82 Matching Annotations
  1. Nov 2022
    1. Abrams, Douglas. “Historian Barbara W. Tuchman on the ‘Art of Writing’ (Part II).” Precedent 9, no. 1 (January 1, 2015): 18–21. http://ssrn.com/abstract=2581159

      Interesting view of writing and a short collection of reasonable writing advice. Perhaps a bit too much focus on other writers given the title of the piece. Not sure it was all brought together in the nice bow it may have otherwise had, but interesting nonetheless.

    2. Justice Louis D.Brandeis instructedlawyers that “there is nosuch thing as good writ-ing. There is only goodrewriting.”23
    3. “Broadly speaking, the shortwords are the best, and the old wordswhen short are best of all,” attestedformer British Prime Minister WinstonChurchill,
    4. “Usethe smallest word that does the job,”advised essayist and journalist E. B.White.20
    5. Novelists Ernest Hemingway and Wil-liam Faulkner, for example, went backand forth about the virtues of simplic-ity in writing. Faulkner once criticizedHemingway, who he said “had nocourage, never been known to use aword that might send the reader to thedictionary.” “Poor Faulkner,” Heming-way responded, “Does he really thinkbig emotions come from big words?He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollarwords. I know them all right. But thereare older and simpler and better words,and those are the ones I use.”15

      15 A.E. Hotchner , PAPA heminGwAy 69-70 (1966) (quoting Hemingway).

    6. Justice Felix Frankfurter,a prolific writer as a Harvard lawprofessor before joining the SupremeCourt, was right that “[a]nything thatis written may present a problem ofmeaning” because words “seldomattain[] more than approximate preci-sion.”12

      12 Felix Frankfurter, Some Reflections On the Reading of Statutes, 47 CoLUm . L. rev. 527, 528 (1947), reprinting Felix Frankfurter, Sixth Annual Benjamin N. Cardozo Lecture, 2 Rec. Bar Ass'n City of N.Y. (No. 6, 1947).

    7. Guy de Maupassant, was no lawyer,but his advice can help guide lawyerswho seek precision in their writing.“Whatever you want to say,” he assert-ed, “there is only one word to expressit, only one verb to give it movement,only one adjective to qualify it. Youmust search for that word, that verb,that adjective, and never be contentwith an approximation, never resortto tricks, even clever ones, and neverhave recourse to verbal sleight-of-hand to avoid a difficulty.”11

      11 Guy de Maupassant, Selected Short Sto- ries 10-11 (Roger Colet ed., 1971) (Maupassant quoting French writer Gustave Flaubert).

    1. A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial, reason, that "great wits have short memories;" and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day's reading or conversation. There you enter not only your own original thoughts, (which, a hundred to one, are few and insignificant) but such of other men, as you think fit to make your own, by entering them there. For, take this for a rule, when an author is in your books, you have the same demand upon him for his wit, as a merchant has for your money, when you are in his. By these few and easy prescriptions, (with the help of a good genius) it is possible you may, in a short time, arrive at the accomplishments of a poet, and shine in that character[3].

      "Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia, is unquestionably true, with regard to every thing except poetry; and I am very sure that any man of common understanding may, by proper culture, care, attention, and labour, make himself whatever he pleases, except a good poet." Chesterfield, Letter lxxxi.

      See also: https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:The_Works_of_the_Rev._Jonathan_Swift,_Volume_5.djvu/261 as a source

      Swift, Jonathan. The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift. Edited by Thomas Sheridan and John Nichols. Vol. 5. 19 vols. London: H. Baldwin and Son, 1801.

    1. When he was coming up as a writer, the author and journalist Rex Murphy would write out longhand favorite poems and passages. He was asked, what’s that done for you? “There’s an energy attached to poetry and great prose,” Murphy said. “And when you bring it into your mind, into your living sensibility, by some weird osmosis, it lifts your style or the attempts of your mind.” When you read great writing, when you write down a great line or paragraph, Murphy continues, “somehow or another, it contaminates you in a rich way. You get something from it—from this osmotic imitation—that will only take place if you lodge it in your consciousness.”

      This writing advice from Rex Murphy sounds like the beginning portions of Benjamin Franklin's advice on writing and slowly rewriting one's way into better prose styles.

