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How to write

A momentary diversion

Now, June 2010.

So I was going through some music on the foobar2000, trying to come up with some cool tunes to listen to while I code, and I realized that on a particular song, I kept hearing another in my mind. You know, the kind of song you hear in your head and wonder what the title is. Then I realized I was being interrupted internally. Then I realized something which I consider to be profound: the brain interrupts the current activity, the current thought, to bring in related memories. Sometimes, the person knows how the memories are related, but sometimes not. This brought about the realization that the brain does memory associations subconsciously, and recalls the memories subconsciously. Then I began to wonder about the ability of the brain to interrupt itself as related to the ability to maintain focus.

As an aside, I went to the Tomatis Institute in France for a summer when I was 13. It was quite interesting. I scored a 140 on the IQ test. I recall a discussion with Alfred Tomatis during which he asked me: "What is energy?"

How to write

First, use the letters: A though Z. You can also use punctuation marks, such as .,?!;:"-()--. Then learn how to make words. Now, words are interesting. Each one has its own history and that can be a field of study and make a nice hobby for the rest of your life. I think it is important, if you are going to write, for you to spend some time studying the history of words.

Another important element of making words is to spell them correctly. People tend to think of spelling as something archaic, something that the computer should do. I think that if you don't know how to spell a word correctly, you probably haven't studied it enough to even use it correctly.

Then, sentences.

Writing sentences is all about passing complex thought from one human brain to another. It has very little to do with grammar, with balance, with correctedness. I have read many books in my life, and the vast majority have been through competent professional editors. I also know that many of them were horrible reads. Many I did not finish, on account of my belief that books are like relationships. When someone talks too much at a party and you are bored, there's nothing that says you have to stay and listen until the bitter end. Likewise with books, for they are conversations.

So do not look for the rules of writing to professionalize your writing. Instead, make them into conversations, into stories to be told among friends.

This raises another point. Many people can't tell a story, out loud, with their voice, to their friends. They don't start at the beginning, they don't have a punchline (funny or sad) and they ramble, assembling the tale in the heads as they spew the words out. It is a true friend who listens on; perhaps a drink in hand dulls him enough to endure. No. True storytelling is practiced. Think about what you're going to speak of. Tell the story out to yourself, to your teddy bear. If, for some psychological reason you can not speak out loud unless someone is listening, ask yourself why. I tell you: you are always listening to yourself. It has an impact on your brain. So speak to yourself, and learn how to tell compelling tales.

Once you know how to tell tales, it is only a matter of writing them down. This takes patience.

On editing: I am less concerned about typos that I am with story flow. If I see "deos" instead of "does", it bothers me a lot less than if a character shows up suddenly in the story and seems to already know all the details of the situation.

Editing is simple: read the story out loud, several times. Anything that feels weird, change it. Change everything that you can think of changing until you feel that you could read the story out loud to your friends at a party and you wouldn't feel strange reading your own words.

Your Voice, your Style

You don't have to write like Hemingway. If people want to read Hemingway, they know where to find his writings. You don't have to sound like Danielle Steele, Louis L'Amour, Frank Herbert, or Guillaume Apollinaire. You do have to sound like you. For example: I'm an avid Gary Vaynerchuk fan, and I have watched many of his videos. When I bought his book Crush It, I would have been sorely disappointed if, while reading it, I did not feel as though Gary was in front of me with his green arm-band telling these stories in his cut-to-the-chase style.

A note of caution

The recording industry and the radio industry played a number on musicians. Mozart wrote symphonies that would be rejected in today's 3 minute song format with 12 filler tracks. Thankfully the internet has freed us somewhat. Likewise the book publishing industry has bound authors to a format they can make money with. No longer! The internet allows stories from one word to one million words. Publishers categorize in genre, because of the physical need to assemble like volumes on the shelves of physical stores. I tell you the bards of yore did not constrain themselves thus. One tale was meant for the children, replete with night monsters and valiant defenders. Another, later in the night, might more readily recount the lusty goings-on of the late chief and his rich harem. Such storytelling was not constrained by the sensitivities of for-profit, publicly traded companies, nor by targeted advertising campaings on national television. No, they had tales of all sorts, and that's what made listening to them a pleasure. Twists and turns, villains turning helpers, and villagers revealed in their base nature. Yes, tales that made the late nights around the campfire on the plain spark with life and kept the tribe together by weaving a common experience. Under the impossibly starry sky of pre-industrial Gaia. Imagine that.

So beware the conventions of our age, the puritanism of the purer, the indignation of the saints, the guidance of the demagogues. Indeed, write as though you are alone in a dark cave, as though no man or woman will look upon your work with the fire of hate or the contempt of elitism. No. Write the tale you feel within. Tell the story that lives in you.

You are the product of a billion years of life on Earth. Your brain, while demeaned by those who would lead you astray, stands as the culmination of the Dance of the DNA. Capable of looking to the distant future and to the very foundation of the universe, able to devise machines to reach the depth of ocean and space, the human mind discerns the very nature of God while standing among the wild beasts of the field, participating joyously in the instinctive revelry, in the programmed survival. Do not strive against the flood of humanity; rather come along and live among us. We welcome you. Internalise your belonging to the blue planet and its myriad species; its fragile yet tenacious Life. Once you have done that, write.

Another Piece of Advice

Learn how to write HTML.

It's easy. Much easier than English. Then you can put your works on the Internet and billions of people can read them without specialized readers or software.