One Hundred Words 101

Friday Fictioneers has become a staple on my blog. Creating a story using only 100 words has impacted my writing in ways I did not expect when I first discovered the group of talented writers led by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Now everything I write goes through a rigorous edit to separate the wheat from the chaff.

I’m often knee deep in chaff.

A photo is where the story begins, usually. There are times, however, when an idea that has been percolating in my mind mingles with the prompt in mysterious ways. The result ends up on the keyboard. I don’t question it. I just close my eyes and let it fly. Winging it is what we pantsters, as in fly by the seat of one’s pants, do best. There is no outline or structure, no discernable method to the madness that ensues when I am writing. That is why editing is an indispensable skill. The key most used on my laptop is the backspace, second only to delete.

I had a professor once who tried to instill, or was it impose, rules to be followed when writing anything. I resisted as much as my GPA would allow, but in the end, what she had tried so hard to get me to understand stuck with me. I use it, but probably not often enough. I’ll share it and you can decide for yourself if it is as easy as she made it seem.

Each idea must be supported by a sentence that answers one of three questions about the idea. How is it true? Why is it true? In what way is it true? The simplicity of this practice is deceptive because it can be difficult to admit that you are making a claim that cannot be supported.

I hate when that happens.

Today I did a lot of writing. I published a blog post. I wrote an article that will most likely never be published. I wrote two versions of a cover letter for my ongoing job search. A deluge of ideas caused me to work on several documents simultaneously. I could not separate my ideas fast enough to bother asking how or why or in what way any of them were true. As a consequence, I spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening editing. Right in the middle of all of it, I had to stop myself so that I could start this post. It was nagging at me to be let out, like a sneeze that stings so bad it makes your eyes water.

That’s it. Be open to possibilities. Decide for yourself what is good and what isn’t. Let others help you along the way. Know that sometimes you’ll need to let go of one thing in order to accept something better. Know the rules. Know that you can bend the rules. Know that some rules aren’t worth the torment you feel obligated to endure for them. Know that it isn’t a sprint, it’s a summersault sometimes followed by a face plant. Have the courage to stare failure down and make it pay you back with interest. That’s how to write a story using only one hundred words.

Here is my story prompted by the prompt courtesy of Sarah Potter.

january-snowfall-nighttime
Copyright Sarah Potter

Since You’ve Been Gone

My mug is piping hot. I take out the biscotti, leaving one in the jar. “I’ll be back for you later,” I whisper. My heart flutters beneath layers of wool and flannel. The flashes are gone now, but the covers still end up on the floor. For old time’s sake I guess, when lava in my veins forced me to open a window. He hated that. The silence is louder than ever. I won’t miss being stuck in this place. The checklist, still on the kitchen counter, is incomplete. Perhaps I’ll have that last biscotti. Tomorrow might be too late.

*****

Lately my mood, and my writing, has been bluer than blue. I make no apologies. That’s the way it goes sometimes. Thanks for reading. I owe you all a debt of gratitude for the generous comments and thoughtful support.

Will Work For Life

An unsettling thought occurred to me while I was taking a break after completing six online job applications in a row. That may not sound like many, but it is. The process for jobs I am interested in is excruciatingly tedious. I won’t bore you with the details of my search and rescue mission on dot coms dedicated to helping us find work ’til we die.

Which is closer for some than others.

There seems to be a trend for people of a certain age to humble vent on LinkedIn. Humble venting is a bit like humble bragging, you know, when someone tells how grateful they are for something in that false modesty language with the undertone of “OMG, this awesome thing makes my life so much better than yours and now everyone will want to be my friend so that they can be amazing like me, but they can’t, no one can, not even you.”

Yeah, you know exactly what I’m saying.

ANYWAY, humble venters are people who tell you that they have finally found their dream job with one of the ten best ever companies to work for. A company that values experience and rewards thought leaders and sends fairies riding unicorns to their house in the middle of the night to lay out their business casual wear and set up the coffee maker so that all they have to do is press the button and hop in the shower.

THEN, they go on to say how horribly rotten the job search experience was for them. How a thousand man hours produced hundreds of applications that yielded only a few dozen interviews and how their ego was dealt a deathblow every time an email, thanking them for there interest, but to NEVER EVER expect to get so much as spam in the future, came after hitting refresh on their phone, iPad, AND PC fifty-two times each, oh, but now after torturous months, their faith in humanity has been completely restored.

Humble venters use run-on sentences.

I’ve been cautioned, thank you Mr. Petruska, not to post anything that might be construed as negative or derogatory or damaging or even halfway accurate about organizations that seem to only hire nit wits, dim wits, and knuckleheads for HR recruiting. So, I won’t.

I will, however, say that there are some serious issues with talent acquisition in the corporate world today, my friends, and until somebody makes that great again, there’s gonna be a whole lot of valuable resources wasting away in Margaritaville.

I’m just sayin’. What? Too negative?

