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The Power of Words

In losing a great man, a human rights activist, a disturber of the peace to some, Nelson Mandela is remembered across the globe as a leader who endured twenty seven years in prison for the sake of his people, a man who fought against injustice and stood for what he believed to be a better way. He became the first black South African to hold the office of President, focusing on the dismantling of apartheid through tackling racism, poverty and inequality. I am reminded, as I read more of his life and his influence and words, that words hold great power in people’s minds and lives, words have the power to influence, to change and to move barriers in our society, our political systems and in our hearts. Words both written and spoken have the power to create change.

In losing Mandela yesterday, I can’t help thinking of a recent loss of a man remembered for a similar struggle, a man whose integrity and perseverance won the hearts of many in a country also affected by great political change and a turbulent history. I am reminded also of the power of his words and his influence. Vaclav Havel died on 18 December 2011: Playwright, essayist, poet, dissident and politician, his prominence as a participant in the liberal reforms of Czechoslovakia in 1968 were followed by his plays being banned during the totalitarian regime. His words continued to hold power through that time and he became president of Czechoslovakia in 1989, becoming the country’s first non-communist leader since 1948.

Both men spent time as political prisoners, incarcerated for standing up against powers that threatened to crush their countries. They believed in justice and equality and had the strength of character and tenacity to keep going in the face of great opposition because they believed in a better future. Both men spoke words that hold great power today, words which helped to shape their society, culture and politics. Their influence in the world and their contribution to their countries cannot be underplayed. In sharing these two incredible lives I want to remind us that the words we read and the words we write can have the power to shape, to heal, and to influence lives, to change the way people think and see the world. With this in mind I want to leave you with some of the great words that have become the legacies of these men.

mandela 2

NELSON MANDELA

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

havel

VACAV HAVEL

“I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government.”
“Work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed.”
“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”
“Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties?”
“None of us know all the potentialities that slumber in the spirit of the population.”
 
“The period you grow up in and mature in always influences your thinking.”


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Zadie Smith – Middle-of-the-Novel Magical Thinking

This video was filmed at the New York Public Library. Author Zadie Smith begins with this quote:

‘In the middle of a novel, a kind of magical thinking takes over. To clarify, the middle of the novel may not happen in the actual geographical centre of the novel. By middle of the novel I mean whatever page you are on when you stop being part of your household and your family and your partner and children and food shopping and dog feeding and reading the post—I mean when there is nothing in the world except your book, and even as your wife tells you she’s sleeping with your brother her face is a gigantic semi-colon, her arms are parentheses and you are wondering whether rummage is a better verb than rifle. The middle of a novel is a state of mind. Strange things happen in it. Time collapses.’

Here is a summary of the rest of her talk. I found it inspiring and very true:

You need to work hard and make choices that are meaningful.

By the nature of your sentences, you are expressing a belief about the way you see the world.

Your views will change with time.

Delve deep into the consciousness of the characters.

‘Magical thinking makes you crazy and renders everything possible. Incredibly knotty problems with structure now resolve themselves with inspired ease. See that one paragraph? It only needs to be moved and the whole chapter falls into place, but why didn’t you see it before. You randomly pick a poetry book off the shelf and the first line you reads becomes your epigraph. It seems to have been written for no other reason.’

This talk comes from a longer essay written by Zadie Smith. If you enjoyed it, I invite you  to come back on Thursday of this week and on Monday week, as I will cover some more of her key points for writing.


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One of the most effective ways of editing your work

Kindle

So, you have painstakingly crafted a novel, left it to rest, edited and re-edited. What next?

There are many different recommendations for editing, especially during the final stages of your work. Most writers recommend using a different medium, which is more likely to flag up any issues with sentence structure and grammar. You can read aloud so that you are hearing, rather than seeing your words, you can read it on the screen, print it out, or there is anther method, which I have found really effective. A method that has, for me, picked up the most issues with the manuscript…

One of the most effective ways of editing your work is to read it on your kindle or any other eReader device. Follow these simple steps, and you might also want to try it for blog posts:

1. Make sure you are happy with the text as a whole.

2. Download Mobipocket eBook Creator and import your word document. Mobipocket will generate and save a kindle ready file. This keeps the formatting clean.

3. Send the document as an attachment to your kindle email address, which will probably look something like clairesmith_26@kindle.com.

4. Make sure the wireless setting on your kindle device is switched on and then click ‘check for downloads.’

5. Don’t worry too much about formatting yet if it feels overwhelming. You can do this at a later Stage. The less carriage returns you have inserted, the better. You will need to use page breaks when you get to the formatting stage as kindle, at least, does not recognise the return key.

6. I would advice stepping away from your computer for a while and having a change of scene. You are removing your writing hat and putting on your reading hat. In other words, you are approaching your work as a reader would. It might, in some cases, feel as though you are reading someone else’s work.

7. You can either make the changes by using the ‘Add Note or Highlight’ function on the home menu of your kindle or you can print out a hard copy and annotate directly onto this. I find that there is more space and it is quicker. You can then go back to the computer when you have finished, to make the changes needed. Happy reading!

There is something about reading your work on an eReader that helps you to see the text in a different light. You will probably find issues which you might have missed on screen (partly because the manuscript is too familiar) will jump out of the page…..sorry, screen!

Although I tend to use a kindle, you can use any device. Here are some useful videos for editing on kindle, NOOK, and iPad: