Rhetorically Speaking …

I’ve written here about the benefit of constraints and I have commented on the fact that writing in a different place helps get the creative juices flowing. I recently read a blog post by Alec Nevala-Lee where he mentions a technique that Anthony Burgess described in the Writer’s Digest. He said that he often turned to a page in the dictionary and tried to use as many words from that page as possible in writing the scene at hand. It was that process of random selection that provided the constraint that inspired the creative process.

It is this process of transforming something from one form to another that captures our attention. I often write my blog in the same place but I find that I have more luck when I have watched a particularly engaging show on television or read something on the web prior to attempting to write.

From this, I conclude that writing, at least the way I do it, is a processes of assimilating something, transforming it, and creating something new from it. My dad taught Rhetoric. It was in the school catalog as Speech, English, and Theater but he was a Rhetorician so that was what he taught no matter what the title of the class was.

One of the fundamental mechanisms of Rhetoric is dialectic. Dialectic starts with stating a thesis, continues with stating the antithesis, and concludes by forming a synthesis of the two. This is what is going on when you take something like an article or a television show or a page from a dictionary and process it through the filter of your intent to produce the synthesis which is the piece that you write.

Being aware of this process makes it easier to come up with topics for my blog. It also makes the posts that I write better. Who am I to argue with Aristotle. He’s been inspiring the best writers for millennia now. I will just knuckle down and learn my craft and tip my hat to Aristotle and Dr. Joe Miller who introduced me to him.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

The Ever Expanding Standards of Literacy

Once upon a time the definition of literacy involved both reading and writing, more specifically writing with a quill. To write with a quill, you had to know how to form the end into a fountain pen. This required some skill with what is still known as a pen knife. There were also pencils but writing in pencil was not as permanent as writing in ink.

Then typewriters were invented. Now writers could write faster and more legibly using this remarkable machine. The definition of literacy didn’t change so much as the expectations of your readers were raised such that you were expected to use a typewriter to submit your manuscripts. Thus, the definition of literacy expanded a little bit.

Next came the computer. With a computer you could have assistance with spelling and grammar. You could reach more people, thanks to the web. You could edit text without having to totally retype it. You could easily make multiple copies. It was important to make sure that you made mutiple backups of the files on your computer in multiple places. The definition of literacy expanded to the use of computers to read and write with.

We come to the most recent addition to the attributes of literacy. You must be able to create web sites. You can do that in several different ways. You can do it the old fashion way using HTML and CSS. Or, you can find one of the many web frameworks like Ruby on Rails, or Django, or Grails, or many others. You might try one of the numerous different implementations of Wiki. Or, you might try a content management system like WordPress or Drupal. This has further expanded the expectations of the literate person.

I enjoy writing. I am thankful that I have a computer instead of having to write everything out longhand. I am relatively sure that I wouldn’t have gotten this far in my quest to master the craft of writing. I still have much to learn but I have much better tools with which to work.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the people you love that you love them, and most important, be kind.