The Mix Tape, Vol. 51
My main insight from working as alumni mentor in Write of Passage: the hurdles to writing online are all emotional. Knowledge of technology, and writing ability, are secondary issues.
Push through fear over and over. Press publish.
Or, if you write The Mix Tape, press play.
Lessons from “The Reader’s Journey”
The way we read changes as we go through life, and reading changes the life we go through.
In “The Reader’s Journey” Alex Wieckowski offers strategies—for both our rational and emotional selves—to build a fun, fruitful, and lifelong reading habit.
In my review, I share some of Alex’s key takeaways:
Books are transformative
Reading is a social activity
How to choose the right book for right now
How to approach reading like it’s a conversation with the author
You can read the full review here.
Why we don’t write
Choosing whether to write is an emotional, not logical, decision.
As part of a writing group session, I recapped a study I found on writing anxieties amongst a group of Indonesian students studying English as a second language.
The fears of that group aligned very closely with my class cohort:
Time pressure: too busy
Insufficient writing practice
Insufficient writing technique
High frequency of writing assignments
Fear of teacher/peer negative comments
Pressure for perfect work
Low self-confidence in writing
Problems with topic choice
The common thread: self-judgement.
The number one obstacle to sharing our ideas online—which is one the best things you can do for yourself and your network—is fear. The voice saying we’re not worthy of it, not good enough, not interesting enough.
That voice is bullshit.
Study source: https://bit.ly/2WDC4qg
A new study looked at the Twitter habits of American political journalists. The results were not surprising:
“Political journalists in D.C. are people who use Twitter all day. And so the question is what does that do to how they think about the world. And generally, from this paper and a previous one I did on gender and Beltway journalism, it seems to me that it can make things worse.”
Their interactions on Twitter, however, show them congregating in even smaller “microbubbles,” says a recent study. The journalists within each communicate more among themselves than with journalists outside the group.
That means Beltway journalism “may be even more insular than previously thought … raising additional concerns about vulnerability to groupthink and blind spots.”
We need diverse inputs in order to write well. We need to read from, and converse with, people outside our immediate sphere and point-of-view.
That’s not happening in political journalism. And it’s not hard to see the negative results.
The hidden power of punctuation
Charlie Bleecker broke down comedian Alyssa Limperis’ work, including an amazing look at exclamation points:
“They are coming home from their lives for a weekend to be with their families. Of course they are! There is nothing wrong with it. Of course they are. But I feel sick.”
The exclamation point is an emphasis on the obviousness of the previous statement. With just an exclamation point the reader understands that the author is very aware of the fact that everyone around her is normal and she is not. She is in her own world. And when she repeats the same line (another great example of repetition) without the exclamation point, it feels like a combination of resignation and understanding.
Charlie’s terrific insights illustrate a critical point: punctuation can completely change the reader’s interpretation.
And increasingly, punctuation means different things in different mediums:
Because text messaging is a conversation that involves a lot of back-and-forth, people add fillers as a way to mimic spoken language. We see this with the increased use of ellipses, which can invite the recipient to continue the conversation. The period is the opposite of that—a definitive stop that signals, as linguistics professor Mark Liberman has explained, “This is final, this is the end of the discussion.”
For some, this can appear angry or standoffish.
We are all tapping away like over-caffinated woodpeckers, and a writing afterthought—punctuation—can drastically affect meaning. Worst of all, rules change by medium.
No wonder people feel so bewildered and misunderstood.
The hit list
Deep down, I’m a frustrated DJ.
So as part of my writing group each week, I arrived early and spun up a playlist.
Artist’s rendering of me, preparing to teach online:
No, I don’t actually have a turntable. Or cigarettes. Or hair.
Anyway, here’s the music I shared, by week:
Week Two Playlist: Leon Bridges
Bad Bad News
If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
You Don’t Know
Week Three Playlist: Steely Dan
I.G.Y. (I cheated: this is from Donald Fagen’s solo album “The Nightfly”)
Time Out Of Mind
Week Four Playlist: Alanis Morissette
(Who better to lead us into a discussion about anger and vulnerability in writing?)
Hand In My Pocket
You Oughta Know
Week Five Playlist: Songs of Victory
I Won’t Back Down, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
We Are The Champions, Queen
The Final Countdown, Europe
Top of The World, Van Halen
We’re Ready, Boston
In week five, student Cam Houser shared the following observation:
“Matt I love these tunes but these are old people songs”
I mean, if the shoe fits, I guess.
But, as another student, Greg Frontiero, astutely pointed out:
“Another word for old is ‘classic.’”
The Mix Tape community grows every week. Thank you for reading and sharing!
Please send me your thoughts and suggestions. It’s great to hear from you.
See you next week!