Category: writing


Screen shot 2019-11-17 at 09.51.41I am currently reading Ursula K.Le Guin’s wonderful collection of talks and essays – ‘The Wave Of The Mind’.

One essay, written for her own entertainment in the 1990s, is entitled ‘Collectors, Rhymesters And Drummers’ and contains this quote on the importance of words that I wish I had read as a student of English Literature when I was at school :

“Words, whether in poetry or prose, are as physical as paint and stone, as much a matter of voice and ear as music, as bodily as dancing.

I think it is a major error in criticism ever to ignore the words. Literally, the words: the sound of the words – the movement and pace of sentences – the rhythmic structures that the words establish and are controlled by.

A pedagogy that relies on the “Cliff Notes” sort of thing travesties the study of literature. To reduce the aesthetic values of a narrative to the ideas it expresses, to its “meaning,” is a drastic impoverishment. The map is not the landscape.”

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Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)

I still find myself wanting to read as much as possible as a way of making sense of the world and my own place within it.

I aim to increase the number of blog posts on what I’m reading. These will probably serve more as a reminder to myself rather than offering any particularly profound insights, but who knows. In any event, writing is the best way of organizing thoughts. Making these public gives an added incentive not to be flippant, sloppy, unkind or lazy.

The simple pleasure of making new discoveries and revisiting old favorites is an end in itself. The joys are an antidote to the cynical business-minded world in which, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, consumers are conditioned to know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

To confirm this, I was happy to stumble upon something Ursula K Le Guin said in a speech at the National Book Awards in 2014 : “Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words”.

Why bother to blog?

leapThis blog is in need of a reboot.

I’ve been writing it for almost ten years now and find myself increasingly facing a writer’s block.

For a couple of years I managed to write something every single day but recently the average number of posts has fallen to around four a month.

I feel better about myself when I do manage to get something down and it’s also useful to look back and gauge my changing moods and interests over the years.

But the devil in my head continues to whisper ‘Why bother?’ and directs my gaze to the steady fall in the number of views in the last few years. Despite having almost a thousand followers, it’s hard to ignore this inner negativity and to shake the feeling that my words simply get sucked into the void of cyberspace.

Still, whenever I have to think about a good personal quality I normally opt for perseverance. I’m not a smooth talker or a particularly fast learner and tend to distrust those who are skilled in these two fields.

What is a handicap in social settings can be an advantage when writing. Blogging fits my character because it gives me time to think before expressing myself even though this also means I too often keep well within my comfort zone.

So the next time the little demonic mind fucker asks ‘Why bother?’ I will reply that writing for the sake of it is a goal in itself and remind myself that looking before leaping doesn’t always save you from falling.

161037Quote of the day.

In Alasdair Gray’s ‘Lanark,  the protagonist and aspiring writer is reflecting on  the two main types of novels he found in his local public library:

“One kind was a sort or written cinema, with plenty of action and hardly any thought. The other kind was about clever unhappy people, often authors themselves, who thought a lot but didn’t do very much”.

A sweeping generalization perhaps, but there is a lot of truth in this.

THE NIX by Nathan Hill (Picador Books, 2016)

thenixAccording to the cliché,  everybody has at least one book in them. Nathan Hill has now written his in the form of this bold and hugely entertaining debut novel.

The American author says that his previous attempts at fiction followed formulas in vain attempts to win a lucrative book deal.

After a series of rejections he decided to cut his losses and simply write a book to please himself. In doing so, he had no idea whether or not it would be published.

It took him ten years to write, a slow but enjoyable process that he equated to tending to his own garden. The result is a triumph. Continue reading

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