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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 281

Updated on November 4, 2019

Time Marches On

Halloween is in the rearview mirror, the first holiday sale has happened at WalMart, and now we set our sights on Thanksgiving. Where oh where does the time go, my friends?

At seventy-one I ask myself that question quite often.

Bev and I drove to my childhood hometown of Tacoma last weekend. Naturally I drove through my old neighborhood, and as luck would have it the woman who now owns my childhood home was outside pruning a bush when I parked our car. We got out and introduced ourselves. She was excited to meet the person who lived in that home first, dating back to 1953, and she invited us inside so I could see it.

What a mind blast! New windows and brighter paint, but the same old home . . . but so much smaller than I remembered it. LOL Either the house shrunk or I grew!

Anyway, time marches on.

Let’s do this Mailbag thing!

Welcome to the Mail Room!
Welcome to the Mail Room!

On Accident

From Linda: “Hi Bill - I have noticed that quite a few young people (under age 40) use the term "on accident" instead of "by accident" or "accidentally." Am I just a behind-the-times old fuddy duddy? Perhaps this is now correct but if so, when did it change and who authorized this? It's nails down the chalkboard for these old ears.”

Well, Linda, you may well be an old fuddy duddy, but your question is still interesting and a good one.

Oddly, there was a study done about this odd rearrangement of the phrase ”by accident.” Although “by accident,” or “accidentally,” are correct, they are declining in usage in favor of “on accident.” During this study, there was a Google search of both variations. The search included practically every book ever written, and the vast majority of the time, “by accident” appeared instead of its bastardization.

What the study also found is that people who were born before 1970 almost always, and we are talking close to 90%, say “by accident,” while those born after 1970 almost always say “on accident.”

Curious indeed! The bottom line: this is just one of those weird shifts in human customs that happen occasionally without any definitive reason.

Freelance Tip

From Robert: “One tip for a person just starting out as a freelance? Just one? Or a bonus and two?”

Just one? Don’t quit your day job. Freelancing was, at one time, a pretty good way to make some supplemental income. Today it is a tough gig for those starting out.

Just two? Diversify! Even if you find a client who is paying well and supplying you with a lot of work, go find more clients. Clients come and go; gigs come and go; if you diversify you will always have a steady stream of income coming in.

Good luck!

Emotions and Limits

From Ann: “A question: How do you manage to put on the page such things as the difficult memories and events? How do you 'organise' your emotions?

“Another question: Do you ever limit yourself to specific amounts of work a week or do you have to get it all down on 'paper' before the best ideas disappear (and I'm not talking memory loss here, just overload!)?”

Hello Ann! How do I organize my emotions? I’m not certain what you mean by that, but I will assume you meant what you said in the first sentence, so I’ll answer that question.

I spent a good portion of my life running from the truth and hiding from difficult memories. For me it is a matter of healing and survival. I won’t live lies any longer. I will face my pain head-on, because to do so means I am getting healthier. I don’t ever want to return to drinking again, so I must live a life of openness and honesty. Writing gives me the platform from which to do that. No one and no thing can hurt me as much as I hurt myself, so it’s all good when I tackle the tough stuff.

As for the memory loss question, for me it really is about a failing memory. I’m not talking dementia, but for sure I am slowly losing the ability to store information and then automatically recall it on demand. I do not limit myself to specific amounts of work per week. I write until I don’t want to write anymore, within a schedule I set, and those things I have not gotten to are jotted down on notes to myself so I remember to tackle them the next day. I have post-it notes all over my writing desk.

Angst can lead to some good writing
Angst can lead to some good writing

Writing and Not Publishing

From Eric: “Hey I cannot remember you addressing the issue of writing and not publishing. Is it OK to write just to yourself or for yourself? Do you do that?”

Eric, you’re a writer. You can do any damned thing you want to do with your creations. Do I ever do it? I’ve got a novel I started back in 2001 which has never seen the light of day. No one has ever seen it, and it will probably remain that way. The writing is poor, the storyline is weak, and I just hang onto it as a reminder of how far I’ve come.

Bare Your Soul

From Chris: “Here is a related question. In this Mailbag, you shared an excerpt from your memoirs—you bared your soul to us. Does your writing rise from that place? How has your writing changed as you have healed inside? These are personal questions, but you have already shared so much with us.”.

Hi Chris! It’s good to hear from you again, and thanks for the fascinating question.

My openness, and my willingness to share the darker shadows of my life, comes from a desire to live. I spent a good portion of my life hiding my feelings and my truths from others . . . for a variety of reasons. But the bottom line is this: if I am not truthful, and if I continue to hide who I really am, I will return to the bottle, and that is certain death for me.

Having said that I can state with certainty that a large portion of my writing comes from those dark shadows and the pain associated with them. But at the same time, my writing is slowly evolving. There is more hope in my message today. There is love in my message, and those two things are directly related to the change in me and my life since 2006. Today it is good to be alive, and I would hope that message shines through in much of my writing.

The Changing Voice

From Zulma: “Regarding the voice thing, you say you change yours depending on the genre, which I understand. But is it a total change or just another aspect of the same voice/style?”

Zulma, that question is Socrates-like! Perhaps you are trying to teach me something with your question? LOL

No, it is not a total change. People who spend time with me, talk to me in person, and get a full dose of my twisted, sarcastic, whimsical, cynical, and hopeful view of life can see my “base” voice in everything I write. I think that is unavoidable, don’t you? We can’t really disguise who we are in our writing, can we? It reminds me of that old joke . . . you can put a dress on a pig, but at the end of the day, that damned thing will still be rolling in the mud!

Happy November to you all!
Happy November to you all!

Time for Time to March Again

That’s a wrap for this week! Great questions and I thank you all for asking them . . . and I thank you all for stopping by. Saturday Bev and I are going to see that new movie “Harriet.” It should be a good one.

I wish, for all of you, a wonderful week ahead. Please, please, do all things with love. I’m counting on you all to make this world a better place.

2019 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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