As painful as it can be to accept the criticisms and revisions of an editor, most writers would agree that it’s far more difficult to edit your own writing. A fresh set of eyes – especially skillful editor eyes – is dangerous to forego.
But there are times when all of us have to write something that no one else will take a crack at – a letter, a report, an essay, a blog post. Once I’ve finished drafting something that won’t benefit from another’s input, I go through a painstaking self-editing checklist summed up as the acronym, CAKKALS.
Ain’t summer grand? It brings us warm, long days with lots of sunshine and greenery and outdoor fun…
…and millions of blood-sucking mosquitoes.
That’s right. This Debbie Downer is duty-bound to warn you about the biggest buzz-kill of the season.
No, not me.
The mosquito, a.k.a. Culicidae or “little fly.”
But warning – the title of this blog post is misleading. This post is not terribly informative, and I won’t offer a list of ways to avoid mosquitoes, either, since I’ve recently sworn off the evils of list posts (but I do offer links to more info below).
I’m mostly here to whine about mosquito bites.
As I write this, I’m dying to scratch the latest bite on the tip of my left elbow… The one I got – along with three other mosquito bites – after I spray-soaked my arms and legs this past weekend with Off! Deep Woods® insect repellent containing 25% DEET.
Which ought to be called “On!” Because the mosquitoes in my tiny back yard pay little mind to silly insect repellent.
Before I am sued by the SC Johnson Company, let me emphasize that it was me, after all, that the mosquitoes feasted on as I pruned and weeded my small plot of ground. It’s well known that mosquitoes are attracted to some people more than others.
Mosquitoes love me. The female ones, that is, because they’re the ones who suck blood so they can develop their eggs. They’re so happy to have me back on the east coast. They made it clear during my first summer back in the D.C. area three years ago, after I’d lived in Southern Arizona for over a decade.
I went for years in Tucson without experiencing mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are there, but only for a few weeks during the summer monsoon season, and in relatively small numbers.
So when I moved back to the swamp-like conditions of the Washington, D.C. area, mosquitoes swarmed on me that first summer like white on rice.
I’ll never forget it. I would spend maybe five minutes outside watering flowers at my new place in Alexandria, and walk inside feeling the sting of several bites.
The bites swelled, a lot; I could practically watch the pink welts form on my legs and arms.
I visited my hometown in Pennsylvania one weekend that summer. I remember one of my sisters recoiling at the sight of bug bites patterned across both of my legs like polka dots.
“Are you sure that’s not a rash?” she asked.
I learned to rush through my flower-watering routine outside; I used bug spray but it didn’t seem to work. Mosquitoes still bit me – they followed me inside, too, and kept biting. I remember the day a mosquito came inside the house and bit me on the side of my face.
It was my low point of that summer – I felt like I had been branded, like the big, dumb, fresh piece of meat that I’d become to the buzzing blood-suckers of Old Town.
I couldn’t understand it; I grew up on the east coast and I don’t remember ever reacting that much to mosquito bites in the past.
But while living in the desert, I learned a thing or two about allergies, and I knew that the itch of mosquito bites is your basic allergic reaction (to the mosquito’s saliva).
My working theory – unverified due to laziness – is that I’d lost much of my tolerance to mosquito bites during my years in Arizona, but that my tolerance would return over time.
That’s proven to be mostly true.
These days, I use less insect repellent and it works a little better. Or, I just cover up. In the early mornings when I come home from the gym, I make sure I’m wearing long sweat pants and a long-sleeved windbreaker before I water my flowers outside. It looks stupid, and it’s hot, but it’s been my best defense.
I’m more hopeful after the news of last week. There’s a simple way to keep mosquitoes away while you’re relaxing outside – run a fan, preferably an oscillating one.
Mosquitoes hate wind, and apparently they’re slow suckers whose top speed is only 1.5 miles per hour. So they’re easily thwarted by a fan, plus the fan disperses the carbon dioxide we exhale that attracts mosquitoes.
