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Photography Tech Writing

‘The internet’s ownership of words’

The internet owns our words.

Anyone can pull up an old Tweet or Facebook post and show you ‘this is what you said.’ The internet makes permanent the written word.

But such posts are usually “naked and without context.”

Words get lost in time

It’s not that people don’t look at the time stamp; it’s that words get lost in time. They are instantly indexable. They can be copy-pasted with a click, reemerging from the abyss of dormancy.

Writes Peter Pomerantsev in his article “Pay For Your Words”:

“There is a sense that words have slipped the leash. We think we’re expressing ourselves, but actually we’re just leaving a data imprint for someone else to make use of. Whether we write an email, a Facebook message, store content on a Google drive, or type out a text, all of what we write is sucked into a semantic web.”

But a photo lives and dies from the second it’s taken. It’s born with a frozen setting, a time and a place. Our eyes taste pictures with the past, even before we gaze to analyze them.

Pomerantsev continues:

“But you can push away from the photo of yourself: it was a younger you, you look different now. Words are different. They feel ever-present, always as if you’ve just said them. It’s harder to disentangle yourself. ‘You will pay for those words’ goes the banal phrase – no one ever says ‘you will pay for that photo’.”

If we are accountable for what we say, why write anything at all if it comes back to bite you? The durability of the written words appears to be riskier than ever.

Categories
Arts Creativity Culture Writing

Maria Popova: I loathe the term “content”

Brain Pickings blogger Maria Popova sat down with WordPress in the Own Your Content series to discuss evergreen ideas and rethinking the meaning of content.

Popova writes about timeless topics. “I am drawn to ideas that remain resonant across time and space, across cultures and civilizations.” If you read her blog, you know that she excels in digging up little-known gems from primary sources and combining them in an interesting way.

Her talent reminds me of what professor Kenneth Goldsmith of the University of Pennsylvania said about education in the internet era: “an educated person in the future will be a curious person who collects better artifacts. The ability to call up and use facts is the new education. How to tap them, how to use them.”

Maria excels in making old content relevant again. Following her blog is a direct line to her insatiable curiosity.

In this sense, then, it naturally inclines toward what you call “evergreen” — which I take to mean enduring ideas that hold up across the years, decades, and centuries, and continue to solace and give meaning undiminished by time.

Yet, she also dislikes the word content as it compels merchants to race the bottom in the form of attention-seeking missiles:

I loathe the term “content” as applied to cultural material — it was foisted upon us by a commercially driven media industry that treats human beings as mindless eyeballs counted in statistics like views and likes, as currency to be traded against advertising revenue. Somehow people have been sold on the idea that the relationship between ads and “content” is a symbiotic one, but it is a parasitic one.

While tech may be the cigarette of the century,  the internet does provide space for writers like Maria Popova to demonstrate combinatorial creativity in the name of the hyperlink. If used properly, the internet can be a learning machine rather than a propaganda tool.

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Arts Writing

The difference between blogging and writing

Short answer: There is no difference between blogging and writing.

Blogging is the process of writing. The only difference is that our words appear on the world wide web — a global information medium discovered 30 years ago — rather than in a formal publication like a newspaper or a book.

The best part about blogging is that it’s free. You can set one up in just a few minutes. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Seth Godin publishes a new post every day. He thinks blogging is the best investment he’s ever made. Hard to disagree. 

When we force ourselves to think and ship daily, we take responsibility for our work. Blogging also helps us connect to the world.  

Advises entrepreneur and investor Andrew Chen:

“Writing is the most scalable professional networking activity. Stay home, don’t go to events/conferences, and just put ideas down.”

Blogging is also therapeutic, a restorative practice much like journaling, which also forces us to sit down and reflect on what we’ve learned and want to know more. 

The art of blogging

Blogs are tools. They provide a canvass for working out ideas but also operate as a catalyst for building other stuff. The practice of blogging, slow and deliberate, raw and often unpolished, is an evolutionary stimulant. 

How can we be sure about life’s improvement without disciplining ourselves to bridge the dots between the past and the future? 

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Arts Creativity Daily Prompts Psychology Video

Picasso: Art as a form of diary

Art is where our mind’s eye merges with reality to create a theater inside our head, resulting in the form of a diary. This was especially true for Pablo Picasso.

