Once there was a woman who loved words. She loved words more than chocolate, more than Christmas carols, more than lightening or thunder, more than gigantic waves. More even than Golden Retriever puppies, though that one was close.
Of course she was a blogger. So when she had to take a few weeks off for knee replacement surgery, she decided it was the perfect time to refocus her blog.
She’d blogged first about food, and then about science writing. But now she wanted to focus squarely on good writing — even great writing.
She wanted to form a community of people who loved words as much as she did.
People who wanted to work together to write with zing and pizzazz, whether they were bloggers or article writers or on writing missions of their own.
The result is the re-designed “Writer’s Clinic” you’re reading now.
(A knee replacement, by the way, hurts like effing hell. But eventually it has amazing rewards. Enough said about that.)
New tagline, new photo
Look at the header above and you’ll see the two elements that have changed since our last post: the tagline and the photo.
I chose the “wit and wisdom for wordsmiths” tagline because it seems to me those are the keys to grabbing and holding the reader’s attention.
The other element is that path through the wheat field, which I’ll get to in a minute.
Wit: “educated insolence”
The ever quotable Shakespeare wrote, “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.” But Aristotle left us a line that’s even better: “Wit is educated insolence.”
Whoa. “Educated insolence”?
Easier to say who has it than what it is.
New York Times columnist Gail Collins columnist displays educated insolence all the time.
For example, on a bill in Congress extending the payroll tax she wrote,
When the bill made its way to an unwelcoming Senate, a miracle occurred. Angels sang, a star rose in the east and the Democrats and Republicans worked out a compromise.
Count on Andy Borowitz for educated insolence about anything happening in the day’s news. A recent example:
Within hours of the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, real estate mogul Donald Trump roiled the political situation in that Stalinist country by announcing that he would run for its presidency.
“Kim Jong-Il ruled North Korea as the egomaniacal leader of a personality cult,” Mr. Trump told reporters en route to Pyongyang. “I can offer continuity of leadership.”
Penelope Trunk has a style is all her own.
Here’s one of her Tweets: “I’m trying to decide if I should take a Xanax or read the Time magazine article on why anxiety is good.”
How about wisdom?
Okay, but how about wisdom? Isn’t that a little much to ask of most of us?
The word does sound a little pretentious. Perhaps a little overblown. But in fact, wisdom is just great content. Smarts mellowed by mistakes and experience.
Here’s the inimitable Jon Morrow in a Copyblogger post about how to be interesting:
Want to stir people up? Be irreverent.
Make fun of their god, their politics, their family — anything they hold dear. Yes, they’ll be offended, but lots of other people will think it’s hilarious. If you can’t stomach being hated by a portion of the world and loved by another, then you don’t deserve to have a blog.
There are a bazillion more examples of great content. I’d love to hear your nominees.
The other new element in the re-design is the photo of the path.
A path is a trail laid down for a purpose. It’s not as wide or as well-defined as a road, and it’s often trampled down by feet. Deer looking for food. Indians hunting. Hikers on their way up the mountain.
The important thing about the path above is that you usually can’t see where it leads.
To the tree off in the distance? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Every time we write we take a path. If you’re the sort who can’t begin without an outline – and there’s nothing wrong with that — you know where you’re going before you start.
If you take a more organic approach, as I usually do, you write your way into the subject and define your path as you go.
Good science is all about following the data as it shows up and letting yourself be proven wrong, and letting everything change while you’re working on it – and I think writing is the same way.”
Joan Didion, another non-outliner, wrote,“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.”
(Read “The Year of Magical Thinking” or “Blue Nights” to see how she does it.)
But whether we map out our paths before we begin or define them as we go, readers must know they’re there. Not consciously, perhaps, but they must sense their presence.
What do you think of all this? Are wit and wisdom what you strive for?
Do you have a path when you write?
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Hug someone close to you. And be warm.