31 July 2006

The Cup Challenge

I’ve made my living as a copywriter in the corporate world for many years. And I've been lucky. My boss encourages me to push the copy limits, to write the unexpected sentence. However, there is just so much pushing and unexpected you can get by with in a newsletter.

And that’s where the saving grace of this blog came in. I’ve been able to write what I want and to go further with language. I've watched my style evolve during the four months of the Cup's existence. But I’ve also become aware of my limitations. Specifically, a writer’s biggest pitfall: overusing certain words, to the point where those words lose their power.

I recently mentioned to my professorial pal that I wanted to break out of my writing trap. His response: “In other words, you want to stop writing like a fag?”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Both the professor and I are liberal-minded souls who love and embrace all cultures and persuasions, never discriminating against others simply because they are different. I cannot speak for the professor, but I am proud to have many friends who are gay, most of whom rarely use fabulous or brilliant in conversation.

Yes, the professor is correct in his assessment of my style; at times I do write like Richard Simmons on an endorphin high. I have an effusive personality. In conversation, my sentences are punctuated with exclamation points! And lots of arm-waving and extremes (I love it or I hate it; very few in-betweens). That over-the-topness comes through in my writing. I enjoy being the Auntie Mame of Blogger, but there are limits. I've worn out the fabulousness of fabulous. Great is no longer great, thanks to my pounding it into this site’s ground. Brilliant, well, it ain’t so brilliant when used eight times a day. And I’ve cried too many wonderful wolves (lower).

That’s where The Cup Challenge comes in. For one week, I will not publish a post using the any variation of these words:
  • brilliant
  • excellent
  • fabulous
  • fantastic
  • great
  • love
  • wonderful
I will also strive not to publish posts that read like an IBM newsletter. A tough challenge? You betcha. But I need this challenge to help me strengthen my writing style. There’s a deadline in 30 days that requires me to be at my literary best.

If I were truly daring, I would also ban starting sentences with So and And. But there’s just so much a girl can give up for a week. Maybe during the next Cup Challenge.

So, you’re on notice. Nail me if you see me slip in one of my lazy words. And let me know how I’m doing this week. It’s gonna be fabu… um, marvelous (a little faggy … but it ain’t on the list. And it’s the first day, Rome being built and all that).

* * * * * *



At 7/31/2006 05:58:00 AM, Anonymous judith said...

And I think this is a brilliant idea coming from a great writer with such fabulous talent. In other words, I think you are wonderful! Love, me.

P. S. Just do it!

At 7/31/2006 06:32:00 AM, Blogger barista brat said...

the thesaurus is my best friend.

maybe after this week it will be yours, too.

At 7/31/2006 08:35:00 AM, Blogger haahnster said...

Good luck, Beth! I can't try quite that hard, myself. I already spend too much time on this damn blog-thing as it is.

At 7/31/2006 08:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate your comments about loving your gay friends. I was surprised to see your professorial pal uses the word "fag," which is equivalent to using the "n" word for African Americans. If he/she wants you stop writing like one, maybe he/she should consider taking this word out of their vocabulary. Just my opinion.

At 7/31/2006 09:39:00 AM, Blogger haahnster said...

Yes, it is fun...hence, all the time wasting.

Also, I propose one derogatory pet name for all, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or other distinguishing characteristic. My vote goes to the term "pecker wood," which I believe to have heard uttered only by Richard Pryor (R.I.P.) previously.

At 7/31/2006 09:40:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

JUDITH: I couldn't have put it better myself!

BRAT: I'm very good at using my thesaurus at work, but for some reason have been lazy with the blog -- and I need to get into the at-home habit now that I'm writing stories. We need to chat about being crit partners this fall.

HAAHNSTER: But isn't it fun?

ANON: I appreciate your concern about my use of "fag," and I am always open to your expressing your opinions. Prof Pal is extremely PC and respectful, but is also close to me me and loosens up, much like you always have. The word was used in the way an African-American uses the N-word when talking about himself or his friends. You know me well, and you know how respectful I am regarding those of different races and persuasions. Or I hope you remember. But it was nice to see you in my comment box, and you know I'm always up for a lively debate between friends.

