Things what I writ

I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

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On being topical

One of the most difficult things to overcome when attempting to create some masterpiece of literary commentary with a topical edge is trying to work out what the topical edge is without coming across like some trollbaiting landgrabber whose only purpose in the act of creation is to somehow capitalise on a zeitgeist that probably isn’t geisting and most likely has run out of zeit in order to further some perceived standing in a peer community whereupon the very act of dribbling inanely onto your ipad keyboard would be celebrated with some not insignificant cacophony of trumpets, trombones, grinding teeth, handclaps, notification alerts and apnoea snort-awakes such that congratulations, you’ve captured the moment like some now fish in your net of insight, grabbed from the jaws of one of those thought leader brown bears poised over the river of consciousness ready to paw a beautiful shimmering leaping thought salmon to thought death AND THEN EAT IT WHOLE WITH THE HEAD AND EVERYTHING.

Sometimes it’s simply a question of saying something because you feel like it for no reason at all. I can pretend that it’s relevant to the current topic somehow by relating it to a current activity, like watching the morning keynote at the IA summit and wondering how my using IA writer and saving into the cloud to write this plays rather neatly into Scott’s contention that I’m locked into some kind of app cave hardwired not to the cloud but to a cloud in the sky of clouds and make some ironic commentary on my connectedness to a old paradigm and how I’m literally careening into the trough of ultimate despair without a smart seat belt, but that would be a pretty cheap shot at crowbarring a topical reference in to a moderately nonsensical accident of prose just because I happen to be talking about this stuff later. I would never do that.

Waiting for the train that never comes

hepworth 1

“Here’s my platform. I’m stood on my platform, waiting for the train. But the harder I wait the less the train comes. It’s a paradox. The train will never come if I wait for it, however hard I wait.

So I go to my park. Here’s my park. It’s got grass and trees and things. There’s places I can go and just not worry about trains. So I stand on a pole and start not to worry too much about trains. Soon I’m not worrying about trains at all.

And then my feet leave my pole and I ‘m lifted to the sky. I’m flying. I look down at my park and there are other people in my park. They’re not worried about trains. They’re just doing whatever it is they do.

Before I know it, I’m way, way up in the sky. I’m so far from worrying about trains that I’m playing with the planes. The planes are orange and Easy. Not like the trains.

Oh, the trains. I need to get a train. I’ll never get a train up here. I need to get a train. We all need to get a train. Where are the trains?

So I’m back at my platform. I’m stood on my platform, waiting for the train. But the harder I wait the less the train comes. I know there are trains. I’ve been on trains before. They took me right where I wanted to go. But there’s no train here. Maybe I’m waiting too hard.

Wait, here comes a train! I think that’s a train I can use. Let…Oh. It’s gone. Still, there’ll probably be another one. You know, wait hard enough for one train and they all come at once.

<pause>

No. No more trains.

But wait. It’s not just me. There’s other people here waiting for a train. Other people trying too hard to wait for a train. I wonder if they have a garden? Or a pole? I wonder if they fly? I wonder what kind of trains they’ve been on? So we talk. We talk about gardens. We talk about poles. We talk about flying. And we talk about trains. It turns out we’re all waiting too hard for our trains and those trains just never seem to come. Maybe we should stop waiting so hard.

And you know, as we’re talking…a train arrives. We’re not sure where it’s going, but its there, all the same.

And then another arrives. We’re not really sure where that’s going either, but it looks kind of interesting.

And more and more trains arrive. Until there’s so many trains that we just don’t know which ones to ride on. But it’s alright. Because we’ll just try a few and see where they go. We don’t have to go all the way, but it might be interesting so see what happens. How about we just take a train each? We could meet back here and tell each other how it was. If we really like one, let’s take it all the way together.

Here’s my platform. I’m waiting for the train. But I’m not waiting too hard. Seems to me, the harder you wait the less the train comes. Anyway, my friends will be here soon. We’ll not wait too hard and just see what happens.”

Writing to be read: A workshop on being a better writer

Martin Belam and Cennydd Bowles have written popular and successful books, articles and blogs on user experience. On Tuesday evening, I attended a writing workshop, where they shared tips, tricks and best practise for ‘better writing’.

I write too much. When I write about an event, I fill the page with clever, but meaningless sentences. Seeing the details of the workshop, I thought it would be a great way to learn from others and share opinions on what makes a better writer. It ended up being all that and more. It was an insight into methods and practices that Martin and Cennydd use in their own writing, highlighting that personal approaches to writing differ, but common creative techniques and some rigorous editing can nearly always improve output.

