The Best Places to Find Inspiration

#30Lists Best Places to Find Inspiration
Believe it or not, I do not wake up and feel instantaneously inspired. Not to write a novel, not to write a blog post, not to draft a lesson plan, not even to go to the gym or get out of bed. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few errant days here and there where I wake up, bound out of bed, throw open my windows and shout, “HELLO WORLD! TODAY I’M COMING FOR YOU!”, but those strokes of creative genius are few and far between.

Yet as a blogger, as a writer, what I do demands creativity and inspiration. Some days I just have to create it myself.

project life best places to find inspiration #30Lists
Inspiration comes in the littlest of forms, the most unexpected of places. I’m no expert, but I’ve learned enough along the way to at least know where to look. Sometimes I find inspiration when I’m least expecting it, and other times I turn inspiration-seeking into a game. More often than not, inspiration comes to me from the little quips, the happy accidents lurking in unsuspecting corners and catch me completely by surprise. It may not be ideal or efficient, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
This post was inspired by my contribution to the 30 Days of Lists challenge. You can read the full post at the exclusive 30 Days of Lists blog! 
 
Where do you find inspiration?

Where I Write

Starbucks Chai
Writing is a difficult thing. Whether it’s the focus of writing an organize and concise article, or a creative, soul-filled expression of your internal thoughts, writing is hard.

Really, that’s as eloquent as I can be with it, the most descriptive, vivid word that I can come up with: hard.

Both organizing your thoughts and piecing your words together take a mental toll on your brain, and that’s not including the soul-sucking, emotional abuse that writing can leave you with after composing a more personal piece.

It used to be that I could only write creatively (think poems, as my brooding, Sylvia Plath-idolizing high school self often did) when I was in a melancholy place. Something about being in a more somber headspace allowed my thoughts and feelings to flow more easily. Looking back metacognitively, I think I was more reflective when I wasn’t having the best of days; when the sun was shining and emotions were running high, I was swept up in my feelings of happiness and would rather enjoy them than write about them.

Which isn’t to say that I wrote to escape sadness, though I certainly believe that transcribing your thoughts onto a page can help you mull them over a bit better, a bit more efficiently, as opposed to letting them stew about in your brain, emotionally-charged and in a state of alphabet soup.

Writing requires a mental place to write, as well as a physical. To be honest, I’m not the greatest at sitting down to write, not at home anyway. For me, there are too many temptations, to many ways in which I can get distracted. Which is why I often grab my laptop or a notebook and head to the park or the local coffee shop (in this case, there is a Starbucks across the street, which means I am also on an IV of caffeine while I write, which helps somewhat). Being in a physical other space helps me to focus and get things done.

There’s something about the white noise of background music and chatter, the low hum of coffee beans grinding, that motivates me to just write. There’s nothing on my “desk” except a cup of coffee. No toys to play with, no other “tasks” in the other room that are tempting me to procrastinate.

How I write has changed over the years, as has what I write, and my reasons for writing, just as I myself have changed in my thought processes and routines. I’m sure I won’t hole up in coffee shops forever to write (though who knows). Maybe a cottage by a lake is in my authorial future…

What does your writing space look like, physically and mentally?

Grammar Crash Course: Pronouns

editing
In just a few days, I’ll be teaching a unit on pronouns to a classroom full of middle schoolers. Big deal, right?

Wrong.

It’s been years, years, since I’ve “studied” pronouns (I was probably in middle school, myself). While I’ve been an English major, education candidate, and active writer, I haven’t had to know the mechanics of grammar well enough to articulate the rules (and exceptions) to others. Sure I can use pronouns correctly, but the question here is: can I teach those rules to other people?

Needless to say, I’ve had to do some brushing up on my pronoun rules. Many things I know and actively use, but don’t necessarily know the technical terminology for. As I revisit pronouns for teaching purposes, I thought you might like to as well! Plus, it gives me a chance to see if I can explain the rules of correct pronoun use without muddling your brain!

