J. Lee's Quirk Of The Month
We all have them. To an extent, they’re what make us who we are. Funny little peccadilloes or idiosyncrasies that might not make sense to others but are perfectly logical to us. As a guy who’s got more than a touch of OCD and a slightly overactive imagination, I’ve got more than my fair share. Each month, I’ll offer one up for your amusement.
I’ve always admired authors who could sit down one day, start writing with no notes, and produce an entire book from scratch. I’ve tried it…and learned the hard way that I can’t do it. The misdirection, red herrings, reader hints and at times lack of chronological events I incorporate into my books make it impossible for me to keep it straight without an outline. I try not to overdo it so as to not stunt creativity, but having a sense of the beginning, middle and end keep me grounded in the story and help me write a better book.
That said, a quirk I’ve noticed is that every single outlined chapter I write has the same first line (CHAPTER: xx) and last line (SETTING: xx). Without exception. Even if the chapter itself doesn’t require that information or mention it in the story, to me it’s not a valid chapter outline unless it starts and ends with those two things. Some of my chapter outlines are only three lines long, and you know two of them already.
That said, I still wish I could just sit down and write something great from start to finish with no outline at all.
The Love of Newspapers
It’s been said that writers incorporate a piece of themselves into everything they write. For me, that’s certainly the case when it comes to the love of newspapers. In a given week, I read ten newspapers spread over three subscriptions. When I travel, I have to get a local paper at least once to see how it reads and compares to others. And I only read the print versions. There’s something about feeling the pages and smelling the paper that wins me over, despite some obvious advantageous to online versions. Perhaps I’m just an old soul, but to me a newspaper isn’t a newspaper unless it can produce a layer of blank, smudgy ink that sticks to my fingertips.
Using Microsoft Word
It is perhaps more common than my “research” (to use a generous word) suggests, but based on the people I’ve spoken to, it’s pretty “quirky” that when I write in Microsoft Word ®, I must reveal the non-printed formatting characters through the “Show/Hide” button. This includes but is not limited to the spaces between words, paragraph changes, pages breaks, etc.
Without them, I get lost. Other authors I know, not to mention people who aren’t authors but use Word for their jobs, tell me those marks are annoying, that they’re too confusing and make everything on the page look cluttered. In fact, most people I’ve spoken to seem to hate them. Me? I can’t write without them, especially when I incorporate dialogue with interruptions, switching viewpoints, etc.
It probably just comes down to what you’re used to, but I have no idea why I can’t put words on the page without those little dots that never even get printed.
Eating Habits...A Nice Way Of Characterizing OCD
It’s official. I’m OCD. Perhaps not clinically diagnosed, but there’s now incontrovertible evidence to support it.
Every Saturday, I take my daughter out to breakfast. I’ve been doing it almost two years now. It’s special time for us, but it recently dawned on me how regimented I really am. Same restaurant. Same waitress. Same order. Same tip amount. Last week, just to see how I’d do, I tried ordering something different.
I had to take shower when I got home because I felt filthy.
I have a wall calendar that hangs at work and another above my desk at home. I carry an old school AT-A-GLANCE in my bag and browse Gmail’s calendar through my phone, as well as my Outlook Calendar on the computer. I know the prudent thing to do would be have one calendar, available anywhere and at any time. I see plenty of people who do it right. No matter where they work or where they are, they whip out their phone and see all their appointments in one place and know everything’s current. So why do I risk (and inevitably create) scheduling conflicts by having five different calendars instead of one?
Couldn’t tell you.
A Nutcracker Collection?
When I was six-years old, my mom gave me a three-foot, wooden nutcracker because I was infatuated with the nutcracker soap-dispenser she had. Sixty-seven unique and wonderful nutcrackers later, I have a collection that I’d leave up year-round if my wife would allow it. I still get one every single year from my mom, wife and now daughter.
And every year, without failure, I negotiate with my better half to let me put them up a little bit sooner than the year before. We started with December 15th and I’ve worn her down year after year such that this year’s display date is the evening of Halloween. Because I should at least let her “leave up the Fall décor until the day of Halloween,” or so I’ve been told. I’ve also made a compelling case (if I do say so myself) that if we’re going to put up the nutcrackers, we may as well put up the full extent of our Christmas décor simultaneously this year. The jury’s still out on that one.
Regardless, those trick or treaters better hit our house early to avoid confusion.
The Perfect Mug
We have almost 30 coffee mugs in our house, collected over the years as souvenirs, giveaways and custom-made presents with priceless pictures of our kids. But there is one – and only one – mug that I use. It's not a preference; it's a rule. If my wife offers to make tea at night and my mug is in the dishwasher subsequent to morning use, she doesn't pull a clean one from the cabinet. Nosireebob. She hauls that dirty "Best Dad on the Planet" mug out of its dirty resting spot and washes it before making that cup of tea. Why, you ask, do I only use that one? Because it's my mug. It feels good to drink from it. It's the right ratio of cup depth to surface area. It's got a nice big handle. It’s got a tiny chip on the rim that directs me to the perfect sip location. And it's got a side that tells me I'm out of this world. Why would I even think of drinking from another?
Every Friday morning, I get a coupon for $1.25 off a Redbox rental. That’s a good deal, a movie of my choice for only $.50 assuming I return it the next day. But here’s the quirk: I HAVE TO USE IT. If I don’t, I get edgy. I can pass it to family, friends, whoever, but the idea of the buck twenty-five going to waste sends me into a minor panic mode. Fact: I’ve actually gone to the box just to use the promo, paid the half-buck, and returned the movie on the spot. Why? Wish I knew.