Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Natural" Beauty (05/25/16)

I don't usually like group pictures. If it's required or strongly recommended that I take part in one, I will, but I definitely don't look for opportunities to take them. After concerts or special awards ceremonies, I escape from everyone I know to avoid getting my picture taken. It's not that I'm self conscious about how I look, I just think pictures of me aren't usually flattering unless they're taken with only me in mind.

I would say that many people agree with me about that. Something about taking pictures is unnatural, and it often turns awkward as people try not to look awkward. I like seeing action shots because I want to see how I look when I'm not trying to pose for the camera. It's really cool for me to find a picture of myself that really captures my personality because then I can see how the world sees me. If only I could videotape an entire day of my life so I could see how what I think I'm doing relates to what I'm actually doing.

I think we spend too much time in front of mirrors as well. We look too closely at the marks on our faces and the way our bodies are shaped. Why then do we ourselves so differently than the world does? Part of it may be that we spend too much time with ourselves and overlook the beautiful parts of ourselves to focus on our insecurities. But consider this as well: when you stand in front of a mirror, that's all you're doing. You just stand there. How often do you stay still without talking or changing emotions in your everyday life? There's almost always a conversation or some kind of movement you make when you're around other people, and your mirror time doesn't usually include this kind of motion. The motionless gazing you use in front of a mirror isn't your natural state, so you don't truly realize how you actually look to others.

Do you ever stand in the background and people watch? No, I'm not saying that you should stand outside a business and stalk the people who walk in, but just taking a moment to scan the scene if you walk into a room unseen can be pretty interesting. That's where I think a certain kind of beauty shows. The grace and poise you have simply from being the owner of yourself tells more about you than a well-taken picture. Watching someone act around their friends shows more of their personality than a conversation with them directly face-to-face, since conversations are more forced and the person is more aware of how you see them and acts accordingly. Uninterrupted human interactions reveal inner beauty, or a lack thereof.

I don't exactly think the phrase "natural beauty" is quite like how we portray it. Sure, there's something special about leaving nature be and watching what happens, but there's a reason why girls wear makeup. No, we don't just feel insecure about ourselves and want to hide behind a mask. It's because makeup actually works. Getting rid of all the blemishes on your face and making your eyes stand out really does make you look better. There are extremists who try to use way too much, and I acknowledge that. Overall, though, makeup isn't used to necessarily make the face more perfect, but to make the imperfections less noticeable.

So, to combine several ideas, I think beauty isn't necessarily all on the inside or outside. The outside can be deceiving, so the best way to let it shine is to make it less distracting so the inside can shine through. Being confident of yourself (maybe despite outward appearances) and having fun is more natural and therefore more beautiful. Beauty can be a gift, so it should be used wisely. It also looks different both to and from different people. You and your best friend can look completely different but both be completely gorgeous because you radiate different kinds of beauty. That means that anyone and everyone can be beautiful.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Luxurious Sickness (05/18/16)

What's the longest you've ever been sick? A few days? A week? A month?

Last week, I was cursed with a fever, a headache, a nasty cough, and a whole bunch of time. It lasted the entire week. But maybe it was a blessing.

The first day that you're sick, nothing makes you feel good. Your temperature soars, and you don't remember what ibuprofen does or which one it is, so you lay there miserably and message all your friends with complaints. Soon enough, you get bored, so you decide to sleep. You still want a blanket over you, but everything is too hot. If you're hungry, all you feel like eating is crackers and water, but only if you don't have to move to get it. This is the part of being sick that we all know best and hate most.

The second day that you're sick, life gets a little better. You've already missed one day of school and are in the process of missing another, and by the looks of your fever, you'll miss a third or more. Your entire life seems to be cancelled around you, and you have enough time to finally read a book cover to cover or binge watch your favorite series on Netflix. It all still feels gross, but you can milk every drop of fun out of this thing.

By the about fifth day, you're ready to either be well again or drop out of life to hang out at home. Someone's gone to the school to pick up the homework you missed, and the stack of papers is too big for comfort. Your fever is still high, and you've had to miss out on some of the fun things you've had planned. You start getting nagged about finishing school work, but Netflix and video games have taken over your life. You know that there's a tub of ice cream in the freezer with your name on it, but the dairy will make your cough even worse. You're sick of the headache that comes whenever you cough or move too quickly, yet you never want to go back to having to do work at school.

Sickness comes with a bit of luxury. There's time to do whatever you want, and there's no reason why you can't do it. If you need anything, you don't have to beg or whine. A simple text or request, and it's laid at your feet. The same person who complains of you sleeping on the couch all day tells you to sleep on the couch all day. I can see the appeal of missing school and staying home sick.