First off, Martin shared some of the tactical armoury he has developed through his own writing. He focused on tips and tricks for writing to be read and was able to provide some excellent examples of the dramatic impact simple devices can have. Some of his advice was common sense, while some was quite crafty. Some was plainly evil, but, nonetheless, common practice, when writing with particular targets in mind.

Cennydd, on the other hand, wanted to help us understand that after writing, the real work starts. Editing your content is just as important as writing it. Through a series of classic examples and anecdotes from his own experience, he gave practical advice on analysing and improving your own writing, through careful, considered editing. In common with Martin, Cennydd also was keen to make the most important point of all: if you can’t speel, please don’t write, especially if your grammar do suck.

It was thoroughly enjoyable evening, with practical, actionable advice. Clearly, there is no one ‘right way’ to become a better writer, but if you can learn from others’ experiences, you can, at least, take steps in a better direction.

[This post is an edit of the previous post ‘This title is clever but pointless and inefficient’. It is an attempt to put some of the learning from the writing workshop into practice and so it’s not a great post, more of an exercise. If you prefer one or the other, leave a comment. You might not like either of them, which is more likely]

listening post: the soft moon – circles

This title is clever but pointless and inefficient

This is the post I would normally write about being at an event in the city with a collection of like-minded individuals who were compelled to attend to on the promise of solace at their smiting of writing with encouraging words from the scribers of note that can say what they wrote with articulate summary, a sprinkling of chummery and, not least some encouragement, wrapped up in wit, delivered in earnest, with meaning, to whit, I give you a paragraph to be used as example, to print and to squint at in lieu of a sample of how you could simply just dribble away like a gibbering goon for the rest of the day.

Except, I now know better.

This evening I attended a workshop run by Martin Belam and Cennydd Bowles, which, ostensibly, was about being a better writer. That sounds like a rather lofty and grandiose concept, but, you know, I like those. Realistically, the workshop was more about personal approaches to writing, learned writing skills, need-to-know and evil-to-use devices for being read, and a heavy dose of editing. Oh, and spelling. And grammar. Which, I plainly flout irreverently and irreconcilably and even irresponsibly. In fact, there were so many golden nuggets of ‘better writing’ advice that I didn’t even have time to flippantly flap about it on the twitter.

Not really knowing what to expect from the evening, I did approach it with an open mind, and an open bottle of Corona. I was hoping that I might get some opinions other than my own on what might constitute good writing and take those opinions away to inform my future output. I did get that, but I also got a rather delightful insight into the methods and practices of two writers that I rather admire. If were to make some dubious football analogy at this point, which I am going to, I’d suggest that Martin’s approach was that of a wily, crafty, tactical midfield genius, who has a great eye for an opportunity, knows all the tricks and can pick out the killer pass most of the time. He’s always the first man to be picked, notwithstanding his occasional tendency to argue the toss with the gaffer over formations. On the other hand, Cennydd would be more of a silky, clinical, methodical kind of player. While apparently effortless in his command of the ball and organising the team (for he does wear the armband), he will be the one on the training ground under the floodlights at 2a.m., repeatedly kicking a ball at a wall until he can predictably hit the same brick every time.

All of which is just a way to say that when describing how to be a better writer, you necessarily end up describing what you’ve done to try and be a better writer yourself, and this will be different depending on who you are. Martin and Cennydd described quite different experiences and approaches, but they shared a common aim. Clearly, there is no right way to become a better writer, there are many right ways. However, what this evening demonstrated is that if you want to focus on a few of the many, some of those right ways are more righterer than others.

Tomorrow, as an exercise, I shall mostly editing the life out of this post before publishing it again. It will be like harvesting antimatter with a sock.

overloading my function

since waking up in a real job where I do proper work and stuff, I’ve been spending less and less time expounding on such hot topics as situational awareness or pressing buttons in a manic fit and when I have managed to construct a few over-long run-on sentences, I’ve mostly been doing it for my current employer who has kindly let me do so in between the other bits of time when I’m actually doing the work. which is to say, I’ve not been writing here for a while. which is fine, because I’ve been busy, and I’ve been expressing my ideas and thoughts somewhere else.

now I’ve settled into some kind of cadence with regard to writing, and since the blog I write for my employer is a shared blog, and there’s any number of brilliant minds there who can contribute, I’m currently compiling drafts of thoughts of ideas that will never get published unless I funnel them into an appropriate bucket, which is where this am is, right here. so that what I shall be doing.