On Writing

On making paper and writing letters

The Papermaker is a short documentary about Gangolf Ulbricht, one of the last handcrafting papermakers in Europe. He "makes unique tree- free papers by hand for international artists, conservators, photographers, printers and many more.

He learned his uniqe craft in Germany, Japan, France and England" (via). 

Paper has character. You can tell from the product whether there are things going on beneath the surface . . . paper can have the power of life and death. Paper can be the bearer of emotions. A love letter comes to mind.

Author Simon Garfield says that the art of letter writing is dying, and for obvious reasons: Email. Email has transformed our world, making communicating much faster, much easier, and much more efficient. But what these emails lack, according to Garfield, is depth and emotion. They tend to be much more factual and functional, rather than personal. We read, write, send, then move on and read, write, send – quickly forgetting what we read, wrote, and sent.

Letters, however, take time. And not just to write, but the whole process. There’s the finding of the address, writing it out, finding a stamp, stamping it, then getting the letter to the mailbox. All the while, we could have written over a dozen emails. Emails that, over the course of just a few hours, will have been lost in the shuffle, deleted, or ignored.

I could possibly say the same for journals. When I used to keep an actual paper journal, I did a lot more doodling, more comic style writing (I'm in no way an artist, but I would feel the freedom to try, because who would know?). But then I would forget the journal on a plane, in a taxi, or wherever else journals are forgotten. That's even why I started blogging, which I've learned to truly enjoy, but still. Something personal seems to be lost. 

Letters though, good thought provoking and sincere letter make an impact and are not easily forgotten. They are personal and a physical manifestation of how much someone means to you. Which is why they are found pinned to caulk boards or placed carefully inside our favorite books, so that they can come back to life, over and over again.

Just like Gangolf Ulbricht's paper.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  : On Writing  :  Open Thoughts



Nobody Wants to Read your Sh*t, by Steven Pressfield


Like last 2017, this year is dedicated to writing (and one of these years, hopefully, something will actually come of it). I'd heard this book mentioned several times by artists of various sorts so I thought it as good a place as any to help start off the year. 

It wasn't amazing, but it didn't disappoint - I'd give it a solid B, perhaps a B+. 

Here are some of highlights:

It isn’t that people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy . . . so, streamline your message. Focus it and pare it down to its simplest, clearest, easiest-to-understand form . . . because The reader denotes his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you (pg 5).

If there was nothing else in the book, this is a hook I can hang my hat on: people are busy - or, as Derrick Jenson says, they could be having sex, so my writing better be worth their time. It better be better than having sex. 

“Let my countrymen discover, by their suffering without me fighting as their champion, how by far the greatest of them I am” (pg 23) – quoting Agamemnon, the Anti-hero.

The solution is embedded in the problem. If your job is to find the solution, the first step is to define the problem (pg 32).

Every piece of work operates from a thesis statement: Walter White in Breaking Bad says, “Change. Chemistry is the study of change. Elements combine and change into compounds. That’s all of life, right? Solution, dissolution. Growth. Decay. Transformation. It’s fascinating really.” This is Vince Gilligan’s statement of the theme (pg 35).

The two quotes above are gold and can/should be applied to anything, even teaching. A classroom, a novel, a movie, a TV show, even raising children or running a church should be guided be a central, clearly defined and easily applied, thesis statement. 

Because when life gets hard, when the ship rocks, or when no one knows what to do, it is the guiding and unfaltering force. So it better be a good one.

A real writer (or artist or entrepreneur) has something to give. She has lived enough and suffered enough and thought deeply enough about her experience to be able to process it into something that is of value to others, even if only as entertainment.

It's okay to seek success, as long as the purpose is greater than ourselves; if it is to serve the greater community. It's all about our motives

How to Create a {Classroom}: ask the questions (modified):

1.     What’s the theme?

2.     What’s the climax?

3.     Who’s the hero?

4.     The Villain?

5.     What are the stakes?

6.     What’s the purpose?

The American dream – you can be anything you want to be if you’re willing to work for it . . . and the American nightmare – what if we try and fail? (pg 90).

Your job as a writer is to give your hero the deepest, darkest, most hellacious All is Lost Moment possible – and then find a way out for her (pg 104) because The All is Lost Moment is followed almost immediately by a breakthrough insight or epiphany, an awakening for the hero, an “Aha!” moment (pg 105).

Write your nonfiction book as if it were a novel . . . give it an Act One, an Act Two, and Act Three. Make it cohere around a theme (pg 123).

The hardest and maybe the best way to establish authority is through the quality and integrity of the voice itself (pg 165).

