Category Archives: Favorite jokes

Cheerleading for Writers: D – Descriptions

This will be another tale about labelling.

I used to think all descriptions longer than one line were boring. In the books I read, I longed to skip them, at the same time making myself to read them and victimizing myself that I had to do this.

In writing I tried to skip them too. And more than that, an idea formed, I am not able to write descriptions.

Then two things happened. First one was with reading descriptions.

This is what I have written almost two years ago in a blog post called “A discovery about descriptions”.


One of the things I used to dislike in books were long descriptions. Even descriptions by such masters as Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen made me sometimes become quite impatient and my brain thinking, “When will the story continue?”

I am sure this just shows my impatience at those moments, not the lack of virtue of the pieces I read. But still, these experiences made me afraid writing descriptions as soon as I started writing fiction myself.

And then several months ago I have read “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert and became completely dumbfounded. This book is full of descriptions! And many of them where pages and pages long. How could this be?

Last week I read an article in Writer’s Digest from January 2014 by Elizabeth Sims. The title of the article is “Miscalculations and Missteps”. And there in Section 6 named “The Great Undescribed”, I found the following:

Take a risk and go long. The value of a relatively long description is that it draws your readers deeper into the scene. The worry is that you’ll bore them. But if you do a good job you’ll engross them. Really getting into a description is one of the most fun things you can do as an author. Here’s the trick: Get going on a description with the attitude of discovering, not informing. In this zone, you’re not writing to tell readers stuff you already know – rather, you are writing to discover and experience the scene right alongside them.”

This passage revealed the secret of the SOAT (as Elizabeth Gilbert calls her book), which was hidden for me. SOAT is full of descriptions, but each description is full of discoveries: of love, of own body, of lust, of science, of secrets of universe and its origins and many more. The whole book is continuous discovery. And you can hear this wonder in the voice of the narrator, who mirrors the wonder the main character, Alma Whittaker, experiences through her journey.

The book covers the period of time of more than 50 years! This again goes against the advice I learned: “The shorter the period of time your story takes place the better. Backstory can go further back, but the plot itself should unfold in a short period of time. Otherwise, you will bore the reader.” But SOAT proves this advice completely wrong. It starts with Alma’s birth and finishes with her death.

But even at her death, Alma was discovering. As the Amazon review of SOAT says, Alma is “the insatiably curious“. And I became more and more curious with every sentence I read.

I am very grateful to both Elizabeths (Gilbert and Sims) for lifting my fear from descriptions, for showing me that I can love long descriptions and wish for more, and for giving me a great clue of recognizing a really good one.

And all this led me to a thought which applies to everything: One of the clues to having fun, along with being in the moment, is to be in a constant discovery mode, walking through life “with an open mouth” and being in awe of everything around and inside ourselves.


Fast forward to the second half of 2015. By now I was sure there were brilliant descriptions that could captivate me. So I started approaching each book with curiosity to both dialogs and descriptions. But still there was a problem. I didn’t believe I was capable to write good descriptions, not to mention the brilliant ones.

Then one evening I went to a meeting of the writer’s club, I am a part of, here in Aalborg. I didn’t manage to write something complete new for that particular evening, therefore I took with me chapter 1 of a story I started posting on-line shortly before.

This story, which is growing now into a novelette, is called “Nothing is As it Seems”. It came to life after I watched my writing teacher and friend Menna van Praag sharing her one-minute writing class with an idea to develop a story, which starts with the first paragraph of her best-selling book “The House at the End of Hope Street”. You can find the full account of this inspiration here.

So, I sit there in a comfortable arm-chair in a cosy atmosphere of the living room of two of our writing club members and read this first chapter. And as I read it, I realize, The chapter is full of descriptions. And they are good!

I finished reading and looked up with still unprocessed shock of this discovery. I can write good descriptions?!

The feedback from my fellow writers added to the shock. They liked the chapter too. The only correction made was to the way I pronounced the word “wrapped”. My thoughts went wild. Really? Only this? And all the rest is good?

Then I was pointed out the especially good parts of it. And I had to agree. They were good and I liked reading them aloud.

Of course, there are still places I could tweak here and there, and I will do this before sending the whole story to my editor, but this piece is something I wouldn’t be not ashamed to read out loud again.

My advice here to you, dear writer, whether you have problems with descriptions or not, watch out for those labels you give yourself, your writing, your reading abilities, and anything you do. Observe them, lift their edges and peek underneath. You might discover that those labels are long outdated, and might not have been true all along.

At this point I would like to tell you one of my favourite jokes. A man is asked whether he can play a violin. His answer is, “I don’t know. I’ve never tried!”

