11 Common Writing Mistakes (and how to avoid them)

Old vintage typewriter

Below are some common things I’ve come across in people’s writing that can really slow it down. We’ve probably all made these mistakes and this is not an article to judge, merely a tool to help people communicate more effectively through the written word. It is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope that it is in some way helpful.

  1. Waffling 

    Using filler words means you’re writing without really saying anything. We need to say more in less words. One of my university professors said that each word needs to fight for a place on the page. Can it defend its spot? If not, you should axe it. To practice keeping it short and sharp, do some sentence condensing exercises. You could either Google some or find a crazy-long sentence in your own work and try to halve the word limit without losing any of the meaning (you can change the actual words and sentence construction as much as you like).

 

  1. Vague writing 

    One of the first questions I ask the students that I tutor is: Do you ever use words in your essays that you don’t know the meaning of? If the answer is yes, you need to break that habit right now. Using fancy-sounding words or big sentences just to sound smart actually has the opposite effect. A good writer is clear and concise—don’t make the reader work hard for no reason. Don’t be mysterious in lieu of an actual plot. Don’t be vague to compensate for the fact that you don’t know your content well enough. Suspense has to be building towards something and your writing has to say something.

 

  1. Incomplete sentences

Every sentence needs a subject and a predicate. Without these two things you have a phrase, or a fragment.

For example: “The horse jumped over the fence,” is a sentence while, “Then jumped over the fence,” is a fragment.

The subject is what (or whom) the sentence is about; the predicate tells something about the subject. The best question to ask yourself if you’re unsure if it is a sentence is: can it stand alone?

 

  1. Slipping between tenses and perspectives 

    If you start off with “she said” and end up with “I say” you have committed both a tense change and perspective change. If you are going to change either during your writing, make sure that it is for a reason, and to have an effect on the story. Consistency is key and you can’t just cut back and forth from one to the other at random. If it doesn’t have a point, pick a tense and perspective and stick with them. As with a lot of writing mistakes, the remedy for this is attentive proof reading (spellcheck is not advanced enough to pick that up).

 

  1. Incorrect spelling

This one is pretty simple. We have dictionaries, autocorrect and spellcheck. Spelling things correctly should be easy to get right. The best way to spell correctly in the first place is to read like a librarian (I assume they read a ton). Beware of homophones (words that sound similar/the same but have different meanings and/or spellings). Common ones are: right and wright, lead/led, seam/seem and my personal favourite … there/their/they’re.

 

  1. Confusing similar words

    People commonly misspell words that are similar, or use the wrong word when two words (like ‘then’ and ‘than’) seem similar. If you know either the meaning of the word or type of word they are, it is easy to logically figure out which one to use where. For example, ‘then’ is measuring time while ‘than’ is comparing size. Other common pairs of words to mix up are ‘brought’ and ‘bought’, as well as ‘its’ and ‘it’s’.

 

  1. Repetition 

    Over-explaining is a big trap to fall into when writing. We think we need to flesh a paragraph out so we repeat ourselves, not to any purpose, but because we’ve got nothing else to say. Repetition can be used very effectively but if it is not intentional it can easily make your writing appear clumsy, or like you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

 

  1. Grammar mistakes 

    Grammar mistakes are everywhere—nowhere funnier than a business’s billboard where the mistake changes the meaning of the words. You’ve probably all had a teacher tell you that grammar can save lives and then use the example of the two following similar sentences, differing only by one comma.

Let’s eat, Grandma!
Let’s eat Grandma! (the cannibal version)

A few very common grammar mistakes:
-Comma splices (a comma is not strong enough to link two different ideas without a ‘joining’ word—you should instead use a semi-colon or just split it into two sentences with a full stop)
-Unnecessary commas and apostrophes (i.e. a plural does not need an apostrophe)
-Punctuation on the outside of quotation marks
-Using quotation marks to add emphasis

  1. Telling rather than showing 

    How many times has your teacher emphasised, “Show, don’t tell!”? It is so stressed by teachers because it is rife throughout writing. Why keep readers out of the action with second hand accounts of stories? You are writing so that you can place them smack bang in the middle of the scene. Showing is the best way to make readers feel engaged and want to keep reading. They don’t like being kept at arm’s length.

 

  1. Active vs. passive 

    Explained simply, active voice is when the subject of a sentence performs the action, as opposed to passive voice when the action happens to the subject. Take these two similar sentences.

Passive: The car was driven by Sally yesterday and a fence was crashed into.

Active: Yesterday Sally drove her car and crashed into a fence.

Which one flows faster and is more exciting? While there are times when passive writing is appropriate, active is generally more exciting, involving and fast-paced. Are you keen for your writing to be all of these things?

 

  1. Abstract vs. Concrete

Abstract language confuses the reader while concrete language paints a vivid mental picture. Take the words ‘love’ and ‘table’. I help my students define abstract versus concrete by asking things like, “Can you sit on it? Can you pick it up? Can you throw it at your classmate?” If the answer is no, then you are most likely using abstract language. Consider these two sentences.

In many cases the authorities that be consider it highly advantageous to know the outcomes of predicted studies, therefore it is recommended with high probability that we study the content with vigour.

Yesterday as I walked across my living room floor I tripped over the pink rag rug and got carpet burn on my knee, ripping a hole in my light blue jeans.

