Writing Improvements (WImps) Part I - Opening the Mind

by phil on Saturday Sep 20, 2003 10:57 AM

I'm trying to be a better writer. I have this book, Writing Worth Reading that they gave to us in our freshman writing class at Stanford.

Everytime I attempt to cruise through this book my mind gets blown. I read a few tidbits that talk about "opening your mind" or "eliminating bias" and then my mind starts reeling over all the mistakes I've made in writing and all the changes I'll have to make in my future writing.

I have a lot of resistance to it though. For example, it suggests, "Don't let stereotypes shut you off from real people." My mind then goes through a dialog like, "But, but stereotypes help prevent you from wasting time" or "Sometimes you need short-cut intelligence... But, but.. but." I get the feeling though that I'm just scared of change. My writing seems great to me, but I think I need to appeal to some one else's higher standard if I'm going to make writing worth reading ("but should I even care whether it's useful to others, huh? huh? but, but, but"). Anyway, I've semi-determined of late, esp. thanks to my suggestion that "flow" is an integral part of happiness, to just ignore those doubts, and pursue growth and production regardless of how picky I am. I spend too much time deliberating.

Because my mind gets blown so much by the book, I'm going to go really slowly through it. Maybe like a page a day or a section a week. In the meantime, you'll get the benefit of sharing in the experience. I won't summarize the sections but I'll conveniently just paste verbatim the "Tips" they put at the end...

Tips for Opening the Mind
- Unlock your mind and let in new ideas.
- Don't let stereotypes shut you off from real people.
- Listen to the experts but decide for yourself.
- Don't base generalizations on insufficient evidence.
- Avoid oversimplified analyses and solutions.

When I followed the above to the letter, first I went through doubt, then I got anxious because I felt paradigm shifts burgeoning over my mental plane. Needless to say, I started by reading some Ann Coulter and opening my mind, ignoring my conservatives-are-evil stereotype, discerning expert testimony to mere opinion, and so on. What did I discover? The New York Times has a left-leaning bias and Ann really hates liberals. Try applying the same mentality to Slate and compare and contrast.

I called this a series because, well, I'm trying to be disciplined. So... theoretically look forward to a set of new suggestions about writing once a week.


dog said on September 20, 2003 11:43 AM:

that is a great text.

dog said on September 20, 2003 11:45 AM:

i wonder what other texts would be beneficial?

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