Just the punctuation

Left: Just the punctuation from the opening of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Right: Just the punctuation from Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner.

I recently read Clive Thompson’s article on what he learnt about his writing by seeing only the punctuation. He also created a website for anyone to paste their writing into and see just the punctuation for their own analysis. You’ll even get a graphic similar to the one above. So that’s exactly what I did.

Seeing just the punctuation of your work — aside from looking pretty — is a useful tool for analysing your writing quirks. Here’s what Thompson realised about his own writing after seeing just his use of punctuation:

I use a lot of parenthetical statements. I also write very long ones. Looking at that graphic, I can see about seven parenthetical statements, one of which contains a hefty fourteen pieces of punctuation, including an internal colon: ( “ ‘ — “ . — . , ‘ , : , , . ). That’s a really long, complex parenthetical.

So what’s going on here? It made me realize I cram my writing with lots of digressions; which is probably related to my thirsty desire to seem so very smart and clever; which itself stems from some intellectual neediness I am able to keep partially — but not entirely — in check; and which also likely explains why I often chain many many phrases together with semicolons, as if I were some Victorian dude peering through his steampunk monocle while cranking out pay-per-word pieces for The Strand. (But I digress.)

To get a graphic as lengthy as the one above, you need to post around 6,000 words. So I took four lengthy pieces I’ve written between 2014 and now to see what I might learn from my own writing. I also wanted to know how much would have changed.

Continue reading “Just the punctuation”

Sunday Sharing #2: Seeing only the punctuation, dealing with rejection as a writer, the cult-like world of #PublishingHopefuls and more

Left: Just the punctuation from the opening of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Right: Just the punctuation from Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner.

At least until the end of the month I’m going to continue with these lists of things I enjoyed reading/viewing from the week that I think others might enjoy, too. I can already foresee selecting some highlights for this month’s newsletter will be a challenge.

This week’s 10 things I felt were worth sharing:

  1. Clive Thompson on what he learnt about his writing by seeing only the punctuation. He also made a website where you can post your own writing to see just the punctuation. Currently in the process of typing up a post where I analyse my own punctuation.
  1. Jeff Bens advises on how to write a good fight scene.
Continue reading “Sunday Sharing #2: Seeing only the punctuation, dealing with rejection as a writer, the cult-like world of #PublishingHopefuls and more”

Sunday Sharing #1: How to be a better non-fiction reader, Scots word of the day, goblincore and more

In my newsletters, I like to share links to stuff I’ve read/watched. For both August and September, I had a wealth of links worthy of sharing but had to cut down. As an experiment, I thought I’d attempt to compile things I want to share into a weekly post. Then I’ll select some highlights for the newsletter. This may be a regular feature, it might disappear and never resurface. Depends on how much I like the structure.

Also, when I discussed the idea with a friend, she pointed out that this might be useful for myself. It’ll serve as an online record of links to parts of the web I’ve enjoyed reading/viewing that I can look back on and find again if I need to.

I’ve longed for a method of logging what I find online. Unless I find a better way, this will hopefully serve.


Here are 10 things from the past week that I felt were worth sharing…

Continue reading “Sunday Sharing #1: How to be a better non-fiction reader, Scots word of the day, goblincore and more”

Gaming for a non-gamer

First video in the series: “What Games Are Like For Someone Who Doesn’t Play Games”

Razbuten is a YouTuber who posts video essays about video games. He’s talked about why they hate fast travel, how crafting is pointless in some games and how small open-world games feel big, among other topics. However, my favourite videos on his channel are all part of his series Gaming For A Non-Gamer.

One day, his wife — who had not grown up playing video games — asked if she could have a go at one of the games she had seen him play. Like any good content creator, Razbuten saw an opportunity. What better way to understand what gaming is like for someone who does not usually play video games than to see a non-gamer learn in real-time? All he had to do was watch and provide almost no instructions. And so began a series of informal experiments that raised many interesting questions about the language of video games.

Continue reading “Gaming for a non-gamer”

Short film recommendation: Facing It

Still from the short film: A group of people with claymation faces sit at a bar staring down the camera at the viewer.

As I wrote in my latest newsletter, out of everything I watched in September, the most impactful was Sam Gainsborough’s excellent short film Facing It.

When something hits me as hard as it does, quite often it’s because I experience that feeling of “being seen.” Well watching this short film was the most seen I’ve felt in some time.

The portrayal of anxiety and loneliness in a crowd is beautifully depicted. The claymation also adds a layer of surreal that greatly appeals to my love for the weird.

Here is the synopsis to persuade you to set aside 6 minutes to give it a watch:

[In] Facing It, a young man of perhaps college age named Shaun grapples with the feeling of being trapped in the cage of his own mind, helpless to escape it. The viewer is given access to Shaun’s eyes and ears. His sensory perspective is dreamlike: imaginative, yet brushing up against a recognisable reality. But, as you might expect, it’s not a pleasant dream – his world is populated by characters with strange clay faces that sit atop human bodies, and their muffled voices echo incomprehensibly. As if submerged underwater, Shaun is out of his depth.

Watch on Vimeo

Do more, think less, enjoy the journey

The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know.

Henri Nouwen

When accused of overthinking, it’s funny to counter with the suggestion that maybe everyone else is just underthinking. But I know I overthink. I know it because I’ve spent enough time thinking about it.

The other day, a very good friend of mine listened to me ramble — or rather complain — about all the numerous ideas in my head that I can’t put on paper. What came out of the discussion was the amount of pressure I put on myself to produce shareable work. I’ve been so focused on the desired destination that I’d forgotten to enjoy the journey.

Continue reading “Do more, think less, enjoy the journey”

Reviewing Tim Kreider’s “We Learn Nothing”

We Learn Nothing paperback cover, published by Simon & Schuster (2013)

Tim Kreider is a cartoonist and essayist who was a regular contributor to the New York Times. I’ve previously referenced his article “I Am a Meme Now”, which I absolutely adored. It was that essay that prompted me to buy this collection. It features a number of his excellent sketches, too.

Overall, some essays were incredibly powerful, and I’ll 100% read them again and again. Whilst others were middling, and a few even left a rather bad taste in my mouth. Yet I must have enjoyed this book a great deal to write a review this long!

To review the book, I thought I’d highlight six (out of 15) essays that perfectly encapsulate my thoughts about the book as a whole.

***

Continue reading “Reviewing Tim Kreider’s “We Learn Nothing””

Write lists

Austin Kleon’s “HOW TO BE HAPPY” list from his book Keep Going

Does anyone else love making lists? Quite often I love making a list more than anything I’ve listed.

Lists bring order to the chaotic universe. I love making lists. Whenever I need to figure out my life, I make a list. A list gets all your ideas out of your head and clears the mental space so you’re actually able to do something about them.

Austin Kleon, Keep Going

Austin Kleon, in his book Keep Going, notes the benefits of writing and keeping lists. He mentions numerous creatives who make lists, from artists like David Shrigley and John Porcellino to writers like Steven Johnson and Mary Roach. List-making is a way to curate a collection of all our messy thoughts and put them into order.

In my last post, I talked about writing through the noise in my head. Sometimes writing a list helps cut through that noise.

Continue reading “Write lists”