The Motivation for Writing

Why does anyone write?

What do they want to express? Who do they want to be? What is it worth writing about publicly?

I’ve had the wish to continue writing actively for a long time — ever since I stopped in 2014 (Goodreads’ reviews don’t count), but I never found the time as it’s so easy to make excuses. And, I think in the time I could have been writing, I was reading. So, perhaps I’ll write better now? Who knows…

But, earlier on this year someone (no disclosure, you know who you are) said that they enjoyed reading what I wrote and asked me whether I was still going at it. The answer, to be accurate, would have been a “no”, but I phrased it as a “maybe” — and it definitely kicked me into motion faster than otherwise. Still, it has taken me two months and 19 days to get this far, but I am here. Which is a start.

What has changed? My (probably) favourite answer to this comes from the film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ where Salah ad-Din so graciously says “Nothing. Everything” to a different question.

The one thing I have enjoyed writing about in all the time I haven’t made actual blog posts has been books, and my reviews for things on Goodreads have at least kept that alive. I also think it’s quite interesting to see how various people review books, but that’s a topic for another time. I feel that what is worth writing about is the cultures we experience and what the thoughts they bring up in us are. Hence it might entirely be I’ll take a step back over the last three years and look back at some places which come up again and again in my mind.

But, to end where I began, I will answer the question I began this by: I write for myself, but there’s more of a reason to “write out loud” when someone else is also interested in those selfsame thoughts. At least that is how I feel right now. Times change. And yet, the more they change the more they stay the same.

Of Typesetting and Writing

It will give you, my reader, an indication of my trust and faith in the WordPress engine that until a few days ago I did not believe that justifying text was possible here. That mistake has been resolved.

That is a suitable lead-in to the topic of typesetting — it is something most people spend very little time on, but after my dissertation and other university works definitely one of the more notable issues in my mind. Presentation, in the end, is everything. Especially when we talk of written pages where no conversation can add to what the reader sees. A question arises: If the written work has no form, no beauty, what value could its content have?

An example of great importance is the use of non-breaking spaces and dashes. It adds so much if one knows that the writer of the piece aimed for that superb elegance of correction in how lines start and in what pairs of words (or numbers) appear together.

Dashes are another thing — which one to use (how many people even know of the different ones and their proper application?) and how to create it. I only lately discovered a way in MS Office to create an em-dash. But these differences are the key.

Mostly because of those differences, I have had it in mind to re-process some of my university works to eradicate such errors for future purpose. It would be of very little benefit to anyone, but just maybe worth it in case someone wanted to read anything. I don’t know if they will or if they even should, but at least that would be being prepared.

In the end, what we write in this day and age is so much of a reflection of who we are that the small differences are what will matter and keep on mattering. For that reason if for nothing else (I personally find typesetting a very interesting topic in itself), it is worth knowing the correct way of doing things. And it is worth using that knowledge.

Also: How is it that ski commentators always seem slightly insane?

Chiaroscuro

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

1
: pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color
2
a : the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art
b : the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character)
3
: a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also : a print made by this technique
4
: the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface
5
: the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

For some reason, I really like the sound of this word. Why? I can’t really put my hand to it, but the sound of it when one says the word — it is ethereal. Otherworldly.

Now, I have to admit that I have not heard it used once in everyday conversations, and I have seen it in literature for only a handful of times with the majority of these being in one novel (that I have reread). However, every time I read/listen as it goes by, I feel that the word has a personality. Mind you, if it was a person, it would probably be a bit too pretentious — but as a word I would really like to know it better. I would like to use it… but not too much.

For the etymologically inclined, it would seem that the root of the word is Italian — the words chiaro and oscuro, light and dark. Maybe that Romance heritage is what gives the word some charm in an English sentence, although it could be something else.

It could also be that if I knew what made me like this word so much, I would not like it any more. So I shall let this mystery be, at least for today…

The Second Benefit of Queues

I recently posted on how I enjoyed the feature of scheduled posting. That is still so, but now — around half a week into this experiment of mine, I can safely say that I forgot about an important part of this style of writing that I couldn’t really imagine before. Well, when I say “forgot” and “couldn’t really imagine”, I am speaking against myself, I know that. Do forgive.

However, what I wished to say is that when I schedule my posts I remember what I have written, and I get the wish to go back and change the words. I want to edit the post at least once so that when I read it through myself the next day (far less time consuming than writing itself), I get no bad feelings about anything I say. The wording might change and I might be improving the thoughts I wished to convey, but their internal inconsistency might have been the biggest downfall thus far with my posts.

