and not realize they are actually part of a fascist political movement overtaking the country, but their wealthy and famous leaders and televangelists most certainly know.  Some people have dubbed these false Christians “Christianists,” to delineate them from Christians with a more traditional, Christlike belief system.

The dominionists’ goal is not just destruction of America as we know it, but also destruction of true Christianity.   What better way to turn good people away from Jesus (and turn them toward atheism or to Eastern religions or paganism) than to make the Christian God as cruel, narcissistic, mean, greedy, and punishing as possible?  To twist Jesus’ message of caring for the “least of these” into a barely concealed contempt for the most vulnerable among us, a Savior who reserves special treatment for the “anointed” wealthy (dominionists believe wealth and worldly power is a sign of God’s favor) and condemns the poor and sick (who are not “chosen”) to hell.    Dominionists believe that dissent or resistance to a political leader (no matter how immoral or unjust) is a sin that will send you straight to hell (They base this on one line in Romans 13).  Many dominionist preachers, from Franklin Graham to Lance Wallnau to Robert Jeffress, all insist Trump was anointed by God, and to defy or disapprove of Trump will ensure that you suffer in hell for eternity.    Of course, this only applies to the far right Republican leaders they approve of.   If you resisted Obama or Clinton, none of this applies.

Dominionism and far right evangelicalism bears no resemblance to any Christianity I ever heard of until it began to infiltrate our government and started getting more media coverage.   It bears no resemblance to the traditional idea of Jesus as a kind teacher who inspired the Golden Rule and healed the sick.  It also bears no resemblance to the Jesus who was so enraged by the greedy money changers in the temple that he overturned their tables and sent them running.   Dominionism is all about tithing and preachers reaping huge profits.  It’s all about power and dominating others.  The pervasiveness of this dangerous christofascist movement is, unfortunately, turning me off to Christianity.

If Satan is real, I imagine this is exactly how he’d go about turning people away from God.   He wouldn’t use pentagrams and blood sacrifice because that would be too transparent and obvious.   No, he’d disguise himself within an established religion such as Islam or Christianity, pretending that evil is good, and good is evil.    The Father of Lies wouldn’t be transparent enough to reveal himself.   He may well pretend to be God.

And so, my church attendance has gone way down.   The last time I attended mass was on Christmas.   I was happy to be there, but I still can’t shake the bad feeling I get these days from the mere idea of Christianity, whether Catholic, Protestant or nondenominational.  It isn’t my church itself, which I love.  My church is Catholic, but is also quite liberal, and the priest never brings up politically controversial subjects like abortion (I myself am pro-choice — up to a point).  Although my priest is careful not to talk about politics during the homily, he has made it pretty clear how he feels about the migrant situation, the rollback of environmental regulations, and the current president’s cruel policies without actually mentioning his name–and his opinion is not positive.    Although some conservative Catholics are Trump supporters (and there are Catholics working for Trump), the Catholic Church is actually vehemently opposed to Trumpism because of its disdain for immigrants, the sick, the poor, the disabled, children, the elderly, anyone who’s different or vulnerable, and all the “least of these” people that Jesus loved the most and demanded his followers treat with compassion.

But I still couldn’t shake the “Christian” stigma.   To many people today, the term “Christian” elicits the same negative mental image as “Muslim”:  oppressive, misogynistic, and often violent religious zealotry.    Of course in both cases, only the extremists are that way, and what they practice isn’t either true Islam or true Christianity.    And even as a Christian myself, the term “Christianity” was starting to make me recoil and turn my back on it.    I was “losing my religion.”

As a sort of compromise with myself (and God), one day in the early fall, I decided to attend a Unitarian Universalist service.   It was beautiful, uplifting, inspiring, and the people were friendly and welcoming.   I loved the sermon and its message of social justice, equality, kindness, and acceptance of diversity over exclusivity.     In fact, it was a perfect church for someone like me, except for one thing:  its failure to acknowledge the existence of God, or any higher power or higher intelligence.    That bothered me because I don’t think (and have never thought) we just got here by accident.  Yes, I believe in evolution, but I also think it wasn’t random, and there was some kind of higher intelligence — a God — overseeing the entire process.

