Flourish: An Electronic Newsletter for Scholarly Writers
vol. 2, no. 9
As the summer draws to a close here in Los Angeles, our thoughts turn to the academic year ahead. Have we done as much writing this summer as we hoped? Of course not. Do we have high hopes for writing more in the fall? Of course we do! Accepting our limits while continuing to push them—this is not just our natural human fate, but also our wisdom.
“The supreme distraction of our age [is] the silent and unceasing cacophony of e-mail. … A decade ago, … email … charmed me totally. … However, my romance with email is now on the rocks. E-mail must rank as one of the most time-devouring timesavers of all time. Too often it makes nothing happen—fast. … At the heart of the problem is e-mail’s paradoxical status. It is and isn’t writing. You bend over the same computer, tapping the same keys, straining the same muscles you use to write your lectures, your articles, your books. But what you’re composing is mostly ephemeral … The challenge is how to keep a technology with a rodentlike reproductive rate supplementary, not something that overruns our days. .. I impose on myself a kind of inverted curfew: I try to never check e-mail before 4 p.m.”
Writing Lessons Learned as a Child
No. 1: “One summer, having read in Reader’s Digest that great writers spend an hour a day or more (!) at their desks, I committed myself to being at the typewriter one hour each morning, rain or shine. I remember, one extremely hot summer morning, sitting on the rough home-poured concrete of our little patio with my mother’s old black Underwood typewriter on a stool in front of me. How could anyone really do this? I thought. An hour is so long! It’s so hot. I’m not cut out for this.”
No. 2: “Then I learned that Great Authors revise over and over again. With a new self-awareness, I began to look at the stories and personal essays and poems I had been writing for my own entertainment. I found that making word choices was actually fun. Crimson? Scarlet? Incarnadine? I imagined the Great Author in a room lined with bookshelves, with one large powerful hand clutching his hair while the other fingered his words as if they were old coins. … Were the changes an improvement? It depends on how you look at it. … I was teaching myself that words are malleable.”
Willis, Meredith Sue. 1993. Deep Revision: A Guide for Teachers, Students, and Other Writers. New York: Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 31-32.
News from the Editor
I am off to Norway for three weeks to facilitate writing workshops with some faculty at the University of Bergen. It is always lovely to be among the Norwegians on the fjords—a beautiful place, a lovely people, and fascinating research. It’s difficult to beat that!