Saturday, March 5, 2011

Notes for My Nieces: Part 1

To my nieces:

Stop. Look. Listen.

This comes from a wonderful book read many years ago, On Writing Well, by William Zinsser, primarily about writing but by extension, Life.

Writing, by definition, organizes thoughts and thus trains the mind to perceive the world in certain ways and so changes how we see and live our lives.

His advice above applies even more in this digital age.  Always stop and edit yourself before pressing send.  Instant communication allows the intemperate to permeate our words and pollute our minds to influence us to write with anger rather than passion, ire rather than irony, and ignorant metaphors rather than coherent thought.

Zinsser then asks aspiring writers--even we unwashed bloggers among the hoi polloi can aspire to better themselves and their own little corners of the world--to look at what they wrote, to my memory meaning analyze the words to ensure the thoughts flow from 1 to the other, not necessarily in outline form nevertheless  even the fevered stream of consciousness scribblings of Henry Miller brings a certain sense even through seeming chaos.

Also, my bent leans towards excising the alleged verb "is" from my thoughts and words.

When 1 uses the verb "is" one always assumes the end of the argument rather than promotes discussion of the matter at hand.  When combined with Jeremy Bentham's linguistic theory of fictions, written words have held forth as handmaidens of hate and intolerance and muddled thinking since invention of writing.

Think of words as related to actual physical objects. the oak in your front lawn or the strangler fig on State Road 3.  When one writes "trees," that amounts to general catgory or class, in essence a rhetorical use to facilitate communication, in other words a fiction.

When you read a newspaper, magazine, or listen to TV news, consider the words as "the national interest" as a fiction, highly suspect and certainly the preordained views of the author or commentator.

Read your writings to yourself if you can't find anyone else to do so.  Clumsy writing easier reveals it self when spoken aloud.

Especially in the digital age, words once thought. spoken, written, and even flung through the ether through the internets will in some sense define you as a human for all eternity, or util all digital databases burn when the sun goes nova.

So choose your words well.  Define yourself with them rather than accepting advertising , culture, cinema, or even what you want your beloved to think of you as determning who you want to become.

Trust Yourself.

God bless you both:

Uncle Danny

PS:  Abhor metaphor.

PS:  To whom, for whom, of whom: easier to remember these rather than the godawful grammar rule governing their use

PPS:  Only twits tweet.

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