Even more confused, I just decided not to go to church at all.  I made an exception for Christmas mass, but I do feel like something important is missing from my life.  I find myself slipping back into my old ways of thinking and feeling when I was agnostic, and that just doesn’t work for me, and never did.   I feel strongly that God has been calling me back, but I haven’t heeded that call.  Yet.

Lent is almost here, and last year for Lent I successfully gave up smoking.   I believe it was God’s presence that made it much easier for me to quit than it would have been otherwise.   I haven’t smoked a cigarette in a year!   So I have decided to return to my adopted church, and in doing so, give up something for Lent that will honor God and at the same time help me.

What better thing to give up for Lent than my Sunday morning laziness?  (I do love sleeping in on weekends).    Maybe by immersing myself in a Christianity where acceptance, respect for the planet, compassion, and all the other good qualities of Jesus are valued instead of denigrated,  I might be able to let go of some of the negative political associations I’ve developed toward Christianity because of what American Evangelicalism and the Trumpist GOP have done to it.

I’m making another change too.    I’m going to write in this blog every day.   There’s no reason I can’t make a New Year’s resolution in February.  It’s  still early in the year.

This blog may never regain the level of activity it used to get (due to the Google changes I talked about in another post), but writing something every day surely can’t hurt and will probably help.   It will also keep me centered and focused.    Even if all I do is post a photograph, or a few sentences about some small event or observation (Tony Burgess does this all the time, and his blog is very popular) it’s better than posting nothing at all.

The writing process.

Yup, this pretty much covers it.

(source unknown)

thewritingprocess

6 ways to turn things that annoy you into hilarious blog posts.

Lucky Otters Haven

microwave_dinnerThis ever happen to you? Yep, it’s beyond annoying. I bet you could write something funny about it.

Let’s face it. Annoying things are funny.   If you can look at the humorous side of the things that drive you crazy,  two things happen:  (1)  it no longer seems as annoying; and (2) you can write a great post that makes your readers laugh.   Some of my most popular posts–such as “12 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Autumn“– have been biting jabs at things I don’t like.

Here are 6 ways you can turn something that makes you want to stick white-hot steel pins in your eyes into something that makes your audience (and you) laugh.

1. First, try to find the funny side of whatever it is that annoys you.

Come on, you don’t have to dig that deep.  Almost everything has a funny side to…

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Is profanity in blog rants okay?

Profanity….yes or no?

Lucky Otters Haven

profanity

My friend Gale Molinari at Galesmind.com posted this meme yesterday.

In general, I agree with the above sentiment. We all know people who cuss constantly and after awhile it can become annoying and offensive. People who pepper every sentence with the 7 verboten words not approved by the FCC sound, well, stupid, crude and boring.

However, I also think an occasional, well placed epithet can add impact and emotional urgency under certain circumstances. We’re all grownups here, and it’s not as if we haven’t all heard these words and know what they mean. They have stuck around the English language for so long for a good reason, and while their original references to various private parts, bodily functions or female dogs in heat have been diluted by their myriad other uses in recent times, if they’re not overused, they retain their power to drive your point home.

I don’t think…

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Crash test dummy blog for Gutenberg.

crashtestdummy

I don’t learn well by following instructions or watching someone else do something.  I’m one of those people who has to actually try a new thing myself before it sinks into my brain.  That’s just the way I roll and it always has been.   That’s not likely to change at my age.

I hate Gutenberg.  I hate the idea of having to use it.  I feel like it’s a terrible editor for actual writers and is going to interfere with the entire writing process, even if I should ever master it.   The writing process is holistic (at least for me it is), and Gutenberg is anything but holistic.   It’s like building a freaking Lego building.  Blocks are fine, even fun — but they’re not friends to writers.

legoblocks

The Lego block version of the sort of post I might write using Gutenberg “blocks.”  

So I decided to start a dummy blog.  Yes, a crash test dummy blog just to practice Gutenberg and see what I really think of it.   Hey, it can’t hurt.  A dummy blog cost me nothing, and I can practice using the dreaded new editor without totally fucking up my current blog.

