WHY I WRITE

 

 

Why I Write

Let’s put it this way: I write because I must.  Sure, I get frustrated, bereft of ideas and self-confidence. Like someone in a bad marriage, I’ve tried to quit writing and move on.  I can’t.

They say you can’t give up the things you love.  (Well, something like that.)  And it’s true: I can say things on paper (Boy, that dates me, doesn’t it?) that I can never say out loud.  I can input thoughts/feelings on Word that I could never organize in the middle of a heated discussion.  I can’t always be funny or “quick” or articulate in the moment but can often get everything straightened out when I write.

I write because I want to hone my craft.  Every time I read a fabulous book by some thirty something author, I want to die and come back as, you guessed it, a writer.  I flip the tops of pages, underline, write notes in the margins . . . all so that I can learn from the “masters.”

Writing, like gardening, requires a willingness to change, to get rid of what isn’t working, to create new and fulfilling palettes.  Right now, I’m in the midst of planting a new garden on the south side of my house, a restful, peaceful space where I can relax, read, and “see” in the shade.

Similarly, I’m in the midst of expanding my writing style to include a subtle sense of humor just like my dad’s.  I’m no Irma Bombeck but a writer with a wry, understated style.  Not an easy task, but I’m up for the challenge.

I write because I love to put the puzzle pieces of words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, essays together and, along the way, figure out a little bit more about myself and universal experiences that affect us all.

 

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What Do Twitter Readers Want?

Medium logo

Medium logo

 

Maybe some of you saw it: a list of what readers want on Medium.  Medium is a site that, in reality, attracts some very talented writers who cover every subject on the planet from books to banks, from entertainment to ecology.

Today, Medium emailed “What Medium Readers Are Hungry For.”  (As an aside, it appears as if my posts have not come close to dishing up what Medium readers crave.)

Tweet. Tweet.

Tweet. Tweet.

So, what do you want?  Another ad to buy a book or sign up for 1,000 Twitter followers or tips on how to find love and happiness?  Maybe so.  But what I’ve learned under the tutelage of one savvy marketing guru (and supported by all kinds of surveys), is that social media doesn’t sell.  It’s like trying to get folks to buy a lawn mower when they live in an apartment or to shell out money for a book about, say, siblings, when adults are onlies and they have no children.

With a Twitter Tweet limited to 140 characters, the format is down and dirty.  Abbreviations are common; links are de riguer.  Photos help a lot.  But they eat up a lot of characters.

But back to the question: What floats your boat in the tweets you follow, “like”, retweet?

I won’t give you too many subjects Medium readers want.  And, mind you, there is no word limit. Posters can write to their hearts’ content.

  • Poetry (Really?  I thought the nay sayers have decreed that poetry [excluding rap] is dead.
  • Feminism (Again.  That’s a surprise!  The name Gloria Steinem means little or nothing to the majority of young females today.  And who would ever think of burning her bra?)
  • Black Lives Matter  (Hmmm . . . Bill Clinton didn’t seem to think so a few days ago.  And I’d reckon that the majority of Donald Trump supporters want all those black folks [and Muslims and Mexicans and immigrants period] to go back where they came from.

What subjects do you want to “like” on Twitter? When you get a Direct Message in which one of your new followers thanks you and then tries to sell you something, how often do you click and buy?  Do you hunger for longer tweets?  What’s the value of having followers who somehow found you but have absolutely nothing in common?  (Followers with “Christian values” on chick lit sites with lots of sex.  Or CEOs of janitorial services who follow self-described slobs.)

Is more more?  Or more less?  Or less more?  (I opt for the last, but the odds are not in my favor.)

 

 

 

What’s In A Middle Name?

WHAT’S IN A MIDDLE NAME?

If you ask world renown composer, bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, she’ll tell you “a lot.”

In an NPR interview with Michel Martin, Spalding explained that the idea behind her new album, “Emily’s D+ Evolution,” came to her in a dream.  Emily is Spalding’s middle name and a “long-hidden part of herself.”

The album conceptually addresses the always exciting, sometimes messy process of reconciling the aspects of our selves that are in conflict.

http://www.npr.org/2016/03/05/468933562/esperanza-spalding-brings-a-real-inner-child-into-the-studio

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This got me thinking about my middle name; rather, the middle name that I officially changed years ago.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand that my middle name, Ida, was not the name of my step-grandmother but of the paternal grandmother who died before I was born.  All I knew was that the name was old fashion, just plain ugly and the impetus for much teasing.  (To this day, one of my dear friends still calls me Ida.  He loves to get a rise of me and, for many years, succeeded.)

My step-grandmother, Ida, could be abrasive, cold.  Her severe eczema ran up her elbows and the backs of her arms. My mother and she didn’t get along.  And Ida rarely laughed—at least, not in my presence.  So, every time I was in trouble and my mother hollered “Jane Ida,” I cringed.

My siblings and I called Ida by the Yiddish name for grandmother, Bubbe. But everyone else used her given name.  So, whenever our extended family got together on Sunday afternoons, for the Jewish holidays and all other celebrations, I heard my middle name bandied about more times than I could tolerate.

I hated the name Ida.

I don’t remember when I decided to use my family name Mersky as my middle name, officially erasing Ida forever.  It was probably in the mid-1980s when I published my first book.  I’d remarried, changed my last name for a second time and deemed it the perfect time to rid my life of Ida.

It didn’t dawn on me then how kicking Ida out of my life would wound my father.  I had substituted our family name Mersky and assumed he’d be delighted.  Wrong.  He never talked about Ida #1, how she died and why he’d left home shortly after to live with his Uncle Johnny in Minneapolis.  But from the few comments he made after I eliminated Ida from my life, it was clear that I’d hurt his feelings.  It was if I’d said:  “I don’t love your mother.”

Hell, I never knew the woman.  I’d seen just one black and white photo of a young woman, a babushka wrapped around her head, the bodice of a plain dress.  She, too, had immigrated from Russia.  I don’t recall whether she and my Zede knew other from the shettel outside of Kiev or whether they met in the States.

It was if that Ida had never existed.  Wiped clean.  What was she like?  Lively?  Innately intelligent though uneducated?  Did she learn English?  Hold a job?  Love my father and his younger brother?

I’ll never know.  All the members of her generation are long gone.

When Ida #2 died in Dallas, Texas, I didn’t attend her funeral.  I was busy.  Besides, I’d never set foot in Texas and was intent on maintaining my boycott of the Lone Star state. I didn’t like the politics, the bigger-than-life, full-of-themselves Texas persona.  As far as I was concerned, Texas could secede and go it alone.

It might be interesting to follow Esperanza Spalding’s lead and spend a little time with the “real” Ida and to reconcile the part of myself she represented.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll reclaim her and consider changing my middle name once again.

http://www.esperanzaspalding.com/about/