Which one is easier to visualise?

 

That’s it from me today. There are many things that can improve your writing but I hope these 11 keys helped. Keep practising and I’m sure you will see improvement!

Sincerely
Lil

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References (sourced 30 August 2017)

Image (sourced 3 September 2017): https://www.writing.com/

https://www.google.com.au/search?rlz=1C1AVNE_enUS613US613&q=subject+and+a+predicate&oq=subject+and+a+predicate&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l2j0i22i30k1l2.126201.129086.0.129877.15.12.0.0.0.0.353.1659.0j1j2j3.6.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..10.5.1455…35i39k1.9Nx8e7Ovkwc

https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/most-common-writing-mistakes/

https://www.inc.com/melanie-curtin/11-common-writing-mistakes-to-avoid.html

http://my.ilstu.edu/~jhkahn/writing.html

http://www.albany.edu/eas/104/topten.htm

What Holly Found There (creative)

[This is a story I wrote for a literature class during my final year at university where we were commissioned to write fan fiction blending two texts we’d studied. I picked Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Alice in Wonderland where Holly Golightly goes to Wonderland.]

30 September 2014

Matter Hatters Tea Party

It was nothing at all like Tiffany’s. I shuffled forward a few feet on my hands and knees, waiting for the world to clear. Clunk went my head. Oh, golly gee damn! Not again. I grabbed the painted leg of a wooden table.
“A butt! A butt!” exclaimed an excited voice.
Where? I stuck my head out from underneath the white table cloth and saw four people sitting up to tea.
“A head! A head!” squawked an odd-looking hare in a vest and bow-tie.
“Oh, Holly, it’s you,” said Fred, adjusting his hat. He definitely looked more at home in this world now.
“Holly? Holly, Molly, golly, folly, dolly . . .” said the hare, staring into the sky.
“Freddie!” I said and launched myself at him ecstatically. I knocked the hat askew with the tag saying 10/6 on it.
“There’s no Freddie here,” said a young girl indignantly who had stayed quiet all the while. “And who are you?” I knew I hadn’t liked the look of her.
I straightened my shoulders. “My name is Holly Golightly, travelling. Sister of Fred the Hatter and general favourite. The question is who are you?”
“Oh, I’m Alice. I’m just a harmless little girl.” She looked about herself nervously.
Sure you are, I thought. I turned to the March Hare who was jabbering away and said, “Don’t you remember me? I visited Freddie—the Hatter—here some time ago. When he had just arrived.”
“. . . Polly, trolley, lolly . . .”
“Oh, March Hare, do shut up!” snapped a little mouse with very large ears who barely reached the hare’s shoulder. He glanced my way somewhat darkly—“Hi, Holly”—and continued. “I want to finish my story!”
“No one cares about your story,” said Hatter Freddie with a careless wave of his hand. “Holly, deary, it’s lovely to see you, to be sure, but you are late.”
“What time is it, brother?” I inquired politely, wiggling my nose slightly.
“Six o’clock!” proclaimed the March Hare, as he looked up from poking the Dormouse, who was drifting off to sleep again.
“Then six o’clock is the time I told you.” I winced inwardly. “And so here I am.”
“Just so!” cried Freddie with a large-toothed grin, always pliable. His head was ever so large, in keeping with his teeth, but every now and again I looked at him and got to wondering how his head didn’t fall right off. But you see, that was the magic talking again.
“But it’s always six o’clock—” This so-called Alice began to protest.
“Be a dear and make yourself useful,” I talked over her. “Fix me a cup of tea, will you?” The others turned to look at her, so she had no opportunity to refuse, which was my intention. The Dormouse, wakening suddenly, invited me to please take a seat, so I did. Although I took care to sit on the other side of my brother.
Patting my gloved hand, he said, “How’s that world of yours?”
“Just fine, but not the same without you.” Glancing in Alice’s direction, I added, “And a cigarette, please.”
“A cigarette! Why, I’m just a little girl.”
Say that one more time. “Never mind then.”
Fred’s smile faded. “Now, you haven’t a new hatter, have you? A new Fred?”
I thought of my friend. My other Fred. Our late night conversations. The patched up injuries in the bath. Then I looked at Fred’s rosy-cheeked face. Gently crossing the fingers of my hand under the table I said, “Never.” And in a way it was true. Fred. Sally. Sid. Doc. Rusty. They were all the same. They were all ‘darling’. They were all Fred. A sip, a sniff, a puff, and I could escape to my true heart.
Wonderland. Utopia. Neverland. Different people called it different things. I’d come here today because of a particularly bad case of the mean reds. It was a Sunday afternoon and Tiffany’s was closed.
I focussed back in to the conversation, where Alice was trying (and failing) to guess a riddle the others had posed.
“I give it up,” said Alice. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” Fred replied.
“Nor I,” agreed the March Hare and laughed deliriously to himself.
“I don’t like things that don’t make sense!” said Alice. “Nothing here does. I think you might do something better with your time than wasting it.” Ignorant girl. Time was a he. Everyone knew that.
“Such a long time since I’ve seen Time,” I said dreamily, because I knew it would irritate Alice. “I wonder what he’s up to?”
“This is all very infuriating,” said Alice, seeming proud to have used such a big word. Bravo.
“You,” I pinned her to her chair with a stare, “are very infuriating. Nonsense. Time standing still. These are just the facts of life. Sometimes he gets tired. A raven is like a writing desk is like a staircase is like a tea cup full of imagination and a hard kick up the backside. From Life.”
She gazed at me in terror, no doubt wondering if I really meant Life, or someone else altogether. I kept her guessing. The mean reds were making me mean today. Would Freddie be disappointed in me?
“Back to my story,” declared the Dormouse, and the others turned their attention away from me.
I touched the table cloth. This wasn’t on the table when I was here last time. The myriad stains reminded me of just how darn long I’d been away. A girl has to earn a living, after all. And magic wasn’t cheap. The trees had grown considerably, in both height and breadth, for of course a year in Wonderland is like a moment for the rest of us. More tea cups were dirty this time. And of course, the girl was a new addition. By the looks of it, she had only just arrived. Only someone who didn’t understand talked like that.
But the flowers, the way the breeze felt against my cheek, my dear brother’s hat. These were all the same, and so deliciously familiar. Such a comfort. Like running my hand along a freshly wiped glass counter at Tiffany’s and gazing at the diamonds through the reflection of my pearls. The shop was almost too dark to see sometimes with my glasses. They really ought to turn the lights up. The other four were all talking amiably at the table now. Freddie and the March Hare were busy entertaining Alice, and not really listening to the story of the Dormouse, who was nodding off to sleep again. I felt a pang as Freddie chuckled at something Alice said. Looking at her odd shaped blue dress and white apron, she seemed so strange to me. And that neck! I’d never seen one quite like it, on a human. Like someone had stretched it out with their hands. And maybe someone had.
I watched a green and red leaf as it fluttered down from a tree above, landing softly on my saucer, the stem touching the tablecloth, which was blurring at the edges. The others continued talking until a substantial piece of sky crashed down on to the middle of the table, breaking most of the china. Curiouser and curiouser, or so says the local slang. A tree fell to the ground with a mighty thud and my right hand disappeared. In a few moments everything was shaking.
Oh, dear. It appeared to be crumbling. The magic must be wearing off. “So soon?” I whispered. “Goodbye, my heart.”
“Holly, you’re leaving?” My brother’s distressed voice grew fainter and fainter. “It’s not long enough! Time said he would give us more.” Freddie began to cry, sobbing uproariously as the world continued to crumble. “Come back! He said you could stay longer this time. He promised . . .”
I heard the Dormouse’s low voice through Alice’s screams as he woke up again. “I say, is the world really falling down about our ears, or am I mad?”
The March Hare shrugged, taking a sip from his empty tea cup. “We’re all mad here.”

