Sunday, February 22, 2015

“Draft” from The New York Times, Part 3: Blocked

I have written about writer's block many times over my 10 years of blogging here, and I do so again because it plagues even writers of exceptional quality. I see this problem firsthand in my travels throughout business and government offices around the world.

Bill Hayes cleverly writes about this issue in "On Not Writing" in The New York Times series Draft. Through his Principles of Specificity, Overload, and Rest, Hayes explains why writer's block might be inevitable and recommends practical antidotes, such as rather than work through the pain of writer's block walking away from the work for a healthy spell.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

“Draft” from The New York Times, Part 2: Diagramming, A History

Every now and then, I hear people boasting about how skilled they were in diagramming sentences back in elementary school or lamenting what they consider to be the lost art of diagramming. Ah, I remember diagramming well, the activity by which we care not about the meaning of words but their grammatical function as we place each one in its proper place along a demarcated line with potentially limitless sub-lines. 

While I did pretty well at this task myself, I am not about to praise or bury it, but simply to draw attention to an excellent New York Times article, "A Picture of Language," by Kitty Burns Florey in the series Draft. In this brief essay, Florey nicely summarizes the history of diagramming in public education. She covers this topic in depth in her book Sister  Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Curious History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences.

I bring this article to your attention because diagramming remains a controversial topic for those who argue whether we should teach language and writing structurally or stylistically.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

"Draft" from The New York Times, Part 1: The Rhythm of Writing

The New York Times runs an occasional series on writing, Draft, about the art and craft of writing. Over the next few posts, I want to draw attention to some of these articles because I often refer to them in my writing courses or recommend them as useful reading to aspiring writers.

One of these articles, "Writing to the Beat" by Perry Garfinkel, discusses connections between other art forms, in Garkinkel's case, drumming, and writing. The benefits of doing both activities includes not only the chance to better balance mental and physical activities but to gain insight into the rhythm of writing, the sound of the language moving readers along whichever path the writer aim to direct them. Living in both art forms also helps the artist appreciate one of them far more when engaged in the other. It's a brief piece of imaginative writing.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Writers Speak About Writing, Part 4: Charles Yu

"In order to write, don't write." I'm not sure if any writer can get a better tip for overcoming self-consciousness when composing. Whether the writer is an accountant, business analyst, engineer, journalist, novelist, poet, preacher, salesperson, scientist, or technician, author Charles Yu offers a sound piece of practical advice with humor and insight in this minute-plus clip.

My writing-coaching experience tells me that self-consciousness indeed is a source of writer's block, labored drafting, stress, and procrastination, all time killers for writers on deadlines. So getting into that zone of not writing in order to produce words on the screen or on paper is surely a sensible goal. How to get into that zone ... well, that's another story.