The War of Art Structure:

Hook – “resistance,” the invisible negative force of self-sabotage that all writers (and creative people in all fields) face.

Build – mounts to a high point at which the problem has been defined and the answer spelled out. Leading to the question, “What does it all mean?”

Payoff – they paid off the Hook and the Build by reinforcing the reader’s own rising self-confidence that she not only identified the enemy and now knew hot to fight it, but had been turned on to the unseen, unbidden, but powerfully fortifying forces that would ineluctably come to her aid once she committed to her calling and took up the challenge (pg 169,170).

There is an evil force that is constantly defeating us as artists and bringing to naught all of our dreams. Let’s name that force, accept it as our enemy, and figure out how to overcome it.

Here’s how you know {you’ve got something worth pursuing} – you’re scared to death of it (pg 186).


-       The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne

-       The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

-       The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp

-       Quiet, by Susan Cain

-       Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill

Perhaps the greatest takeaway was the idea that even a nonfiction book (or classroom) should be structured and designed just like a fiction novel - central theme, hero and villain, three part structure. I love that. 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :   NY Times Best Books of 2017  :   Reading Log 2017  Reading Log 2018

On top, but alone : a sabbatical from writing


As 2016 drew to a close, like many people around the world, I planned for new beginnings, new hopes, and set a strong resolution: to write a blog every single day. I knew it was low hanging fruit and that it wouldn't bestow upon me the ever elusive title of "author," but I was okay with that, because it would ensure that I intentionally wrote a polished piece of work every single day. Up to that point, writing in my journal was erratic, sloppy, and unchallenged - it was a place I could live and write without consequence for my grammatical errors or faulty ideas.  It was a place of little growth.

So, for almost the entire year, I published something daily. Sometimes I struck gold, other times a septic line, but always I learned and grew - even if only slightly. Because people now had access to my thoughts.

Friends revealed my terrible grammar.

My wife refined my insensitive rants.

Readers encouraged my process, thoughts, and style. They commented, liked, and shared my writings which inspired me to stay up and write, well beyond my bedtime, because I had to write, I had to publish, and I had to maintain the number of views I was becoming accustomed to. 

Writing, suddenly, was no longer about writing. It was about getting Mother Mary up the mountain. And I couldn't figure out how to stop.

About halfway through the year, after writing about a variety of topics, posting videos, songs, movie trailers, and whatever else caught my interest, Mother Mary was still far from her summit, and I could feel my strength, my desire, and my purpose, slipping. When school started and life began to fill up, she lingered on the cliff. 

So I sent two dear friends an email entitled, "A Crisis of Sorts."

Here's an excerpt from that email:

For the past several weeks I've been working hard at my blog (god that sounds stupid). I've stayed up late, sacrificed lunches, and spent many many hours thinking on what to write, how to write, and to whom I might be writing for. And whenever I publish something I think, "Yes. That's good. I like that." But whenever I go back and reread various works and thoughts, I think, "NO! That's shitty. I hate that," and I get fully discouraged and lose hope {of} ever doing anything with writing because what is my blog going to do? How is this getting me anywhere closer to being a writer? Where is this going to get me?

I've started writing a bit more on personal matters, believing it might be encouraging to others because we're all tired of the surface bullshit we post on Facebook and Instagram and whatever. Some of the best and well-known writers and thinkers I've come to love are those who write and think honestly, and I want to emulate them. But as I work on a second piece about the struggles of a broken family, I keep questioning myself, "What's the point?" Outside of myself, who truly cares about this?" I know writers are supposed to "write for themselves," and I get that, I do. But it's also bullshit. We, as humans, as writers or artists or whatever we call ourselves, want to inspire, to help, and, as selfish as it sounds, be validated in what we do and the time we spend doing it. And this is EXACTLY where I'm struggling.

What am I doing wrong? Am I completely deluded in thinking that what I'm doing, the time I'm spending, and the way I'm writing is doing anything other than wasting time? 

Their responses, as I knew they would be, were golden. 

One writes, "Has the blog become too consuming? Does it interfere with other priorities? Are there any unhealthy byproducts that come from writing this blog? . . . Consider your motivations for writing the blog . . . maybe taking a “sabbatical” from the blog would be the healthiest option."

The other, "Have you heard the phrase, "Kill your darlings"? . . . I'm not saying your blog needs to be scrapped completely. I think if it's a momentary stumbling block that will be fine in the long run, keep going. But if it's a race of hurdles where you just trip over hurdle after hurdle, maybe it does?"

In short, why am I trying to place Mother Mary on top of a treacherous mountain? 

Because it's the good and right and noble choice? Because it serves the smaller and greater community?

Or because I want to take a selfie on top the world? 

