Writing tips that will help you jump off the deep end

image Welcome to a special “Vacation Edition” of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which is just like any other edition of my NWOW, except that I’m holding a margarita in one hand. Sadly, this has no effect on my typing speed whatsoever. As I mentioned last week, I am spending part of my vacation sifting through two years of NWOW writing advice and organizing it into an eBook. And when I say “part of my vacation,” I mean the part that doesn’t include sleeping late, drinking margaritas, taking naps, having more margaritas and then falling asleep. But I promise: between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m. each day, I am diligently working on what I’m hoping will be a writer’s survival guide that offers writing insights as well as inspiration.

Then again, that could be the tequila talking.

In the meantime, I’ve hand-picked a couple of past NWOWs for the next two Fridays while I work on the book, which I plan to finish before my vacation ends next weekend. Or after I wake up from my next nap, whichever comes first… Continue reading

Another awkward moment at the mall thanks to Rihanna

As many of you know, my trips to the mall — although infrequent — often result in some type of awkward mishap. Maybe it’s because I’m a friendly person by nature who doesn’t discriminate because of race, creed, color, religious affiliation or, as with my last mall visit, even those who happen to be a mannequin. However, today’s visit to the mall was just plain embarrassing. Keep in mind that in the few months since the release of my book, I’ve had — and I’m not exaggerating — at least two people recognize me from outside a 10-mile radius of my hometown. Although I’m learning to accept this kind of celebrity, I could have never anticipated the reaction I got from Rihanna during today’s trip to the mall with my son…

Who knew Rihanna was so clingy?!?

Who knew Rihanna was so clingy?!?

Fortunately, my quick-thinking son Jake was able to snap this photo of me rebuffing Rihanna while exiting “Purfumania” after not finding any Hai-Karate aftershave.

I’m just thankful it wasn’t Oprah…

Nanoo nanoo, Robin

image The first time I saw Robin Williams he was tossing an egg into the air the same way one might release a dove. “Fly! Be FREE!” he gleefully hollered as “Mork from Ork.” On his face was a mixture of hope and enthusiasm that was infectious. Magical. As if he could see something none of us could — but that we believed in because of the innocent faith he projected. For a brief moment, as the egg was suspended in the air, it seemed entirely possible that it would defy the laws of physics and take flight, propelled by the power of laughter from the live studio audience.

But as I sat in front of the TV and watched the egg fall to the counter top with a splat, the laughter was suddenly squelched into a sympathetic hush. Robin kneeled in front of the shattered egg, devastated, unable to fathom why the joyous release had ended so abruptly. In that moment he won the hearts of an entire generation of fans, including mine. I also understood for the first time that humor is the flip side of sadness — and how there are few things that can unite people, or open their hearts to a new perspective, as quickly as laughter. Continue reading

Six reasons cats deserve a Long Awkward Pause

Hello! You’ve reached Ned Hickson at Ned’s Blog. I’m not here right now because I’m with the rest of the staff at Long Awkward Pause for The Saturday Six, commenting on six items which — like a family-run truck stop in the Ozarks — are awkward and loosely related. This week’s topic? Those annoying pictures of cats copying humans! The NERVE!

For example…

1. The Nutcracker


Omawarisan: Both the cat and the guy display considerable skill by getting their bodies into this position. I could not do it. Perhaps what I mean by that is that I could not find a good reason to do it.

Ned: I actually performed a similar move once, when I tried running through a sprinkler while carrying an actual cat. By the time I was done getting scratched, I had about the same amount of clothing left, too.

Chris: I could get into that position easily. Getting out of it is another story.

Calahan: Ah, the infamous invisible tug o’war of 2011 between Mr. Six Pack Abby and Mr. Tabby. I lost a lot of money on that game. I had fake my own death for insurance money.

(Love cats? Hate cats? Cat got your tongue? That’s ok! Fancy Feast your eyes on five more awkward copy cats by joining me over at… LAP!)

Why do we write? I’ll answer that as soon as I’m back from vacation

Me in vacation mode. Yeah, it's not pretty...

Me in vacation mode. Yeah, it’s not pretty…

Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, that time each week when I scoop the coffee beans of writing wisdom that have been slow-roasted over 15 years as a columnist, grind them up, brew and filter it while making a loud “Whhhshhhhhhhhrrrrrr” sound from the corner of my mouth, scrape the resulting coffee creation into a mug, and then offer it to you to enjoy before running across the street to grab myself a mocha latte from Starbuck’s.

It’s a weekly feature Publishers’ Digest has called “…Tips similar to a triple espresso, leaving writers shaky and a little paranoid.”

Or what The Master of Horror® Stephen King heralded as “…Another reason I drink Earl Gray.”

But enough accolades!