Sincerely
Lil

Image: http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/tenniel/alice/7.1.html, accessed 27 August 2017.

 

 

10 clean books for girls starting high school

Diary of a teenage girl series

  1. Diary of a Teenage Girl series
    Author: Melody Carlson

    This is one that can really be read any time during high school because it follows the main character Caitlin O’Connor through the struggles and triumphs of her teenage years. The diary format sucks you in immediately and keeps your attention, like when your best friend comes up to you bursting with a story and their first words are, “You will not believe what just happened…!” This series is about finding true faith in God for yourself, and not just going through the motions of church or being a ‘good girl’. Carlson uses a diary to be quite frank with the reader and I found that it helped give me some perspective as it covers most of the common issues that teens either go through, or witness in their friends’/classmates’ lives (including family conflict, crushes/dating, teen pregnancy, friendship changes, puberty, faith, mental health and eating disorders). I often came away from reading this feeling convicted to address certain areas in my life and really connected with Caitlin because of how relatable she is.

 

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pride-prejudice-book

  1. Pride and Prejudice
    Author: Jane Austen

**BIAS ALERT**
This one had to make it into one of my book lists sometime. Those who know me well are probably rolling their eyes right now. I’ll never forget telling one of my guy friends that Jane Austen was my favourite author and his reply was, “Oh cool. She wrote the Twilight series, right?” He was being totally serious, bless him. Pride and Prejudice I have read five times and counting. This book is the bomb. Love, betrayal, friendship, family relationships, drama, humour—it’s got it all. Elizabeth Bennet is such a quirky, strong, kind character who doesn’t let 19th century etiquette rules stop her from standing up for herself and speaking her mind. The best thing about Jane Austen’s writing is that someone can be getting totally insulted but not even realise because the person has phrased it sounding like a compliment. A lot of people write off Jane Austen as just a lady who used a pseudonym to write a bunch of sappy romance novels, but what stands out most to me is her witty social commentary, peeling back the layers of Regency England.

 

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hawk and jewel

  1. The Hawk and the Jewel
    Author: Lori Wick

This one we bought for a dollar at our school’s fair before it sat on the coffee table unopened for months—until my sister picked it up and then we didn’t hear from her for two days straight, and then she told us we all had to read it. It may not quite a classic but if you like historical novels (can you tell that I do?) with fascinating family, social and cultural dynamics, then this will interest you. The Hawk and the Jewel is the first in a four book series but in my opinion is by far the best. It depicts the story of a girl who thinks she is an Arabian princess until she travels to England to discover a family she never knew she had.