Are there any unhealthy byproducts that come from writing this blog?

Maybe. Maybe not. But the real problem was that I never asked, that I never allowed myself to consider the possibility that there were unhealthy byproducts. How could I? To kill my darlings would be to kill myself. 

Why am I dragging Mary up the mountain? 

Kevin Ashton, in How to Fly a Horse, tells of the gruesome story of a time when "doctors did not scrub in or out of the operating room, and were so proud of the blood on their gowns that they let it build up throughout their careers." And because it was a teaching hospital, it was common practice for doctors to deliver babies after dissecting corpses. 

The hospitals mortality rate was so terrible mothers would often rather give birth in the streets, on their own, rather than in the hospital. Because their survival rate was higher. 

Yet, none of the doctors asked why or assumed they played a role in any of the deaths. When asked to simply wash their hands, almost immediately, the mortality rate went from 18% to zero. 

However, "This was not enough to overcome the skepticism. Charles Delucena Meigs, an American obstetrician, typified the outrage. He told his students that a doctor's hands could not possibly carry disease because doctors are gentlemen and 'gentlemen's hands are clean' (via).

Charles Delucena Meigs, the American obstetrician, was doing great things - saving lives and advancing our understanding of the human body. Why would he ever need to question his actions when his motives were so good? 

Because people we're dying. And at that point, it shouldn't have mattered his perspective, his convictions on the cleanliness of a man's hands because, people were dying. 

And people are always more important than convictions.

I want to be a writer. Bad. But more than that, I want to be a better person. Writing has helped me be that, I think, but not always. Sometimes not. 

Because sometimes, instead of helping and loving and living a life worth writing about, I drag Mother Mary up the mountain. 

And the selfie just isn't worth it.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  The DR Who Championed Hand-washing  :  How to Fly a Horse :  Open Thoughts

David Sedaris on Keeping a Diary in the age of Over-Sharing

My advice to a young writer who wants to start a diary or keep one going is to not read over what you wrote yesterday because it's going to stink. Do it for a year before you go back. Give yourself some distance.

But the key is, and forever will be, is to keep writing. Because who knows what might happen.


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Ira Glass on Storytelling  :  KURT VONNEGUT’S GREATEST WRITING ADVICE



John Steinbeck: Nobel Prize Speech

The following is an abbreviation of the speech, but you can find it's entirety here.

Literature was not promulgated by a pale and emasculated critical priesthood singing their litanies in empty churches - nor is it a game for the cloistered elect, the tinhorn mendicants of low calorie despair.

Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it, and it has not changed except to become more needed.

The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species.

Humanity has been passing through a gray and desolate time of confusion. My great predecessor, William Faulkner, speaking here, referred to it as a tragedy of universal fear so long sustained that there were no longer problems of the spirit, so that only the human heart in conflict with itself seemed worth writing about.

Faulkner, more than most men, was aware of human strength as well as of human weakness. He knew that the understanding and the resolution of fear are a large part of the writer's reason for being . . .

Furthermore, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity for greatness of heart and spirit - for gallantry in defeat - for courage, compassion and love. 

In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally-flags of hope and of emulation.

I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man, has no dedication nor any membership in literature . . .

With humanity's long proud history of standing firm against natural enemies, sometimes in the face of almost certain defeat and extinction, we would be cowardly and stupid to leave the field on the eve of our greatest potential victory . . .

The danger and the glory and the choice rest finally in man. The test of his perfectibility is at hand.

Having taken Godlike power, we must seek in ourselves for the responsibility and the wisdom we once prayed some deity might have.

Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope.

So that today, St. John the apostle may well be paraphrased ...

In the end is the Word, and the Word is Man - and the Word is with Men.

- John Steinbeck


Art is an attempt to answer the question, "What is it all about," and Steinbeck's answer is, "Man himself has become our greatest hazard and our only hope." His works are a fleshing out.



PLEASE (scroll to bottom) AND DO SO AGAIN!

There was an (ahem) operations error and it didn't go through (sorry about that).


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Writing :  On Living



by Emily Temple (I'm starting to really dig her work).

Today, if you can believe it, makes it ten years since we lost one of the greatest American writers—and, no matter how he tried to deny it, one of the greatest writing teachers. Certainly one of the greatest writing advice list-makers, at any rate. Vonnegut’s many thoughts on writing have been widely shared, taught, studied and adapted (designer Maya Eilam’s infographic-ized version of his “shapes of stories” lecture springs vividly to mind) because his advice tends to be straightforward, generous, and (most importantly) right.

