How to Use Adverbs Effectively

Here are two sentences. Both with adverbs modifying the word “cheer”. Which one is more effective? 

  1. Paul cheered sadly for his team during the championship game.
  2. Paul cheered gleefully for his team during the championship game. 

Since cheering is already associated with happiness, we can say that sentence one’s usage is more impactful. If you remove the adverb from sentence one, you change the entire meaning of the sentence. If you remove the adverb from sentence two, there’s hardly any difference. 

Human emotions are complex. Using adverbs to direct an action away from its common interpretation helps create more dynamic characters and is a great way of applying it in your writing. 

If an adverb isn’t effective, removing it would be inconsequential. Often, removing it will likely improve your sentence altogether

Alternatively, instead of using adverbs to modify the meaning of your verbs, choose more specific verbs as replacements. 

Instead of: 

Paul cheered loudly for his team during the championship game.

Try: 

Paul howled for his team during the championship game.

It’s not always easy finding the right words, but when it comes to adverbs, there is a way to determine whether it’s necessary or not. 

When editing your writing, ask: is this adverb essential? Is it changing the meaning of the verb? Is there a specific word that is more effective? 

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Creativity Highlights of 2021

2021… has been a challenging year in many ways. What was supposed to be gone by two Easters ago is still present — with tensions tightening on every front. I’m genuinely surprised I got through it. Big thanks to my wife and my dog! Also a big thanks to being creative. 2021 was a good year for my creativity because it was therapy. 

Here are the creative highlights:

Learning new/old skills: Animation and illustration

My first dream job was to be an animator. In Grade 5 I took a summer school class to learn stop motion animation. I was 11 years old. I pursued this dream all the way up until high school where I decided to switch my interest to theatre, you know, because it was cooler (lol!) 

This year, at the age of 32, I rekindled my interest in animation. I started drawing Pokemon to practice digital illustration and incorporated animation to my video-making process. There is a lot of improvement left to be made, but it’s been satisfying (and therapeutic!). A part of me wished I never stopped when I was a kid, but I’m glad I got back into it now. There’s no time to waste.

Watch my first animated short “I Finished Reading Infinite Jest Party” here!

Recorded an audiobook

Like I mentioned in the paragraphs above, I used to be a theatre student. It was something I enjoyed doing, along with stand-up comedy (haha). I rarely find myself on stage anymore, however, I am in meetings.

The thing is, if it weren’t for meetings, I hardly talk to anyone — just my wife and my dog, Michael. To keep the practice, I decided to record my rendition of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Narrating a whole story and recording it was a terrific challenge in reading, enunciating, and performing. All areas I wanted to practice in, especially since I hope to be reading my own stories soon. 

Read an article about my full experience recording the audiobook here!

Still writing

Writing has been my top priority. Before I work on anything else, I must — eat the frog and — work on my writing, whether it’s drafting or editing. This year, I finished the second draft of my novel and am currently working on the third. Additionally, I found breaks in between that to write eight short stories, including writing four in four weeks

Nothing major happened this year in terms of my writing, but I stayed consistent on both big and small projects. That’s worth a pat on my back. *pat pat

Favorite book

The book I read this year that made the biggest impact is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Amazon). Not a new release by any means, this book was both gripping and relevant, as, for a few months after I finished reading it, the United States pulled their military out of Afghanistan after a twenty-year war. It’s a novel that felt so close and so far away, about a situation that we are still living through, the continuum of the same crisis. 

Bam! There I did it. Ending on a somber note, the way 2021 did.

Generally, I feel melancholy about the end of a year, because I feel guilty that I haven’t done enough. While that feeling still persists, by writing this post, I could really come face to face with what I’ve achieved this crazy year… and under the circumstances of the world, it is enough. 

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Optimistic Nihilism and Creativity

Okay… let’s go there right away: What is the meaning of life? 

Is it to multiple? Is it to find happiness? Is it to save people from an eternity in hell? 

For many of us, the answer is to be creative. To make something, leave it behind, and be remembered for it. 

But look around you. Hear all the music. Read all the books. Watch all the videos. You can spend the rest of your life consuming other people’s creations and not even come close to enjoying it all. There is so much out there that it calls into the question our answer to the meaning of life: to create… for who? Who will see this? Who will remember this? 

We now know how unlikely it is for us — regardless of talent — to have our creative works enshrined in a pantheon for all of history. There is too much out there! There are too many different tastes, genres, languages, cultures, and traditions. The only hope for you is to pave your own path and be the first or get lucky and hit the market at the perfect time. But there’s still hope. 

However, know this: regardless of what you make, how great it is, how wealthy you become, how revered you are by your contemporary — none of it matters.  

As Conan O’Brien recalled from a conversation he had with Albert Brooks, where the late-night host lamented to the filmmaker that movies have the sustainability to last forever, while his late-night shows are forgotten and never seen again. To which, Albert Brooks responded: 

“What are you talking about? None of it matters.” None of it matters? No, that’s the secret. In 1940, people said Clark Gable is the face of the 20th Century. Who [expletive] thinks about Clark Gable? It doesn’t matter. You’ll be forgotten. I’ll be forgotten. We’ll all be forgotten.”

As a creative, it’s helpful to be an optimistic nihilist. I remind myself that there is no meaning. There’s no great thing that I need to create — and in the meaninglessness — I’m free. I look around and see all these people moving purposely as if they know the answer. There is no answer, except the story we tell ourselves. Their creative stories are as valid as mine — they might not be writing, drawing, or making music, but their creativity might be raising a family, starting a business, or traveling the world. Everyone is creative; a creator of experiences. Everyone’s choices are valid. And it’s because of all these experiences spinning in all directions, hitting off of each other that new stories and new creations are generated. Surely if there was a meaning to this life, and we know it, there would be some order by now.

When we think of nihilists, we think of cynical assholes or depressed alcoholics, and while there are some, those who are nihilistic have found an escape from the pressure of existence. Sure, some people thrive under pressure. Some people sell big businesses, some people hit home runs, and some people launch bombs at civilians. However, for many of us, the pressures are fabricated for ourselves by ourselves as guidelines to follow. 

We are supposed to graduate, get a job, get married, have a family, and retire. We are supposed to pass on traditions. But why? No, there is nothing wrong with those pursuits, inherently, but those are not necessarily the only pursuits worthy. In fact, there are no pursuits worthy. 

We can be vegetarian. We can travel to space. We can have children. All of these are worthwhile but none of it will change the outcome of the universe. This is doubly true for the novel you’re writing. This is doubly true for the movie you’re making. This is doubly true for the painting you’re painting. Don’t do these things to alter the universe. Do these things for yourself. Do these things for those who are present. Don’t worry about legacies. Now is the only moment there is. Creativity is a small acknowledgment of this moment. To set something in a time and place. To merely wave back at the abyss. 

Optimistic nihilism is the hopefulness that you can make a difference and it’s the knowledge that it doesn’t matter. Life is an exhibition game. And while we’re keeping score. It’s not going to count for anything other than our participation. Go for it. Write that story… make that video… paint that painting, because as Albert Brook said, “Who [expletive] thinks about Clark Gable? It doesn’t matter.” 

For more videos about writing and the creative process, please check out my YouTube channel here!

For more writing and editing inspiration and stories, please sign up for my mailing list. You won’t receive emails from me often, but when you do, they’ll only include my proudest works.