“The difference between a Not Writer and a Writer is the difference between someone who *could* write and someone who *does*. A Not Writer is someone who experiences blocks and obstacles and timing issues and lets them prevent him or her from actually writing. A Not Writer may certainly be creative, insightful and capable of writing lyrical prose, but most of the time they’re too busy Not Writing to get any Writing done. That’s such a shame, such a waste, and that’s the reason I so often deploy Tough Love upon those who ask for advice.”

Alex Vance considers the problem of the Not-Writer, a fine addition to our ongoing archive on writing.  

The daily routines of famous writers should leave little doubt that the single most important skill in writing is the art of showing up.

(via explore-blog)

“Thanks to a generation of massive amounts of standardized testing, our students conceive education primarily as a tool for determining a ranking. The Obama administration’s policy is even called Race to the Top. We have the most read columnist in the country telling us how important it is to raise “standards” so our students don’t fall behind.
For our students’ entire lives we have communicated that the reason to learn things is not to fulfill curiosities, but to see where you stack up relative to others. Grades are no longer a proxy for learning, but a lap time determining how well they’re doing at achieving a secure financial future. Under this system, a “B” is genuine cause for distress. A “C” is a disaster that points towards a ruined life.
At the same time, we have made it increasingly difficult to pay for a genuine education. The burden of loans threatens to strangle adult lives before they really begin. It is now impossible to work your way through college. Concerns over even paying for college are also at an all-time high. We communicate that a college degree is more important than ever and then make it more difficult to achieve.
Students look at the larger culture and see not a ladder of opportunity, but a treadmill of obligation. No wonder they’re distressed.”

You speak English, a futured language, and what that means is that every time you discuss the future or any kind of a future event, grammatically, you’re forced to cleave that from the present and treat it as if it’s something viscerally different. Now suppose that that visceral difference makes you suddenly disassociate the future from the present every time you speak. If that’s true, and it makes the future feel like something more distant and more different from the present, that’s going to make it harder to save.

If, on the other hand, you speak a futureless language, the present and the future, you speak about them identically. If that suddenly nudges you to feel about them identically, that’s going to make it easier to save.


Futureless language speakers, even after this level of control, are 30 percent more likely to report having saved in any given year. Does this have cumulative effects? Yes. By the time they retire, futureless language speakers, holding constant their income, are going to retire with 25 percent more in savings.

Can we push this data even further? Yes. Think about smoking, for example. Smoking is, in some deep sense, negative savings, right. If savings is current pain in exchange for future pleasure, smoking is just the opposite. It’s current pleasure in exchange for future pain. What we should expect then is the opposite effect. And that’s exactly what we find. Futureless-language speakers are 20 to 24 percent less likely to be smoking at any given in time compared to identical families. And they’re going to be 13 to 70 percent less likely to be obese by the time they retire.

In a fascinating episode of NPR’s TED Radio Hour titled The Money Paradox, behavioral economist Keith Chen shares some absolutely astounding research on how the tenses in a language influence that culture’s attitudes about saving and spending money.

Complement with this excellent, albeit flawed by virtue of being written in the futured English language, read on how to worry less about money.

The full TED Radio Hour is well worth a listen.

(via explore-blog)

“Education is what people do to you, learning is what you do to yourself.”

MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito at #TED2014 (via researchdevelopblog)

Ugh. Aphorisms are just the biggest pain in the ass. I don’t care how perfect and poignant they sound, because most of them are reductive statements that can easily be debunked, including this one. Can we not polarize education and learning, essentially pitting them against each other? Can we not pretend that education is a passive activity? I understand the importance of independently learning, but it’s absolutely absurd to say that education is something someone does to you. When someone educates you, you HAVE to understand it. That’s a process YOU have to partake in. Not to mention by creating a dichotomy between education and learning, Ito forgets to address collaboration, or what you do WITH people. I’m sure Ito is a smart man, and he’s not the first smart man to use aphorisms. It’s just that they’re these tiny statements that attempt to be all-encompassing and it normally doesn’t work. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde satirizes aphorisms as tools that the elite class uses to make it seem like they’re participating in profound activities, even though in reality they’re just describing idle tasks. It’s a rhetorical trick.

The reason I’m so upset by this is because I’ve been seeing in a bunch of my tutoring sessions that my tutees are trying to make their theses all-encompassing, and therefore they veer dangerously close to making their theses aphorisms. Personally, I think a statement should be a compass, not all-encompassing; that way the reader moves and grows with the paper instead of just being contained by it.

(via smuwritingcentre)


A cartoon by David Sipress. For more cartoons from this week’s issue: http://nyr.kr/1ipFrV2


For my observation on Monday, I had a no-show, which turned into a walk-in. Not the most ideal situation but I wasn’t too worried about it. My tutee came halfway through the block, so it was a shortened session. Again, I wasn’t too worried about it. He was also a graduate student who spoke really quietly, to the point where I couldn’t hear him explain his paper, and I still wasn’t too worried about it.