Plus, it’s no-nonsense advice with a little bit of nonsense. Like his books, really. Find some of Vonnegut’s greatest writing advice, plucked from interviews, essays, and elsewhere, below—but first, find some of Vonnegut’s greatest life advice right here: “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.” Okay, proceed.

On proper punctuation:

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. (From A Man Without a Country)

On having other interests:

I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak. (From “an interview conducted with himself, by himself,” for The Paris Review)

On the value of writing:

If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something. (From A Man Without a Country)

On the theory of teaching creative writing:

I don’t have the will to teach anymore. I only know the theory… It was stated by Paul Engle—the founder of the Writers Workshop at Iowa. He told me that, if the workshop ever got a building of its own, these words should be inscribed over the entrance: “Don’t take it all so seriously.” (From “an interview conducted with himself, by himself,” for The Paris Review)

On plot:

I guarantee you that no modern story scheme, even plotlessness, will give a reader genuine satisfaction, unless one of those old-fashioned plots is smuggled in somewhere. I don’t praise plots as accurate representations of life, but as ways to keep readers reading. When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time. One of my students wrote a story about a nun who got a piece of dental floss stuck between her lower left molars, and who couldn’t get it out all day long. I thought that was wonderful. The story dealt with issues a lot more important than dental floss, but what kept readers going was anxiety about when the dental floss would finally be removed. Nobody could read that story without fishing around in his mouth with a finger. Now, there’s an admirable practical joke for you. When you exclude plot, when you exclude anyone’s wanting anything, you exclude the reader, which is a mean-spirited thing to do. You can also exclude the reader by not telling him immediately where the story is taking place, and who the people are [and what they want].

And you can put him to sleep by never having characters confront each other. Students like to say that they stage no confrontations because people avoid confrontations in modern life. “Modern life is so lonely,” they say. This is laziness. It’s the writer’s job to stage confrontations, so the characters will say surprising and revealing things, and educate and entertain us all. If a writer can’t or won’t do that, he should withdraw from the trade. (From “an interview conducted with himself, by himself,” for The Paris Review)

On not selling anything:

I used to teach a writer’s workshop at the University of Iowa back in the 1960s, and I would say at the start of every semester, “The role model for this course is Vincent van Gogh—who sold two paintings to his brother.” (Laughs.) I just sit and wait to see what’s inside me, and that’s the case for writing or for drawing, and then out it comes. There are times when nothing comes. James Brooks, the fine abstract-expressionist, I asked him what painting was like for him, and he said, “I put the first stroke on the canvas and then the canvas has to do half the work.” That’s how serious painters are. They’re waiting for the canvas to do half the work. (Laughs.) Come on. Wake up. (From The Last Interview)

On love in fiction:

So much of what happens in storytelling is mechanical, has to do with the technical problems of how to make a story work. Cowboy stories and policeman stories end in shoot-outs, for example, because shoot-outs are the most reliable mechanisms for making such stories end. There is nothing like death to say what is always such an artificial thing to say: “The end.” I try to keep deep love out of my stories because, once that particular subject comes up, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else. Readers don’t want to hear about anything else. They go gaga about love. If a lover in a story wins his true love, that’s the end of the tale, even if World War III is about to begin, and the sky is black with flying saucers. (From “an interview conducted with himself, by himself,” for The Paris Review)

On a good work schedule:

I get up at 7:30 and work four hours a day. Nine to twelve in the morning, five to six in the evening. Businessmen would achieve better results if they studied human metabolism. No one works well eight hours a day. No one ought to work more than four hours. (From an interview with Robert Taylor in Boston Globe Magazine, 1969)

On “how to write with style,” aka List #1:

1. Find a subject you care about
Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.

I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way—although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.

2. Do not ramble, though
I won’t ramble on about that.

3. Keep it simple
As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. “To be or not to be?” asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and as glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story “Eveline” is this one: “She was tired.” At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those three words do.

Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

4. Have guts to cut
It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

5. Sound like yourself
The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child. English was Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.

In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.

All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens to not be standard English, and if it shows itself when your write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one that is blue.

I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: to write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.

6. Say what you mean
I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more. I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant them to say. My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable—and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.

7. Pity the readers
They have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school—twelve long years.

So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient readers, ever willing to simplify and clarify—whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.

That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique Constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.

8. For really detailed advice
For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, in a more technical sense, I recommend to your attention The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. E.B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced.

You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself, if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say. (From “How to Write With Style,” published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ journal Transactions on Professional Communications in 1980.)

On how to write good short stories, aka List #2:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that. (From the preface to Bagombo Snuff Box)

On ignoring rules:

And there, I’ve just used a semi-colon, which at the outset I told you never to use. It is to make a point that I did it. The point is: Rules only take us so far, even good rules. (From A Man Without a Country)

On the shapes of stories:


PLEASE (scroll to bottom) AND DO SO AGAIN!