      Link to Franklin's quote

    2. The novelist and screenwriter Raymond Chandler said he avoided reading books written by someone who didn’t “take the pains” to write out the words. (It used to be common for writers to dictate into a recorder then have an assistant transcribe those words.) “You have to have that mechanical resistance,” Chandler wrote in a 1949 letter to actor/writer Alex Barris. “When you have to use your energy to put those words down, you are more apt to make them count.”
  2. Oct 2022
    1. A recent writer has called attention to apassage in Paxson's presidential address before the American Historical Associationin 1938, in which he remarked that historians "needed Cheyney's warning . . . not towrite in 1917 or 1918 what might be regretted in 1927 and 1928."

      There are lessons in Frederic L. Paxson's 1938 address to the American Historical Association for todays social media culture and the growing realm of cancel culture when he remarked that historians "needed Cheyney's warning... not to write in 1917 or 1918 what might be regretted in 1927 and 1928.

    2. the writer of "scissors and paste history" ;

      One cannot excerpt their way into knowledge, simply cutting and pasting one's way through life is useless. Your notes may temporarily serve you, but unless you apply judgement and reason to them to create something new, they will remain a scrapheap for future generations who will gain no wisdom or use from your efforts.

      relate to: notes about notes being only useful to their creator

    1. For Tim, the practice is managed by routine.“My quota for writing is two crappy pages a day,” he explains. Those two pages help him get started, matter what other commitments he is meeting that day. And even if they’re bad, they’re at least done.The idea is to set goals that are “easily winnable” so you don’t panic when one day passes and you don’t make that goal, because you always know you can easily pick back up the next day.“If I don’t write my two pages I don’t panic and go into the spiral.”

      Tim Ferris has a routine for writing and has indicated "My quota for writing is two crappy pages a day." and "If I don't write my two pages, I don't panic and go into the spiral."

      (summary); possibly worth watching video for verifying quotes and pulling out additional practices.

      Note that this piece seems to indicate that his writing practice includes an idea of doing "morning pages", but this implication is likely false as Ferriss likely isn't doing this, but writing toward productive goals rather than to "clear his mental space" as is usually implied by morning pages.

    1. Creating a ZK Don't Break the Chain Calendar in Obsidian

      For those interested in the research on the "Write Every Day" mantra:

      Sword, Helen. “‘Write Every Day!’: A Mantra Dismantled.” International Journal for Academic Development 21, no. 4 (October 1, 2016): 312–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2016.1210153.

    1. Film making is like note taking

      Incidentally, one should note that the video is made up of snippets over time and then edited together at some later date. Specifically, these snippets are much like regularly taken notes which can then be later used (and even re-used--some could easily appear in other videos) to put together some larger project, namely this compilation video of his process. Pointing out this parallel between note taking and movie/videomaking, makes the note taking process much more easily seen, specifically for students. Note taking is usually a quite and solo endeavor done alone, which makes it much harder to show and demonstrate. And when it is demonstrated or modeled, it's usually dreadfully boring and uninteresting to watch compared to seeing it put together and edited as a finished piece. Edits in a film are visually obvious while the edits in written text, even when done poorly, are invisible.

    2. Ryan Holiday does touch on all parts of his writing process, but the majority of the video is devoted to the sorts of easier bikeshedding ideas that people are too familiar with (editing, proofreading, title choice, book cover choice). Hidden here is the process of researching, writing, notes, and actual organizing process which are the much harder pieces for the majority of writers. Hiding it does a massive disservice to those watching it for the most essential advice they're looking for.

    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU7efgGEOgk

      I wish he'd gotten into more of the detail of the research and index card making here as that's where most of the work lies. He does show some of his process of laying out and organizing the cards into some sort of sections using 1/3 cut tabbed cards. This is where his system diverges wildly from Luhmann's. He's now got to go through all the cards and do some additional re-reading and organizational work to put them into some sort of order. Luhmann did this as he went linking ideas and organizing them up front. This upfront work makes the back side of laying things out and writing/editing so much easier. It likely also makes one more creative as one is regularly revisiting ideas, juxtaposing them, and potentially generating new ones along the way rather than waiting until the organization stage to have some of this new material "fall out".