So approach everything with this attitude. Don’t say, you can’t do something, until you try, and try again. You might discover that you can, that you are very good at it, and that you enjoy doing it.


Picture: beautiful tulips I got along with purple roses from my mother and my sister at my author talk last week.

I don’t know, I never tried

Here is one of my all time favourites in jokes.

A man is asked, “Can you play violin?”
His answer, “I don’t know. I never tried.”

I’ve heard this joke many, many years ago in Moldova. Over the years I had various opinions of what kind of person this man might have been. Stupid, arrogant, ignorant, etc.

I belonged to the majority giving the following answer to the question above. “No, I can’t.” Even if I never tried.

You might argue that it is hard to play violin and without trying there is simply no way to be able to play it.

“This is just like flying an airplane,” you might say. “You have to learn and try under supervision in order to be able to say, you can.”

And I agree with you.

The problem here, is that I have extended this understanding, of not being able to do something without trying, to almost everything. And this seeming disability was somehow absolute to me.

I have put myself many times into many kinds of boxes.

“I am not a good leader,” I said.

“I am not a good listener.”

“I am not good with cooking.”

“I hate cleaning.”

“I am not patient.”

“I am not good at writing.” And many other in this manner.

So I’ve been always surprised when peoples said, “You’re a good manager.”

“Thank you that I could tell you all that.”

“Mm, this tastes good.”

“Wow, it’s never been so clean here before.”

“I admire you how calm you remained through what happened.”

“I love the way you write.”

I was flattered, but often I didn’t believe these statements.

But looking at the last few years and the things I have dared, which I would never believe doing before, makes me wonder whether it is worth trying before saying, “I can’t do that”.

You’ve probably noticed that I am daring something big now, being an author entrepreneur, where the main language of my business in not my mother tongue.

And when the fear inside me asks, “Are you sure you can do this?”

I take a deep breath, let the air out and say, “I don’t know. I never tried. But I am about to find out.”

Here is to your darings, dear friends!

Picture: This is someone, who’s not afraid to try. My sweet daughter, Emma.


For a good laugh

I have several books with quotes, jokes and “Brain Droppings” as the title of a book by George Carlin name them.

This book is one of the quirkiest, funniest and sharpest of this kind I have found so far.

Here are five of George Carlin’s brain droppings I’ve discovered in this book today (and which made me laugh, as well as also stop and think), with some of my brain droppings on the side:

“A laugh is a smile with a hole in it.”
That made a hole in my smile.

“I never liked a man I didn’t meet.”
Did this make you frown and then laugh?

“Always do whatever’s next.”
Obvious, isn’t it? No more questions in the future.

The Rule No. 11 from “Rules to live by” is simply hilarious and makes daydreaming, of which I often blame myself, sound all the more attractive 😉 :
“Always remember, today doesn’t count. Trying to make something out of today only robs you of precious time that could be spent daydreaming or resting up.”

“The nicest thing about anything is not knowing what it is.”
True. As soon as we think we know it, this anything looses its sparkle for us. But if we notice that it interests others, we suddenly see it in a different light, since we didn’t know it could be interesting for someone else except us. So, it’s new and unknown again.

Pictures: I discovered these after waking from two different day dreams (And in case you ask, or maybe not – yes, I did make an “Aw!” sound and water the second).

IMG_0352 IMG_0350

Men’s friendship

With this post I am starting a new category in my blog. There are some jokes that I very much like and cherish, and would like to share with you and at some point also with my children, grandchildren and so on. They are too funny and too wise to be forgotten and are always wonderful to be rediscovered. I am sure that I will revisit this category many times to reread various jokes I have heard and learned over the years.

I first heard the joke, I would like to share with you today, when I was a teenager. And it is one of the first to come to my mind when somebody asks me to tell a joke or if a girlfriend exclaims: “Men!” when men are holding together in a discussion.

Here it comes.


A man is very late when he comes home. His wife is waiting for him and asks where he’s been.

“Oh, I went to Pit’s place and we had a beer, then another, then one more. We completely forgot about time. You know how it is. Then I had to wait long for a bus. Sorry, honey, for making you worry.”

Right after that, his wife calls Pit: “Hi, Pit. How are you? Yes, yes, I am well too, thank you. Listen, tell me, was my husband at your place today?”

The answer comes promptly: “Yes, sure! He’s still here!”

Picture: My father valued friendship a lot and he was of opinion that friendship with a man was the strongest. Later I have learned that friendship does not depend on gender. Here is a picture of my father in 1962 in Odessa, shortly after his wedding with my mother, who was probably his only best friend among women, his greatest love and his soul mate. I have also posted this photograph on my home page today. I love my father’s relaxed and happy gaze on this picture.