You can’t see my dummy blog.  It’s set to private.  It doesn’t even have a proper name.  I called it “My Dummy Blog.”  How creative is that?  I wrote one blog post so far using Gutenberg. The post I wrote is sheer nonsense, word salad really, and you wouldn’t want to read it.   I still hate Gutenberg.  But at least I got sort of an idea about the feel of using the thing.  Do I think I could actually master it?  Yes, eventually.  But I can already tell it’s astronomically unlikely I’ll ever like using it, and as a result, I won’t be motivated to blog.    I’ll keep practicing and see if that ever changes but I doubt it.

If you’re curious about trying Gutenberg but are like me and afraid to try it on your real blog because it might wind up FUBAR,  start a dummy blog like I did, and just play around with it.  If you completely make a mess of things, it won’t matter.

 

This may be the best rant about Gutenberg I’ve ever seen.

I wasn’t going to write another post so soon about Gutenberg, but I’ve been fascinated by all the negative comments in the WordPress.org support forums, and came across this, well…masterpiece of a rant.  Even in spite of the typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors, it’s still a brilliantly written rant.  What makes it even better is this person actually created an account at WordPress.org just to publish their rant.  

So here goes.

So bad I actually made an account on wordpress.org to complain

@madethisaccounttoreviewgutenberg

I would prefer using the Gutenberg printing press than this pile of rubbish.

This is so soo soooo bad that I have actually made an account on wordpress.org to publish this review.

What a joke of a thing, pathetic. Blocks? Like for children who can’t think? WordPress is owned by the community, such an evil thing to force people to use this piece of crap.

Why am I frustrated? Because I keep loosing [sic] my articles.

If you want to waste time optimise [sic] something on wordpress, how about upgrading the core frameworks from PHP to javascript. Or focussing on stuff everyone has problems with like making wp faster.

When Tesla set out trying to improve the car, they didn’t review the shape of wheels. They focussed on the engine. You folks are trying to reinvent the way people write. Something that hasn’t changed in… ever. It doesn’t matter how many UXers and designers you get in a room, a triangular wheel will never roll down a road.

Gutenberg editor is the triangular wheel of Internet publishing. What’s worse is that you’ve tainted the Gutenberg name with this junk.

Will Gutenberg kill WordPress as a writer’s platform?

gutenbergdonotwant

Almost every WordPress.com blogger has no doubt seen that irritating little blue blurb that keeps appearing at the bottom of the editing screen:  “A new editor is coming to level up your layout,” followed by a “learn more” offer that you can click on if you really want to learn more.   Over in the editor sidebar (where you find your status, post settings, categories and tags, sharing info, etc.) at the bottom is another distracting box offering you to try out the “new editor.”

Not many people like change, especially older folks like me.   Those of us who write for a living or just for fun who just want a nice big easy space to write in (like we have with the Classic Editor) don’t want to have to worry about “blocks” and dragging and dropping them around to “build a page.”  We just want to write, dammit.

Because essentially, what Gutenberg is, is not an editing platform intended for writers, but a page builder geared more for web designers or people more into building a page than writing text.   I know this because, even though I haven’t tried Gutenberg yet myself (and hope I never will have to),  I have watched many tutorials on Youtube about how it works, and have done  a lot of reading and research on it, including the user reviews over at WordPress.org., where users have already been forced to adopt it — unless they install a “Classic Editor” or “Disable Gutenberg” plugin so they can continue to write their posts the old way.   And, not surprisingly, the “classic editor” plugin is, at the moment, the most popular WordPress.org plugin ever, with over a million downloads already.   That’s a pretty clear message for the WP staff, but they appear to not care.  Like Trump, they’re just going to plow ahead and do things the way they want, and to hell with the people forced to adapt to this unwanted change.