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number the stars

  1. Number the Stars
    Author: Lois Lowry

This book really tugs at the heart strings. It is an amazing fictional work of something that could have happened during World War II, and likely did happen, hundreds of times in a hundred different scenarios—fill in the details yourself. Ten year old Annemarie is best friends with Ellen, a Danish Jew, in Copenhagen in 1943. She is given the opportunity to save Ellen’s life, but it may cost her own. This is a beautiful story of friendship and the strength of the human spirit in times of history’s greatest turmoil.

 

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hunger-games-trilogy-cover-logos

  1. The Hunger Games series
    Author: Suzanne Collins

This one features a bit of violence, with some more hectic themes, but Katniss really comes alive as she struggles against a system in a futurist America that is stacked against her in every way. Most people have probably seen the movie but as someone who read the book afterwards, it is still worth it. Because the threat of the evil ‘Capitol’ restricts what Katniss can say without fear of being killed, the movie can’t give you all her inner monologue and struggle which, in my opinion, is the highlight of the novel. The series also highlights the dangers of where Western society is headed by being desensitised to violence.

 

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little-women-book

  1. Little Women
    Author: Louisa May Alcott

Another all-time favourite, among the March sisters everyone can find someone to relate to. It shows sisterly relationships and what it’s like to grow up in a house full of females. Little Women is a classic for a reason, showing the girls grow up, navigate love and relationships in a world that has the ripple effect of war stamped all over it. It deals with themes of class, wealth, gender expectations, dreams and male/female barriers of the time period.
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Sisterhood_of_the_traveling_pants

  1. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
    Author: Ann Brashares

From Bethesda, to Mexico, to North Carolina, to Greece, following a pair of magic pants around the world is a really interesting experience. I liked this book because the girls all have such different ways of seeing the world and as you watch their various approaches, your mind is opened and you see the importance of spending time with people who are unlike you. This book is funny and relatable, and was a quick, easy read because it is written in a very conversational tone.
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lion _ a long way hoem

  1. Lion/A Long Way Home (the young readers edition)
    Author: Saroo Brierley

Ever imagined what it would be like to survive alone on the streets of a dangerous city at the age of five? Enter the mind of little lost boy Saroo as he accidentally travels thousands of miles away from his home town and is unable to get back because he doesn’t even know what it is called. This tale of survival and resilience is so compelling that at several points you want to check the front cover again to make sure that it really is a true story. It gave me a snapshot of what some people’s lives are like simply because unlucky things happen to them, and that none of us should underestimate the value of home and family.

 

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bridge to terabithia

  1. Bridge to Terabithia
    Author: Katherine Paterson

I read this novel with my Year 7 classmates (one of whom ruined the ending for me) and remembered it for its purity. It explores innocent friendship and the transforming power of imagination. Jesse’s world is changed when he meets Leslie, and they create a magical land together. Terabithia: a place where they are free to be themselves—isolated from bullies, home’s pressures and anything else they don’t want to think about. This novel for any young person who looks at the world and realises, in one way or another, that is not quite what it should be.
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Ella_enchanted_(book_cover)

  1. Ella Enchanted
    Author: Gail Carson Levine

This novel is very different to the movie version, and definitely worth a read. Full of quotes that you feel like writing out and putting on your bedroom walls, the language is beautiful and shows a separated young couple’s longing for each other. It also shows how Ella responds to difficult circumstances and chooses to overcome with kindness.

 

Hope this list was helpful, now happy reading!

Sincerely
Lil

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Images (all sourced 17 August 2017):
http://booksofthebible.com/p4644.html

https://magicoficecream.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/pride-and-prejudice-book-review/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/389688.The_Hawk_and_the_Jewel

https://www.amazon.com/Number-Stars-Lois-Lowry/dp/0547577095

http://www.thelogofactory.com/logos-of-the-hunger-games/

https://bizarrevictoria.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/bad-little-women-book-covers/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sisterhood_of_the_Traveling_Pants_(film)

http://penguin.co.nz/books/lion-a-long-way-home-young-readers-edition-9780143784760

https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/bridge-to-terabithia/author/katherine-paterson/first-edition/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_EnchantedDiary of a teenage girl series

Is the Apex gang taking over our streets?

I took this photograph on my run this morning after seeing my third or fourth one, sadly right near a children’s playground. This ‘South Sudanese’ gang seems to be everywhere. In the parks, lighting up our news headlines, holding up our cars, breaking into and entering our homes. Most Sudanese people probably have associations with them. Right?

Without researching, would you say that the Apex gang are pretty big? Earlier today I would have answered huge, but after doing some research I found that most of my assumptions were wrong. Big shocker there.

Most news sources manage to agree that at its peak the Apex gang contained around 130 members. Melbourne is currently home to 6007 Sudanese people. Which means that the Apex gang make up just 1.85% of the total Sudanese population. With statistics that low, it is ignorant to assume that ‘any African out there’ could be a member of Apex. You also might be interested to know that of the 2000 teenagers committing crimes in Victoria between October 2015 to September 2016, 1700 of them were born in Australia. So why aren’t we running scared from them?

One of the worst parts for me is that if I’m walking on a street at night and I see a group of young men walking towards me, sometimes I feel a twinge of fear if they are African looking. Because the thought that goes through my mind is, “Well, what if they are part of that violent minority?” Just my luck.

