Does an f-bomb make the man?

Los Angeles didn’t quite know what to make of its mayor, Eric Garcetti, holding a

© Piotr Marcinski

© Piotr Marcinski

beer bottle and dropping the f-bomb into a microphone during a rally that was broadcast live to celebrate the Kings’ winning the Stanley Cup.

“They say there are two rules in politics,” the mayor said. “Never, ever be pictured with a drink in your hand and never swear. But this is a big [effing] day.”

Where’d he learn that word – at a Rangers game?

The morning news speculated that Garcetti said it, in part, to offset criticism that he’s too reserved for LA. He’s a Columbia man and a Rhodes Scholar in a town known for beauty, not brains. The unexpected f-bomb, speculators said, made him look more like an average Joe, all right, and average Joes – as we know because Hollywood tells us so – are manly men.

I disagree. That Garcetti used the word only points up its increasing impotence. The f-bomb has become so common in regular conversation that it More

Rev up your verbs for power

Verbs drive powerful writing. Not adjectives, not adverbs, not description – verbs.Verbs 3

But not just any ol’ verbs. Banish “to be” and “to have” in all their forms. They’re sleepy and lifeless. That’s why, in grade school, they were called “helping” verbs; they don’t do stuff on their own.

Instead, choose verbs encompassing some type of action, even if it’s breathing. See the difference. Feel the power. Now practice it!

Here are a couple of practice sessions to try. They’re great to do when you’re procrastinating over writing. More

Too chicken to write?

Writing can be terrifying. It exposes you. It puts your intellect, education, personality, logic, even your family background – everything about you – on display.

Scary critter at shop outside Hill City, S.D., November 2013. (c. Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

Big chicken at shop outside Hill City, S.D., November 2013. (c. Holly Ocasio Rizzo)

No wonder so many people would rather sit in a locked outhouse full of spiders during an earthquake than write. Then along comes the boss, saying, “We need a report” or “Would you send an email?” What’s a chicken to do?

Yes, a writing chicken can simply suck it up and peck it out. But life is full of little tortures, and it doesn’t need another one. The idea is to take writing out of the list of them.

In 12 years of teaching journalism students, I’ve realized fear of writing grows from one source: lack of confidence. Writing performance improves substantially, even in just a couple of months, when the student taps into his or her inner writer, learning to trust instincts and believe in abilities.

That inner writer may have cold feet for several reasons:

  • The harsh criticism of a teacher
  • The feeling of having nothing meaningful to say
  • The suspicion of not being smart enough or good enough

See what I mean? All of these reek of battered self-confidence.

So how does a chicken writer begin to tackle More

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