    1. Here again we seethe emphasis on writing as a movement that resists reification andall the intimidations of language. It is not surprising that Barthesshould have sought a form that would foster this infinite process. Theform lay, not in the fragment as such, but in the organization orarrangement that could be made from the fragments. He underlinedthis on an unpublished index card from 16 July 1979: ‘I can clearlysee this much (I think): my “notes” (Diary) as such, are not enough (Iincline towards them but in fact they’re a failure). What’s needed isanother turn of the screw, a “key”, which will turn these Notes-Diaryinto the mere notes of work that will be constructed and writtencontinuously: basically, to write notes, the index cards: to classifythem, turn them into bundles, and as I usually do, compose by takingone bundle after another.’11
    1. The most important thing about research is to know when to stop.How does one recognize the moment? When I was eighteen orthereabouts, my mother told me that when out with a young man Ishould always leave a half-hour before I wanted to. Although I wasnot sure how this might be accomplished, I recognized the advice assound, and exactly the same rule applies to research. One must stopbefore one has finished; otherwise, one will never stop and neverfinish.

      Barbara Tuchman analogized stopping one's research to going out on a date: one should leave off a half-hour before you really want to.

      Liink to: This sounds suspiciously like advice about when to start writing, but slightly in reverse: https://hypothes.is/a/WeoX9DUOEe2-HxsJf2P8vw

      One might also liken these processes to the idea of divergence and convergence as described by Tiago Forte and others.

    2. Sincecopying is a chore and a bore, use of the cards, the smaller thebetter, forces one to extract the strictly relevant, to distill from thevery beginning, to pass the material through the grinder of one’s ownmind, so to speak.

      Barbara Tuchman recommended using the smallest sized index cards possible to force one only to "extract the strictly relevant" because copying by hand can be both "a chore and a bore".

      In the same address in 1963, she encourages "distill[ing] from the very beginning, to pass the material through the grinder of one's own mind, so to speak." This practice is similar to modern day pedagogues who encourage this practice, but with the benefit of psychology research to back up the practice.

      This advice is two-fold in terms of filtering out the useless material for an author, but the grinder metaphor indicates placing multiple types of material in to to a processor to see what new combinations of products come out the other end. This touches more subtly on the idea of combinatorial creativity encouraged by Raymond Llull, Matt Ridley, et al. or the serendipity described by Niklas Luhmann and others.

      When did the writing for understanding idea begin within the tradition? Was it through experience in part and then underlined with psychology research? Visit Ahrens' references on this for particular papers to read.

      Link to modality shift research.

    1. Writing4ever_3

      Even if your raw typing is 60+ wpm, it doesn't help if you're actively composing at the same time. If the words and ideas come to you at that speed and you can get it out, great, but otherwise focus on what you can do in 15 minute increments to get the ideas onto the page. If typing is holding you back, write by hand or try a tape recorder or voice to text software.

    1. Goutor only mentions two potential organizational patterns for creating output with one's card index: either by chronological order or topical order. (p34) This might be typical for a historian who is likely to be more interested in chronologies and who would have likely noted down dates within their notes.

    2. For physical note taking on index cards or visualizations provided by computer generated graphs, one can physically view a mass of notes and have a general feeling if there is a large enough corpus to begin writing an essay, chapter, or book or if one needs to do additional research on a topic, or perhaps pick a different topic on which to focus.

      (parts suggested by p7, though broadly obvious)

    1. From these considerations, I hope the reader will un-derstand that in a way I never " s t a r t " writing on a project;I am writing continuously, either in a more personal vein,in the files, in taking notes after browsing, or in moreguided endeavors

      Seems similar to the advice within Ahrens. Did he have a section on not needing to "start" writing or at least not starting with a blank page?

      Compare and contrast these, if so.

      Link to: https://hyp.is/DJd2hDUQEe2BMGv-WFSnVQ/www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/1360144X.2016.1210153

  3. Sep 2022
    1. I recommended Paul Silvia’s bookHow to write a lot, a succinct, witty guide to academic productivity in the Boicean mode.

      What exactly are Robert Boice and Paul Silvia's methods? How do they differ from the conventional idea of "writing"?

    2. • Daily writing prevents writer’s block.• Daily writing demystifies the writing process.• Daily writing keeps your research always at the top of your mind.• Daily writing generates new ideas.• Daily writing stimulates creativity• Daily writing adds up incrementally.• Daily writing helps you figure out what you want to say.

      What specifically does she define "writing" to be? What exactly is she writing, and how much? What does her process look like?

      One might also consider the idea of active reading and writing notes. I may not "write" daily in the way she means, but my note writing, is cumulative and beneficial in the ways she describes in her list. I might further posit that the amount of work/effort it takes me to do my writing is far more fruitful and productive than her writing.

      When I say writing, I mean focused note taking (either excerpting, rephrasing, or original small ideas which can be stitched together later). I don't think this is her same definition.