It is assumptions like these that can lead us to discriminate against perfectly innocent Sudanese people in the community, particularly young males. Where do we get our facts from? Do we even have any actual statistics? I know that before this week I haven’t even read one single article about the Apex gang and the way they’re ‘terrorising Melbourne’. All of my information was word of mouth, probably by people who themselves have already felt the cold fingers of anxiety creep over their shoulders and shiver down their back.

I’ve always known that the minority ruin it for the majority, but what I didn’t know until I actually read some articles is that the Apex gang contains several nationalities, including Australian, which the media largely ignores.

Other information that has reached me by word of mouth is the tough situations that Sudanese friends of mine have encountered just because of their ethnicity. If you think basic racial slurs in the schoolyard are all they’ve got to worry about, you’d be wrong. From being told to ‘get out of here’ while attempting to enter a workplace to start a shift, to being run away from when you needed help after locking your keys in your car, to assault in broad daylight on the way out of the school gates.

Several schools across the western suburbs of Melbourne have banned any ‘African looking’ people from gathering in groups of more than three because it ‘intimidates’ the other students. This is the kind of racial profiling that leads people to become even more prejudiced, and African young people to feel increasingly ostracised.

The Sunday Morning Herald referred to the Apex gang as a ‘lightning rod’ for racial violence (Michael Koziol) and The Saturday Paper claim that, “When not covered responsibly, hot topics such as race and immigration encourage discrimination against groups of people that are already marginalised” (Santilla Chingaipe).

Can you imagine what it’s like living in Melbourne as a South Sudanese young person with the shadow of the Apex gang looming over your shoulder? Sudanese all across our city are experiencing fear, suspicion and sometimes even outright rejection or hatred because of their ethnicity or fears that they may be violent, based on the actions of strangers, not their own. That shouldn’t sit alright with us.

Just to be clear, I am in no way downplaying the pain that victims of the Apex gang have suffered, merely trying to shed some light on the pain of another group of innocent victims.

Probably most of us when asked if we harbour racial prejudice would say no, but what does fearing a whole people group just because of a 1.8% gang say about us?

So when you come across people from any kind of ethnicity different to you, if their behaviour is normal and peaceful, give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re just a great person like you, trying to navigate life’s struggles and hoping that the world can see them for who they really are, not just the colour of their skin.

Sincerely
Lil

 

 

Sources (all found 15 June 2017):
http://profile.id.com.au/s_greater-melbourne/sudanese-population

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/news/media/2017/02/25/race-stereotyping-and-melbournes-apex-gang/14879412004275

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/south-sudanese-students-banned-from-congregating-in-groups-at-several-melbourne-schools/news-story/88e7d820d1714beb59cb6bdb7722fd1f

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/apex-gang-most-youth-crimes-committed-by-australianborn-police-say-20170412-gvj964.html

Caring for your sensitive

 

Are you sometimes wondering why all one of your friends seems to do is cry? A sad movie will get them, a book, even a commercial or a cute baby animal sometimes. This sounds familiar to you, right? How they like to be hugged every time you see them? The way you feel like you’ve wronged them when you forget something so seemingly trivial (to you) as the date of their birthday–not even on their birthday! How you live in constant fear of offending them or hurting them? Or some days: like you just can’t say anything to them?

This may be frustrating to you. You may want to just tell them to build a bridge and get over it. You may want to tell them to grow some thicker skin. And you may want to tell them to just go jump. What you’re dealing with is a sensitive person. And there are certain things you need to know.

 

Why are they like this?

Like introverts, the world tends to sometimes bash on sensitive people. Especially sensitive males. Why can’t you man up like everyone else? Why does this hurt you? And to girls: why do you have to cry so much? Tough people want everyone else to be tough like them, because they are insensitive in many ways and want to be able to say what they like and not have to deal with someone crying at their “honest opinion.” And don’t get me wrong, I love those tougher people. I live with one, and she has helped me learn many things. But she has also had to learn—and I think is still learning—how to take care of me. Because the criteria for sensitive people is different.

 

What do you need to know? Part One:

Although I may have scared you (or you might have been scared long before this) there is a flip side to everything I’ve just said—a good side. While they are sensitive on one end of the spectrum (as receivers), they are also sensitive on the other end (as givers). Some people would say that either way you look at it, sensitive people are at a risk. Sensitive people have a lot to lose. A positive, sensitive person, like me, would also say that we have a lot to gain, but the risk is never eliminated (nor can it be). We are sensitive to other people’s moods, energy levels and needs. We are so affected by the people around us, and because our hearts can be penetrated by almost anything, we feel a lot of empathy toward others. We would be willing to do anything for the people closest to us—even people not so close. Because our hearts go out to people. We see suffering and it kills us. I know for myself, I cry when my friends cry before I even know the reason.

 

What do you need to know (and never forget)? Part Two:

In this world there are givers and takers. Sensitive people are almost always givers. However, because we so often are, you need to learn not to use this to your own gain. If you take advantage, these people will let you, so don’t. Because in my books that makes you a bad person. When someone offers you everything and you just take it all and run. That is not fair, and it is not acceptable.

 

So how do you deal with this “overly emotional, touchy-feely” person?

