Writing reflection — December 17, 2017

Writing reflection

My writing has not improved markedly since starting this blog. I use the same simple sentence structures. My use of phrasing and rhythm has made no leaps and bounds. My vocabulary is much the same as when I started.

So on reflection, one of the aims of this blog, to write daily to improve my writing has not come to fruition.

Other aims have. I’ve kept up a daily habit, I’ve jotted some thoughts and reflections down or shared memorable quotes and information I’ve been reading and learning.

To improve my writing, I need to imitate others’ words. I could take a well-written paragraph or passage and analyse why I think it is good and then write a similar passage, using the same structure but different content.

Another way to improve my writing is to undertake deliberative practice. This means to understand the weaknesses in my writing, and then to develop and undertake exercises that specifically target those weaknesses, and collect feedback on how I am going and where to improve.

I also have averaged around 100 words per post for the last 500 or so posts. That’s only 50,000. If I was writing 500 words a day, that would be 250,000 words. So I think I need to devote more time to writing.

From today onwards, my goal will be to reach at least 250 words for each post. That means that in a year, 365 days, I will have written 91,000 words or thereabouts – about the length of a PhD thesis.

If I am serious about improving my writing, then I need to be honest about how best to improve and then make it a daily habit.

Other practices to try: write in the early morning. Concentrate on writing quantity, not quality. Identify writing exercises; such as practise describing a vivid landscape or a dialogue overheard between two people or a scene of movement or action. Practise explaining a concept as if to somebody with no background knowledge in the subject. Write short stories. What are other ways to target my writing?

“…he filled [them] with various writing exercises he invented for himself in order to¬†stay sharp, dig down and the to get better…

…descriptions of physical objects, landscapes, morning skies, human faces, animals, the effect of light on snow, the sound of rain on glass, the smell of burning wood, the sensation of walking through fog or listening to wind blow through the branches of trees…

…monologues in the voices of other people in order to become those other people or at least to try to understand them better…

…imitations of admired, demanding, inimitable writers from the past (take a paragraph from Hawthorne, for the sample, and compose something based on his syntactical model, using a verb wherever he used a verb, a noun wherever he used a noun, and adjective wherever he used an adjective – in order to feel the rhythms in your bones, to feel how the music was made…

…impetuous jags of automatic writing to clear [your] brain when stuck, as with a four-page scribble-gush…”

Source: Paul Auster, 4 3 2 1

Writing the unwritten — December 16, 2017

Writing the unwritten

The novel is the greatest mode of representation of a past reality. Other modes are not as detailed. A painting, a symphony, a ballet: all can depict, but none as good as a novel.

When we write, we put into words what is unwritten. We give life to characters, we describe vivid landscapes, we capture movement and action through words.

Art is a banquet — December 15, 2017

Art is a banquet

“Sometimes we want to sink our teeth into a nice fat hamburger, and at other times nothing tastes better than a hard-boiled egg or a dry saltine.

Art is a banquet, he concluded, and every dish on the table is calling out to us – asking to be eaten and enjoyed.”

Source: 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster

We aim to inform, persuade and sway our listeners. We use whatever in our means – the visons and stories and metaphors and analogies in our inventory of words. We’re limited to what we know. And so we should learn from the great story tellers who can weave intricate stories and paint vivid landscapes and portray complex characters by words alone, so that just as they can persuade, so will we.

Ceaseless yammering — December 14, 2017

Ceaseless yammering

“…that ceaseless yammering which failed to make any distinction between important things and unimportant things, talk that could impress you with its intelligence and perspicacity or else bore you half to death with its utter meaningless…”

Source: 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster

The ceaseless yammerer, we all know one or two, speaking with exuberance and enthusiasm and energy, words gushing out like a dam after the rain, in stories and tales and ‘did you know that’ and ‘I think this and that’, and depending on your mood at the time, your ears might perk up and catch a few words here and there, like a bucket under a waterfall, filled quicker than can be unfilled, or perhaps you tune out, so instead of listening to words forming sentences forming paragraphs which form narratives or arguments persuading you to a point of view, you hear the falling and rising intonation, the phrasing and the rhythym and the punctuation, the flow of phrases that lead to points of emphasis and conclusions, and just through the sounds alone, you can know when to nod and ‘mm-hm’ and ‘oh really’ and ‘ah, interesting’; look up with gratitude toward the ceaseless yammerer, for there is a valuable skill in there, in verbal speech that is part talent and part practice, that every leader should have and that every follower will heed, so take steps toward becoming a yammerer yourself, and fear not becoming a jackhammer, an incessant pounding followed by abrupt silences, because on the way to becoming the yammerer, you pass through shades that become increasingly bright towards the light at the end of the tunnel: becoming an assertive, persuasive, compelling speaker.

Go deep, go far — December 13, 2017

Go deep, go far

Do the work and go deep.

Add some thought, and you already surpass the majority.

Go even deeper, synthesise, assess applicability to the local context, and you create something new.

Most are too shallow these days: “hey this looks interesting”… “hey read this”… “hey here’s some ideas”…

Open mindedness — December 12, 2017

Open mindedness

Shouldn’t we react in delight when we hear a perspective that is at odds to our own, because we have an opportunity to improve our knowledge, correct a gap in our understanding?

And if the dissenting view is presented with a murmur, because for whatever the reason, the speaker lacked assertiveness, confidence, and gravitas, shouldn’t we then protect, support, encourage, coax out the idea, and give it a full hearing?

Perhaps not: time is limited. Not everybody should have a say, because some are less “believable” than others, and those should listen and ask questions, rather than clog up the air with ill-considered ideas.

On the other hand, ignorance and inexperience and an external orientation give the benefit of asking simple, fundamental questions and questioning underlying assumptions, which those in the deep end sometimes gloss over.

Openmindedness is key to improving decision-making. Do we do it well? Do others do it well?

Love of reading — December 11, 2017

Love of reading

“I can’t decide which one I liked best. You’d think I would know, but I don’t. I loved them all. Which means, I guess, that any good way is the right way. It makes me happy to think about all the books I haven’t read – hundreds of them, thousands of them. So much to look forward to!”

Source: 4 3 2 1, Paul Aster

Is there is something innately different between book-lovers and those who hardly ever turn the pages of a book?

Perhaps something knitted into our genes, that then interacts with environment, such as the availability of books during our childhood, or parents reading bedtime stories to us each night, or happening on a particularly rapturing series of novels that encourages us to dive deeper into other novels?

Or is there no meaning in these differences of behaviour, no interesting consequence, just like in the same way that some prefer chocolate to vanilla, or beer to whisky, or beaches vs the mountains, just as with book lovers and non-book lovers?

Or, perhaps some just haven’t yet found a book that piques their interest. There are millions of books. Most are bad, the few remaining are good or great, and still number in the thousands. The average person might read, say, 5 books per year for 50 years, so 250 books over their lifetime.

The reading scale probably ramps up slowly but then almost exponentially: a long tail of minimal or little readers on one end, and then on the other end, super readers reading 100+ books a year, persistent devotees of reading, as a hobby or as a means of entertainment or education or to file away boredom.

If you then plotted life satisfaction, income, worldliness, articulateness, vocabulary, empathy, creativity, imagination, ability to write and a few other variables on the y-axis with number of books read on the x-axis, what does the graph look like? Perhaps positive correlation: the more books read, the more the readers possess of the traits above.

What are the trade-offs that we make when choosing to read over choosing another activity?

All these things above for further thinking and reflection.