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Culture Life & Philosophy Postaday Psychology

From your mouth

Words signify a consciousness, of which a newborn or pet can only hear. The baby goes on to break a word up into its individual sounds, eventually coalescing into a communicative language of memes while your dog relies on its own form of internal narrative.

There is some form of mental awareness in all creatures. A body without a brain contains zero working neurons and a dead narrative.

Words are tokens, pictures drawn with letters

Words are a different animal than pictures, perhaps the most effective at harvesting attention; humans use words to propagandize, market, deceive and spread evil. Said Nikola Tesla on the potency of language: “If hate could be turned into electricity, it would light up the whole world.”

Words are sensory stimulants, made of information to which you supply order. They carve out emotions for which both the bad and good stuff sticks. The more you use a word, the more you’ll be charged for it. “Talk, talk, talk: the utter and heartbreaking stupidity of words,” wrote William Faulkner in his 1927 novel, Mosquitos.

We invent words, best exemplified in lists, because we don’t want to die. Words cue action, form, and follow-through. Yet they also slip the leash — it is their existence that also poses the most threat to our everyday consciousness.

To make meaning and deeper complexity, we need better mental processors.

Categories
Creativity Life & Philosophy Writing

Don’t hold that thought 💬✒️

When in doubt, speak up. Talking is a tool for excavating thoughts—microphone in hand or not. It’s only after the speaking occurs do the words begin to flow.

The same goes for writing. One doesn’t need an audience in order to do it. The movement of the pen gears the brain into motion so that words hit the top of the tongue at precisely the right time.

“The pen is the tongue of the mind.”

Horace

Speaking and writing cue the neural pathways. They lay the groundwork for ideas to germinate and bloom.

Chatter, whether external or internal, are the firsts step in solidifying beliefs and discovering something interesting to say. The real enemy is a chattering brain that hesitates and never spits it out.

Inspiration and perfection are for amateurs–start before you’re ready.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work

Reexamining the Kiss Principle

“Keep it simple and stupid.” That was the acronym coined by aircraft engineer Clarence Johnson during the early 1930s. He proposed the “H” style tail for airplanes which helped stabilize flight.

Keeping it simple is always easier said than done. What may appear visually simple, took a deduction of complex details.

We don’t get to simplicity without amassing a pile of disparate parts first and then building shitty first drafts.

Complexity is often hidden within the design — such as the case with Apple products and apps like Instagram which appear simple on the outside but contain convoluted architecture and code on the inside.  

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” said Leonardo da Vinci, who painted over pieces that didn’t meet expectations. Artists like Pablo Picasso and writers like Ernest Hemingway edited down their pieces, again and again, to reduce their craft into the most practicable and understood forms.

Erasing difficulties requires patience of experimentation. It takes both head and heart work to minimize the unnecessary while maximizing utility in powerfully simple ways.

With a bit more curiosity and execution, we can turn less into more.

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Books Writing

‘Good work only comes through revision’

After a lifetime of hounding authors for advice, I’ve heard three truths from every mouth: (1) Writing is painful— it’s ‘fun’ only for novices, the very young, and hacks; (2) other than a few instances of luck, good work only comes through revision; (3) the best revisers often have reading habits that stretch back before the current age, which lends them a sense of history and raises their standards for quality.”

THE ART OF MEMOIR BY MARY KARR
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Books Productivity & Work Quotes Writing

‘The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it’

'The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it'

“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no resistance.”

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
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Books Quotes Writing

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books—of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s favorite, the john. You can even read while you’re driving, thanks to the audiobook revolution. Of the books I read each year, anywhere from six to a dozen are on tape. As for all the wonderful radio you will be missing, come on—how many times can you listen to Deep Purple sing “Highway Star”?

Reading at meals is considered rude in polite society, but if you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns. The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Categories
Arts Books Writing

‘The writer feeds his book’

The writer feeds his book, he strengthens the parts of it which are weak, he protects it, but afterwards it is the book that grows, that designates its author's tomb and defends it against the world's clamour and for a while against oblivion. #quotes #proust

The writer feeds his book, he strengthens the parts of it which are weak, he protects it, but afterwards it is the book that grows, that designates its author’s tomb and defends it against the world’s clamour and for a while against oblivion.

Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time
Categories
Arts Creativity Writing

Why Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward

Leonardo da Vinci wrote backward (mirror writing) because he didn’t want others stealing his ideas. Writes Da Vinci biographer Rachel A. Koestler-Grack:

“The observations in his notebooks were written in such a way that they could be read only by holding the books up to a mirror.”

But did a genius who combined art and science so brilliantly really need to hide his work? Perhaps it was practical: as a lefty, he didn’t want to smudge the ink. As a contrarian, Da Vinci also strived to be different. As blogger Walker’s Chapters writes:

“Do you really think that a man as clever as Leonardo thought it was a good way to prevent people from reading his notes? This man, this genius, if he truly wanted to make his notes readable only to himself, he would’ve invented an entirely new language for this purpose. We’re talking about a dude who conceptualized parachutes even before helicopters were a thing.”

Read more: Why Did Leonardo da Vinci Write Backwards? A Look Into the Ultimate Renaissance Man’s “Mirror Writing”

Categories
Writing

Writing is a wrestling of words

Writing is like wrestling, a tug of war with words that only make sense when we put them down.

We anticipate the next letter, next word, the next sentence, with the prayer that it all comes together: grammar, structure, and meaning.

Perfection is futile. The only fight we win is taking on the resistance that begs us to quit and move on.

But a writer is who we are, what we do, compelled to inject letters, words, and sentences into a jigsaw puzzle with pen and paper and screens galore.

And then we beg for cohesion, only to be lucky if anyone else gets it.

Categories
Books Quotes Writing

Abraham Lincoln on writing

“Writing, the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye— is the great invention of the world.”

Abraham Lincoln
Categories
Creativity Writing

All writing is in the edit

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Like photography, all writing is in the edit.

When you fall into writer’s block — a myth, by the way — you should move freely between devices, formats, and even different places in order to shake out of it. Here’s one recommended writing approach I encourage you to try: 

First, start writing on paper to help generate ideas. Anything goes. Then type out what’s worth keeping on to your phone to finesse your text. Better yet, throw the first draft onto different apps like WordPress (read why I recommend WordPress for blogging here), Byword, Bear, or iAWriter and then process it for grammar through the Hemingway App or my favorite writing assistant, Grammarly.

In summary: 

  1. Write everything out on paper
  2. Type your notes out on your phone or computer
  3. Copy-paste written text into an app like Grammarly for proofreading

Blogger Michael Lopp sums up his writing process nicely in How to Write a Blog Post:

Repeat until it starts to feel done in your head. If it’s handwritten, type it into a computing device. When you are close to done, print it out on paper. Sit somewhere else with your favorite pen and edit your work harshly. If this piece is important, let someone else edit harshly.

That’s right! Print it out and edit it in a different place altogether. Some writers think better to the hum of the coffee shop, JK Rowling included. Others need absolute silence, preferring to stare at a wall so that the only work to look at is the one being created in the mind’s eye.

artwork by Alessandra Olanow

Write with intent to publish

Do you do your best proofreading after your writing is out there in the wild?

Write with intent to publish. Hitting the publish button forces you to scrutinize your work more closely. If you’re lucky it’s a blog post you can go back and edit. If it’s a tweet or an email, you might be fat out of luck.

The writing process is a messy one that includes not only different formats but also different writing environments. Sometimes a great sentence starts on paper; other times it starts on your smartphone. Just be ready to review it a few times before you hit publish.