My Son, Draco

I’ve become a father. A #PlantDad to my son, Draco.

After many years of thinking about it, I finally decided to buy my first plant. I’ve wanted a house full of plants for a long time and, now, in the Year of Our Lord 2019, I have decided that I needed to begin my collection of plant children.

My first son is named Draco, short for his Latin name, Dracaena deremensis is also called a “Lemon Surprise” for reasons I am not yet sure of. What’s so lemony about the plant? Where’s the surprise??? I don’t know any of these answers. For now, he’s a good boy livening up my bedroom in a nice medium light where he’ll be happy.

I’ve named him Dracaena “Draco” Lemon Challancin. Because I’m extra af.

These are from my Instagram stories from the day I bought him:

I freaked out my cousins with the first story. I didn’t give any context.

Plants are basically easy pets. You just water them. There’s not much of a commitment after that. They brighten up the room. They make it more beautiful. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get a plant!

Anyway, I know a Hufflepuff naming a plant Draco is insanity, but it suits him and fits his scientific name. We went with it and now there’s no going back. He’s Draco. And he’s my son.

Further Learning: A History of Language – Part IV – “What’s Up With English? (II)”

Hello! Welcome to Further Learning, a little project of mine where I continue my education after school and post about what I’m learning. Right now, I’m learning about language! To start from the beginning with A History of Language – Part I, click here.

It’s time to talk more about how weird English is! And I’m not alone in thinking that it’s a nutty language. Everything I’ve read agrees. It’s nuts. Since I’ve mostly moved on from John McWhorter’s The Power of Babel, I’ve been reading from his other book Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English. Information in this post will primarily be from this source, unless otherwise stated.

What’s Up With English? (II)

As I’ve stated, English is not a neat and tidy kind of language. There are many strange words, strange rules, and far too many exceptions to those rules. It’s a mashed up, much-influenced, difficult to understand language. Even I, a native speaker of English, struggle with basic rules and the understanding of words.

I do wonder if this is a universal experience? Do others find that English is a strange, difficult language to understand or learn? Or is it a common experience to find ones own language rather difficult? I’m not sure about any of that.

But I do know that there’s one way to figure out if English really is that weird. And that’s by looking at it’s family.

And guess what? It turns out, if you look at the entire sub-family of the Indo-European languages known as the Germanic Languages…English is definitely the black sheep.

English is the Germanic Oddball

Let’s talk about the weirdo of the Germanic languages. If you look at the same sentence in several of the Germanic Languages (German, Dutch, Swedish, Icelandic, and others), they appear to be very close in structure and word similarity. The one that jumps out as different is English.

An example:

German: Wo ist meine Tochter?
Dutch: Waar is mijn dochter?
Swedish: Var är min dotter?
Icelandic: Hvar er dóttir mín?
English: Where is my daughter?

For the most part, this sentence isn’t too bad. You can see the similar words, the structure is fairly the same with all. But it’s still real evident that English is much different than the others.

Here’s another example that shows it even more:

German: Können wir etwas Gemüse kaufen?
Dutch: Kunnen we wat groenten kopen?
Swedish: Kan vi köpa några grönsaker?
Icelandic: Getum við keypt grænmeti?
English: Can we buy some vegetables?

I mean…English barely looks even similar. You can see the connections and similarities between the other languages easily, even when the structure of the sentence and the words appear switched around. But with English? They barely look related at all.

Why is English so different? In the previous post about English, I talked about the influences on English because of several factors (the Vikings invading, the French taking over, and the general Latin makeover that was given by scholars) and these are some of the main reasons English is so different.

We know these languages are all connected by tracing back to earlier language groups and finding similarities. Take the word daughter, like above. In the others, we have Tochter, dochter, dotter, and dottir, which we know came from the Proto-Germanic word, daukhtrô. These are all similar to English’s daughter. (Side note: the ‘gh’ sound was once a ‘k’ sound, which is why the word “eight” is spelled the way it is, even though it comes from the Latin octo. So with the ‘gh’ it is still similar to German’s Tochter and Dutch’s dochter, even if it’s no longer said with the same sound.)

But what about English words that are completely different from the others? Well, we have those influences to thank. For example, in German, Dutch, Swedish, and Icelandic, there’s Eingang, ingang, ingång, and innganga. In English, instead of the similar Old English ingang, we have the word entrance, from French. And because of all those influences on our language, it looks much different from its cousins.

Also, I’m sure there’s a bunch of other reasons those sentences, and the languages themselves, look so different. But those are the ones I know for sure.

So what else is English doing so different?

Well, do and -ing is what it’s doing.

English speakers use the words do and did and does a lot. And we’re kind of the only ones who use these words that regularly? To my understanding, many languages don’t even have equivalent words. We have a so many ways to say, “I didn’t write” or “I did write” or “Did you write?” But other languages don’t have the same “did” in those sentences. In French, they’re simply, J’ai écrit to mean “I wrote” instead of “I did write” (which is obviously the same meaning in English, only there isn’t a distinction between them in French) and Avez-vous écrit? means “Have you written?” instead of “did you write.” There’s no equivalent sentence of “did you write?” because they just don’t say it that way. We have two different ways of saying it, but because “do” and “did” are more of an English thing. We say it in more than one way: one is more formal, “Have you written?” and one less formal, “Did you write?”

Within the same example, English tends to use the ending –ing in the present tense. If asked what you are doing, in English you’d say, “I’m writing” but in French you’d say, J’écris which means “I write.” Of course, French has a more specific sentence if needed to say “I am currently writing” is Je suis en train d’écrire.

