RSSCategory: Writing

When women write the screenplay of a movie, look what tends to happen . . .

August 16, 2017 | By | Reply More

The Bechdel Test, applied to some of the highest grossing films. The results are categorized by whether the film was written or co-written by women. To pass the test, #1 – Film has at least two women in it. #2 – Who talk to each other, about and #3 – Something besides a man. Yep, it’s a pretty low bar.

This study shows that when women are more involved as writers, the female characters are more active and interactive.

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The cost of interruptions

April 23, 2017 | By | Reply More

When I’m trying to write, I really get frustrated with interruptions. That’s why I try to write at times when interruptions will be limited, and I turn off my phone and close my email while I write.

Today I discovered that the effects of interruptions have been measured. This stunning conclusion is complements of Gloria Mark, Professor in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine:

How long does it take people to get back on task? We found about 82 percent of all interrupted work is resumed on the same day. But here’s the bad news — it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task.

The article offers that not all interruptions are the same, and in fact, some interruptions are beneficial. However, the author of this article echoes my own general frustration:

Are we becoming more superficial thinkers? I argue that when people are switching contexts every 10 and half minutes they can’t possibly be thinking deeply. There’s no way people can achieve flow. When I write a research article, it takes me a couple of hours before I can even begin to think creatively. If I was switching every 10 and half minutes, there’s just no way I’d be able to think deeply about what I’m doing. This is really bad for innovation. When you’re on the treadmill like this, it’s just not possible to achieve flow.

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Only one space after a period!

March 18, 2017 | By | Reply More

In high school typing class (in the 1970s), I learned that there are TWO spaces after a period. Since then, I’ve learned and relearned from reputable sources that there should only be one space following a period, but shaking that habit has not been easy. Today, I was reminded that there is no dispute about what to do after hitting a period on a keyboard:

Felici writes that typesetters in Europe began to settle on a single space around the early 20th century. America followed soon after.

Every modern typographer agrees on the one-space rule. It’s one of the canonical rules of the profession, in the same way that waiters know that the salad fork goes to the left of the dinner fork and fashion designers know to put men’s shirt buttons on the right and women’s on the left.

Every major style guide—including the Modern Language Association Style Manual and the Chicago Manual of Style—prescribes a single space after a period. (The Publications Manual of the American Psychological Association, used widely in the social sciences, allows for two spaces in draft manuscripts but recommends one space in published work.)

Let this be the day when my fingers start doing what my brain has been trying to tell them to do for decades!

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Putting more words on the big pile of words

March 17, 2016 | By | 1 Reply More

I’ve been blogging for 10 years at this website. It started off as a collaboration of authors, which made sense back then, in that it was not as easy to create a blog back then, and a group of authors seemed like better bait than a single author to attract readers.It was a good experience back then, and I really appreciated bouncing ideas off the co-authors through our comments and posts. I explored many ideas that I conceptualize as being under the umbrella of cognitive science. Writing about the writings of others pushed those ideas further into my working knowledge–this was so very much more satisfying than ideas slipping in and out. Before I blogged, ideas didn’t stick, and I didn’t have articles to link to my new articles, making both old and new ideas more accessible.

In short, I was blogging for self-improvement, with the thought that many of the things in which I was interested would also interest some others. As I blogged through the years, the number of daily visitors climbed up to the hundreds and then the thousands (according to a measuring tool I then used called “Webstats”). I was inspired to work ever harder at finding articles that challenged me yet were accessible, or at least I tried to make them accessible. I invested two, three, four or more hours per day reading, dictating, polishing and proofing my articles, some of them running into the thousands of words. It was a really invigorating was to become educated.

And here I am, still blogging, though at a much-reduced pace, but thinking that this website is a familiar and attractive place for me. Especially now that I’ve changed hosts, which has sped up the site considerably, which makes blogging seem almost effortless. And as I sit here writing, at the age of almost 60, I wonder whether what I really have to offer that hasn’t been offered dozens or hundred of times already. And upon writing that, I think I’ve identified my quest – to stay unique in my voice, even if it means writing a lot less. Even if it means “reporting” less and emoting more with my words. Bottom line: I suspect that I will be veering more toward essays and observations, though remaining vigilant regarding others’ articles and creative works.