But I want my ice cream, so I'm getting better. Pass the ibuprofen- I'm bringing this fever down.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Tag Lines (05/11/16)

"I'm sick. I have a fever, a headache, a nasty cough, and a whole bunch of time," Anita said, lying miserably on the couch.
"Why is that?" asked Thomas, listening to her complaints over the phone. He didn't add that he was feeling the exact same way.
"Why is what?"
"Why'd you get sick?" His patience was running low, but his voice was even more high pitched and strained than usual.
"Dunno," she said. Maybe I got it from you, she added to herself.

I love tag lines. I especially love tag lines when they're used creatively but correctly.

In case it's been awhile, tag lines are the mini-sentences after a bit of dialogue. (Ex. Anita said, asked Thomas, etc.) If the reader is absolutely sure who's talking or the author just gets lazy, they don't have to follow every piece of dialogue. The third and fourth bits of dialogue above don't have tag lines. The rest do.

Sometimes tag lines use synonyms for "said", which is fine as long as it doesn't take away from the story. For example:
"I'm sick. I have a fever, a headache, a nasty cough, and a whole bunch of time," Anita grumbled.
"Why is that?" squeaked Thomas.
"Why is what?" Anita shouted.
"Why'd you get sick?" Thomas squealed back.
"Dunno," she mumbled. Maybe I got it from you, she added to herself.

Also, some people add adverbs into the tag line. There's nothing wrong with it, but I read in an editor's blog (and agree) that there may be more creative ways to say what you want to say without being distracting. For example:
"I'm sick. I have a fever, a headache, a nasty cough, and a whole bunch of time," Anita said miserably.
"Why is that?" said Thomas squeakily.
"Why is what?" Anita said loudly.
"Why'd you get sick?" Thomas said harshly.
"Dunno," she said quietly. Maybe I got it from you, she added to herself.

Note: When writing a tag line, put all punctuation within the sentence as if it was a sentence of its own. (Spoiler Alert: It is!) If it ends in a period, replace it with a comma. Otherwise, leave it alone. Place all punctuation for the sentence outside the tag line as usual. See below:
"I'm sick," Anita said, lying miserably on the couch. "I have a fever, a headache, a nasty cough, and a whole bunch of time."
Lying miserably on the couch, Anita said, "I'm sick. I have a fever, a headache, a nasty cough, and a whole bunch of time."
Anita said, "I'm sick. I have a fever, a headache, a nasty cough, and a whole bunch of time." She was lying miserably on the couch.

But what are rules if they aren't to be broken? Welcome to the world of Tom Swifties. Here, you make a pun out of the dialogue and the tag line, which is usually said by Tom, although the speaker can vary. Examples:

"This steak is really good," Tom said tenderly.
"Th- th- the car won't start!" Tom sputtered.
"I'll wear a tie," Tom said suitingly.
"There's a lion in the house!" Tom roared.
"You're a stalker," Tom said cornily.

"Add your own," I commented.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wait...Me? But how? (05/4/16)

New month! May the Fourth be with you all.

It's hard sometimes to empathize. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose everyone I love to death. It's one of those things that I always separate in my mind as something that happens to other people and not something that could happen to me. Sure, it's not likely at all, but it could still happen.

It's interesting what we compartmentalize about ourselves that doesn't apply to anyone else. We distance ourselves from horrific events, pick at our own imperfections, overestimate our abilities, play down our talents, and feel out of place. The truth is, our perspective makes us think all these things, and they usually aren't anywhere near actuality.

You finally finish that painting or that story that has overtaken your head for the last several months. All of a sudden, you feel like it's all a piece of junk and you want to throw it out. Maybe all the shame you feel is just in your own head. But what if it's actually really bad? asks the voice in the back of your head. Listen to what other people say about it. If you really want to know, ask people for their honest opinions, and assure them as well as yourself that you won't be hurt by a negative response. They aren't disrespecting you, they may just not like what you've done with one particular project.

Have you ever been part of a raffle with a lot of other people and won? It may just be a T-shirt or a chance to get out of class to help with something, but the feeling of being selected out of the many is sometimes more satisfactory than the prize itself. There's something about breaking the empathy gap between you and the world that makes you feel greater emotions, whether anger, sadness, or complete elation.

It's the same feeling as that cliche movie moment-
Guy: I love you.
Girl: Why me? I'm just this ugly mess of emotions.
Guy: No, you're beautiful.
Girl: But you could have chosen anyone!
Guy: That includes you. I think you're the best one.

With this empathy gap, sometimes pride soon follows. Failure is for other people. Success is guaranteed because I'm good at what I do. My perfect record determines my entire future. It's great that you have self confidence, but as soon as you let it take over and expect what you do halfheartedly to be your best, you get into trouble. Of course, in real life, these words may be twisted and implied, but everyone's heard them before.

Don't pick on yourself because you're the only one who sees some of your faults. Most people are too busy feeling insecure and awkward to worry about if your socks don't match or you said something you didn't mean. The empathy gap isn't always bad, but the more you notice it, the better it will be.