You know what language does like doing the whole –ing thing? Celtic languages. Do you know was spoken around the area of and islands of England? Celtic languages. Did you know that most linguists think that English just…coincidentally does the same thing? And we didn’t get it from the Celts? They believe that all the Celts were completely wiped out during the invasion and it is impossible that they influenced the language. It makes no sense, but it’s true. It makes the most sense that, as McWhorter puts it, “While the Vikings were mangling English, Welsh and Cornish people were seasoning it.”

Favorite Facts & Tidbits

  • Recently, I saw a tweet on Twitter by @JohnRossBowie that said, “People who learn English as a second language are fucking superheroes could you imagine looking at the word ‘yacht’ […] and not just giving up” which immediately made me laugh and then think, where in the hell did yacht come from? So I googled it and it turns out, it’s from the Dutch word jaghte, from jaghtschip which means “fast pirate ship” from jag(h)t meaning ‘hunting’ and schip meaning ‘ship.’ Honestly, they’re SUPERHEROES. I didn’t know that! I just accepted “yacht” as a weird ass word and moved on with my life never even thinking about it. I mean, I’m not rich, so the word yacht rarely arises in my vocab, but still.
  • Speaking of the ‘gh’ sound switching from a ‘k’ sound, have you ever wondered why the names of the months are way they are? Octo-ber should be the eighth month, but it’s the tenth. And in turn, Sept-ember, Nov-ember, and Dec-ember should be the seventh, ninth, and tenth months. Well, you can blame the Romans changing it all up and moving them down to make room for January and February, previously just “winter”, and beginning the year there instead of continuing to begin the year in March like before. Also, they changed the fifth and sixth months, Quintilis and Sixilis into July and August (named after Julius and Augustus).
  • In Old English, the word for man was guma and the word for woman was cwēn, which is where we got the word queen. Which is awesome. However, because the -n was an object ending, it often turned into guman…which isn’t the origin of the word human? At all?? Human is from homo in Latin and later humaine in French, but I AM UNCONVINCED that there wasn’t a tiny influence somewhere in England??? It’s just too close to be a coincidence??? I’ll do more research and get back to it. Probably. If I remember. It’s probably just a coincidence. But still.
  • Because of those influences from the Viking invasion, French take over, and Latin lovin’ scholars, many of the words we have have synonyms at various levels of classiness (as I said about the English-derived pig versus the French-derived pork in the previous post about English). There’s two versions of begin, the mundane “start” and “begin” from Old English and “commence” from French. We also have a triple threat from each influence in increasing levels of formality: from the Anglo-Saxon ask; the French-derived question; to the Latin interrogate. This makes a lot of sense with the above examples of “Have you written?” being more formal than “Did you write?”

Black Sheep of the Germanics to (Second) Most Spoken Language in the World

English may be the weird cousin of all the Germanic Languages, but it did become the second most spoken language in the world today. Probably for a lot of terrible reasons. I mean, definitely for a lot of terrible reasons. I think we’ll get into colonization soon.

And as always, if you know what you’re talking about (I’m doing this to learn and share, not teach — I’m an amateur here) please feel free to comment with more information or correction! So long for now!

Designing a Book Cover

Hello there! For the last few months, I’ve been setting aside some time to design book covers to add to my portfolio because it’s something I’d love to do for self-publishing authors (if you are one and would like to work together, please send a message through the contact page on my website here) because I love doing it. Most of the covers I do are of already published books, usually something I’ve read or is a favorite of mine. I redesign them for fun and to put up on my portfolio, but for this cover, I did something a little different.

This time, I first found the original stock photo while searching around on Storyblocks and wanted to build a cover around it. So, this cover is not of a real book nor is Nathan Patterson a real author. I made it all up to fit around the concept, kind of reversing what I usually do. I wanted to do more fantasy and more work with photography rather than vector art, which is what I usually do, and thought I’d share the design process for this particular cover.

First, as I said, I found the image that I wanted to work with. It’s a stock image a photographer has available on Storyblocks that immediately made the gears in my head start to turn.

There were a few things that I wanted to edit and fix of the original: the fold in the fabric close to eye needed to be smoothed, the contact lenses the girl are wearing are a bit crooked, and I wanted to smooth out the fabric in general so that it didn’t look quite so cheap-looking (this was done later, so not shown below). So those were the first steps. I achieved these tweaks in Photoshop.

Below, you’ll see that editing out the folded-up part near her eye doesn’t look perfect, which I knew would be okay because I was going to be doing more work on it.

After that, I took the photo into Lightroom just to play around with the coloring and shadows to make it look darker and less bright and green in the background (on the left). Then, I brought back into Photoshop to continue editing to smooth out her skin, darken her eye makeup, and smooth out the fabric to look less like velvet (on the right).

Once the photo was where I wanted it, I continued in Photoshop to add more effects. This included darkening more of the background to even it out, coloring her contacts to be blue, and adding this stock image texture I found, which reminds me of metallic eye shadow or something. After applying the texture over it, I erased it just around the eyes so that they would still pop and not be too covered up.

One thing that I wanted to try, was having a smoke/fire/magic-looking effect around the text of the title. After much trial and error, I was able to achieve the desired effect by removing all the black from the original smoke image in Photoshop, then digitally erasing and painting in several layers of the text in order to make it appear as though it is within the smoke, not just on top of it or behind it.

And there it be! I’m very excited with how it turned out. This was my first design using many of these techniques and the first I’ve ever done using a photo of a person, too. I pushed myself to go beyond my usual style and comfort zone, and I’m glad I did!

