I'm always intrigued by blogs that are born from one very specific idea or theme, and then stick with that. Seems like the persistence it takes to stay with the same thing is a catalyst for some very interesting blogging.
Some of my favourite blogs are monoblogs (not monoblogues, which apparently means blogs where you can't comment): like Stefan's fabulous Daily Monsters, Kirsty Burst's view-collection on The view from your window, or the massively poetic Postsecret project, where people send in anonymous postcards with secrets.
Now, here's a little tribute to my newest monoblog-darling: Kirsty pointed me to Jessica Hagy's brilliant Indexed, brimfilled with intelligent, satirical, sometimes nonsensical, often empathetic, always funny stuff like this:
While I'm at it, let me just point out a sentimental favourite among monoblogs, the always hilarious Go Fug Yourself, where celebrities go to be ridiculed for their latest red carpet disasters. If "Fugly is the new pretty", as the tagline says, then "Petty is the new Funny". An absolutely hilarious blend of sarcastic wit, impeccable fashion sense, and 5th-grade-girls-beyotch-fest. You'll hate yourself for how much you'll enjoy it.
1) I have a terrible memory. People think I don't because I've put a lot of things in there and there's still something left, but I've forgotten incredible amounts. Sometimes I bring back books from the library to discover 30 pages in that I already read it.
2) There are 5 pieces of music that make me regret, as deeply as any feeling I've known, that I (sort of) gave up music. I'll tell you which if you want to know. There are quite a few that don't. Dvoraks cello concerto, for one.
3) I am not an atheist. I'm not even a cynic. All out of fashion, so to speak.
4) I once wrote a novel that no one wanted to publish. Or, the 3 publishing houses I liked. I was a bit of a snob, I guess. I had just turned 16, and it wasn't so much a novel as a play, and it wasn't so much a play as a poem, and it wasn't so much a poem as a novel. That might have something to do with the rejections. But I still think it's absolutely brilliant, I still think it's better than most books to come out in Denmark since, and I can't believe I actually wrote it. Which makes me fear greatly for the soundness of my literary jugement. One consultant really liked it, but felt it was clearly an overly personal and too obviously autobiographical account of an old man trying to come to grips with things that happened in his life, and that the old person who wrote it should try to detach the narrative from his own persona and life events. I got a bit of a kick out of that one.
5) I never, ever use swear words. Only when I oversleep. But never out in, you know, life. And sometimes I have this embarrasing fascination, almost admiration, for people who use them a lot (important caveat: if they're otherwise eloquent). Almost childish. "Wow, he said...". If there's such a thing as hypersensitivity to the effectiveness of swear words used well, I have it. But I would never use them myself. Would feel really phony.
Heh. Saw this imposing thing on a historic city walk in Elsinore recently.
It's where the Danish tax authorities collected taxes from renaissance merchant ships going to and from the Baltic sea. The tax collector couldn't really be bothered to do an accurate assessment of each cargo - and couldn't trust the captains. But the King of Denmark instituted a law that said that each merchant was responsible for stating the value of his goods, and then taxes were calculated based on that figure.
And in really fine print it said that the King always had the right to buy the goods at the price that went into the tax registry. Just thought that was a remarkably fair and simple system. And oh, quite a lot of nice things went into Danish castles on that account. Human nature and all that.
Why is it that people seem to think that there's some force of nature that makes you blind to your own mistakes when writing?
Editing, that I get. That's got nothing to do with who wrote it, however, it's just a matter of detachment. I'm just as vicious an editor with stuff I wrote at age 16 as with other people's stuff. Since, essentially, "me at age 16" is 'other people'. Of my recent writings, I'm not the best judge. See, I'm reasonable, I'll go this far.
Proofreading however... Grrr. "You can't proofread your own text", people keep saying. Who taught people this nonsense? and why? It's just ridiculous. I know it's supposedly based on the idea that you're reading ahead, since you already know what's there. Or what's supposed to be. But that's what all reading is like. At least if you're a good reader. We constantly make assumptions about what lies ahead when reading, and we're usually all over the place while we're doing it... looking at one word, mumbling another, thinking about a third. Except when proofreading. It's. just. a. skill.
You can learn it. There's nothing magical about it. There are techniques. I promise you, when you proofread backwards, you won't jump ahead because you wrote it yourself. And, proofing your own text has the advantage of being quite boring, so you won't get too immersed.
It's really like saying that you can't drive a car in your childhood area, since you know it so well that you wouldn't spot a hole in the road if there was one. That's just ridiculous. Maybe if you weren't paying attention, but that's the whole point of proofreading, isn't it? Reading while paying attention to holes in the road.
Reading your own stuff doesn't magically give you ADD. If it does, you really should stop writing, don't you think?
These days nearly everything I write is in English. Working, blogging, pretty much everything. I thought it was about time to address this weird situation of choosing to write in a foreign language. Oh well, choosing might be stretching it. Writing in Danish would weed out the readership, wouldn't it?