So, there we go — another point for scheduled posting. =)

The Benefit of Queues

I have recently started writing posts in advance and then queuing them so that they are published throughout the week. This seems to be the approach that works better for me for otherwise I need to find the time and opportunity to come here every day (or every time when I have something to say), and to expand on my thoughts there and then. This clearly has not worked very well in the past so maybe this new way will do better.

For example, the posts this week on this site and on my literature blog both were written on Saturday evening when I had a moment to myself that I used to the best effect I could have thought of at the time.

It could be that in a sense I am losing the moment of “I am here, right now!” if I continue to think of what to say on a certain day in the future (or in the past).

Also, since my mood on that Saturday evening (well, it would be so much easier to say ‘right now’ but that wouldn’t be *the right now* when this post will be published so that I do not really want to do that) was a bit philosophical I am clearly avoiding writing of the world in favour of the topics that have a bit less to do with any tangible place and more with those passing feelings.

One benefit I do feel to be present though is a more consistent style. I could be mistaken, but these would probably read better overall than my posts from say November or December which were far more intermittent. Those posts were also written in a more hurried way — the time I had for them wasn’t really meant for them, but potentially a simple stolen 5-minute gap between eating and running out of my house. It would be interesting to see how this actually represents itself in the words you are reading though.

My next challenge therefore — if I am to continue this scheduled writing — is to find a way to encompass the world into the topics. I am certain that I can do this, although I might require some sort of incentive. I think that looking at National Geographic’s published photos or something similar would be enough though.

For anyone in a similar position as me — that is, feeling like writing at certain moments and not at others where thinking is the realm you’re in — I do suggest trying this scheduled posting way of writing.

Of Tyrants and Dictators

I generally abhor the misuse of any term which has a specific meaning, and recently it has come up in discussion that one was again misused — or misused as I see it. Indeed, I much prefer the original Roman meaning for dictator and the Greek meaning for tyrant. I find that every subsequent use has degraded the original and added a connotation that they not necessarily deserve.

A problem arises thereby when the word would still be used in the original meaning, say Dictator for a Roman dictator, and a modern person would think that we are dealing with an unlawful person who torments and tortures everyone he can see. It would simply be untrue!

So, I would firstly reiterate what I see as the ‘correct’ terminology:

  • dictator: from Latin dictātor, originally signifying an official chosen/elected to the highest position with the important distinction that there could be only one dictator at a time, and he would be the authority. [And I dare say elected because as far as I can see, the person’s reputation was relevant and would be decisive in whether a dictatorship would be given to a person.]
  • tyrant: from Greek τύραννος, originally signifying anyone in power who had gained it by unusual means (unlawful means), and could imply something more than government just by a single person. This seems to have picked up a negative connotation soonest (although sometimes governing outside the law would probably be less bad than in other cases).

The reasons why I would keep on using these in the limited instances they apply in is that we actually do have a better word to imply the government by a single person as either of these is often used. And indeed, that third word, to me, also has an inherent negative sense that I cannot get rid of in my mind — quite possibly because it carries with it a sense of power that dictator and tyrant have given to law (even if operating outside of it).

This third word, a new(er) one, that I am speaking of, is αὐτοκρατής, or autocrat (autocrator) — a term used in history for (very legitimate) Eastern Roman Emperors, but still carrying a sense of power without restrictions that both dictator and tyrant seem to grapple with for me.

So, there we go — problem solved. Or, solved for me, at least. 🙂

Style

It is so very different — who I am writing to decides exactly how and what I write, and what I begin the sentence with, and whether I use the Oxford comma and all those things. And that’s true in both Estonian and English (and the styles are still rather incomparable).

It is just confusing.

For example, how do I know that for person A the proper greeting is “Tervist” instead of “Tere” or “Hei” ?

Mind works in mysterious ways.

The Kindle (and its Possibilities)

 So, recently I’ve been trying to make an informed decision about the Amazon Kindle 3. It’s been tough, but I think I’ve managed to make one.

However, with searching for information about it I also managed to come upon a rather decent amount of self-publishers (including a man named JA Konrath who has a very interesting blog, which I recommend!) that are making a decent profit out of their avantures on the Kindle. So, I’ve been taking a look at that side as well (KDP: Kindle Digital Publishing, for anyone interested) for both myself (future) and possible AE functions. Which incidentally means I went and checked what’s happening on AE.

