Friday, February 14, 2014

Here Is A Writing Exercise That Will Make Your Life Better

Let's start with the assumption that every time we write something, we're trying to evoke a mood in the reader. One valuable tool to use here is description of the setting. The words you choose when you're writing about the environment your characters are in will shape the way the reader sees your characters and their experiences.

As a writer, you want to be able to convey as many different moods as possible. I've found I'm really good at articulating some emotions and really, really terrible at others. Here's an exercise I use to help me build my descriptive skills:

Every couple of days (and this is important - you could do this exercise every day if you wanted to, but don't go more than a week without!) stop what you're doing, and really look at the spot you find yourself in at that moment.

You don't want to think about ANYTHING besides really looking at whatever is around you. What do you see? What does it look like, sound like, smell like? You don't have to write a word of this down, you know: the point here is the observing. Spend a minute or two focused on being very aware of your environment.

Now stop. Shift into writer mode now. How would you describe this scene if you were happy? How would you describe it if you were sad? How does the landscape look to an angry person? How would it be seen by a person bubbling over with excitement? Again, you don't have to write this down - just think through the language you would use to express that mood to the reader. I usually do this for a mood or two and then move on with my day; over the course of regular practice, you'll have an opportunity to practice viewing the environment through a wide range of emotions if you switch it up each time.

That's it. That's the whole exercise. It'll make you a better writer. When you're writing a scene, stop and ask yourself how your characters see where they are. Share that information with your readers. It'll make your text better and more rewarding.

Here's the nifty off-label application. Don't forget that you are the main character in your own life. Every now and then, stop. Take a look around. Become aware of how you feel right now. Ask yourself "How would I describe this if I was happier?" Just going through that process boosts the mood. It's a little jolt of positivity that can come in really handy sometimes.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Adapt & Endure: Is This Our Future?

 President Obama announced that his administration is launching seven "Climate Hubs", mostly throughout the Southern US, to help ranchers and farmers deal with the impact of climate change. It is important to understand that the government has long had a role of using science & research efforts to assist and guide farmers. It was the change from straight line plowing to contour plowing (in which the farmer follows the landscape more) that helped mitigate some of the worst effects of the Dust Bowl. These new Climate Hubs are going to focus on ensuring food production remains at acceptable levels despite intense storms, droughts, and subzero temperatures.

This is a tall order. Let's talk about what it means for the home gardener. I believe that the days where growing some or all of your own food won't just be a hobby or a political statement: it's going to be a necessity for anyone who wants to eat well, regularly, on a budget.

There are several factors to consider when we're thinking about what to plant. It's easy to let habit guide us: if our family grew tomatoes and lettuce, we grow tomatoes and lettuce. But we can look a little further into things. What crops will grow best in your garden? I'm not sure the Zone System is enough of a guide when it comes to choosing appropriate crops. You want to examine whatever information there is available about how hardy the plants are. Can they handle a little drought? What happens if you get an early cold snap? If you can't find this information on the seed packets, go online and do some research.

Other factors to include is how productive the crops are, and how you're going to store and use the food. This is an area I've struggled with, personally: over the coming year, I have to become much more adept with my canner, as well as expanding my freezing and drying efforts. Sometimes you can get overwhelmed with how much produce you wind up with: this is the time to be mindful things don't go to waste.

Part of the story about the Climate Hubs said we were going to need to adapt our practices if we were going to be able to endure our changing future. One way that we may need to adapt is rethinking how we garden. Container gardening, vertical gardening, hydroponics: these may all have a role in how you feed yourself and your family. The smart use of greenhouses to extend the growing season may become much more vital if we're seeing longer, colder winters.

What do you see being important for the gardens of the future?