Here are some more covers I’ve done:

Again, if you’d like to work with me, whether it be for a cover design or something else, visit my website and use the contact page to ask any questions you’d like!

Further Learning: A History of Language – Part III – “Dialects, Pidgins, & Creoles”

Dialects, Pidgins, & Creoles

Hello! Welcome to Further Learning, a little project of mine where I continue my education outside of school and post about what I’m learning. Right now, I’m learning about language! To start from the beginning with A History of Language – Part I, click here.

Now, the topics of dialects, pidgins, and creoles are a little hard to understand, and I’m still learning about each more in depth right now, so this post is just going to cover the briefest explanations of each.

I’ve been reading primarily from John McWhorter’s The Power of Babel, but I have several books in line to learn from. Information in this post will primarily be from this source, unless otherwise stated.

What are dialects? What are pidgins? What are creoles?

Dialects

Commonly confused with a synonym for accent, dialects are actually just…different versions of the same language. For example, American English (which can be further subdivided into other dialects) and British English (which can be further subdivided) are two different languages that overlap, having both come from Modern English. We can, for the most part, understand each other. They’re both in the larger family of “English.” Another example is Italian, as there are many regions of Italy that are all different dialects of “Italian” and are not the same as the unified, more formal and official Italian that one would learn in an Italian class. But these dialects aren’t just different forms of Italian, they’re all derived from Vulgar Latin (like in an earlier post, French derived from Latin in the region of France) but all in different ways depending on the region they were in. These dialects are all part of the same family of Italian, but are different in ways that it’s possible that a person in one region of Italy could understand another person from a region close to theirs, but might not be able to understand someone from a region further away.


https://rickzullo.com/italian-dialects/

Pidgins

Not the bird. That’s pigeon. A pidgin is a simplified version of languages in order for two or more different-speaking groups can communicate on a regular basis but don’t necessarily need to fully learn each other’s language. An example of this in The Power of Babel is in the 1800s, Russians would bring timber to Norway and in order to communicate with each other, they together formed an informal language, a mix of words from each language, in order to get by. This mix was around 50/50 in words, because they had an equal position with trading and met halfway. Most pidgins are formed, however, where a dominating group’s vocabulary makes up the bulk of the words.

Creoles

A creole is basically what happens when a pidgin evolves. Like a Pokemon. It becomes not just a simplified in-between language created to be able to communicate, it becomes a complex, fully-formed language that is spoken as a native language by a group of people, often times this is the children of those who spoke the pidgin regularly. The creole with the largest number of speakers is Haitian Creole, a combination of African languages and Romance languages, specifically French.

Favorite Facts & Tidbits

  • Languages often borrow words not just from different dialects, but from different times! The Norman conquered England and brought their specific dialect of French with them. This is why, for instance, we have the word “castle” from the Norman castel, rather than the Parisian French dialect word which was chastel. We later adopted the word “chateau” which came from chastel. This also happened with Japanese borrowing from (Mandarin) Chinese, sometimes the same word at different times to after centuries of evolution, to become two different words with a similar meaning.
  • In the United States, there is influence of English on Spanish-speakers from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. Often called “Spanglish,” some words are intermixed like saying brekas for “brakes” instead of the original Spanish word frenos.
  • Remember that Russian and Norwegian pidgin I mentioned earlier? Well, it’s called Russenorsk, but to its speakers, they refer to it as Moja pa tvoja, which roughly means “Me in yours.”

Again, not the bird

A quick recap! Dialects are not different accents, but small subdivisions within a main language family. Pidgins are not birds, but simple fusions of languages of two or more groups of people, used in order to communicate without having to learn each other’s whole languages. And creoles are pidgins evolved into a full-fledged, complex language and spoken by a group as their native tongue.

So! This was a very simplified, probably mostly wrong explanation of what the heck dialects, pidgins, and creoles are! Again, I’m still learning and they are very complex concepts to grasp. I mean, there’s literally like 100 pages in The Power of Babel about them alone. It’s a lot.

And of course, if you know what you’re talking about (I’m doing this to learn and share, not teach — I’m an amateur here) please feel free to comment with more information or correction! So long for now!

Winter Favorites: 2019

Spring is here! It’s still fairly cold and there’s still a lot of snow because I live in The North, but technically, it’s here!! I’ve been doing “favorites” posts on this blog for a few years now and usually struggle to remember things that, in the moment, I would mentally say to myself, “Oooh, this is a cool thing! I should share this in my next favorites post!” and then it would vanish from my brain. I’d sit to write the post and be like, “Um…did I read anything this month?” But not anymore! Now that I’m doing these favorites posts by season instead of monthly, I have a beautiful new spread for each quarter in my Bullet Journal and there’s a whole section to write down my favorites instead of trying to remember them. So I have them all! All in one spot!

Anyway, here are my very organized and all-remembered favorites from this past winter:

Books:

  • Truly Devious and The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson
    Maureen Johnson is one of my favorite writers. Everything that I’ve read of hers is smart and hilarious, and for real, she does murder mystery/boarding school stories so. well. I read her Shades of London series (still waiting for the last book; please, please, please) and just started her more recent series starting with Truly Devious and its sequel, The Vanishing Stair. Both are similar (murder with a connection to something historic, a boarding school, YA, female protag) accept Shades of London is set in England and has ghosts. To be honest, I think I loved Truly Devious even more than the first book in the Shades of London series, The Name of the Star—and I really loved that book. Truly Devious is so good that I literally couldn’t put it down (I read this book in two days, which is so rare for me) and I quickly read the second book, too. I’m dying to get to the third, but it doesn’t come out for a year!
  • Vengeful by V.E. Schwab
    Victoria (V.E.) Scwab is my favorite author of all time. Her books are beautifully crafted and inspire me to be a better writer every time I finish something of hers. They’re just so good. Vengeful is the sequel to her adult debut, Vicious, about two college friends who discover the secret to gaining superpowers and they both become villains…and heroes, in their own minds. It’s so good and was a perfect sequel to the first book.

