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Reader 09.03.10

A quick round up of articles recently read with favorite lines below.

Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts

  • On taking time: The best writers write much more slowly than everyone else, and the better they are, the slower they write. James Joyce wrote Ulysses, the greatest novel of the 20th century, at the rate of about a hundred words a day…for seven years. T. S. Eliot, one of the greatest poets our country has ever produced, wrote about 150 pages of poetry over the course of his entire 25-year career. That’s half a page a month. So it is with any other form of thought. You do your best thinking by slowing down and concentrating.
  • On noise: “Your own reality—for yourself, not for others.” Thinking for yourself means finding yourself, finding your own reality. Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now—older people as well as younger people—you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “he who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions.”
  • On solitude and introspection: So solitude can mean introspection, it can mean the concentration of focused work, and it can mean sustained reading. All of these help you to know yourself better. But there’s one more thing I’m going to include as a form of solitude, and it will seem counterintuitive: friendship. Of course friendship is the opposite of solitude; it means being with other people. But I’m talking about one kind of friendship in particular, the deep friendship of intimate conversation. Long, uninterrupted talk with one other person…Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person. One other person you can trust, one other person to whom you can unfold your soul.

Scott Berkun on Writing Hacks

  • The secret, if you can’t start, is to begin without constraints. Deliberately write badly, but write…It’s not the fear of writing that blocks people, it’s fear of not writing well; something quite different. (The rest of the article contains 10 ideas to get writing again)

Lapham’s Quarterly: Kurt Vonnegut at the Blackboard

  • Vonnegut charts story lines, providing a visual to some classic tales: Man in hole,  Boy meets girl, Cinderella, Franz Kafka and Hamlet. An amusing and thought provoking way to look at literature.

    The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.

Posted in Weekly Reader.


One Response

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  1. Daniel Howard says

    I like this idea that friendship can be a form of solitude. I also like the idea that solitude is not the same as loneliness.

    -d