      I'm curious how her process of writing generates new ideas and creativity specifically?

      One might analogize the idea of active reading with a pen in hand as a sort of Einsteinian space-time. Many view reading and writing as to separate and distinct practices. What if they're melded together the way Einstein reconceptualized the space time continuum? The writing advice provided by those who write about commonplace books, zettelkasten, and general note taking combines an active reading practice with a focused writing practice that moves one toward not only more output, but higher quality output without the deleterious effects seen in other methods.

    3. . Remove Boice from the equation, and the existing literature on scholarly writing offerslittle or no conclusive evidence that academics who write every day are any more prolific,productive, or otherwise successful than those who do not.

      There is little if any research that writing every day has any direct benefits.

    4. Sword, Helen. “‘Write Every Day!’: A Mantra Dismantled.” International Journal for Academic Development 21, no. 4 (October 1, 2016): 312–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2016.1210153

    1. @BenjaminVanDyneReplying to @ChrisAldrichI wish I had a good answer! The book I use when I teach is Joseph Harris’s “rewriting” which is technically a writing book but teaches well as a book about how to read in a writerly way.

      Thanks for this! I like the framing and general concept of the book.

      It seems like its a good follow on to Dan Allosso's OER text How to Make Notes and Write https://minnstate.pressbooks.pub/write/ or Sönke Ahrens' How to Take Smart Notes https://amzn.to/3DwJVMz which includes some useful psychology and mental health perspective.

      Other similar examples are Umberto Eco's How to Write a Thesis (MIT, 2015) or Gerald Weinberg's The Fieldstone Method https://amzn.to/3DCf6GA These may be some of what we're all missing.

      I'm reminded of Mark Robertson's (@calhistorian) discussion of modeling his note taking practice and output in his classroom using Roam Research. https://hyp.is/QuB5NDa0Ee28hUP7ExvFuw/thatsthenorm.com/mark-robertson-history-socratic-dialogue/ Perhaps we need more of this?

      Early examples of this sort of note taking can also be seen in the religious studies space with Melanchthon's handbook on commonplaces or Jonathan Edwards' Miscellanies, though missing are the process from notes to writings. https://www.logos.com/grow/jonathan-edwards-organizational-genius/

      Other examples of these practices in the wild include @andy_matuschak's https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGcs4tyey18 and TheNonPoet's https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sdp0jo2Fe4 Though it may be better for students to see this in areas in which they're interested.

      Hypothes.is as a potential means of modeling and allowing students to directly "see" this sort of work as it progresses using public/semi-public annotations may be helpful. Then one can separately model re-arranging them and writing a paper. https://web.hypothes.is/

      Reply to: https://twitter.com/BenjaminVanDyne/status/1571171086171095042

    1. Joseph Harris' text Rewriting: How to do things with texts (2006) sounds like a solid follow on text to the ideas found in Sönke Ahrens (2017) or Dan Allosso (2022).

    2. Countering represents a writer attempting to “suggest a different way ofthinking” as opposed to attempting to “nullify” a writing (p. 57).
    3. too often students arelocked into a restricted win/lose view of academic writing.
    1. But having a conversation partner in your topic is actually ideal!

      What's the solution: dig into your primary sources. Ask open-ended questions, and refine them as you go. Be open to new lines of inquiry. Stage your work in Conversation with so-and-so [ previously defined as the author of the text].

      Stacy Fahrenthold recommends digging into primary sources and using them (and their author(s) as a "conversation partner". She doesn't mention using either one's memory or one's notes as a communication partner the way Luhmann does in "Kommunikation mit Zettelkästen" (1981), which can be an incredibly fruitful and creative method for original material.


    1. Sword, Helen. “‘Write Every Day!’: A Mantra Dismantled.” International Journal for Academic Development 21, no. 4 (October 1, 2016): 312–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2016.1210153.

      Preliminary thoughts prior to reading:<br /> What advice does Boice give? Is he following in the commonplace or zettelkasten traditions? Is the writing ever day he's talking about really progressive note taking? Is this being misunderstood?

      Compare this to the incremental work suggested by Ahrens (2017).

      Is there a particular delineation between writing for academic research and fiction writing which can be wholly different endeavors from a structural point of view? I see citations of many fiction names here.

      Cross reference: Throw Mama from the Train quote

      A writer writes, always.

