Paying attention to how the pieces are connected

And so the size of my library—containing all that I have read and reread and aspire to read—can grow and shrink and change even as the number of books on the shelves remain the same. The shelves hold not only the books of my choosing, but also the snippets and fragments that I have plucked or added or paraphrased or argued about. They sit between each other, between you and I, bound together by the strength of our connections.

—Allen Tan The Readmill Blog

How to read poetry

On the flyleaf of the anthology there was written the name Dunne, in small careful handwriting, and then, in the same handwriting, blue ink, fountain-pen blue ink, these guides to study: 1) What is the meaning of the poem and what is the experience? 2) What thought or reflection does the experience lead us to? 3) What mood, feeling, emotion is stirred or created by the poem as a whole?

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The everyday guide to writing better than you normally do

WRITE EVERY DAY
Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about.

McSweeney’s

Writing in the age of distraction

When I’m working on a story or novel, I set a modest daily goal — usually a page or two — and then I meet it every day, doing nothing else while I’m working on it. It’s not plausible or desirable to try to get the world to go away for hours at a time, but it’s entirely possible to make it all shut up for 20 minutes. Writing a page every day gets me more than a novel per year — do the math — and there’s always 20 minutes to be found in a day, no matter what else is going on. Twenty minutes is a short enough interval that it can be claimed from a sleep or meal-break (though this shouldn’t become a habit). The secret is to do it every day, weekends included, to keep the momentum going, and to allow your thoughts to wander to your next day’s page between sessions. Try to find one or two vivid sensory details to work into the next page, or a bon mot, so that you’ve already got some material when you sit down at the keyboard.

Leave yourself a rough edge

When you hit your daily word-goal, stop. Stop even if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Especially if you’re in the middle of a sentence. That way, when you sit down at the keyboard the next day, your first five or ten words are already ordained, so that you get a little push before you begin your work. Knitters leave a bit of yarn sticking out of the day’s knitting so they know where to pick up the next day — they call it the “hint.” Potters leave a rough edge on the wet clay before they wrap it in plastic for the night — it’s hard to build on a smooth edge.

–Cory Doctorow, http://www.locusmag.com/Features/2009/01/cory-doctorow-writing-in-age-of.html

Reading revolution

The phrase “reading revolution” was probably coined by German historian Rolf Engelsing. He certainly made it popular. Engelsing was trying to describe something he saw in the 18th century: a shift from “intensive” reading and re-reading of very few texts to “extensive” reading of many, often only once. Think of reading the Bible vs reading the newspaper. Engelsing called this shift a “Lesenrevolution,” lesen being the German equivalent of reading. He thought he had found when modern reading emerged, as we’d recognize it today, and that it was this shift that effectively made us modern readers.

10 Reading Revolutions Before E Books – Tim Carmody

Deploy

Ebooks can be updated, but only dumbly: a new file will wipe out annotations made to an earlier version, and no useful convention yet exists for communicating what was changed and why. Our content management systems know of only two states—draft and published—either privately in progress or publicly neglected. No where is there a third state—in the world, but still evolving.

What if you could revise a work after publishing it, and release it again, making clear the relationship between the first version and the new one. What if you could publish iteratively, bit by bit, at each step gathering feedback from your readers and refining the text. Would our writing be better?

Writing has (so far) not generally benefited from this kind of process; but now that the text has been fully liberated from the tyranny of the printing press, we are presented with an opportunity: to deploy texts, instead of merely publishing them.

Mandy Brown

Celestial history

Teaching constellations is an exercise in storytelling. You see, dots, these anonymous light encrusted patterns, must be memorized and categorized, and it’s only through stories that one can make sense of them. Starting with the north star, and systematically creating relationships in the winter sky among Hercules and Sagittarius, Libra and Polaris, we told tales. We’d trade stories on top of the old stone building in the middle of dark campus until late into the night. Creating these stories, giving Hercules a relationship to Cassiopeia — true or not, good or not, believable or not, it didn’t matter — what mattered were that patterns were found and marked.

Marking patterns and making content accessible through stories is what we do. And often, still, when we begin, we’re in the dark.

Liz Danzico