People hate Gutenberg, at least people who want to just write, and that’s most WordPress users.    Since most WordPress users, both at WP.com and WP.org, are writers and bloggers first, and were attracted to WordPress in the first place due to its user friendliness and intuitive writing platform (meaning you can easily figure it out on your own without a user manual or tutorials) that worked almost exactly like the popular Microsoft Word, which almost everyone already knew.  People happily chose WordPress when they were promised, “if you know how to use Word, you will be able to use WordPress.”  And it was true.   The classic WordPress editor is almost ridiculously easy to use and that’s one of the reasons WordPress is still the most popular content management system (CMS) around.

Gutenberg does not give you a nice clean WYSIWYG screen that can be easily toggled to an HTML screen (if you prefer entering your own code or have custom design), with all your editing choices neatly and clearly contained in an easy to read toolbar at the top and your other options in a sidebar well away from your text.     Instead, Gutenberg uses a system of “blocks,” in which every feature of your post must have its own block, even down to individual paragraphs and titles.   That means you cannot see your entire page all at once, and the blocks are too small to see much of your writing at a time.   Few writers can write well if they cannot see their entire post at once, because much of writing involves being able to see the whole thing in its entirety and then cut and paste and move things around, including pictures and captions.  The classic editor allows us to do that easily with one or two clicks, by highlighting text or graphics and then moving it or deleting it or whatever.    The classic editor is intuitive, meaning that you can learn it on your own without any special instructions.

In contrast, Gutenberg wastes your time by forcing you to work within a “block” and while these can also be moved around the page and edited, it takes more clicks and is much more complicated to do so, and involves things like hidden menus, cryptic symbols, and odd toolbars at the top of each block, and hidden icons that only appear if you hover over them within the block.   Some of these icons and toolbars actually block the block itself, so you can’t even see what you have written in the block.  If you are a writer who needs to be able to see the entire post to know how you want to edit it, forget it.   There’s no way to see your entire post in editing format.  To do that, you have to create a draft or preview (and then go back in the editor and edit the blocks, somehow remembering what you saw in the draft or preview, or keeping it in a separate tab).   Also, each time you hit < enter > it creates a new block which you then must delete.  There have been many other complaints about this system that I’m not even including in this post.   You can read the complaints for yourself in the link I have provided below.

Most of the comments I read said Gutenberg is much slower and clunkier than Classic editor, and has turned something that’s a joy (writing a post) into a dreaded and time consuming chore.   It’s complicated and nonintuitive, so it’s difficult to figure it out on your own.

samplegutenberg

Huh?

 

WordPress is trying (again) to fix something that isn’t broken.    I understand the system is still in its “beta” version and therefore has bugs which will probably get fixed later.  I also understand the company wants to remain tech savvy and up to date, and evidently, “block” editors like Gutenberg are the wave of the future.   In its desperation to be “relevant,” WordPress wants to throw away something that works so they can be more like Weebly or Wix (platforms which use block editors like Gutenberg).  But since most WP clients are writers, bloggers, or just regular folks trying to share their art, photography, or conduct business through their website, not web designers and page builders,  WordPress is really jumping the shark by forcing its users to adapt to such a drastic change that will require them to climb a very steep learning curve and take time away from actually writing or conducting their business.   I feel ultimately, WordPress users are going to go elsewhere that fits their needs better.

It feels like they are force feeding this change on us.  In fact, it feels almost like a form of internet fascism, with the staff at the WordPress.org review page showing little to no empathy for its users’ complaints and concerns, even blaming them for “resisting” having to learn something new, or belittling them for not liking change.    They are told to suck it up because that’s how it’s going to be, whether they like it or not.   Then they are “reassured” with a formulaic sentence telling them to install the classic plugin (when it’s actually Gutenberg, which is still full of bugs because it’s still in beta format, that should be the optional plugin) if they hate Gutenberg so much.   In the comments that don’t specify exactly what the person hates about Gutenberg, the staffer asks the user what the issue is.  Okay, fair enough.   But in the many other comments that DO specify, often in great detail, what the issues are, the staffers NEVER address the issues, only the user’s attitude and the only “help” given is to tell them to install the classic plugin.

Even if you don’t mind being condescended to and gaslighted by the WP.org staff, the plugin solution is only a temporary one.