I know that I as a person, whether I like it or not, need to be taken care of. I always have been. My male friends in high school used to pat me on the head and call me delicate. And I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me that they live in constant fear of hurting me, and that they would hate themselves if they did. All that sensitive people need from you, is a little extra thought. Do they look like they’ve had a rough day? Could they use a hug? Is it important to them whether I keep my appointment with them? Do they care whether I remember their birthday? Some small amounts of taking a little more care, and a little less for granted, would go a long way—and leave you with less crying messes on your hands!

A little more thought so that everyone wins.

 

Sincerely,
Lil

 

Image: https://www.pinterest.com/explore/sensitive-quotes/?lp=true

The Tourist or the Traveller


The tourist or the traveller. The onlooker or the connecter. Touring is seeing things from the outside. A big double decker red bus to take you past Big Ben and the London Bridge. Take a picture, tick another thing off the list. Sometimes even underwhelmed because of all the hype. A portrait of you (and 35 other people) in front of Buckingham Palace. 
Travelling is experiential. 

While touring is really fun, what I’d trade it for in a heart beat is relationship. In order to get “inside” a country you need to connect with its people. People are what make me come alive, and who would have thought that a family I hadn’t seen for nine years (and had only known five days before being apart almost a decade) would touch my heart so much in the span of an afternoon. 

If all you’ve ever done is see the sights, and not taken the time to engage with the people, you’re missing out on the best part of travel. 

Because people take a little piece of you, and they give a piece in return. Not even the top attraction can do that. It’s amazing to find that sitting on the train back to London I’m thinking more about the contents of a poem written and published by a little girl in Grade 4 than all the sights I saw yesterday. 

It doesn’t take long, but extraordinary people can touch your heart in the briefest time together. Whether it’s having tea and cake at a strawberry cafe or having to go to the bathroom in the forest on the way to visit Roald Dahl’s grave (England, what do you have against bathrooms?) or strolling along a village street in the rain with a dripping dog that currently looks like a (cute) rat and smells wet, it all counts. 

There’s nothing wrong with double decker buses, or walking tours or theme parks. They’re all lovely. But tomorrow, next month, they are gone. People crowd into your heart, in ones and twos, to stay, and to keep it warm. They line the walls to make us strong, and soft, just as we should be. 

Novels for Kids

 

If you’re looking for some books for your kids to read, have a look at 8 recommendations that I absolutely loved as a kid (sorry if there is a girly bias).

45 + 47 Stella St

  1. 45 + 47 Stella Street
    Author: Elizabeth Honey
    Ages 8-12 years

Reading this as a kid and not fully understand the line between an author and a narrator, I got a little confused for the first few chapters as to who actually wrote the book, Elizabeth or Henni. You can imagine a kid sitting there at the kitchen table scribbling it out because the voice is so authentic. The storyline, quirky dialogue and overuse of punctuation like the exclamation mark makes this one of my most fun reads to date. Henni and her group of friends spy on their new neighbours whom they nickname the Phonies and the childlike portrayal of the situation is so relatable, despite how ridiculous it is. You can read it in a couple of days (or one day if you have absolutely nothing else to do).

Peter Pan

  1. Peter Pan
    Author: J.M. Barrie
    Age 8 +

According to several websites as well as personal experience, this classic works best as a book to be read aloud. I read this to my youngest sister a while back. It’s a story of an incredible journey that had both of us in literal tears on the last page. Prepare for more emotion than the Disney movie gives you, and for more layers to the characters and themes, which is why Peter Pan is so brilliant. The language and style of writing you don’t see very often anymore, and it combines aesthetic qualities with humour. Peter is probably my favourite fictional character because of the complexity of his desires and the myths surrounding his origins. While a child will understand the basic storyline, modern children might need certain things explained to them.

anne of green gables

  1. Anne of Green Gables
    Author: L. M. Montgomery
    Ages 8 +

Reading Anne of Green Gables is in some ways like reading about myself, sans the carrot-red hair. Her passion for life, her creativity, independence as well as fierce loyalty and temper are all part of her charm. But probably the most inspiring thing about her is her ability to affect positive change in people and situations around her. She can turn the dullest person in the room into the life of the party (besides herself) and befriend the toughest, harshest person. To this day, Gilbert Blythe is my favourite male lead in a novel (sorry Mr Darcy) because of his schoolboy charm and his singlemindedness in pursuing Anne.

hodder-the-naughtiest-girl-in-the-school

  1. The Naughtiest Girl in the School
    Author: Enid Blyton (part of series)
    Ages 6 +

Let’s be honest, anything by Enid Blyton is brilliant. The woman was a genius (although does anyone else wonder how she had the time to write as many books as she did?). From the Secret Seven, to the Famous Five, to the adventure series, 5 Find-outers and Dog, Mallory Towers, St. Claires, Mr Twiddle and Mr Pink Whistle and not forgetting Naughty Amelia Jane, Blyton had some pretty famous hits stored in her imagination. Enid Blyton is the author who got me into the genre of mystery and formed the basis of my love for reading. Her books are easy to read, and you could begin at 6 years old for her simple ones, or even younger if you’re being read to.

diary-young-girl-anne-frank

  1. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
    Author: Anne Frank
    Ages 10 +