At 7/31/2006 09:41:00 AM, Blogger haahnster said...

Hey, i just responded to a comment that was there, but has since disappeared.

I'm like Billy Pilgrim! I've become unstuck in time!

At 7/31/2006 09:41:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

And, well, Haahnster, we can always take back ... okay, Randall could get by with it, but I can't bring myself to type it.

At 7/31/2006 09:42:00 AM, Blogger haahnster said...

Ooooh! The comment that was there and gone is now back!

This is GREAT!!!

At 7/31/2006 09:46:00 AM, Blogger haahnster said...

Beth, I'd take a cue from Pearl Jam, as Eddie sang, "Left the porch."

Man, that was hilarious in the movie, though, especially on the back of the shirt...

At 7/31/2006 09:55:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

Good call on Pearl Jamming it. It was my favorite part of the movie ... well, that and Jay's homage to Silence of the Lambs.

At 7/31/2006 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Old Lady said...

Anyway, if I may butt in here. I think that is a good idea. Writing a different way each time sorta loosens up the cobwebs and stretches the brain. May be you could select a subject and write in the style of a favorite author.

At 7/31/2006 10:11:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

It's an excellent exercise, Old Lady. Have you ever read Carol Shield's The Stone Diaries? It's brilliant, and each chapter is written in a completely different style. Would love to be able to pull that off.

At 7/31/2006 10:38:00 AM, Blogger Marni said...

Good luck with this one! I would be hard pressed to not use my exclamation points or three dots... see what I mean! :)

At 7/31/2006 11:33:00 AM, Blogger Jamey said...

Could you please find another word to describe The Stone Diaries. From what I understand, "brilliant" is SO overused these days!!

Is it possible to use TOO many exclamation points?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? I don't think so!!!!!!!!!!!!

At 7/31/2006 01:09:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

I'm guilty of all the same writing sins and therefore hang my head. Good luck !!!!!!

At 7/31/2006 05:34:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

MARNI: I refuse to give up my ellipses ... or my dashes — ain't gonna happen.

JAMEY: Leave it to someone with Hamilton DNA to nail me on my first brilliant.

DALE: Keep that Canadian head held high. After all, y'all get to P2P legally.

At 7/31/2006 05:44:00 PM, Anonymous m said...

Well, maybe we read your blog for all the loves, brilliants, wonderfuls, fabulousi, and the rest. Have you ever thought of that?

At 7/31/2006 05:52:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

The professor scares me. He even made me change my profile slug. He's quite the bastard, you know.

At 7/31/2006 07:31:00 PM, Blogger patrick said...

babe, i love your writing style and your love of everything. but you do what you think will help.

At 7/31/2006 07:39:00 PM, Blogger Dan said...

See? I'm posting a comment!

Sweetie, it's hard to create out of comfortable rutts. I deal with type of problem everyday, and I can promise you that it's a daily struggle.

I think you can do it (if only for 30 days... hehe!).

At 8/01/2006 05:06:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

PATRICK: Thank you. But it will be a good exercise for me.

DAN: You're such a smart-ass. Good thing I love smart-ass men. And there's no way in hell I can say goodbye to fabulous for 30 days; this is a one-weeker, my dear.

At 8/01/2006 08:44:00 AM, Blogger Coaster Punchman said...

I was puzzled about the "write like a fag" comment until you got to "fabulous..." That word is so '92 that only the most unfashionable fag would ever use it!

Re: anon's comment - part of the problem with words like that is the whole "insider/outsider" issue. African Americans get to say the "N" word all the time, but it's not ok for others to use it. Unfortunately, most outsiders who use insider words do it before they realize they're not allowed to. Then they get their hands slapped and they stop.

Oh and by the way, I'm on a campaign to get progressive folk to stop using the term "PC." Bad people invented that term to minimize and dismiss every issue that progressives care about.

Oops, is "progressive" a fag word too?

At 8/01/2006 09:27:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

I'm old-school, CP. I stull use fabulous much too much. And PC has been struck from my verbal dictionary.


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