Picasso was perhaps best known for his practice of public journaling via painting. “My work is my diary. I have painted my autobiography,” he said.

Picasso grasped his inner thoughts and projected them on canvass. His art gave us a peek inside his head, such as his relationship with partner Marie-Thérèse Walter in his formative years.

Picasso: Art as a form of diary
‘The Dream’ (1932) Private collection © Succession Picasso/DACS London
Picasso: Art as a form of diary

Art is therapy

Art is an instrument for coping, part mental therapy part expression. Bottling his thoughts without letting them go would’ve driven Picasso insane. Whether it is painting, writing, or playing sports, we exercise our bodies to verify that we’re still alive.

As Picasso and so many other artists illustrate, self-expression has a real and irresistible pulse.

“Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”    

Pablo Picasso
Categories
Books Creativity Writing

The link between praying and writing

When acclaimed South African novelist and Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee was asked about the writing process, he compared it to the effort of praying.

“In both cases it’s hard to say to whom one’s discourse is directed. You have to subject yourself to the blankness of the page and you wait patiently to hear whether the blankness answers you. Sometimes it does not and then you despair.”

JM Coetzee (see books)

Of course, some writers believe the blank page is non-existent. They suggest that one should write poorly until they produce something of substance.

Better yet, consider the work philosophy of Vincent Van Vough and unthink: “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile.”

Categories
Arts Books Poetry Productivity & Work Writing

The value of making up stuff

Art is what we do with our extra time. It is more leisure than life. “Art is everything you don’t have to do,” as Brian Eno put it.

The starving artist is compelled to have a day job. We can’t make art without the backbone of cash.

However, the cashless value of writing a poem, painting a picture, or photographing the trees could save your life.

It is in making up stuff we find meaning. The canvass enhances our lives and inspires us to express ourselves. That freedom can be liberating.

Writes Louis Menand in his latest New Yorker piece entitled Can Poetry Change Your Life?

“But I got the same painful pleasure out of writing prose that I did out of writing poetry—the pleasure of trying to put the right words in the right order. And I took away from my experience with poetry something else. I understood that the reason people write poems is the reason people write. They have something to say.”

Art translates life. It takes us places. We need stories and memes in order to keep the everyday exciting.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work Social Media Writing

Why everyone should blog

Everyone should blog. You do not have to publish 500 words a day. You do not even need to post at all. In fact, writing comes easier when you can write for yourself, in private.

Use a smartphone journal like the Day One app or the ever-popular Morning Pages Journal where you write by hand. When it comes to blogging effectively, you have to be a little vulnerable. Don’t tell all but don’t hide everything either, especially if your advice will benefit the lives of other people.

Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.” 

Seth Godin

I have been blogging for years (click here to view my guide to setting up a blog on WordPress). It is harder to get an audience who cares to read your stuff today than it has ever been. You have to assume nobody wants to read your shit because he or she is busy or would rather be social networking or playing games instead. However, for those readers who do read your blog frequently, they have subscribed for a reason.

Luis Suarez has been blogging since 2002 and recently offered some advice about using your blog to reflect the real you.

It’s all about having a meaningful presence and how you work your way to make it happen, to leave a legacy behind, to share your thoughts and ideas others can learn from just like you do yourself with other people’s vs. pretending to be who you are not…Just be yourself with your own thoughts and share them along! It is what we all care for, eventually. The rest is just noise.”

Luis Suarez

No, blogging is not dead

People like to say blogging is dead. But not only are new platforms emerging like Medium, but blogging is just writing. Words will always be a powerful way to say something meaningful, whether it is in print, online, graffiti, or the walls of a cave.

I started this blog so I could show the world what interests me. It is no surprise that what you read here is information I learned from other blogs. In other words, blogging acts like a canvass where you synthesize, remix and interpret in your words.

Blogs are like ham­mers. They are tools for building stuff.”

Hugh MacLeod
Why everyone should blog
Art by Hugh MacLeod

Above all, blogging is free, what Seth Godin calls “the last great online bargain.” Blogging gives you a voice, and it is an excellent incentive to think in a world that just wants us to consume.

Blogging is a bicep curl for the brain. Write daily, and practice the art of conviction.

Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t “network” or “promote.” Just talk.”

Neil Gaiman