Because the ultimate plan is to completely do away with the Classic Editor by 2022.   In three years, like it or not, we will all be forced to use Gutenberg.   There won’t be another option — except using a platform besides WordPress.  (Already, there is something called Classic Press in the works, created by WP defectors, for people who can’t or won’t use Gutenberg — I may be looking into that myself.)   I’ve seen enough of how Gutenberg works and read enough about it to know I will never have a good relationship with it.   If it doesn’t work for most users at WP.org (who tend to be a bit more technically savvy than WP.com users, since their websites and blogs are self hosted), then it’s going to be an absolute nightmare for us WP.com users.   Frankly, the whole idea of it terrifies me.

Here is a screenshot of the rankings of Gutenberg by WP.org users (and keep in mind that many of the five star reviews are actually bad reviews that were accidentally given five stars. I know because I’ve read many of these reviews):

gutenbergreview

In spite of the obvious bad reviews of this product,  one WP staff member (I will have to paraphrase since I can no longer find the post), in their usual condescending way, scolded one user who pointed out how many one star reviews there were.  The staff member actually said the review system was invalid and shouldn’t be believed.  Even more unbelievably, the staff member said that most people who loved Gutenberg (obviously, almost everyone) just weren’t writing reviews or ranking the product because happy people don’t write reviews or give stars.  WHAT?

WordPress.org appears to be gaslighting and shifting blame to its own users, and straight up making shit up to make themselves look superior and their own review system look invalid!    That’s crazy!  It makes me wonder if the people running WordPress.org are on the narcissism/Cluster B spectrum (someone else actually mentioned this to me).   I can’t say if they are or not, but blaming the users of a product for disliking a change because it doesn’t work for them and is making their writing experience unpleasant seems profoundly undemocratic and callous.   It seems that WordPress somehow knows it will benefit from forcing this change on people, even if most of those people wind up taking their websites somewhere else.   You gotta wonder who is paying them off.

So far, these changes haven’t been forced on WordPress.com users.  Yet.   But it’s coming.  We are reminded of it every time we open our editing screen.  When it finally is,  I intend to switch to the Classic Editor and keep using it as long as it’s still an option.  As for 2022, I’m not going to worry about that yet.   A lot can happen in three years.

Gutenberg has been compared by many to New Coke, another example of “fixing something that isn’t broken.”  Hopefully WordPress realizes their mistake decides to keep Gutenberg as an optional plugin (for people who actually like playing around with confusing blocks, like page builders and web developers), and Classic Editor as its default, rather than the other way around.    Gutenberg is NOT FOR WRITERS.

Why Twitter has made me a better writer.

280chartweets

Twitter has made me a better writer.

I’ve always been a good writer (my teachers always told me so).  To me it’s not work, it’s pleasure.  I write largely for the fun of it.   English composition was always my best subject in high school, and creative writing comes to me naturally.  Always has.    So it’s no surprise that I wound up with a career in medical editing and (technical) writing for several years until I started a family.   It wasn’t exactly creative writing, but it was still writing, and therefore enjoyable to me.

Off and on throughout my life, I’ve dabbled in creative writing: fictional stories, fanciful memoirs, imaginative prose, all kinds of descriptive writing, poetry, and even a novel I refuse to show anyone and today sits in a rotting cardboard box in the back of a closet.   And today, of course, I blog.

In college I really enjoyed my creative writing class and made high grades, but my professor had one big problem with my writing:  my tendency to use “purple prose.”

Purple prose is overwrought writing.  My sentences used to be overly long, way too descriptive, and filled with a lot of unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, and flowery, overwrought descriptions.

If I could have written the perfectly serviceable sentence, “A black cat jumped over the fence,” I’d write something like this instead:

A lithe feline creature as dark as a starless midnight, so dark its fur absorbed every color that might have surrounded it, virtually shape-shifted its grace-infused body into a spread eagle form and effortlessly soared over the wooden obstacle that no other creature could have breached without seriously injuring itself.

What the hell was that all about?   A cat jumping over a fence or some supernatural shapeshifting thing?  It’s hard to tell for sure.