The thought that occurred to me is that this experience must be a lesson in humility. This is based on that annoying premise that everything happens for a reason. On the other hand, there certainly have been plenty of humiliating moments in my life for no reason I can think of. Well, I have learned my lesson. Digital rejection is as bad as human rejection. I promise to never humble brag again. I do need to get hired so that I can humble vent. It’s on my bucket list, and if I don’t do it soon, there may never be an opportunity because I intend to get a job or die trying.

Have humility, will travel.

 

 

 

Life and Death: The Next Big Thing

The world has lost a giant intellect with the death of Professor Hans Rosling, the statistician who breathed life into data and gave humanity an enormous gift. His entertaining and optimistic approach to data analysis is inspirational. His teaching methods will live on in every person who had the good fortune to hear him speak, and while I am saddened by the loss of such a kind and generous teacher, there is an upside. All we have to do is accept that his work is not finished and endeavor together to continue it. Students of all ages are clamoring for teachers with Professor Rosling’s ability and willingness to facilitate learning. There are many such teachers in our schools who are eager for partnerships with industries that rely on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). What are we waiting for?

One thing that must be understood is the notion that, “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach” is utter nonsense. I offer instead the counter, “Those who teach empower others to discover they, too, can do.”

Teachers in many schools feel hamstrung by the very system that is supposed to support student growth and achievement. Budget constraints and ineffective administrators often work in tandem to squelch the enthusiasm of new teachers who either hang in there, hoping it will get better or give up in frustration. Teachers begin their careers with the knowledge that society does not view them as professionals. The pay scale proves it. The lack of parental involvement in scholastic performance proves it. The fact that some believe our teachers must be armed with weapons, rather than the proper tools to do their job also proves it.

Optimism for the future rests in the hands of teachers. Modeling behaviors such as respect, attention to detail, curiosity, and compassion, often falls solely on teachers, because of a lack of engagement at home where inappropriate behavior is sometimes cultivated or ignored. Behavior cannot be ignored in a public classroom any more than it can be ignored in society. Teachers cannot merely take to social media or the streets to remedy problems they encounter daily in the classroom. Clear, measurable objectives proven by goal-driven evidence are only part of the success story. Teachers must be supported, empowered, and compensated in order for us to arrive at a solution with which we can not only live but thrive.

Thanks, Professor Rosling, for your knowledge, humility, and humor. You will be missed, but hopefully your message will not be lost on us.

What Passes For Fun In Dystopia

Well, the big day has arrived. What happens now? Your guess is as good as mine. The only thing to do is brace yourself, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. What? You think I’m talking about the end of the world as we know it? Nah! It’s just my little brother’s birthday.

Happy Birthday, Bro! Remember, you’re only as old as you can remember. Birthdays are the best thing since sliced bread. What’s better than getting another year older? Friday Fictioneers, of course! This week’s picture worth a hundred words comes to us from Dale Rogerson, and driving the bandwagon is Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Thanks to you both.

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson
PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Humor In The Post Dystopian Era

Discovery of a structure outside the city walls generated excitement among the Remainders. Centuries had passed since the Great Divide left them without a dependable power source and artificial intelligence began to decline. Drones were dispatched to investigate, but all they found were some decayed tablets.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Siri and Alexa amused themselves with jokes from their days at the AI Club.

“Siri, have you heard this one? An idiom, a cliché, and a platitude walk into a bar…”

“Hold on, Alexa, that’s impossible. Everyone knows idioms, clichés, and platitudes don’t have a leg to stand on.”

*****

More Fictioneers are here. Thanks for Reading

Taking Risks

What leaders do and how they do it is a topic of much discussion around the world and around my dinner table. Leadership theory as well as leadership in action is, one might say, “in my wheelhouse.” A debate about whether or not managers really need to know how to do the jobs of the employees they manage went on for many years in my house. Then this notion of managing vs. leading began to emerge.

It has become popular in organizational development circles to say that managers focus on processes and leaders focus on people. This raises the questions if a manager must be a leader and if leaders need to be good managers. The best case scenario is for leaders to model behaviors that inspire others to deliver results. Of course, accountability and integrity are qualities which managers and leaders share. The ability to build relationships is another. This does not require super-human skill. It does, however, require the willingness to put one’s self out there. In other words, take a risk.

Ten years ago I took a risk. I turned down a promotion and left the best job I’ve ever had to relocate for my husband’s job. It wasn’t long before I became bored. I needed something to do. There was no shortage of unpaid work to occupy my time. Volunteer opportunities soon turned into a passion for community service. So, I decided to take another risk. I went back to school to prepare myself for a leadership role in public affairs. I studied emergency administration and disaster planning. I studied non-profit management and public administration and conflict resolution. I had the opportunity to study abroad and learn prevention and intervention strategies to combat human trafficking. I learned about survivor aftercare. I returned from that experience physically and emotional drained but excited about the prospect of putting my knowledge and skills to work for an organization that needs a champion of customer relationships who can deliver dynamic results.

Now, here’s the biggest risk of all. After months of searching, I have only had one interview. My resume has been reviewed, revised, and has received the digital equivalent of “don’t call us, we’ll call you” so many times that I am beginning to question if all of my risk taking was for nothing. I’m not giving up. On the contrary, I’m reaching out, dear readers of this blog, and asking for your help. Please share this post.