So, I guess it has practical value. Still, I suspect it's partly responsible for the sort of crippling feeling I get once every 5 posts or so. Douglas Hofstadter is famous for linking creativity to "the welcoming of constraints". Limitations in linguistic ability is, however, not a very inspiration-inducing constraint. If Hofstadter is correct, and I think he is, it's only true to the extent you're in absolute command of your basic tools, be it language, a musical instrument or your body. When you feel total control over your means of expression, constraints can be exhilarating challenges, pushing you further than you'd otherwise have gone.
Grasping for words is just frustrating. Not that it's not rewarding. Nobody's forcing my hand, and I'm doing this because it's exciting in ways that writing things you know are perfect is not. It's kissing blindfolded, it's a nighttime walk without a map in a foreign city, it's riding a bike the wrong way on a oneway street, it's doing a Viennese waltz to a Tom Waits song.
You know it's not perfect, and part of you wants it to be - but there's a certain newness to it that seems to be worth the trouble. Especially the occasional 'trying a new word for the first time'. Like trying on new clothes, but much more intimate, almost like trying on a second skin. Letting it roll off, like touching a freshly mowed lawn.
I think I have to stop expecting the same sort of result as when I write in Danish, and start hoping to maybe convey a feeling of, I don't know, foreignness? Estrangement? I'm not sure my English is quite strange enough for that. One strategy would be to stop looking up words when I'm unsure if they exist or not, I suppose. I'll look into that.
So how do people feel about blogging in a foreign language? Bit strange? Retarded? Would you do it?
Decided to come back to blog. Not home yet, but felt like blogging a bit again anyway. Quite liking English people, by the way.
But what's with the phonebooth-bonanza? Seriously, are mobile phones outlawed in London? Notice how I got 4 of them in one shot (look hard for the 2 across the street)? and just to the right, there were 3 more. Do they have any function, apart from the ads for prostitutes? Or did I just answer my own question there?
I quite often seem to bump into the term "creative writing" these days. To be honest, I don't really know what to think. (Mostly) I think I get what it's supposed to mean, and I usually find myself liking the surroundings in which the term appear. Like 'creative writing workshops', which usually means 'people trying to write and think at the same time'.
My initial reaction to hearing "creative writing" is one of "is there another kind?"
And I think my problem with it is that it's an extremely useful term, but still completely rubbish. It made me think of the brilliant definition of creativity from Ken Robinson's equally brilliant presentation at TED (go watch. It's extraordinary). He's obviously talking about creativity as an absolute positive, not just the process of creating things - it's not the equivalent of producing. He defines creativity as:
"having original ideas that have value".
Which is beautiful, useful, interesting, thoughtprovoking... and complete rubbish. Leaving aside the exceedingly troubling notion of 'originality' for a moment - no wait, let's not:
So Beethoven wrote symphonies. That's not very original, is it? Haydn wrote 104 before him. Oh, but not that exact symphony, you say? So he basically kept the format and changed the notes? uhm yes... So, what if I just change them some more, is that original and creative? No, you see, Beethoven's is really good different... I don't have to elaborate, do I? originality in arts is so difficult a concept, that to invoke it in defining equally difficult concepts is just... not going anywhere. Maybe if you try defining part of creativity as "a labour aimed at being perceived as original". Creativity means, among other things, bringing about the feeling of newness to the receiver. Whether it's actually original is besides the point, I think.
[good] creativity is having original ideas [or old ideas just executed better]. So good creativity is having good ideas... that have value.
Ok, "... that have value". This is the biggie. Value how? This is a planner's thought. The creative person's idea has value if it end up adding to actual brand value, as measured by surveys.
But no one will dispute the creativity of Mozart or Beethoven, right? so, Sir Ken surely includes the vague idea of 'emotional value' in this, and rightfully so. But? Just down the road from "this has emotional value for me" lies "this is art for me" or other relativist rubbish. He's clearly not implying that as long as an idea holds emotional value for someone, it's "the good kind of creativity". We all love our ideas to death, doesn't mean they hold water. So are we to resort to some sort of democratic value scale? if 10 people find emotional value in an idea, is it creativity at work? What about 20? That's how it works in real life in many agencies, but surely that's not what Robinson is looking for. That would also imply that James Blunt is a major creative mind, since so many people (of dubious taste) find value in his crap, while Pete Principle or Tony Ogden was not. What I'm hearing in Robinson's 'that have value' is basically: that are good.
So: [good] creativity is having good ideas that are good. Whoopdidoo.
Which is pretty much what creative writing means, isn't it. Since all acts of writing produce words, and thereby create stuff that wasn't there before, it's all in a sense creative. So what we really mean is that creative writing is writing that is good. Writing that keeps you reading, that puzzles, that fuels passion, that infuriates, that soothes, that enlightens, that is good.
'Creative writing' sounds like there is such a thing as 'uncreative writing', which there really isn't. We all use words that were there to begin with - or most of them anyway. We're not that original. Creative writing is a little bit of a cop-out that implies that it is ok that we sometimes do uncreative writing, you know, the other kind. Like it's a choice between formal and casual clothes.
But it's not. Writing is either creative - or just plain bad.