Where to begin? This text is unique in many ways. It is an irreplaceable snapshot of history through the eyes of one of its victims, like a still photograph in a moment of time. This diary is written entirely without hindsight or the hindrance of adult editing. Anne’s raw reflections and discoveries as she lives in a secret annex above an office in Amsterdam during World War II is informative, as well as heart-warming (and breaking). Be prepared to be attached to this little girl as you view the effects of the Nazi regime on its primary targets. Another way this text is unique is the way that Anne often side-lines major historical events in favour of recounting her latest interaction with the hunky Peter Van Daan. Her innocence is contrasted with what you know must be coming and this diary allows you to see feel the injustice of so many lives cut short. I feel like reading this was a rite of passage for me.

little house

  1. Little House on the Prairie
    Author: Laura Ingalls Wilder (part of series)
    Age 8 + (to read alone)

My mum read the whole series to my sister and I when we were younger and I loved learning about the American pioneers through the eyes of a child (with the hindsight and detail of an adult). The three of us rode the emotional roller coaster of the Ingalls family and learnt things like how to make a football out a pig’s bladder, smoke meat and deal with a bear that you happen upon in the woods. I grew up with Laura Ingalls as one of my role models, and the story of the Ingalls can teach you a lot about family relationships, as well as independence.

the twits cover

  1. The Twits
    Author: Roald Dahl
    Age 6+

This is a short, funny read showcasing why Roald Dahl is such a genius. This book has the ingredients for a classic Dahl read: a strange or mean character, some great sketched illustrations, a gross-you-out aspect or two that kids love, and of course a moral (one of which is shown below). What more could you want?

The Twits

The_Bad_Beginning

  1. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
    Author: Lemony Snicket (part of series)
    Age 9 +

The reverse psychology on the back cover is enough to get you sucked in (well played, Mr Snicket) but as it warns, these books are not for the faint of heart. However, if you like learning crazy new words, about crazy new inventions and some seriously unlucky orphans, then this serious will interest you. The writing style is different to most of what you read today, and Lemony Snicket comes up with extremely creative ways to get his point across. Some of the themes in the series are a bit serious, so just be careful if your child is very sensitive or under the recommended age.

mandie.jpg

BONUS:

The Mandie Series by Lois Gladys Leopard. If you love a good mystery (and want your kids to read Christian-influenced books) this series is the one for you.

Happy reading!

Sincerely,
Lil

Images (all sourced 23 August 2016):
1. https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51T9246WNTL.jpg
2. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/00/ea/05/00ea059736280bb14648b78bf8bc614e.jpg
3. http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/anneofgreengables/images/3/3d/Greengables26.jpeg/revision/latest?cb=20121202062002
4. http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/author/covers/hodder-the-naughtiest-girl-in-the-school.jpg
5. http://judyoz.com/media/ecom/prodlg/diary-young-girl-anne-frank.jpg
6. http://www.anglophilebooks.net/shop_image/product/7021.jpg
7. https://d20eq91zdmkqd.cloudfront.net/assets/images/book/large/9780/1413/9780141322759.jpg
8. https://clubs-kids.scholastic.co.uk/products/The-Twits-Roald-Dahl-9780141322759
9. http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/snicket/images/1/1d/The_Bad_Beginning.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20120428195154
10. https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51QZ6YB2ECL.jpg

Four things that young women don’t need to be told

Working in a bra shop, I get to interact with a somewhat skewed demographic of the population, I admit. Add to that the fact that most of the people I know in my current city are mums or at least married ladies, and it might be fair to say that I’m getting a bigger dose of these comments than the average person.

However, it is often true that when you’re a young adult, older people like to project things on to you and tell you what your life’s going to be like. Good, bad or ugly. True, or not. I’ll never forget the first time it happened. I was thirteen and what might not seem a big deal to a lot of people really bugged me. I told someone I don’t drink coffee and they replied, “Just wait till you get to my age and you’ll definitely be addicted.” What my friend Gen calls a spirit of rebellion rose up in me and I came straight back with, “How dare you speak that over my life? I reject that completely.” Guess who is now determined to never give in to the coffee addiction?

Listed below are some things that older women/people really need to stop saying to younger people, because in doing so they are actually speaking death, rather than life over young women like me. Before the list I would like to say that of course this is not everyone, and I really appreciate the ladies in my life who have encouraged me after I’ve been deflated and rocked by these other comments. You are an example worth following, for sure. Also, I am not here to offend anyone, just to remind people of the effect they can have on others, and whether it’s positive or negative is up to them.