Significant? Only if the idea turns out to be a good one. 😉

If.

To…

Oh, it’s an odd thing, to have a wish to do something, to plan to do it, and yet not move a finger even though everything is perfectly planned out. This quite perfectly describes me writing — I can almost recall three different entries that I’ve planned and yet not written. Why? Laziness, I suppose. Isn’t that the answer to most human problems.

Laziness, the lack of trust and greed.

How to be free of what could be said defines being human?

Hope?

New plans here, new reflections there: things change too quickly. Ideas get pulled down, and built up again, all for the sole reason of destroying them again. There is no way to guarantee that any plan someone makes today is relevant tomorrow. So, why bother? Is it the wish to know (at least temporarily) where your next step takes you? I’m sure that experience proves that even so it does not guarantee anything. So, any time we spend on making plans might end up wasted — should we make them at all?

The same could be said about thinking though. Any thought should eventually get torn down and rebuilt in a stronger way. If it doesn’t, it remains only a projection of the old prejudices that were forwarded through it.

In the end, how many Iliads have remained unwritten? 

We will never know.
We should, however, prevent it happening again. As much as possible.

On Reading and Writing

I think that when I once began this version of my thoughts in the shape of words and paragraphs, I said that I would take pleasure in commenting upon a few authors and their pieces of writing, that I consider excelling in all manners or some.

Now, to begin, I’d first say a few thoughts on writing instead of reading. Writing demands time and passion, also skill. Without skill and style, one may put an infinite amount of words into a sentence, but it will mean nothing and it will be valued as nothing. The song that I have selected as the ‘Current Music’ somehow reflects this complication that I feel about writing, and, more to the point, writing well. Writing well means that there are already concepts that can be developed — I would take the historical backgrounds that Ryotaro Shiba and Robert Graves present us, and compare them to the nationalistic passions that Henryk Sienkiewicz so well materialises… the eloquent style and form of Hermann Hesse, or the grandiose descriptions of John Tolkien and Arthur Clarke, utilized very differently, but still enhancing the bigger picture.

‘And I will start again… Make a wish…’
— Conjure One, ‘Make a Wish’

Writing also demands much other resources — firstly, one cannot simple write since it demands a special mood of sorts that I am at a loss to describe though I am sure that people who do write (occasionally) know what I hereby mean; secondly, the concept should not merely be stating what thousands have already stated, but to try (and to succeed) in putting to paper something new, or, at the very least, something that few others have done well.

Today, I managed to reflect that I have likely not read any non-English or Japanese author in the past two or three months. Oh, sure, I have read Eliot, Clarke, Kawabata, Shiba, Graves, Maugham, Tolkien, and some others. But not a single non-English/Japanese writer in this time-span. Possibly, the last one from other sources that I read was Hemingway whose ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ was, simply put, excellent. To specify, this does not exclude various foreign newspapers (American, Australian, British) and magazines that I happen to read or skim in what detail I can, but a newspaper or a magazine is far different from a decent novel. In any case, I happened to read Plato’s ‘Apology’ today, and I found it compelling. Compelling to think, compelling to be. But, just to further prove my earlier words, I did happen to the library a few days ago (might have been yesterday… but I lose track of such details since they are of no consequence), and who did I lend..? Kawabata (The Master of Go), Graves (Count Belisarius), Maugham (Razor’s Edge), and Clavell (Tai-pan).

Anyways, I think that I wished to say a few words about reading as well. Reading demands attention, even more so than writing, mainly because of the little details or stylistic nuances that writers like to add into their works. Reading books of good style is easy — reading those which are said to be ‘classic’ or ‘superb’ is however a different thing. Indeed, many of these so-proclaimed grand works amount to very little in my eyes. A true good book can be sensed when looked upon, when read. One should not have to exert more than the usual concentration to remain fixed in a book. If that happens, then the book is simply over-worked. The young writer’s (Paolini, might have been) series of a dragon-boy and whatnot come to mind which simply have the English-English dictionary written into themselves.

As a final thought, I’d like to say that what makes for a good read should also make for a good quote. Both Plato’s ‘Apology’, and Robert Graves’ ‘Count Belisarius’ offer for many such instances. I am sure that I need not be disappointed with any other of the books that I lent. Nor in any of the authors I mentioned in the lists before. What about others though?

Edit: 27-11-2010. Fixed an error: I attributed the lyrics present in this text to Enigma instead of Conjure One.