Posts tagged Writing

The Crossroads of Should and Must
An absolute must-read from artist Elle Luna on Medium on leaving her job at Mailbox to make art. Complete with beautiful illustrations and heaps of wisdom on when to follow “must” and when to follow “should” in life and work (which shouldn’t be two separate things).
Image: Screenshot from the illustrated piece.
Related: Another fantastic read (this one from David Cain), on why procrastination is not laziness.

The Crossroads of Should and Must

An absolute must-read from artist Elle Luna on Medium on leaving her job at Mailbox to make art. Complete with beautiful illustrations and heaps of wisdom on when to follow “must” and when to follow “should” in life and work (which shouldn’t be two separate things).

Image: Screenshot from the illustrated piece.

Related: Another fantastic read (this one from David Cain), on why procrastination is not laziness.

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Strunk and White, Elements of Style.

Always a good reminder, and a reminder that you can download Elements of Style for free. PDF | eBook

laughingsquid:

The Oxford Comma, A Confounding Bit of Punctuation

FJP: For what it’s worth, The FJP doesn’t use the Oxford Comma. We’re also with Farhad Manjoo in refusing to put two spaces after a period.

How to Create a Well-Balanced Blog
A new graphic by Column Five Media + LinkedIn Marketing Solutions uses the increasingly popular media-as-food analogy to offer tips to brands (but really, everyone) on what sort of content to publish on their blogs, when and how. Image is a screenshot from the original infographic, which you can read about and see in its entirety here.

How to Create a Well-Balanced Blog

A new graphic by Column Five Media + LinkedIn Marketing Solutions uses the increasingly popular media-as-food analogy to offer tips to brands (but really, everyone) on what sort of content to publish on their blogs, when and how. Image is a screenshot from the original infographic, which you can read about and see in its entirety here.

The world needs you. It doesn’t need you at a party having read a book about how to appear smart at parties – these books exist, and they’re tempting – but resist falling into that trap. The world needs you at the party starting real conversations, saying, ‘I don’t know,’ and being kind.

Charlie Kaufman in his (now very famous) BAFTA speech as part of the 2011 Screenwriters’ Lecture Series. Discovered via Bitch Magazine’s recent interview with the ever-wise, ever-creative Rookie Mag editor Tavi Gevinson, on the future of Rookie and teenagerhood.

More: An incredibly moving excerpt from the speech was turned into this 2012 short film by Eliot Rausch and Phos Pictures: What I have to Offer. And, the entire BAFTA series via iTunes podcast is here, much of which is lovely and inspiring and important for writers of all stripes and colors.

Filed under: Media can be therapeutic. And in the ever-forward, way-too-fast cycles of discovery, we have to remember to revisit the best of it often.

It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.

Members of his staff — most of them young and working on a newspaper for the first time — referred to him with varying degrees of affection and apprehension as “Oz the Great and Terrible.”

Mr. Rensenbrink referred to himself as a “working hippie,” shaped by counterculture values and a blue-collar work ethic. He was, by most accounts, a tough boss.

From the NY Times obit for James Rensenbrik, founder of the enduring alternative newspaper, The Aquarian Weekly.

The Aquarian Weekly, headquartered in various northern New Jersey storefronts and warehouses in its 44 years, has outlived most of its underground cohort. After The Village Voice and The San Francisco Bay Guardian were taken over by corporate newspaper chains in recent years, The Aquarian claimed to be one of the last independent alternative papers in the country left standing and one of the oldest continuously published ones.

Mr. Rensenbrink, who died on Nov. 6 in Grants Pass, Ore., at 81, received offers over the years from chains looking to buy The Aquarian, with its circulation of 45,000. He said no each time. By the time he retired in 1999 and moved to Oregon, he had arranged to transfer ownership to an employee cooperative. The co-op has been publishing the paper — in print and online editions — ever since.

He’s a fascinating man with a fascinating legacy. The Aquarian Weekly staff write about meeting and working with him in this tribute on their site. Worth reading. 

Every time somebody says to me, “It’s so impressive how you manage to get writing done despite being on Facebook/Twitter/etc. all the time,” I cringe. I’ve been hit by a backhanded compliment. I’m surfing, tweeting and emailing — leaving my digital prints everywhere and probably picking up some nasty computer viruses — while serious writers are working pristinely, heroically beyond the clutches of the Internet.