Films:

  • The Royal Tenenbaums
    I know that I’m ridiculous late in modern classic films, I get it, but I haven’t seen much of any Wes Anderson films in my life. Which is crazy, because Wes Anderson films are, now that I’ve seen them, very much My Jam. I’d seen Rushmore many years ago when in high school and Moonrise Kingdom during that Academy Awards year (I used to watch all the nominees before/after the ceremony but haven’t been able to for a few years) and liked both. But I hadn’t taken the time to watch anything else by Anderson until this passed year. The Royal Tenenbaums is, um, one of my new favorite movies. I watched it six times in January. I get it now. I get it. I’ll watch more Wes Anderson, okay?
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona
    I watched this film at a great time for me to watch it: when I was very depressed about not being able to move to Spain for 8 months. Well, it made me more depressed because oh my god, I just want to be there. But also, it made me feel, almost like I’d gone? Not really. But it helped a bit. Anyway, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a great film but it’s made even better by the performance of Penelope Cruz. I mean, she obviously won an Oscar for it, but now I fully understand why.
  • Inside Out
    I was born in the early 90s, so I’m a Pixar kid through-and-through, but I neglected to see Inside Out until recently. It made me cry. A lot. Not as much as Up (like, just thinking about Up for more than ten seconds makes me sob) but still a lot. It’s a sweet, funny classic Pixar film but with probably my favorite concept of any of them. Emotions have emotions!? It’s so good!
  • Call Me By Your Name
    Listen, I read this book at the end of 2017 and loved it. It’s a beautiful story about two young men (one seventeen, the other twenty four) beginning a summer romance in Northern Italy. It’s a great story that explores the teenager’s sexuality—there’s an entire scene, the “peach scene” if you’ve heard of it, that works so well to describe his bisexual feelings for his girlfriend and the man he’s attracted to. Though this doesn’t translate perfectly on film, it’s important in the book. Most of all, I just love the film because of the scenery (and Timothee Chalamet’s incredible performance) because Northern Italy is so beautiful and it happens to be set near where my family is from, and I’m desperate to visit there live there.
  • Design for Living
    I’ve been working on watching more classic films, and just more films in general, but specifically from the 30s to the 60s at the moment. I’ve seen a few prior to starting this (some of my favorites are Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Charade, How to Steal A Million, and Singin’ in the Rain) but really want to see as many classics as possible. So, I started with Design for Living (I’ve been recording sooo many on my DVR that play on Turner Classic Movies channel) from 1933. It’s a pre-Code film (the Hays Code is what they came up with that enforced what was and wasn’t allowed in a film) so it is quite risque! It’s a comedy about…well, a throuple. They mention sex, directly calling it “sex” and the female lead angrily says “fucking” (not in a sexual context) which, to my knowledge, is the first time the f-word was ever in a film! It wasn’t on screen again until the late 60s/early 70s. But other than the SCANDAL of it all, it’s funny and the leads are great, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Also, A THROUPLE. IN 1933.

Music:

  • Aurora
    If Hozier and Florence Welch are King and Queen of opposing fae courts, Aurora is their teenage, runaway love child. Her voice is incredible, and I’ve talked about her before, but her new album Infections of a Different Kind (Step I) is so good. Especially the songs, Forgotten Love and Gentle Earthquakes, my current favorites.
  • “Lead, SD” – Manchester Orchestra
    I discovered Manchester Orchestra on iTunes while looking for new music and really dug their song Lead, SD. It’s a bit more of a thrasher than the other songs (like The Gold and The Maze) that I like from their album A Black Mile to the Surface, which is the only album I know of them. Anyway, the song is great.
  • “Monster” and “She” – dodie
    These two songs by dodie are SO GOOD. Her new EP just came out and I love it. She is a beautifully written song that I felt real hard and Monster is a bop. Both great. That’s some good shit right there.
  • Orla Gartland
    I heard of Orla Gartland because she plays guitar for dodie and boy oh boy, her music is top notch. I Go Crazy and Why Am I Like This? are so good. I’ve listened to them a lot and relate to Why Am I Like This? a whole lot. Like a lot a lot. Plus Orla is just so cool. she reminds me of a young Jodie Foster if young Jodie Foster had been in a band.
  • “The Joke” – Brandi Carlile
    This song made me cry the first time I heard it, which is always a good sign of a great song. It’s powerful. I’ve loved Brandi Carlile since The Story, way back in the mid-00s. But I hadn’t heard much of her music since then and kind of forgot about her. Well, she’s just been nominated for a million Grammy awards now, hasn’t she? I don’t think I’ll forget about her ever again.
  • “still feel.” – halfalive
    This song my jammmm. I don’t know where Half Alive came from but I’m glad their here now. The music video for this song is beyond good. The song is beyond good. I’ve been listening to it on repeat. I’ll be sad for the day that I’ll become sick of it from playing it too much.
  • “You’re Somebody Else” – Flora Cash
    I heard this duo sing this song live on a talk show and I loved it, then I heard the TWO different versions (acoustic and original), and I loved it even more. It’s a really nice, mellow and beautifully-sung song.
  • “Give A Little”- Maggie Rogers
    I saw this song and Maggie Rogers’ new album on so many people’s Instagram Stories that I eventually had to give in and listen. It’s a bop. I love it and can’t stop listening.
  • “Moderation” – Florence + the Machine
    Y’all should know I love Florence + the Machine and I was thrilled to see a new single come out. Moderation isn’t really my favorite Florence song but it’s still a great one and I’ll always appreciate new Florence songs to add to my collection like a dragon hoarding gold.