Well . . . that’s it for now. I will be taking some new steps in some new directions in the coming weeks and months, and seeing how it looks the next day and week.

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On writing and performing songs

December 2, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More

I’ve played guitar and keyboard for many years. I’m quite experienced and confident in my playing, but my performances at local coffee shops have consisted entirely of playing “covers,” and it’s getting a bit embarrassing that I haven’t yet written my own songs (even though I do my own arrangements of the songs I sing). As I’ve forced myself to actually start writing songs with lyrics, I’ve become fascinated with the process. This interview with James Taylor offers lots of food for thought.

There is far more out there for those, who like me, are just now venturing into the world of music with lyrics (here are several basic approaches; Here is another good source of basic ideas.)

At this point, I’ve written two songs with lyrics. I do like the result, but it has taken dozens of hours to get these tunes to a point where I find them acceptable. I don’t know whether there is any way to speed up the process. It does feel, though, that I’m a the beginning of a compelling adventure.

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Eric Barker summarizes Stephen Pinker’s advice on how to write

November 11, 2014 | By | Reply More

What can you do to be a better writer? Stephen Pinker offers some excellent advice, and Eric Barker puts it into summary fashion, peppering the ideas with useful links.

The beauty of Barker’s posts is that the links tend to lead you to rich clusters of new links. One of the links from this post lead me to a link on how to be a better story teller. The person interviewed is UCLA Film School Professor Howard Suber. Here’s a captivating bit of advice:

Every so often in my personal life with friends, I’ll have somebody who will be telling me, it’s usually over a meal, about they’re in a relationship, and it’s in trouble and this trouble has been going on for some time, often years, and it’s now heading for a crisis. And it’s one of those things where you know sort of, even though they don’t verbalize it, they’re asking, “What do you think? What do you think I should do?”

And after listening to the narrative for a while, every so often, I’ll say, “What movie are you living now?” And it always produces the same response. The person is startled because it sounds initially like a trivial question. They’re usually telling the story with considerable agony, and so they kind of freeze like a deer. And then their eyes rotate, usually upwards to the right, which is where a lot of people go when they’re searching their memory bank, and then they’ll laugh.

That’s the important point of this, and they’ll laugh and say, “The Exorcist,” or something like that. And the laugh is a sign of recognition that the story they’ve been telling me has a recognizable structure, and once they give me that, they then usually laugh again and say something like, “Oh, my God.” I then say, as quietly as I can, “And where does the story go?” And that’s the advice I’ve given them.

While on the topic of Barker, this might be my favorite of his many posts: “Which Old Sayings are True?”

One more: Barker summarizes a study on the importance of sleep. Stunning results:

By the end of two weeks, the six-hour sleepers were as impaired as those who, in another Dinges study, had been sleep-deprived for 24 hours straight — the cognitive equivalent of being legally drunk.

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How to get started on your writing project

September 16, 2014 | By | Reply More

I just read Anne Lamott’s 2005 essay, “Shitty First Drafts” from her book, Bird by Bird.  Delightful read. Excellent advice to get writers started.

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Just Talkin’ Here

August 4, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
Just Talkin’ Here

One of the more congenial things about FaceBook is that while flaming (and trolling and all such related hate-baiting tactics) still happens, users aren’t locked into the thread where it occurs. With multiple conversations going on all the time among many different arrangements of “friends” it is not a problem requiring something like a nuclear option to deal with. 

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Re-paint

May 28, 2014 | By | Reply More

Last month I carefully sanded and painted the passenger side rear corner of our 2001 Dodge Caravan. It didn’t look perfect, but it was more than passable. Yesterday someone scraped the same part of the same car while it was sitting on a parking lot. So tonight I rode the same bicycle back to the same auto parts store and the same guy sells me another can of the same type of paint as I stood there wearing the same bike helmet that I wore last time. “Have we met?,” he asked. I explained, “Yes, you’re the guy who insisted that I use grade 2,000 sand paper last time, and I refused, saying that it would make that part of the car look too nice–and it all would have been for naught. I explained why I had returned, then asked, “Did I CAUSE that jerk to scrape my car yesterday by choosing to paint it last month? He said, “Yes. That’s how life works.”

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