  1. “I used to really want to get married but it’s when you stop looking, then your spouse will come along.”
    The problem with that is that it’s like saying, not only do you want a relationship, but it’s a sick system where only by not wanting what you want, will you get what you want. Good luck with that.
    Do we think we can somehow manipulate God’s timeline?
  2. “You may like to wear pretty things now, but wait till you get to my age and you’re married, you’ll stick to ‘these kind of clothes’.”
    The concept that once you’ve ‘got a guy’, you now have a licence to stop putting in any form of effort is heartbreaking, to say the least. And why do pretty things have to have an age limit? Ladies, don’t give up on yourselves, and don’t make the younger women in your life give up on their future.
    This attitude of being resigned and making young women feel like they have no choice over their mindsets, their marriages and their lives in the future is poisoning, and also false. My mum, known for pulling out the wise words when needed, pointed out the other day that pretty much everything is a choice. We can choose to give up on ourselves (this can be in many different ways at many different ages), claiming that we don’t have a choice, but we always do. If you don’t like the way things are, change it.
  3. “Enjoy being skinny because you won’t have a body like that forever. Once you have kids it’s all down hill from there. And don’t expect your boobs to stick around.” (Did I ask for your opinion on my body, random stranger?)
    This one is usually uncalled for, unasked and downright depressing. Yes, I know everyone’s body changes throughout life, especially women having babies etc, but women who are calling the 30 kilos they still have on three years after their last child was born “baby weight” and telling young women that this is what happens to all women when they have kids, is misleading. Everyone who knows me knows how much I adore kids, but I am not kidding (pun intended) when I say that for about a month had decided I was better off not having kids naturally, because I was so afraid of what it would do to my body (luckily I got over that after noticing some amazing women I know who still have incredible figures even after several children).
    Ladies, this is not helpful, and neither is your resentment. It says in the bible for the older women to teach the younger women but that should be equipping them, not scaring them. At work I am sometimes openly resented or scorned for my figure but I have to realise that people are often speaking out their own insecurities and issues. I step back and remind myself: their issues are not your issues, and their body does not have to become your body.
    Also, the way some parents talk about their kids (take all your money and time, interrupt your sleep and bathroom visits/showers, ruin your body, change your marriage, drain your energy, stop you from doing x,y and z) it makes you wonder, “What do you like about them?” You yourself know the joys of having kids, and so do other parents, but people without kids don’t, so sometimes it’s good for you to share those aspects with the young people in your life, so that you don’t put them off or have them thinking that you’re living with regret.
  4. “What do single people even do all day? I can’t remember what I used to do before I had kids.”
    I don’t understand how people don’t perceive this as flat out rude to say to a single person’s face. It carries the message, “You are not valuable, nor is your contribution, until you are married with children.”
    While caring for children is obviously a full on job and mums are without doubt a lot like superheroes, making girls feel like their contribution because they’re not a mum is some how lesser is far from encouraging. And you may be poking at some raw wounds without realising it.

I am a firm believer in the power of words. For example, a few weeks ago I was at my friends’ house having dinner. I am very close to their six year old daughter but didn’t think she was listening when I said to her mum, “I hate kidney beans.” Two seconds later I overheard her declaring to her brothers, “If Louis (her nickname for me) hates beans then I refuse to eat them!” I quickly turned to her and said, “Just kidding! I love all kinds of beans.” She just looked at me as if to say, ‘Nice try.’

Now I’ve got to think about the words I’m speaking over girls younger than myself too. Are they life giving? We want to present our stage of life well, and gently usher younger ones into it, not scare them into thinking they’re headed into the next stage, ill-equipped to handle it and believing that it’s too depressing to bear (how I’ve been feeling lately).

It all comes down to choice. Everything is a choice. The way we live, eat, behave, dress, and the words we choose to speak. From one woman to another, please, please choose life.

Sincerely,

Lil

 

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Image: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-kanegis/motherdaughter-battles-ov_b_5656830.html, sourced 11 June 2016.

Having trouble hearing God’s voice?

This Wednesday my bible study group spent some “soak” time, just being in God’s presence. We put some music on, got comfy/closed our eyes/whatever, and just waited. Not something a lot of us do too regularly.

Instead of bringing out our big shopping list for God and not letting Him get a word in edgewise, we created space for Him to do some talking, to reveal Himself. I was reminded, like I am every time I do this, that the less I talk, the better it tends to be.

God loves a thankful, adoring heart that is simply seeking to bask in His presence. We’ve somehow gotten the notion that our relationships must be firstly functional, even if we don’t admit it to ourselves. What does this relationship help me to achieve? If you really think about it, the best relationships aren’t the ones filled with gold stars but intimacy.

Consider a child. They are not efficient, functional, practical, but are in practically every way delightful. The bible tells us to be like children if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3) and God refers to us as His children (Galatians 3:26).

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that God is not an emotional God. If you want a refresher, read some of the Old Testament. If there’s one thing we can be sure God is, it’s passionate.

In John 17:24 Jesus, when praying, says, “Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” (NLT)

Jesus wants us to be with Him and see His glory. During the quiet time on Wednesday I felt God say to create space for Him at youth group on Friday.

All of the boys (generally the louder ones) in our youth couldn’t make it that night and I was tempted to change the plan, especially when a brand new girl walked in, but in order to be obedient I had to stick to it.

Almost immediately I got us in a small circle, explained to the girls that tonight was a practical application of seeing Jesus (the discussion from last week) and learning to hear the Father’s voice. The time was so sweet. It is such a privilege to be involved in ministering to people, and there’s a special place in my heart for young girls.

Learning to hear God is a process, and He can speak in many different ways (dreams, words, pictures, His written logos Word (the bible), prophets, songs, donkeys (Numbers 22:28-35), to name a few). But my encouragement is don’t be afraid to practice; that’s how you grow. The more you create space the more you will hear God’s voice, and the more you hear God’s voice the clearer/easier it will become. Then comes the tougher part: obedience. But that’s another article in itself.

When you’re waiting for His voice, listen for the whisper, because the Lord was not in the wind, fire or the earthquake, when it came to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12). There’s a reason for that: God wants us to come closer.

Happy seeking!

Sincerely,
Lil

 


Image: http://thecrackeddoor.com/Main/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/God-Voice.png, sourced 15 May 2016.