    1. Jeff Miller@jmeowmeowReading the lengthy, motivational introduction of Sönke Ahrens' How to Take Smart Notes (a zettelkasten method primer) reminds me directly of Gerald Weinberg's Fieldstone Method of writing.

      reply to: https://twitter.com/jmeowmeow/status/1568736485171666946

      I've only seen a few people notice the similarities between zettelkasten and fieldstones. Among them I don't think any have noted that Luhmann and Weinberg were both systems theorists.

      syndication link

    1. Eco, Umberto. How to Write a Thesis. Translated by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press, 2015. https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/how-write-thesis



    1. Jeremy August 31 Flag I read the book based on your enthusiasm, Chris, and while I learned something from the chapters on making notes, I was very disappointed in the second half, on writing. He is so wrong on the passive I find it hard to believe he ever actually researched it. But no matter, he is in good company on that. I just hope not too many people think they will truly understand the passive after reading this book.

      Repy to https://forum.zettelkasten.de/discussion/comment/16382/#Comment_16382

      @Jeremy I certainly take your point on that score. I had read through a previous edition of just the writing portion which was originally written by S.J. Allosso from a prior generation, so I didn't read through all of the second half of this edition of the book. I haven't compared them, so I'm not sure how much revision, if any, has happened in the writing advice part of the text. I was definitely more interested in his take on note making in the first half.

  4. Aug 2022
    1. Update now that I'm three years in to my PhD program and am about to start on my lit reviews and dissertation research... Holy Forking Shirtballs, am I glad I started my ZK back in 2020!!! * I cannot tell you how often I've used it to write my course papers. * I cannot tell you how often I've had it open during class discussions to back up my points. * I cannot tell you how lazy I've gotten with some of my entries (copying and pasting text instead of reworking it into my own words), and how much I wish I had taken the time to translate those entries for myself.
    1. Dutcher, George Matthew. “Directions and Suggestions for the Writing of Essays or Theses in History.” Historical Outlook 22, no. 7 (November 1, 1931): 329–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/21552983.1931.10114595

    2. These Directions and suggestions were first cornpiled in1908, and the first edition was printed in 1911 for use in theauthor‘s own classes. The present edition is the result ofthorough revision and is planned for general use.

      This will be much more interesting given that he'd first written about this topic in 1908 and has accumulated more experience since then.

      Look for suggestions about the potential change in practice over the ensuing years.

      Is the original version extant in his papers?

    3. Avoid both very long andvery short paragraphs: the length should usually vary from150 to 860 words. Attend carefully to the unity and correctstructure of the paragraph.

      His description of paragraphs from 150 to 350 words is interesting with respect to the amount of material that will fit on a 3x5" inch card during the note taking process.

    4. The editors of the American historical re-vim suggest t o their reviewers that they should write “witlia scientific rather than a literary intention, and with definite-ness and precision in both praise and dispraise. I t is desiredthat the review of tlie book will be such as will convey t o thereader a clear and comprehensive notion of its nature, ofits contents, of its merits, of its place in the literature ofthe subject, and of the amount of its positive contributionto knowledge.
    5. A tentative oiitline should be prepared as soonas ossible after beginning reading on the subject and modi-f i e f a s the progress of the work requires.
  5. Jul 2022
    1. For those curious about the idea of what students might do with the notes and annotations they're making in the margins of their texts using Hypothes.is, I would submit that Dan Allosso's OER handbook How to Make Notes and Write (Minnesota State Pressbooks, 2022) may be a very useful place to turn. https://minnstate.pressbooks.pub/write/

      It provides some concrete advice on the topic of once you've highlighted and annotated various texts for a course, how might you then turn your new understanding, ideas, and extant thinking work into a blogpost, essay, term paper or thesis.

      For a similar, but alternative take, the book How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking by Sönke Ahrens (Create Space, 2017) may also be helpful as well. This text however requires purchase via Amazon and doesn't carry the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike (by-nc-sa 4.0) license that Dr. Allosso's does.

      In addition to the online copy of the book, there's an annotatable .pdf copy available here: http://docdrop.org/pdf/How-to-Make-Notes-and-Write---Allosso-Dan-jzdq8.pdf/ though one can download .epub and .pdf copies directly from the Pressbooks site.

    1. Writing is a craft for most of us, not an art.

      Or framed differently:

      The art in writing is knowing that it is really a craft.