Jonathan Franzen found the Internet such a threat that he disabled it by plugging an Ethernet cable into his computer with super glue. The philosophy behind this act of almost rageful vandalism seems self-evident. Compared to the hard work of writing, the Internet gives an easy way out. Before, the writer took breaks for things like coffee, cigarettes, drugs — items that each have natural limits in the human body. But now, you’re basically working in an intellectual red-light district where, at any time — every three seconds if you want — you can dip into the constantly replenished streams of email/Facebook/Gawker/eBay/YouTube/Instagram.
Marie Myung-Ok Lee, New York Times. The Internet: A Welcome Distraction.
And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.
Via @RCdeWinter.

And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.

Via @RCdeWinter.

But why would a person write to Redbook extolling the great beauty and virtue of Eva Longoria? I have my own set of favorite actors… but I can barely imagine composing a sincere tweet about them, let alone writing multiple paragraphs and then sending them to a magazine for publication. That’s even more true in an era in which it’s so easy to do one’s gushing online, using less formal language. What compels an enthusiastic reader to let Entertainment Weekly know that this year’s fall TV preview was the best ever?

Ruth Graham, Meet the People Who Still Write Letters to the Editor, The Awl.

To answer the question, Ruth Graham interviews four writers of recent letters to the editor in People and Vanity Fair. While this is by no means representative of any kind of trend, three out of four of them are over the age of 60 and three out of four are or have been writers of some sort. Read about them here.

FJP: Here’s a personal thought on reading comments in print vs. online. I generally read about 4 magazines in print per month. I don’t subscribe to any, I just pick up what looks interesting at the train station when I’m visiting my folks. I always stop and read the letters section, both the letter from the editor and the letters to the editor. I do this because when reading in print, I feel I need to orient myself and get a grip on the identity of the publication in hand. It feels like a respectful thing to do. I feel compelled to perform this act of respect because holding an entire issue of a magazine in your hands makes you feel the weight of the effort that went into it. Perhaps it makes no sense, but I want to reciprocate.

The content of these letters to the editor are hardly ever more insightful or intriguing that comments people leave online. Yet because they get an entire printed page, I spend a few extra seconds pondering them than I would something online. And particularly because I’m a child of the age of millennial voyeurism, it’s a strange feeling to read letters to the editor in print and not get to internet stalk the people who wrote them. So, this Awl piece is a fun read. And something I’ve always been curious about. —Jihii

Somewhat related: A NY Times Magazine piece from last weekend on the history, future and quality of comments.

In Praise of Commas
H/T: Ralph Roberts.

In Praise of Commas

H/T: Ralph Roberts.

What’s in a Pen?
The Wirecutter has a 6,500 word review of not only what it considers the best pen (a uni-ball Jetstream), but all sorts of facts and tidbits about pens in general.
Take a look:

There are pretty much three types of non-fountain ink pens currently on the market that you can get on the cheap: ballpoint, rollerball and gel pens. All three are closely related, but, generally speaking, each has some advantages and disadvantages over the others…
…Ballpoint technology, invented in the 1800s, is the grandaddy of all of this. It was designed to be a better and easier way of dispensing ink—embedded in the point of a pen, a rolling ball transfers the ink to the page. Ballpoints use oil-based ink solutions, which dry quickly on the page, don’t bleed through much and don’t dry out easily in the pen itself. But ballpoints tend not to be very smooth to write with.
Rollerballs use water-based ink, which provides smoother, finer lines. They are available in a wider array of colors and require less pressure to use. But their inks tend to dry slowly on the page, can easily smudge and bleed, and can dry out in the pen itself.
Gel pens are technically a rollerball variant, but use a much thicker, more viscous ink. So gel pens don’t bleed as much as most rollerballs, and you still get very smooth, fine and vivid lines. But they still generally have smudging and drying problems, and the ink runs thick; a 0.5 mm gel pen will put down a wider line than 0.5 mm in other types.

But… pens? Why not grab whatever’s available?
Because, as the review says, the “difference between an awesome pen and a mediocre one is just a couple bucks.” So, awesome. We like that.
We also like that the pens reviewed had to be less than $5.
Image: The FJP’s Jihii Jolly demonstrates her handiwork with a pen by transcribing the first of Rainer Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Via her Instagram. Select to embiggen.

What’s in a Pen?

The Wirecutter has a 6,500 word review of not only what it considers the best pen (a uni-ball Jetstream), but all sorts of facts and tidbits about pens in general.