Let’s face it, most people don’t understand why we do what we do as writers. The average person, if given a choice between writing a 250-word essay or having their bare butts tased, will have their pants around their ankles before you can say “AAAAGGGGHHHHH!” Still, thanks to social media there are more people than ever tapping on keyboards. But let’s say the Internet permanently crashed tomorrow because of some catastrophic failure — such as a leaked Brad and Angelina sex tape. Most people, once they stopped staring at a blank monitor, wouldn’t grab a note pad and keep writing without social media.

But writers would. Continue reading

Because my wife makes every moment better

image Six years ago today I stood at the altar, watching as my wife crossed the courtyard toward the church. I remember smiling so much my cheeks hurt; I remember the pride and appreciation I felt knowing I was about to be her husband; and I remember a momentary breeze lifting a strand of hair away from her face, like God’s finger gently brushing it aside as she entered the chapel. As with any rare occasion when we don’t enter a room together, our eyes found each other immediately. So much was said to each other during that long walk to the altar, not in words, but spoken between our two hearts — in a language we had been fluent in from the moment we met…

Oct. 28, 2006:
My search for a red rose after making the hour-long drive to Salem for our first date had put me behind. Coupled with the fact that I hadn’t been on a real date in nearly 20 years, had lost 23 pounds since my divorce several months earlier, and was driving a Plymouth Voyager mini-van, I technically had four strikes against me already. Plus, after several weeks of chatting together on Match.com and long evening phone calls, she had finally posted her profile picture. When I saw it, I realized I wasn’t only in danger of striking out before our date even started:

Heck, I was batting out of my league. Continue reading

Larger-brained humans will only lead to race of fat-heads

A gift from a reader helps demonstrate how, if the journal Science is correct, one of these human head proportions may be accurate by the next generation. The question is, with today’s television programming, which size will it be?

As if we didn’t have enough problems already, according to a report in the journal Science the human brain is getting bigger. In fact, from what I understand (based on my in-depth analysis of a five-word headline in the New York Post), there’s a good chance yours may be outgrowing your skull right now. Signs this may be occurring include: vomiting, nausea, dizziness, frequent headaches and bleeding from the ears. If you suffer from any or all of these symptoms, DO NOT PANIC! They may only be the side effects of your current FDA-approved medication for acid reflux.

Then again, your brain might have actually gotten bigger since you started reading this column. And not just because of the sheer quality of writing — which is always a possibility (keeping in mind the same symptoms may apply.)

Before we go on, I should, as a responsible journalist, take a moment and actually read the article. In the meantime, I’d suggest applying equal amounts of pressure to both sides of your head, just to be safe.

… OK. Sorry — false alarm. Continue reading

Six pregnancy photos worth a Long Awkward Pause

Saturday mornings.

That magical time when you can finally take a deep breath, give a soul-cleansing exhale, then savor your first relaxed sip of coffee before inadvertently choking on it and spewing it on the family pet. Why is this happening? Because it’s also time for The Saturday Six, when I and the rest of the staff at Long Awkward Pause offer comments on six images which, like many families living deep in the Tennessee mountains, are loosely related and awkward. This week’s topic is awkward pregnancy photos, the first of which might’ve actually been taken from somewhere in those aforementioned mountains…

1. The Circle Of Life?


Ned: She’s not pregnant; that’s just where the other turkey went.

Jack: This Thanksgiving, everyone will be stuffed!

Omawarisan: If he’d have just choked his turkey a few months ago…

Chris: This guy doesn’t understand the term: ‘Bun in the oven.’

(And yet… it gets even more weird. How much more? Let’s just say this photo of an expectant mother gripping a dead turkey is probably the most artful example. Don’t believe me? Then join me over to LAP…)

Your writing muse is always the last place you look

image Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, that time each week when I rake up the scattered leaves of wisdom that have fallen from the tree of writing during my 15 years as a columnist, then offer them to you in a tightly sealed bag of literary knowledge, which happens to resemble a giant jack-o-lantern because we still haven’t used up the novelty trash bags we bought last Halloween.

It’s a weekly feature Publishers’ Digest has called “Insights every writer should know before deciding on a career in public sanitation,” and what The Master of Horror® Stephen King has heralded as “The kind of tips I would give, assuming I was still hooked on Percocet.”

But enough accolades!

When you consider that there were nine Muses in Greek mythology, you’d think finding yours would be pretty easy. In fact, I’m looking for mine right now. The Muses, as you probably know, were all extraordinarily beautiful women (remember, philosophers were all men back then), with names like Fallopia, Urethra, Tetracycline, Chlamydia, Herpes, etc., and were the daughters of mighty Zeus and the goddess of personified memory… uh, whose name escapes me. Each muse served as inspiration for different art forms, such as literature, oration, sculpture, music, Reuben sandwiches, and others. Continue reading