From the end of last week into the start of this one, I’ve felt more chronologically-confused than I have since the start of this quarantine. Last week I continually pestered my girlfriend asking for confirmation on what day it was. She’s been gone for the weekend, and now solo I’m feeling more adrift than before; not quite like lost-adrift, just not so grounded in schedule. I’m just going baseball game to baseball game, like the rest of us.
My name is Ian Battaglia, I’m a writer, photographer, and pumpkin-soup enthusiast in Chicago; this is my newsletter. Your subscription preferences are always easily updated at the bottom of this newsletter or on its homepage here—and if you really enjoyed it and wanted to send it with a recommendation to a friend, I’d be grateful for it.
On a whim, I signed up for another virtual course on writing craft at the absolute last minute, from Garth Greenwell through the Shipman Agency. Despite missing the first half of the course last week, it came across my twitter feed 30 minutes before starting, and I decided to enroll. This is the second course I’ve taken through Greenwell at the Shipman Agency, the first being his course on Sex Writing, which I found really interesting.
This course covered Style, in two parts, and something I know firsthand that Greenwell excels in, having reviewed his most recent novel, Cleanness at the start of this year. Greenwell is an excellent instructor. He’s one of these teachers that just seems to have a limitless pool to draw from, having read just such an incredible wealth of work, not to mention his knowledge of music (which he notes has deeply informed his writing). There’s a few other writers I know who fit into this category, not to mention a few of my closest friends from film school who are the same way in that medium.
It’s something I’m endlessly jealous of, and something I continue to strive for. Having such a wide base—much in the same way that having a wide range of interests and hobbies, I’ve found—just allows you to draw connection in ways that you cannot otherwise, not to mention the ability to situate things in context.
I’m still sort of digesting what I learned today, and deeply grateful for the forthcoming recordings of this class and the previous, to pour over in more detail. Though even the things I immediately gathered—pertaining to specific word selection, syntax, and punctuation—are already immediately applicable.
In closing, Greenwell gave a few final suggestions, one of which being to learn another language. He noted during the course that he’s fluent in Spanish, his partner being a Spanish-language poet, and most surprising to me that Spanish is the language of his household. The connection between language learning and thought is immediately apparent to me, being something I even touched on last week, but he said something I hadn’t thought of before. He talked about how in learning a language, it forces you to adopt a child-like worldview, as you reconstruct communication from the ground up.
Oof, that’s deep! And so true. I noted this last week, but only recently do I feel like I even have a chance to hear something, understand what is being communicated, and have a chance to string together some thoughts. And most of the time, I don’t get it right yet! I’m in a stage where I’m sort of constantly revising what I try and say, remembering Japanese grammar or a useful phrase as the sentence is already leaving my mouth.
It’s easy to see this as a failure, and in a way, it is; I’m not nearly where I want to be with Japanese, and the only way to get there is through more practice. But it’s important to take this for what it is, as well; just the first step along the journey. Even more so, perhaps there’s something special about this step, this first landing, where I can express myself or understand at all. Childlike wonder is something I continually strive for in the work I produce, the art I admire, and the way I try and view the world; so why not do that same here?
While on the subject and the unlikely intersection between two virtual courses, I wanted to say that an added benefit of doing courses like this is the enthusiasm it generates in me. As much as anything, a place to learn or ask questions, a place to grow, these sorts of courses always end up filling me with a sense of wonder. The first thing I want to do after my Japanese class is to go study more, and the first thing I thought after this course today, and other craft courses I’ve taken, is I want to go write & read. At the same time, if possible!
I do a lot of self-study, in pretty broad subjects, of course. And this sort of blind ambition / endless yearning I seem to possess is great for broadly reaching, but there’s something about the singular focus of a structured course like this that makes me focus in in a way I struggle to consistently do alone. This is a big part about what I miss about the academic environment, and what I would hope to regain in graduate school.
I go through phases on being a note-taker. I want to take more notes than I do, as weird as that sounds. I’ve found a lot of value in carrying around a small notebook in my pocket to take notes with, which precipitated into my writing in a lot of different ways. I go through waves of different processes in different notebooks, different functions through different apps, though this has been disjointed and in need of revisiting / repairing for some time. It remains the only note on my to-do list, actually!
I’m using a laptop for the first time in a while, previously working off of my desktop primarily and using my phone for casual browsing and etc. I use evernote just for capturing quick notes and shopping lists etc, which syncs seamlessly between my phone and desktop. But I went to install it on this laptop today, just to record a few notes from the Greenwell course, only to find myself limited to two devices! I had this experience with Adobe apps as well, this week; two device maximum. It makes a bit more sense for photoshop, though in both cases seems like there should be more flexibility.
I’ve been looking to replace evernote for some time. It just feels like it tries to do too much, maybe? All I want out of this specific note app is simple text files, organized into folders, and synced completely automatically between all my devices. Mind mapping, personal wikis, all have their place, but this seems like it should be easy!
I had the same experience using Google Drive this week. On this new laptop, I wanted to find some way to synchronize my documents folder between my laptop and desktop. Simple folders containing markdown text files. Easy, right? Wrong! Unable to get Drive or OneDrive to function in the seemingly-simple way I wanted, I resorted to using Syncthing to merge these files. After I finish writing this, we’re going to see if it worked on my desktop!
Edit: Boy howdy, did it ever! The dawn of a new age.
It’s only sort of dawning on me now that my Sunday is coming to a close. Bummer! But overall just been one of those nice, retrospective Sundays, that leave me wanting to take a long bath and listen to a lot of somber metal music. We become our parents in strange ways.
Thanks again for tuning in this week, wherever you may be. As always:
Stay strong, fight on.
From Chicago with love.
Your faithful commander,