Television:

  • The Alienist
    To be COMPLETELY honest, I’ve only watched the first episode and just haven’t found the time to binge the rest. Also, this show came out in the winter of 2018, I think in January? Anyway, I’d recorded them all on my DVR and just recently decided to give it a watch. The first episode is real good, though it’s hella dark–I mean litereally, I watched it in the day and STRUGGLED to see what was happening. I had to close the curtains and squint. But it’s also dark, dark. But well-acted and intriguing, which I’m always here for.
  • Deadly Class
    Full disclosure, I’ve only watched the first few episodes of this show, too. But I think I like it! I think. I’m still not sure. I don’t know what this show wants to be but I like the premise of a school teaching teens to be assassins and so I’m hoping it will get better as time goes on. Should I really include it as a “favorite”? Not really. But it’s my blog and I can do what I want.
  • Miracle Workers
    I really like this show a lot. I can’t help but compare it to the similar, and so far still superior show, The Good Place, but Miracle Workers is funny, and stupid, and aesthetically cool–like, the wardrobe and set design is killin’ it on this show. It doesn’t have the smarts or heart (yet) of The Good Place, but I still really enjoy watching it because the premise of Miracle Workers is still unique enough, and funny enough, for me to continue to watch on a weekly basis (something I don’t know I would’ve done with The Good Place’s first season, as I binged it all in one go.)

Other:

  • Package Free Shop
    I’ve been following a more “zero waste” life style in the last year or two, trying to reduce my plastic use in as many aspects of my life as possible–like using reusable bags when shopping, using less plastic wrap, buying less products that come in non-recyclable or difficult to recycle (in my area) plastic, using reusable bamboo cutlery and stainless steel straws instead of one-use plastic, using a bamboo toothbrush, making my own deodorant (it’s very easy), and using shampoo bars and bar soap instead of shampoo and body wash in plastic bottles. Package Free Shop (co-started by one of the first people I discovered online that is “zero waste,” Lauren Singer) is an amazing shop (physically in NYC, globally online) that sells package free and plastic free goods like some of the things I listed above (I just recently purchased a shampoo bar, bamboo toothbrush, and stainless steel straws). It’s a great online shop for a lot of the items I wouldn’t be able to buy anywhere else because of where I live (the middle of nowhere.)
  • Mary Shelley Shirt
    So, this one is mostly telling you about the shirt I designed again. I wanted a shirt that said Mary Shelley is My Homegirl with an illustration of her, a parody of the Mary is My Homegirl with the Virgin Mary. I was upset it didn’t exist anywhere, because I thought it was hilarious, and then I remembered that I could literally just make one for myself. So I did! And I left it up on Redbubble, where I’ll be ordering one for myself, to see if anyone else liked it. (No one has bought it yet, lol). Anyway, I love the shirt and I can’t wait to wear it.

And those were winter favorites of 2019!

The Opposite of Writer’s Block

I don’t actually believe in “Writer’s Block” but that’s an entirely different post that I plan on writing about. (I originally went very off topic with this post and decided to cut it and make it a separate post.)

Today, I’m going to talk about the opposite of “Writer’s Block” and that’s the glorious, wonderful (if not a little ironically frustrating) time when I have too many ideas. When my brain is bountiful with words and characters and worlds that I just can’t keep from bubbling out of me—and how I shut that shit down, because I have to focus on one thing at a time, dammit.

I’m not good at multitasking. Well, I’m average at it. But when it comes to writing, there’s now way I can keep multiple projects in my head. I mean, I can keep multiple ideas up in there—snippets and pieces. But, eventually, I have to get them down. Especially when I’m going through that wonderful time of having too many ideas because it’s just so much clutter. I’ll forget things. I’ll merge stories. Characters from one story will pop up in another. The detective will suddenly discover that the murder victim was killed by the fire-bending vampire who’s been secretly in love with the detective ever since they met at spy school. Wait…*writes this down*

Anyway, with too many ideas, I need to get them all down and accounted for. And this is how I do it:

Because I use the program Scrivener (for reals, it’s the best) I can have one file for all ideas and projects I want to work on soon. For example, since January, I’ve been developing ideas for…

  • A new fantasy series, but specifically the first book to write during NaNoWriMo 2019.
  • A full-length film script about MY LIFE. It’s a comedy…ish. Only semi-autobiographical.
  • Another full-length film script about ALIENS. It’s a thriller.
  • ANOTHER full-length film script about a FAMILY. It’s DRAMATIC.
  • And, yet, ANOTHER full-length film script about MURDER. It’s another thriller.
  • A short film that I can’t produce with such a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (just me).
  • Another short film that isn’t really an idea yet, I just want to make one this year with a limited budget ($0) and limited crew (still just me lol). I used to make these a lot right out of high school and miss doing it.