I probably should have been worried about it. I mean, I see so many of my fellow tutors talk about nightmare sessions and every time I respond with feeling lucky about how I’ve never had a session that’s been THAT bad. But really, I’ve been neglecting the tension that’s been occurring in all of my sessions. Sometimes it’s a good thing, because I really don’t get too stressed in my sessions, I just let them happen. But it’s also a bad thing because I let them happen and it takes talking to another tutor to really think about how the session could have been more productive. I mean, a really tall man who was clearly older than me and was really sure about his writing came in to get the abstract of his thesis read by a short undergraduate girl. It didn’t bother me, but I didn’t even think about how it could have bothered him when I tried to destabalize his topic to make him think about it more. Now I see that his push for me to proofread was really him not trusting my ability to hold a conversation with him about his topic. Maybe that had to do with my age, gender, background, whatever but it still happened. But it wasn’t until I talked to Jenny later when I realized that it was a difficult session, specifically because she said it was a “rough session.” 

Having the observation really helped me reflect though, because I realized I’d really been taking my instincts for granted. If I feel uncomfortable in a session, I try to adapt to it, sometimes unsuccessfully, but I don’t think to remember what I did to change or what happened to make me feel uncomfortable. For example, in this particular session, since it was a walk-in, I didn’t have a client report form. I didn’t realize how much I had been relying on that to establish the background information I have on my tutees. Because of that reliance, I didn’t think to even ask what my tutees major was, or how old he was. I didn’t establish who he was outside of the paper, which I think sucks. I didn’t even think about how much I was relying on the client report form until I talked to Jenny, probably because I grow up in a Facebook culture where you can study the sparknotes of who a person is whenever. I didn’t think about establishing that tutor/tutee trust before just delving into the assignment. 

Because of the conversation I had with Jenny, I really tried to make that intimacy happen for my next session. I made it a goal to use the first 5 minutes outside of the assignment- I just tried to figure out who she was, her relationship to the class, her teacher and her TA, and how she felt about writing. I found the remainder of the session was so much more successful, and she definitely did too because she signed up for another appointment. I think externalizing my sessions will help me like this in the future, because when I only internalize anything awkward or uncomfortable, I don’t think about it hard enough. I don’t think that means I’m incapable of thinking about my practices intellectually, I just might need a little extra push than someone who can quickly formulate an opinion or an argument.

“Inappropriate and badly chosen words vitiate thought and lead to wrong or foolish conduct. Most ignorances are vincible, and in the greater number of cases stupidity is what the Buddha pronounced it to be, a sin. For, consciously, or subconsciously, it is with deliberation that we do not know or fail to understand — because incomprehension allows us, with a good conscience, to evade unpleasant obligations and responsibilities, because ignorance is the best excuse for going on doing what one likes, but ought not, to do.”

Excerpt from ‘Words and Behavior’ by Aldous Huxley (via gilmckinney)

And Huxley says what I tried to say way better. Basically, by letting the micro-tensions of each session go, I’m allowing myself to be ignorant. I need to do whatever I can to really think about what I’m doing. Not to mention what I’m saying. I find there’s a huge discrepancy between the way I write and the way I talk. Sometimes, my word choice is a little off. I’ve been aware of this ever since I was little. I don’t really think about the repercussions of the words I chose. I would just experience the effects (and sometimes blow back). The difference between my talking and writing style is that I’m very throw-away when it comes to how I talk, but I try to make everything I write intentional. Obviously, I can constantly edit something I write before someone has to read it (if someone will read it) but when it comes to talking, I find that when I think about what I’m saying I just pause a lot and make myself more nervous. I guess that’s why I’m pretty automatic with my spoken words, because I’d rather communicate poorly than not communicate at all. I still have to figure out a way to communicate in a way that’s understandable and efficient (You would think talking more would help but I already talk way too much.)


I do think reflecting on what I say and the effects of what I say is helping me experiment with what is coherent and what isn’t. I’m already seeing myself improve!

(via kenyoncollegewritingcenter)

Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.

And the person who could answer that question would deserve whatever crown of glory the world has to offer. Think what it would mean if you could teach, if you could learn, the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper would tell the truth, would create beauty.

Virginia Woolf, who drowned on March 28, 1941, on the art of language and the beauty of words in the only surviving recording of her voice. (via explore-blog)

My 300 teacher said that she’d take half a letter grade for every time someone does “, “. instead of ,” .”

we’ve been talking about parenthetical references and quotation for over 20 minutes

We have not neared an end.

“It began with a curiosity about why the ten most common verbs in the English language are irregular, even though the vast majority of verbs are regular. Their discovery, arrived at through data-mining several centuries’ worth of texts, amounts to a sort of linguistic natural selection: the more frequently an irregular verb is used, the less likely it is to be regularized over time. It was the Ngram Viewer, and access to Google’s vast library of digitized books, that enabled this discovery.”
Mark O’Connell reads “Uncharted: Big Data as a Lens on Human Culture,” a new book by the scientists Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel, founders of the field they call “culturomics”: http://nyr.kr/OBr9bg (via newyorker)

(via libralthinking)