This gives me hope that I can entertain on my back patio without anxiety – I’ll just pull out a tacky drugstore-bought fan and blow hot air on my guests!
I kid about mosquitoes. But the truth is, mosquitoes carry numerous deadly diseases – malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever – that kill millions of people every year throughout the world.
Americans are not immune to the risks. Mosquitoes can spread several types of encephalitis here. West Nile Virus, though not as serious, is a growing problem since it first appeared in the U.S. in 1999.
So do make efforts to protect yourself from mosquitoes by using insect repellent, and minimize their risk by eliminating factors like standing water near your home. You can find more information here, here, and here.
Don’t just be a Debbie Downer like me. Take control of mosquito threats, and make the most of summer. It really is a great time of year!
As you know, Dear Reader, I am not above writing “list content posts,” otherwise known as list posts (see here, and here). Like this very post you’re reading now.
They’re blog posts like “7 Tips for Successful Container Gardening” or “6 Things You Need to Know About Facebook Privacy.”
List posts are considered blogging gold by online content creators and marketers. They’re often cited as a no-fail method to engage readers and build interest.
After all, people like to-do lists and they like titles with numbers in them, which tell them exactly what – and how much – to expect in a post.
Like the title of this post… You’re hooked already, right?
That’s the conventional wisdom. One of my rules for living a more authentic life, however, is to never trust conventional wisdom. (Stay tuned for my upcoming list post on “Five Reasons to Ignore Conventional Wisdom”!)
So I’m here to tell you that list posts are bad, very bad. At best, they muddle your thinking, at worst, they pitch you into a shame-spiral of failure and underachievement.
Here are four reasons to stop reading list posts – today! (Yes, this is all very meta.)
1. A list post is another list in your life. Don’t you have enough of these already? A list post means another list that you’ll print out or write down and carry around with you in your phone or your pocket. Or you’ll put the list somewhere so that it stares back at you all day – from your desk or your computer screen – beseeching you to act. Mocking you when you don’t.
List posts are the bunny rabbits of online self-help, endlessly propagating advice that pollutes your mind with how-to overload. This creates anxiety and is bad for your health.
Just say no.
2. List posts are addictive. If you don’t just say no to list posts, trust me, you’ll never get enough of them. They’ll never satiate your endless need to fill the empty recesses of your soul with pablum on how to do more, do better, do more simply, do, do, do!
I conducted a quick (i.e. ridiculously unscientific) experiment to illustrate the insidiousness of list posts. I went to Google and started ten searches, each beginning with “10 ways”, “9 ways”, “8 ways”, etc., on down, and these are the first Google-suggested list posts that popped up in search results:
“10 Ways to Make Money on the Side” “9 Ways to Win Powerball” “8 Ways to Bully a Kid in Minecraft” (wow) “7 Ways to Discipline Your Child” “6 Ways to Sunday” (Ok, this is an outlier, and a stupid expression.) “5 Ways to Say ‘I Love You’” “4 Ways of Knowing” “3 Ways of Learning” “2 Ways to Live” “1 Way Trip to Mars” (hunh)
Admit it, you want to read at least one or two of these, don’t you? So do I. But the key is total abstinence. You must go cold turkey.
3. List posts take too much time. Reading a list post takes time. Deciding whether to follow the advice in the list post takes time, saving it takes time, doing it takes lots of time. Imagine all that you could accomplish if you just ignore these time suckers… Wait, don’t imagine, that wastes more time… Move on.
4. List posts set you up for failure. Face it, Dear Reader, you’re never going to follow those five steps to better organize your files, or do those eight easy craft projects to beautify your home, or take those six steps to “change your life now.” Oh, you’ll try. Then you’ll fail.
It’s better to never start.
So declare your freedom and pledge to never read another list post again. Right now. If you do, I guarantee you’ll avoid a lot of grief.