Personal Pronouns
These are the ones that usually come to mind when you hear someone say ‘pronoun’. Think: I, me, he, she, him, her, us, we, they, etc.

What you probably didn’t realize is that while ‘I’ and ‘me’ both refer to you as the speaker, one occurs in the nominative case (a fancy shmancy name for the subject of your sentence) and the other in the objective case. If the noun you are replacing is the subject of the sentence, you use pronouns that fall in the subject category, and if the nouns occurs as the object of the sentence, you use the corresponding pronoun.

Now, this sounds complicated, but you likely already know which is which without having even realized it!

Example: I saw the cat.” – ‘I’ is doing the seeing, therefore it is the subject and thus the pronoun ‘I’ is used to replace the noun that is the speaker

Example: “The cat saw me.” – ‘Me’ and ‘I’ are just two sides of the same coin; because the speaker is the object in this sentence, we use ‘me’ instead of ‘I’, even though both pronouns refer to the speaker of the sentence. You wouldn’t say “The cat saw I.”

Here’s a list of which pronouns fall into which category for your brain to process…

Subjective: I, you, he, she, it, we, they,
Objective: me, you, him, her, it, us, them

Possessive Pronouns
Did you know that ‘my’ and ‘his’ are pronouns too? Pronouns such as these indicated possession, such as my book, their cheese fries, or his Batcave.

Just make sure you don’t add an apostrophe to the possessive ‘its’ or else you have a whole different creature.

Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns
These are your pronouns with an added ‘-self’ at the end, such as: myself, himself, itself, themselves, ourselves. etc. and are used for emphasis or indication that the same person/thing is involved.

Using Pronouns Correctly
Usually, using pronouns isn’t too difficult, but then you get to the ‘she and I’, and ‘my friend and me’. Is it ‘I’? When do you use ‘me’? Why is this so confusing!?

Here’s my trick for using pronouns correctly in a sentence, when you have a compound pronoun (‘[blank] and [blank] went to the store’, for example):

Take out one of the people involved in the action. Does the sentence make sense? Now, remove the other person from the sentence. It, too, should make sense.

Example: ‘Kam and I went to Comic Con.’ – If you remove ‘Kam’, you are left with the sentence ‘I went to Comic Con.’, which makes grammatical sense (great!). Now remove ‘I’. You’re left with ‘Kam went to Comic Con.’ which also makes sense. Bravo.

Example: ‘A dalek tried to exterminate her and I.’ – Try the above trick; you get ‘A dalek tried to exterminate her.’ which makes sense (‘tried to exterminate she’ does not, however) and ‘A dalek tried to exterminate I.’ – Woah. Hold up. That doesn’t make any sense. You would say ‘A dalek tried to exterminate me.’, therefore the correct sentence should read: ‘A dalek tried to exterminate her and me.’

Tip: When you have a compound pronoun that involves yourself (me or I), be polite and put the other person first! Grammar always has good manners.

Interrogative Pronouns
These include the more difficult ‘who’ and ‘whom’ pronouns, so I’ll tackle those another time. Just know that these ones exist, for now.

Was that mini-grammar lesson a bit more bearable than those you had in school? If so, share it with a friend who could use a little grammar elevation (in a nice way, of course)!

Least Favorite Words | #30Days of Lists Blog Hop

reading my life as a teacup

For as much as I love words and language, there are some words I plain just don’t like. Just as I have favorite colors, I have not-so-favorite colors, and the same thing goes for words. There’s not many words I dislike, as long as they’re used where needed and not overused. Others, I just don’t personally like the way they sound on your ear, or feel on your tongue as you say them. Lately, I’m more peeved at stupid slang.

And no, ‘moist’ is not one of my word pet peeves; it doesn’t sound weird or gross to me. Alas.

What words am I not a fan of?