Plus, I’m working on 1) the book I started during NaNoWriMo 2018, trying to finish it and 2) the book I’m supposed to be working on as “the book” that I haven’t touched in, like, a year. I Marie Kondo’d that shit. IT DOESN’T SPARK JOY RIGHT NOW, SO I PUT IT AWAY UNTIL IT DOES.

So HOW DO I KEEP ALL THESE STRAIGHT AND TIDY IN MY BRAIN?

I cry a lot.

Just kidding, I don’t. I mean, yes, I cry a lot. But I don’t keep them all in my brain!

I have a Scrivener (#NotSpon) (lol like anyone would sponsor this blog) file with all of these ideas. I set it up like this: I have one text document (and you can do this with Word or Docs with just different files in a folder on your computer, whatevs, nbd) with a MASTER LIST of all of these projects. It’s just a list of the projects (by title or short description) and projects that are completed are highlighted in yellow. The project that I’m actively working on, I highlight in blue. Projects that I have yet to start on are not highlighted with any color and projects that are outlined-but-not-yet-completed are highlighted in green.

Then, I have other text documents within that file (or if you don’t have Scrivener, just within a folder) for each of these projects. This is a dumping ground. Any time I have an idea or a thought or anything that I can’t have in my head about the project, I plop it in that text document. Sometimes there’s just a few lines, maybe a paragraph. One of them, I have an entire outline started. It’s just everything I need to get down to get it out of my head.

And it’s all in one, nice and tidy place!

So what is this magical time of having too many ideas called? The opposite of “Writer’s Block”? Let’s call it…Writer’s Flow? Creative Fulfillment? Magic Time? Heaven? Maybe it doesn’t need a name. It’s a great time, though.

Writer’s Block Is Fixable

Occasionally, like most writers, I periodically suffer from something known as “Writer’s Block.” But listen, it’s not real. Okay it is real, but it’s not what you think.

Hear me out — I just think that it’s an over-used term that’s often romanticized as this “You don’t understand! It’s too difficult! My muse has left me! I shan’t go on!” [proceeds to dramatically faint, landing on a chaise with one arm draped over forehead] kind of thing. As if it’s something that just falls upon you like an illness.

But listen! That’s not what it is! And it’s easily fixable!!!

If you’re struggling from writer’s block, it’s not because an evil Cupid-like demonbaby shot you with an anti-idea arrow. You shot yourself with that arrow. Because a lack of idea comes from a lack of something else in your life. You need sustenance. You need sleep. You need a break. You need inspiration, that “muse” you claim left you. So go get it back.

I mean, the problem is simple: you are creatively, mentally, or physically drained (or a combination of the three) so you’re unable to write. The answer: you need to fill your creative well by stepping away and reading or absorbing some other art; take a break and breathe and/or meditate; or go for a walk, stretch, exercise, sleep, eat something, and/or drink some water (or a combination of all of it). It’s usually a combination of all of it. Sometimes, as someone who deals with mental health problems, it was my depression and/or anxiety getting in the way. That’s a whole other issue, but working through those hurdles is just as important.

The point is, your writer’s block is a symptom of a different problem.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been writing for almost eleven years and I have not once felt like I had “writer’s block” as it’s often described. I, of course, go through spurts where I don’t have any ideas or I can’t seem to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) or I just don’t want to write because it’s become something that no longer makes me happy. So, instead of staring at the empty computer screen or notebook page, I do as I mentioned above. I’m usually creatively drained and need to fill my creative well. I read, watch a film, go to an art gallery. Or I’ve been at the computer too long and I need to go for a walk. Sometimes that fills the well, too! I just go outside, walk through the woods a bit. Something will come. Something always comes.

BONUS: Sometimes none of the above works. Sometimes. And I can tell you exactly what that is — or, at least, what it’s been for me. Because none of those things worked, I knew that it was the story. It wasn’t ready to be written. It needed to simmer in my brain more. I needed to put it away and work on something else.

But even still — the block wasn’t the problem. It was the symptom and I needed to work it out.

TO RECAP, “Writer’s Block” is a symptom of something else. It’s not the cause itself. And, most of the time, you can work through it. You can fix the problem by troubleshooting. Water? Rest? Creative dry spell? Take care of it. Move on.

Now, go forth and write and write and write. But don’t forget those breaks. And don’t forget to refill your creative well by reading and watching and listening. Then write some more.

Recent Design Projects

Hi! So I’ve been trying to do more design work outside of work like I talked about in this post. I’ve been really enjoying just designing and creating some digital art just for the hell of it. Here’s some stuff that I’ve been working on:

So, I’ve been working on alternate book covers for some of my favorite books to put up on my portfolio because designing book covers for self-published authors or for publishing houses is something that I want to do. I’ve been working on a few more but I have finished one that I’m in love with, and that’s an alternate cover for the book Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. It’s about Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed for murder in the early 1800s Iceland. I’d wanted to feature the setting and tone of the book, using the imagery of vultures circling the farm house in which Agnes was forced to stay before her execution date, signifying her impending death.

This trio was simply doing an exercise. I just needed a refresher and some practice with layers and effects, and especially wanted to work out how to do a metallic effect. It’s not perfect here, but I like how these three image turned out.

I saw a tweet about Mary Shelley, saying how she was both a cool gothic teen and a revolutionary author who invented a genre with Frankenstein. I thought, Yeah that’s right, she’s my homegirl. Then, I thought about the “Mary is my Homegirl” t-shirt with the Virgin Mary on it. These two things merged in my brain for a second. I laughed out lout. Mary Shelley is my Homegirl. And I really, truly, desperately wanted a shirt with that on it. But none had been created yet. I was upset but only for a moment because I realized — UH, I COULD MAKE ONE? So I did and she’s amazing and I gave her a little skull necklace. It’s my first, like, illustrative design so it’s not perfect but I’m really proud of her anyway.