Take a look:

There are pretty much three types of non-fountain ink pens currently on the market that you can get on the cheap: ballpoint, rollerball and gel pens. All three are closely related, but, generally speaking, each has some advantages and disadvantages over the others…

…Ballpoint technology, invented in the 1800s, is the grandaddy of all of this. It was designed to be a better and easier way of dispensing ink—embedded in the point of a pen, a rolling ball transfers the ink to the page. Ballpoints use oil-based ink solutions, which dry quickly on the page, don’t bleed through much and don’t dry out easily in the pen itself. But ballpoints tend not to be very smooth to write with.

Rollerballs use water-based ink, which provides smoother, finer lines. They are available in a wider array of colors and require less pressure to use. But their inks tend to dry slowly on the page, can easily smudge and bleed, and can dry out in the pen itself.

Gel pens are technically a rollerball variant, but use a much thicker, more viscous ink. So gel pens don’t bleed as much as most rollerballs, and you still get very smooth, fine and vivid lines. But they still generally have smudging and drying problems, and the ink runs thick; a 0.5 mm gel pen will put down a wider line than 0.5 mm in other types.

But… pens? Why not grab whatever’s available?

Because, as the review says, the “difference between an awesome pen and a mediocre one is just a couple bucks.” So, awesome. We like that.

We also like that the pens reviewed had to be less than $5.

Image: The FJP’s Jihii Jolly demonstrates her handiwork with a pen by transcribing the first of Rainer Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Via her Instagram. Select to embiggen.

Googling Longform

The News:

When big news breaks, readers clamor for updates — but they also yearn for context. For example, when word got out Monday afternoon that Jeff Bezos had spent $250 million to become the new owner of The Washington Post, there was suddenly a demand for all kinds of information. Who are the Grahams? How long have they owned the paper? What kind of leader has Bezos been at Amazon? What’s the status of other historic newspapers — have any others been purchased recently?

Some of this information would have been clear after a quick Google search, but piecing together a full portrait of the significance of what happened would likely have taken a combination of queries and resources — maybe a Wikipedia article, some breaking blog posts, a couple of company biographies — to put it all together.

Google wants to change that. Today, they announced a new search feature that aims to put in-depth and longform coverage of people, places, events and themes at your fingertips.

Why It Matters:

One possible result of the new search might be that more eyes are turned toward content produced by journalists in newsrooms rather than the aggregators we have come to rely on when looking for background information — Wikipedia, IMDb, or WebMD. It also suggests that Google is aware of an information gap that others are also trying to fill, a centralized hub for background and context on an issue. 

Thoughts on the potential of this sort of search engine:

As a journalist and seeker of content-specific longform, this is a dream come true. When writing a story, you want to know what’s come before, you want to know what excellent journalists have grappled with in executing stories before yours. Digging through the archives of publications and asking people for recommendations should not be the only way to discover this content.

As a news consumer and citizen of the world, my relationship with literary and longer form stories has been entirely serendipitous; I’ve relied on the magazines and journals I love to read great stories, and more recently, on apps like the one by Longform to find writing and writers I don’t know of. But if one is looking to learn about a topic, get lost on the internet, or deep dive into the life and times of their favorite celebrity, search engines pointing to great writing (as opposed to say, the Wikipedias of the world), has the potential to change consumption culture. Granted the content isn’t guaranteed to be great, but it could help us discover more “writing” as opposed to more “content,” which has the potential to get us used to reading and experiencing longer, well-thought-out, well-researched stories again. And that is something that really excites me, because that’s the sort of world I want my kids to grow up in.—Jihii

 

Artist Creates Light-Hearted Comics For Heavy-Hearted Creatives
Grant Snider, student of orthodontics and artist extraordinaire, creates a series of light-hearted, inspirational comics about art, writing, and life on his website, Incidental Comics. The comics cover topics from rules for freelancers to drug induced writing enhancement. Fun for all.
Image: How To Make Write by Grant Snider

Artist Creates Light-Hearted Comics For Heavy-Hearted Creatives

Grant Snider, student of orthodontics and artist extraordinaire, creates a series of light-hearted, inspirational comics about art, writing, and life on his website, Incidental Comics. The comics cover topics from rules for freelancers to drug induced writing enhancement. Fun for all.

Image: How To Make Write by Grant Snider