  6. Jun 2022
    1. I used to tell students (including PhD students) that 90% of what they will write will not be any good. But the only way they will get to the 10% that is good is by writing the 90% that isn't. So, they'd better start writing now! ;-)
    1. send off your draft or beta orproposal for feedback. Share this Intermediate Packet with a friend,family member, colleague, or collaborator; tell them that it’s still awork-in-process and ask them to send you their thoughts on it. Thenext time you sit down to work on it again, you’ll have their input andsuggestions to add to the mix of material you’re working with.

      A major benefit of working in public is that it invites immediate feedback (hopefully positive, constructive criticism) from anyone who might be reading it including pre-built audiences, whether this is through social media or in a classroom setting utilizing discussion or social annotation methods.

      This feedback along the way may help to further find flaws in arguments, additional examples of patterns, or links to ideas one may not have considered by themselves.

      Sadly, depending on your reader's context and understanding of your work, there are the attendant dangers of context collapse which may provide or elicit the wrong sorts of feedback, not to mention general abuse.

    2. Hemingway Bridge.” He wouldalways end a writing session only when he knew what came next inthe story. Instead of exhausting every last idea and bit of energy, hewould stop when the next plot point became clear. This meant thatthe next time he sat down to work on his story, he knew exactlywhere to start. He built himself a bridge to the next day, using today’senergy and momentum to fuel tomorrow’s writing.

      It's easier to write when you know where you're going. As if to underline this Ernest Hemingway would end his writing sessions when he knew where he was going the following day so that it would be easier to pick up the thread of the story and continue on. (sourcing?)

      (Why doesn't Forte have a source for this Hemingway anecdote? Where does it come from? He footnotes or annotates far more obscure pieces, why not this?!)

      link to - Stephen Covey quote “begin with the end in mind” (did this prefigure the same common advice in narrative circles including Hollywood?)

    3. Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent andoriginal in your work.—Gustave Flaubert

      In addition to this as a standalone quote...

      If nothing else, one should keep a commonplace book so that they have a treasure house of nifty quotes to use as chapter openers for the books they might write.

    1. I also like the simplicity of a box. There’s a purpose here, and it has a lot to dowith efficiency. A writer with a good storage and retrieval system can write faster.He isn’t spending a lot of time looking things up, scouring his papers, and patrollingother rooms at home wondering where he left that perfect quote. It’s in the box.

      A card index can be a massive boon to a writer as a well-indexed one, in particular, will save massive amounts of time which might otherwise be spent searching for quotes or ideas that they know they know, but can't easily recreate.

    1. One conclusion follows from the opposition between the can-ons of good writing and those of good written speeches: unless youare threatened with jail and a heavy fine, do not allow a writtenlecture to be published without extensive rewriting on your part.
    2. Or else, imagine the need to instruct someone in a piece of learningyou possess.

      Barzun suggests using a rubber duck debugging approach to writing as motivation for getting started.

    3. You have, of course, another guide to the right sequence: thenotes in front of you; but let them spur, not drag you onward.In short, write from memory-as far as possible-with only oc-casional pron1pting from the notes, and make everything correctand shipshape later.

      Rather than using his notes as the actual writing, Barzun suggests writing "from memory" and only occasionally using prompting from one's notes.

      This is wholly opposed to the idea of reusing the writing of one's notes in more advanced zettelkasten methods.

    4. I strongly recommend writingahead full tilt, not stopping to correct. Cross out no more thanthe few words that will permit you to go on when you foreseea blind alley. Leave some words in blank, some sentences notcomplete: Keep going!

      When you've got motivation, write away as fast as you can and don't stop.

    5. As SherlockHolmes says to Watson on a famous occasion: "If page 534 findsus only in Chapter Two, the length of the first one must have beenreally intolerable."

      Interesting to see Barzun quote Arthur Conan Doyle here. Not surprising given his penchant for mystery novels however.

  7. May 2022
    1. For Eco on using something like a ZK, see his short book How to Write an Essay. Basically, he writes about making something that we could say is like a ZK, but one card system for each writing assignment.

      Umberto Eco's book How to Write a Thesis (MIT Press, 2015, #) can broadly be thought of as a zettelkasten system, but it advises a separate system for each project or writing assignment. This is generally good advice, and potentially excellent for students on a one-time basis, but it prevents one from benefitting from the work over multiple projects or even a lifetime.

      In some sense, a more traditional approach, and one seen used in Niklas Luhmann's example is to keep different sections separated by broad topics.