If you happen to be as weird as I and love this little design I made, I have the shirt up on Redbubble for myself to order and I’m just going to keep it there for anyone else who likes it.

I’ve been toying with the idea of an online shop for a while, so I’ve been slowly trying to build a social media presence and designing products that I want to sell. I have a whole big plan and everything, but I’ve just been working on some pieces casually for now. One such pieces is a calendar that I’m real excited about. So far, a few months have been completed but I recently finished “January” and I love it.

And lastly, I played with animation for the first time in a LONG time. I took an animation/motion graphics class in design school, but never really bothered with it since. But as I was working on the calendar’s page for “February,” I started to like the way I was maniplating some of the shapes and thought, “Woah, this would be cool if I saved each change as an image and animated it frame by frame.” So I did and it’s not, like, the coolest thing in the world as I’d imagined (lol) but I still think it’s neat. I think I’ll try to do more of it because it was a lot of fun. I’d love to be able to work out more complicated ones. Anyway, here’s a short clip. (Literally like two seconds lol.)

And that’s it! These are all the little projects I’ve been working on outside of work and thought I’d share!

✌🏻

Further Learning: A History of Language – Part II – “What’s Up With English? (I)”

Hello! Welcome to Further Learning, a little project of mine where I continue my education outside of school and post about what I’m learning. Right now, I’m learning about language! To start from the beginning with A History of Language – Part I, click here.

This post will probably be one of several about English specifically. I expect I’ll be learning more, especially in the book Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter and The Etymologicon by Mark Forsyth, as I’m fascinated with the weirdness of English, so I’m definitely going to want to know more and talk about more!

I’ve been reading primarily from John McWhorter’s The Power of Babel, but I have several books in line to learn from. Information in this post will primarily be from this source, unless otherwise stated.

What’s Up with English? (I)

English is weird. I’m sure other languages are weird, too. But English, my native language, sometimes just doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ve always wanted to know why certain words are the way they are. Like, why is “bologna” pronounced bel-OWN-ee? Why is “colonel” pronounced k-ERN-al? Or should I be asking why they’re spelled that way? There are so many more things that I want to know about English and I’m on a mission to learn as much as I can about all the weird spellings, rules, and history of it.

To answer those questions, I’ve found out: Bologna is actually Italian, a sausage named after the city in Italy, pronounced boh-LOAN-ya, which probably organically changed to an Americanized, easier pronunciation of buh-LOAN-ee over time. The spelling, for the most part, remained — except for those who changed it, sounding it out to “baloney,” which is also accepted as correct. As for colonel…or coronel…it’s still confusing. Basically, it comes from both French and Italian, and over time we acquired military terms from them, with interchanging spellings and pronunciations (like the word actually being three syllables and both ‘o’s were pronounced to be “col-o-nel” and “cor-o-nel“). And both spellings were used for a while in English. Eventually, we just stuck with the French pronunciation but the Italian spelling remained as a dumb-ass compromise. The second ‘o’ pronunciation was later dropped over time and it was just a weirdly spelled, two-syllable word. You can read about it here.

A Brief History of the English Language

As I said in the last post about language, all languages around the world are connected and derived from a singular (or several similar) language. Over time, with migration and other factors, one language because thousands. An early language to many of the European/Western Asian languages is Indo-European, a language branch that split up into many other branches. One of these branches is the Germanic branch of languages.

What’s part of the Germanic branch? Well, English, German (duh), Dutch, Swedish, Afrikaans, Danish, Norwegian, Yiddish, Scots, Frisian, Icelandic, and a few others.

English has a close relation to Frisian, but was heavily influenced by other Germanic languages, Norse, French, and Latin, which is why so many modern words are derived from so many different other languages. There’s even more than just those listed above.

Essentially, there’s four stages of English after the Germanic split from the main Indo-European language. From Proto-Germanic, one of the many languages to come from it, and is the earliest form of English as its own language, is called Old English. This early version of English was spoken in the early Middle Ages (550 – 1066 CE). This is what Beowulf was first written in. During this time, around the year 787, Vikings invaded speaking Old Norse (ancestor of Scandinavian languages) and brought early versions of the words again, get, both, same, skirt, and sky into the language.

After Old English, the language transitioned into what’s called Middle English, spoken from about 1200 – 1450 CE. This is the version of English in which Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales. After the French won against England and took over in 1066, many words from the French invaders remained in the English language just like the Viking’s Old Norse. This is where we received thousands of words like, flower, debt, people, change, wait, chair, tax, music, and beef. And, speaking of “beef,” one of my first introductions into learning about language was from this video by Lindsey Williams, in which she explains why there’s different words for the meat of an animal versus the animals themselves (beef/cow, mutton/sheep, pork/pig) and it blew my mind.

After Middle English came Early Modern English, spoken during the time of Shakespeare and the King James version of the Bible, from 1500 to 1700 CE. Around this time, is when scholars, as Lindsey Williams in the second video of hers below says, just kind of put letters wherever they wanted for the hell of it. In McWhorter’s The Power of Babel, he calls this the “Latinate” layer, where they were including more Latin derived words.

And that brings us to the latest version of English, Modern English! (Or, Late Modern English? I don’t know, we speak differently than we did in the Early Modern English phase, so I’d assume it should be its own era at this point.) It’s what I’m typing in right now. It’s been spread around the world (sometimes forcibly pushed on people, which ain’t great) and has become one of the most spoken languages in the world.