I think my point is clear.   Publishers and editors hate purple prose, but it is fun to write.  It’s just that no one else wants to read it.  Why use 100 words to make the same point that can be made in 10?   Purple prose is also often emotionally overwrought and a bit nausea inducing.   You can write the simple sentence, “her face crumpled and she began to weep silently” but a purple prose writer might write something more like:

Rivers of clear, salty tears poured from her Caribbean colored eyes (made even more deep turquoise when they were puddled with tears), and as they made their journey, they traced the fine lines of age just beginning to etch themselves into her cheeks, then divided into smaller rivers, and finally into streams, creeks, and small brooks before they finally dripped off the precipice of her chiseled, bony chin and splashed onto the bodice of her magenta velvet dress, and sat there, like clear glass beads, rather than being absorbed by the fabric.

Ugh.  The simple sentence somehow has more emotional impact and doesn’t make you gag.

There’s nothing wrong with simple writing that doesn’t use a lot of big descriptive words and gets right to the point.   Good writing has more to do with the way you string sentences, paragraphs, and ideas together, not how long and descriptive you can make a sentence.

If you enjoy writing long, flowery, descriptive passages, that’s great, but your writing probably won’t get read.   That kind of writing went out of style about 100 years ago.  That’s why novels written in the 18th and 19th centuries are so wordy and descriptive.  Classic novels can go on for ten pages about the physical attributes of a single room or even a piece of furniture.   Back then, people weren’t always rushed and they actually enjoyed reading extremely descriptive writing.   Today it’s all about the action and the dialogue.   Today (unfortunately or not), a novel that starts off describing a single object or a person’s face over several pages would go into the slush pile.

snoopy-writing

Twitter cured me of my tendency to write purple prose.   Many people think of Twitter as shallow because how meaningful can you make a tweet that can only contain 280 characters?  (It used to be worse:  until a year or so ago, you were limited to 140!).   And to some extent, that’s true.   On Twitter, there’s a lot of cotton candy in prose form: shallow “ideas” or strings of words with no nutritive value for your soul or your mind.  But there are also brilliant tweets that contain more meaning and depth than an entire book.  Think of some of the most famous and profound quotes you have ever heard.  They tend to be quite short, don’t they?  Sometimes just a few words.   But they are remembered, and used for decades or even centuries after they were first uttered.  Twitter is a virtual quote factory, if you can bushwack your way through all the fibrous, sugary fluff that obscures the meaty, nutritious stuff.

And if you really, truly need to make your point in more than 280 characters, you can always  thread a series of tweets together.   It’s very easy to learn how to do this (though Twitter addict Donald Trump, not too surprisingly, appears to not have mastered this skill).  Each tweet stands on its own, but is connected to the other tweets in your thread, making an entire article.   Being limited to 280 characters for each tweet within a thread makes it virtually impossible to write run on paragraphs which can make your writing boring and hard to comprehend.  Many tweet threaders number their tweets so there’s no question about what order you’re supposed to read them in.

Writing good tweets that have actual meaning (or are uproariously funny) is an art form and a discipline.   If you write good tweets, they tend to get retweeted by others a lot.   People recognize a good tweet when they read one.   They are relatable, meaningful, and either very true, very funny, or very profound.  They never use lots descriptive words because they can’t.   Forced brevity tends to enhance the message you are trying to get across.   It’s all about the meat and bones of an idea, with all the fat trimmed off.

So, because of Twitter, I have learned to write my ideas or observations without the fat and gristle that could obscure my message.  This has improved my writing in general, and now whenever I read over a post I just wrote, any purple or overly descrptive prose sticks out like blobs of gristle hanging off a pork roast and immediately get sliced off.  At first it was hard to do, but over time it gets a lot easier.

If you’re a writer, don’t knock Twitter.   Expressing an idea using a very limited number of words works wonders for your writing, especially if you are like me and tend to be too wordy or descriptive.

*****

Further reading:

Is Your Prose Too Purple?  (includes a test to find out if your prose needs to go on a diet