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(1) This is Stanley Fish writing about Annie Dillard writing about writing:
"In her book The Writing Life (1989), Annie Dillard tells the story of a fellow writer who was asked by a student, "Do you think I could be a writer?" "'Well,' the writer said, 'do you like sentences?'" The student is surprised by the question, but Dillard knows exactly what was meant. He was being told, she explains, that "if he likes sentences he could begin," and she remembers a similar conversation with a painter friend. "I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, 'I like the smell of paint.'" The point, made implicitly (Dillard does not belabour it), is that you don't begin with a grand conception, either of the great American novel or masterpiece that will hang in the Louvre. You begin with a feel for the nitty-gritty material of the medium, paint in one case, sentences in the other."
If you like sentences you might enjoy Ingrid Burrington's Perfect Sentences
(2) And if you like sentences you might like words. Words like Septuagesima. I came across it in Ronald Blythe's Next to Nature: A Lifetime in the English Countryside which is gorgeous. I'm not a fan of nature writing but this seems to be something else. I was going to describe it as timeless but it's actually time-full. Swollen with time. He writes as though he lives simultaneously in the England of Bede and Wesley and Zadie Smith and Little Mix. (Lived, he died recently, aged 100). It’s a compilation of his columns from the Church Times about life in his small village, divided up by month. Here's a bit:
‘Wild roses festoon every hedge and cats emerge from ditches with golden glances at this late person. It is sultry and every window is wide. The church tower is a charcoal stump, just as it was during the summer nights that followed the Conquest. The clock face gives me its old-fashioned look. Gravestones are legible and there are dense scents. Young rabbits are dining off a wreath and other unidentifiable creatures rustle and fidget. Everywhere, it is all so perfectly interesting that one might never go to bed.’
Septuagesima Sunday is the ninth Sunday before Easter. It’s today. I love that precise carve up of the year. Like the 72 Japanese micro-seasons. And the way that 'the ninth Sunday before Easter' reaches into spring is very warming.
We all need those divisions, some rhythm and shape to our weeks, months, years. Nike used to benefit enormously from the beat of World Cups and Eurochamps. There was a temporal push and pull to organisational life, when to run and when to rest. A friend and I recently held a small dinner for some other friends on Blue Monday, squatting on someone else’s manufactured publicity. An attempt to turn an awful PR creation into a mid-winter gathering of strength, pausing before for the push into February.
(3) Speaking of pausing, here's Alan Jacobs:
"So maybe the first focal practice, the one that enables all the others, is simply this: to pause. To create intervals in our busyness. Maybe we will later fill those intervals with prayer, for instance, but just to create them is the first desideratum. Pause, and breathe — that alone declares our humanity and distinguishes us from our machines. The pilgrim pauses along the Way, and in that manner combats the laziness peculiar to a technologically accelerated age"
He has the best blog description; "More lighting of candles, less cursing the darkness"
(4) On another note: John Ameche.
"Imagine if, at the end of each meeting, we all made time to engage with just one colleague individually. By thanking the presenter, asking how somebody is feeling or offering peers support with their projects. Simple engagements offered sincerely = genuine relationships."
(5) And this is very good advice about doing presentations. And writing in general. From Ovetta Sampson.
"I remember an editor would say to me, 'Clear your throat on your own time.' And that meant cut out the first three paragraphs and get to the one paragraph that you really want people to know...Stripping it down to the essence of what you're trying to communicate will make your speeches resonate so much better."
Interesting tickets still available. Wednesday May 17th. The Conway Hall. In the evening this time. Still only £30.
Well, I'll give you back your day.
(There are 825 of you. In 825 Grímur Kamban became the first man to set foot in the Faroe Islands.