Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Does Programming Have to Do With Writing?

After stumbling upon Paul Graham's web site, I feel like a cowboy who stopped at a random creek and found gold nuggets in the water-- Graham's essays, while mostly written about programming, embody a clear logic that for the most part applies to all creative endeavors and most definitely to writing.

In "Copy What You Like," Graham even uses writing to illustrate his point that it is too easy to imitate what is admired rather than that which you genuinely like:

When I was in high school I spent a lot of time imitating bad writers. What we studied in English classes was mostly fiction, so I assumed that was the highest form of writing. Mistake number one. The stories that seemed to be most admired were ones in which people suffered in complicated ways. ... The result was that I wrote a lot of stories in which nothing happened except that someone was unhappy in a way that seemed deep.

He gives useful techniques for avoiding this:

It can be hard to separate the things you like from the things you're impressed with. One trick is to ignore presentation. Whenever I see a painting impressively hung in a museum, I ask myself: how much would I pay for this if I found it at a garage sale, dirty and frameless, and with no idea who painted it? If you walk around a museum trying this experiment, you'll find you get some truly startling results. Don't ignore this data point just because it's an outlier.

And the final exhortation of the essay is imperative, but sometimes difficult to remember, especially after an MFA:

You have to figure out for yourself what's good. You can't trust authorities. They'll lie to you on this one.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Time Keeps On Slippin'

Taking a while, as I am, to finish your magnum opus? Just read this post about the relative old age of debut novelists (compared with musicians and actors) and you will immediately feel much better. Writing something that holds together takes time. (Yeah.) And life getting in the way makes it even slower. (Yeah.) What are you, ignirint?*

*Refer to the Akroyd-Murphy vehicle Trading Places, which, come to think of it, has uncanny resonance in these days of economic downfall.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

October 16

I know what I'll be doing that day (okay, maybe not that very day but soon after)...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Because It's Friday, You Ain't Got No Job, and You Ain't Got Shit to Do

No, today's not Friday-- but in ten days it will be Friday, March 27, and I will be on a plane to Italy! Yep, I'm returning to the for-four-months-of-study-abroad-in-2002 homeland with my former roommate from said study abroad, whose ex-boyfriend is getting married in April (to someone else). My friend has dubbed our trip the Single Girls' Honeymoon, which isn't a name I subscribe to, but then again, I don't need an excuse to return to Firenze. Holla!

When I contacted the few Italian friends I made (during a semester of studying, living and traveling with Americans), I found out that one of them will in fact be on his honeymoon while we are there.

Stop getting married! Stop it! All of you.

We're also heading south for a few days to Sorrento and the Amalfi coast... It's the first vacation time I'm using since I started work last June, so I plan to Do It Up like these guys.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Semantics: A Rant

There's nothing to get me posting to a dormant blog again like finding myself unduly annoyed by overheard/read words and phrases. Here is a list of the most recent offenders:

factoid-- as in "Here are some neat factoids about pig farming." This one is more often found in kids' magazines and 1990s (or maybe even 1980s) lingo, but I've heard it once or twice in the past six months from the mouths of corporate wretches.

fab-- as in "Their apartment is so fab." Just say fabulous. Or better yet, "great." "Great" is kind of like "said"-- clear yet unobtrusive.

"wife" as a verb-- as in "I want to wife the girl from Slumdog Millionaire." This misappropriation takes the faint aggression of the outdated phrase "make her my wife" to a whole new level.

electrons-- as in "Send me the electrons of those documents when you get a chance." Electrons are particles, people! Just say, "Please e-mail me a copy."

From the vaults:

In high school I held out for at least two years against the rising tide of cute used to describe clothes, shoes, make-up or hair, as in "I love your bag! It's so cute."

Cute won.

(I still think it's okay to say a guy is cute, however. If this dates me, so be it.)

I know there are millions more annoying words... add yours to the list.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Read This

Just a quick post to point you to an always-timely (for me, at least) meta-post by Leslie Pietryzk about facing the occasional dread of writing.

What do you use, the carrot or the stick (or a combination of both)?

And while we're on the subject, what do you think about Leanne's win last night? (She was my pick all along-- I should have found a bookie.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Guns and Likker

Not only is Matt Bondurant a "person I know" (to borrow a phrase from this guy), he is an excellent writer and a great storyteller. His new book, The Wettest County in the World, is ridiculously good. Matt envisions 1920s rural Virginia-- bootlegging country-- in a bleak, sometimes surreal, manner as he tells the tale of his moonshining grandfather and great-uncles. Precise, delicate description grounds the violent narrative so that even a wuss like me wanted to keep reading until the book's mysteries unfolded. Go buy it now!