There was an (ahem) operations error and it didn't go through (sorry about that).


For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Writing :  Books

Ira Glass on Storytelling

A good reminder.

Because most days, I don't believe it to be true. But if I don't put in the time and work, I know for sure it won't be.

I'm just tired of being a beginner. 

A good reminder.

"Fight your way through that."

I wrote the above for this blog, and then I wrote an email to my wife because she was the one who sent it to me.  And something dawned on me because what I wrote her was:

This is really good. Really good. Yet somehow, I am always discouraged by these as well, believing I truly am the odd one out – like maybe from the beginning, I really DON’T have good taste. Or maybe I don’t have a taste that others jive with.  Which is fine, I think, because truly it should be for me, right, as a way to express? 
It just stinks when you realize, or believe, that what you think and what you want to do to help and inspire and encourage isn’t what others want to hear. Because I might have poor taste.
Does that make sense?  
Anyway, thank you for thinking of me and for the video. . . deep down, it is encouraging and inspiring and pushed me towards writing this morning. Which, ultimately, is the only thing that will ever help me find good taste or refine my work, like Ira says.
Love you.


The tone is different, and the openness, the vulnerability is different. Why is that?

Because I wrote honestly to my wife. 

And that's the kind of writer, creator, artist I want to be. One who is honest and open, not guarded or shackled by wanting to create what I think will sell or get likes and shares. 

The world doesn't need more of those types. And maybe the world doesn't need my type either, but really, I don't know of any other way. 

So I'll keep at it.


Thank you Ira, and thank you my beautiful wife, for the reminder. 

9 TED Talks From Writers

We love a good TED Talk. What better way to celebrate this awesome media than witha roundup of talks by nine kickass authors? Whether you are looking for a talk on fear and imagination, or poetry and animation—we have something for you. Just follow the links below.

Roxane Gay

We can’t stop talking about how thrilled we are to have the incredible Roxane Gay as the judge for our sixth anthology. She has established herself as a fiction writer, essayist, and astute cultural critic. Her TED Talk covers the difficulties of reaching a perfect feminist ideal, and why it’s important to keep trying anyway. Watch the talk here!

Lidia Yuknavitch

Lidia Yuknavitch is an Oregon writer who has written both a memoir and several novels. Her TED Talk shares her own journey through life, and her realizations of self-acceptance along the way.

John Green

John Green is the bestselling author of multiple novels, including Looking for Alaska, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars. His TED Talk is focused on different styles of learning, and how he fell in love with online video. Go on, check it out.

Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American author who is best known for her 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love. Her TED Talk deconstructs the idea of “being” a genius, and then continues with the supposition that all people “have” a genius. Watch it now.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian novelist, and she was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2008. Her TED Talk is on the importance of multiple viewpoints, whether they are about a country, a people, or a person. Check it out here.

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is a Turkish author, writing in both Turkish and English, and she is the most widely read female author in Turkey. Her TED Talk explains the power of fiction, and the empathy it engenders, in overcoming identity politics.

Karen Thompson Walker

Karen Thompson Walker is an American novelist, best known for her novel The Age of Miracles. Her TED Talk describes how fear shapes imagination by making us imagine possible futures, and her talk is centered around the story of the whaleship Essex. Take a gander.

Billy Collins

Billy Collins is an American poet, and he was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003. His TED Talk combines the written word and visual art, as he shares the story of how his poems became animated films in a collaboration with Sundance Channel.

Jarred McGinnis

Jarred McGinnis is an American author currently based in London, who has mainly focused on writing short fiction. His TED Talk shares his passion for stories, and demonstrates the wonders of fiction as a magical force in his life. Check it.

by Kimberly Guerin


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Ted Talks  :  Stories  :  Writing

Pixar is offering free classes!

In partnership with Khan Academy, Pixar is offering a number of free online lessons in making 3D animated movies and, perhaps most importantly (at least for me) . . .  storytelling!!!  The project is called Pixar in a Box. Here’s an introductory video:

There are lessons on rendering, shading, crowds, virtual cameras, and many other topics, but the most accessible for people of all ages/interests is probably the lessons on The Art of Storytelling, which were just posted earlier this week. Here’s the introductory video for that, featuring Pete Docter, director of Up and Inside Out (via).

The first round of classes include:

And I gotta say, I'm pretty friggen stoked.  Thank you Jeff Birdsong for sharing this brilliant link!

 For more on . . .

On Stories  :  On Writing  :  -N- Stuff