  • judgment – Mainly, I’m just not a fan of the American spelling. British English has it right; there should totally be another ‘e’ in there. Too many consonants otherwise)
  • jodhpurs – Kicked my butt in the spelling bee. See also: too many consonants next to one another
  • YOLO – Just no.
  • ricochet – The spelling and pronunciation don’t add up. Eight year-old me was very confused.
  • cowlick – Putting two not-so-appealing words just enhances the lack of appeal
  • bro – See ‘YOLO’
What are your least favorite words?

And lucky you, because readers of My Life as a Teacup can enter to win free registration to March’s round of #30Lists! If you’ve already nabbed your spot, never fear – if you win after registering the lovely hosts will refund your registration fee and you can list for free!

This giveaway is CLOSED.
Be sure to visit the other lovely #30Lists bloggers to read their lists for today!

Do you enjoy writing lists? Join us for 30 Days of Lists, one of my very favorite creative projects. Being creative can seem daunting, but just a few minutes a day and a list scribbled on the back of a receipt can be a game changer. Document your daily life with #30Lists this March!
30lists march

This prompt comes from the March 2011 edition of 30 Days of Lists. You can play along with the free, March 2011 list prompts, or complete them at your own pace whenever you get the urge to list!

Finding Inspiration For Your Thesis

macbook write a thesis
Coming up with an interesting thesis statement is the bane of my existence. Or it least it was when I was a student (it’s still so strange to not be in school! I like writing papers and doing research!).

To this day, I still experience a complete mind blank when asked to come up with a paper topic. After a long chat with a fellow English major over coffee, we both agreed that crafting an argument is something that’s not-so-commonly taught in high school, but all too expected in college writing and beyond (plus, it makes your writing more sophisticated sounding! And interesting!). Once you finally grasp what exactly a thesis is, it’s so easy to fall into summarizing or regurgitating common arguments that have been made a thousand times over. Yet after awhile you start to find little systematic ways to take the interesting parts of a text and turn them into writing material. 
 
Now, these tactics aren’t just food for thought when you’re writing a thesis statement. Give them a try at your next book club meeting if you’re finding yourselves covering the same themes month after month, or need to add a new angle to the discussion. I wish I would’ve kept some of these questions in mind in my high school English classes, so I wasn’t wandering into group discussions blindly!
  1. Pay attention to weird moments – If you find yourself scratching your head at a particular moment in a story, chances are there’s something to be said about it! To fuel your ideas, think about why it feels strange or out of place, or how it differs from the rest of the text.
  2. Play devil’s advocate – It’s a common strategy to use, but aligning yourself against the normal claim can help stretch yourself in a new direction if you find yourself making the same, seemingly obvious observation time after time. Flipping the typical claim can provide you with some insightful counterarguments, at the least.
  3. Make a parallel – A lot of times you can compare characters or events within a story, or even two different stories. Drawing parallels between two similar or different elements can create an interesting dialogue.
  4. Track a word or theme – Whip out the handy dandy OED and follow how a word or theme evolves or is applied over the course of the story. Sometimes the theme undergoes changes over the course of the story itself. Also, look for moments of ambiguity when a word could have a double meaning. Often, interpreting a word both ways can lead to some pretty intriguing discoveries.
  5. Compare adaptations – Have you ever noticed that certain scenes are portrayed a certain way as works are modernized and adapted into different formats? Think about what elements have stood the test of time, and which are subject to change. Take Pride & Prejudice, for example: the BBC version differs from the 2005 film, which differs from the Bridget Jones’ Diary take, and the more recent Lizzie Bennet Diaries. You could easily look at the evolution of communication and gossip, the change in cultural portrayal of the scandal, how Lizzie’s famous character has been translated into a more modern portrayal, etc. Lots to work with!
Granted, not all of these strategies can be used in every context. Sometimes you just can’t argue against a normal claim, because you just can’t support that position (trying to make the text say something it physically doesn’t is a no-no). But often, just thinking about your angle in a different manner can help expand your ideas into new territories.
 
And when in doubt, just come up with a catchy subtitle for your paper. And you can probably throw agency into your argument somehow. I’m only half-joking with this advice.
 
How do you craft an argument?