Will there be another version of English, as it changes and morphs through time? I’m not sure. Again, I’m not an expert. But there’s already so many dialects of Modern English, and it’s safe to say that they’ll continue to change on their own through each generation. It’s very clear that English today is much different from the English spoken just 100 years ago.

Favorite Facts & Tidbits

  • The evolution of the alphabet is WILD. As a graphic designer who knows a bit about typography and letterform, seeing the evolution of how the shapes of our (Latin) alphabet is so cool. It’s so interesting to see the slight and large changes, to see how some letter branches off of each other, like “F” and “Y” having the same origin, and later the “V” splitting into “U” and “W”, is about the greatest thing I’ve ever learned. That’s right up my alley. That’s my jam.
Matt Baker, UsefulCharts.com 
  • And speaking of form, have you ever wondered where the shapes of our numbers came from??? Because I sure never did until I was taught in design school that the origins of our number forms (1, 2, 3, 4…etc.) came from Arabic!
  • Another fun fact I’ve learned, is that “English” words “shampoo” and “bungalow” are from the language of Hindi, one of the main languages spoken in India (also an Indo-European language). I’m sure there are others, but I think it’s interesting that so many words in English aren’t even originally our words, but they become so common, most English speakers don’t even realize it!
  • AND THIS IS MY FAVORITE FACT! I actually threw the book after reading this one. Are you ready? You’re not ready. Unless you already know. But have you ever wondered why there’s “warm” and “warmth,” and “grow” and “growth,” but there’s only “slow” and not “slowth”…well that ain’t true. It’s sloth. Because of the sound and semantic changes from “slowth,” sloth is really now only used in a moral context as one of the capital sins and, of course, the adorable animal.

That’s all for now

English is a weird language, but as it’s my native one, of course I’m fond of it. I’m real excited to learn more and will hopefully have a second part specifically about English soon, but until then, my next History of Language post will be about…DIALECTS, PIDGINS, and CREOLES! No, not the bird.


And of course, if you know what you’re talking about (I’m doing this to learn and share, not teach — I’m an amateur here) please feel free to comment with more information or correction! So long for now!

Writing: Current Works in Progress and Goals

So, I’ve talked a lot about my writing here. I’ve stated over and over that I’ve decided to change directions and write something different. Well, for once, that’s not what I’m going to talk about! I’m sticking with the current book, Thoughtless, which I’ve posted about before. For this post, I just want to talk about all of my writing projects for a bit and my goals for the new year. I already posted about my goals for the year, but I wanted to dive deeper into each project, what they’re about, and what I want to accomplish with each in 2019.

Let’s just start chronologically, which projects I’m going to working on and when. There’s some overlap with most, but for the most part, a large chunk of the year will be dedicated to each project. I tend to write like this anyway. The seasons changing always get me in the mood to write one particular project or another.

First and foremost, I need to finish the first draft of the book I participated in NaNoWriMo 2018 with. That’s the first goal. It’s the story of a fake family of thieves who move from town to town, stealing from their rich neighbors in an elaborate series of heists. I had such a blast starting and writing the first 50,000 words, but I believe that it’s just over halfway, and I want to finish it between now and the end of March.

Second, I’m working on the book I’ve been working on for a few years off and on, tentatively titled Thoughtless. It’s a science fiction story set in the future about a young woman becoming the youngest police officer, joining the Force, in a world in which humans have evolved to be able to read minds. I’m planning to work on Thoughtless throughout this year. I originally wrote the first draft of this book many years ago, I think in 2013? And I reworked a lot of the plot last year, slowly rewriting it ever since. I’m hoping to finish this second draft by the end of the summer.

Third, I’ve been itching since October to start a new fantasy series. I came up with the idea, which is less of an idea and more of a set of parameters (a long series, same length for each book [I like the idea of a fantasy series that doesn’t grow exponentially in length with each addition], an interesting complex magic system, and a magic school that isn’t like other’s I’ve read). That’s literally what I was thinking about when I came up with the series. I usually have a character, an idea of a plot, something. But no, I just wanted to write the perfect fantasy series for me to read. The plot and characters came much later–I still don’t know entirely what the series is about. I have a few vague ideas. So, I want to outline the series/first book this winter because…

Fourth, I plan on writing the first book for NaNoWriMo 2019! I’m incredibly excited. I’m obsessed with this fantasy series in my head. It’s not a particularly original idea, yet. It’s sort of a basic fantasy concept, but the more I research and start delving in, the richer it’s becoming.

Fifth, I want to write another script for a full-length film. I wrote one last year and enjoyed the process a lot. Writing a film is so different from writing a novel, but I’ve been an aspiring filmmaker for as long as I’ve been an aspiring author — I just love telling stories, in either form. Not only do I want to write another full-length film, I want to write and hopefully shoot a short film this year, too. I don’t have any idea what the short will be about, but I have the story worked out for the full-length one already. It’s another sci-fi, like last year’s, but an entirely different tone and way of telling the story. To begin with, the idea is that it would be a real-time, two hours of a single mother dealing with an invasion of some humanoid creatures of undetermined (by me; I can’t make up my mind) origin and fighting to save her kids. I see it so vividly in my head. I just want to watch it.

That’s the key to writing, for me. I always write what I want to read or see.

So those are all my current writing projects and what I plan to work on this year. I hope I can accomplish it all. A year seems so long and promising until it’s December in the blink of an eye, doesn’t it?