An Old Fashioned Secret For Injecting Some Life Back Into Your Writing

Last week my friend Mark Tapson published a thoughtful contribution over at Emily Esfahani Smith’s Acculturated Symposium on Language: “How Technology Democratizes and Degrades Writing. Here’s his conclusion:

Once we lose the ability and desire to convey an emotion in our own words, not with a one-size-fits-all lol or plug-in emoticon, then we no longer express ourselves truly and clearly and beautifully. My middle school students didn’t see the value in the demanding mental exercise of meditation, organization, and precision of language that good writing requires. In the long run, their apathy and fascination with the rapid-fire ephemera of the digital realm will surely erode their ability to express themselves fully as individuals, even to think deeply.

The late John Updike claimed to write his nonfiction on a typewriter but his fiction with a pencil because it provided the intimacy necessary to bring his characters to life. Surely this must seem inexplicable and comically quaint to today’s youth. But they’d be better off unplugging occasionally and connecting with those “slow conventions of narrative” of the pre-digital era.

Read the whole thing for more of Mark’s insights on his time teaching a less literate generation and the power of technology to transform how we use language.

Updike typing nonfiction vs writing fiction in longhand reminds me of a tip I passed on to one of PJ Lifestyle’s contributors when he lamented his writer’s block to me a few months ago: take a step backwards, buy a journal, and pick up a pen again.

I’ve kept a hand-written journal off-and-on for the last 18 years — since I was in fifth grade. After experimenting with a variety of shapes and sizes I’ve settled on the extra large Moleskine plain notebook, a gift from my wife this year. Some of the neat benefits of the Moleskine: very sturdy binding, elastic snap that wraps around to keep it sealed shut, large pocket for loose papers in the back, and the classy black cover.

For journaling I’ve come to appreciate the larger size journals — the extra space gives more room for doing the kinds of writing tasks where the non-virtual page still triumphs. You have plenty of space for sketching and diagramming or pasting in notes.

And it’s that kind of experimenting that we need sometimes to push ourselves to think outside of the box and come up with new ideas that we’re excited to write out and share with the world.


More on writing at PJ Lifestyle:

Robert Bidinotto: 10 Reasons You Should Skip Traditional Publishers and Self-Publish Ebooks Instead

Kathy Shaidle: Talent Isn’t Everything: 5 Secrets to Freelance Success