      Niklas Luhmann's zettelkasten #1 had 108 broad topics (along with a bibliography and a subject index), and zettelkasten #2 had 11 broad topics. (Cross reference: https://niklas-luhmann-archiv.de/bestand/zettelkasten/inhaltsuebersicht)

      The zettelkasten structure allowed a familiar "folder" like top level structure, but the bibliographic and subject indices allowed them to interlink ideas from one space to the next for longer term work on multiple projects simultaneously.

  8. Apr 2022
    1. A first-rate college library with a comfortable cam-pus around it is a fine milieu for a writer.
    2. NABOKOV: By “editor” I suppose you mean_proofreader.Among these I have known limpid creatures of limitless tact andtenderness who would discuss with me a semicolon as if it werea point of honor—which, indeed, a point of art often is. But Ihave also come across a few pompous avuncular brutes who wouldattempt to “make suggestions” which I countered with a thunder-ous “‘stet!”’
  9. Feb 2022
    1. When you read widely, your brain is exposed to different ways in which a sentence or paragraph is written. There are patterns in the use of nouns, pronouns, verbs and other parts of speech; there are patterns in syntax and in sentence variation; and there are patterns in sound devices, such as alliteration and assonance. You can annotate these with different symbols or colors, and develop understanding as patterns emerge, and style emerges from patterns. To read like a writer, you need to annotate like one, too.

      I haven't seen very much in the area of annotating directly as a means of learning to write. This is related to the idea of note taking for creating content for a zettelkasten, but the focus of such a different collection is for creating a writing style.

      Similar to boxing the boring words (see Draft #4; http://jsomers.net/blog/dictionary), one should edit with an eye toward the overall style of a particular piece.

      Annotating structures and patterns in books is an interesting exercise to evaluate an author's style as a means of potentially subsuming, modifying, or learning other styles.

  10. Sep 2021
    1. What motivates the characters or the author? What are they seeking? What is their purpose? Here’s how Kurt Vonnegut described the importance of incentives in books: “When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away—even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”
  11. Aug 2021
  12. Mar 2021
  13. Apr 2020
    1. create the consequences that work with your personality.

      This is key. The Trump donation consequence speaks to me. That'd be awful to have to do.

      I need to hold my project out in front of my greatest enemy. If I finish it, my project and I live on, thrive, and enjoy watching the world enjoy the newfound sense of well-being they've gained as a result of connecting with my work.

      But if I fail, my enemy wins, suddenly causing me to be a part of the problem my work was supposed to be designed to cease.

  14. Nov 2018
    1. Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.

      This one is reminiscent of W. Zinsser's notes in On Writing Well. He makes the argument that one has to first trim out as much as possible, before considering adding back embellishments.

  15. Oct 2017
    1. Well, I worried about that. I sometimes don't like to confess how little I know about these things when I start them, but I'm starting to admit to myself that the less I know at the beginning probably the better it's going to go.
  16. Aug 2016
    1. Rather than write a story true to the character or true to his situation, I wrote a puzzle piece to fill in negative space that didn’t need filling in. I don’t know WHAT WE GOT out of it in the end, and in terms of practical advice, if I can’t answer WHAT DO WE GET out of a story, then I don’t have a story.
    1. less is more in a pitch. Imagine your editor on their most busiest day, on a day when all of their projects are seemingly on fire and due at the printer by lunch time, and then imagine that YOUR email is the one that comes in their inbox. A page. TWO pages at the most for a pitch. Unless they tell you otherwise.]
    1. Continuity – the strict adherence of prior texts and their treatment as sacrosanct records – paralyzes comics all too often. It punishes new readers by their virtue of being new. It rewards trivia over opening up the world and blazing new trails. It cuts the pie into smaller pieces instead of making the pie bigger. It builds barriers and creates gatekeepers. And it’s really hard to write well.
  17. Apr 2016
    1. would like to encourage them to be as creative and inventive as possible. But the reality is that the academy is incredibly conserva tive .

      Yes. What's the balance here?

    2. If you are not pushing the envelope, why write?
  18. Jan 2016
    1. When you write something, you never know who it is going to affect, or how it could help someone who’s struggling and feeling alone, or how in a low moment in their life, desperately searching on Google for answers, they will come upon your words when they need them most. And despite what our culture will have us believe—that metrics and stats matter above all else, that the number of clicks tells the whole story—somehow, in some calculation, impacting one human being has got to be worth more than all the unique page views and Shares and Likes in the world.