Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Brain Pickings

Ursula K. Le Guin on Expanding Possibilities { and Other Important Topics }


Ursula K. Le Guin I don’t know if you know Ursula K. Le Guin—whether you know her writing, fiction and non-fiction

You might have read The Lathe of Heaven

Or, perhaps, The Dispossessed, The Word for World is Forest, or The Left Hand of Darkness

If you haven’t ever read her, use this link to explore more Le Guin

But, I’m going to focus on an article from Maria Popova’s site, Brain PickingsUrsula K. Le Guin on Power, Oppression, Freedom, and How Imaginative Storytelling Expands Our Scope of the Possible.

The first quote from Le Guin that Maria shares is:

“We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.”

Another quote shared by Maria, concerning oppression:

“If it were true that superior people refuse to be treated as inferiors, it would follow that those low in the social order are truly inferior, since, if they were superior, they’d protest; since they accept an inferior position, they are inferior. This is the comfortably tautological argument of the slave owner, the social reactionary, the racist, and the misogynist.”

On what we might have to do to learn what we need to know:

“Are there indeed tools that have not been invented, which we must invent in order to build the house we want our children to live in? Can we go on from what we know now, or does what we know now keep us from learning what we need to know? To learn what people of color, the women, the poor, have to teach, to learn the knowledge we need, must we unlearn all the knowledge of the whites, the men, the powerful?”

And, Le Guin speaking of what she attempts in her writing:

“To me the important thing is not to offer any specific hope of betterment but, by offering an imagined but persuasive alternative reality, to dislodge my mind, and so the reader’s mind, from the lazy, timorous habit of thinking that the way we live now is the only way people can live. It is that inertia that allows the institutions of injustice to continue unquestioned.”

And, circling around to the idea in the first quote:

“The exercise of imagination is dangerous to those who profit from the way things are because it has the power to show that the way things are is not permanent, not universal, not necessary. Having that real though limited power to put established institutions into question, imaginative literature has also the responsibility of power. The storyteller is the truthteller.”

There are writers who claim the importance of revealing life “just as it is”, with no “moral improvements”—some call them “realists”

Yet, we humans have the real ability (and, responsibility?) to imagine beyond what IS

Perhaps the characters of a story don’t end up total winners or shining exemplars

But, I feel, if they improved their lot, if they struggled to move an inch off their patch of inertia, the story is worth reading.

And, there have been many extremely satisfying stories where the protagonists die at the end; yet, they left a better situation for others

But, to write stories that imaginatively improve on some imagined absolute, to create a story that shows a possible world, a world which some would never reach unless the writer helped them imagine it—this is worthy writing.

And, all that is possible without soapboxes or pulpits.

Perhaps my own motto for worthwhile writing (whether you’re reading it or writing it) is “It doesn’t matter if it was hard, it matters that you did it.”
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7 Interesting Articles for #Readers & #Writers


In the last 5 years and 4 months, this blog has offered 1,463 articles (posts) to its readers (many of whom are writers).

7 Interesting Articles for #Readers & #Writers

Image Courtesy of Allyson Correia ~ http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/Allyson-36254

Since last July, I’ve written a full article on each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; while offering re-blogs from a group of wonderful writers on the other days of the week.

Today (a Monday), due to vast and tumultuous internal goings-on, I can’t seem to get into the space where I write a full article

So, since I spend a significant part of every day locating articles on the web that I can report on here (once in awhile I actually write the full post from my own brain and heart; though, I like being a reporter and gathering info from all over for my readers… {if you want to read stuff totally written by me, try some of those freebies in the left side-bar}); and, since I have somewhere over 500 articles bookmarked for possible reportage, I’ll share a number of them with only brief snippets from me ( I’m fairly sure I’ll be back to my usual talking-about-one-other-article by Wednesday :-)

And, the first offering is from The Millions and is suitable for readers and writers ( and writers who read :-) :

The Private Library: What Books Reveal About Their Readers

Next, from The Economist, an article that I feel most writers will definitely read and some readers (those who know a writer) will like:

The Unsurprising Link Between Authorship and Espionage

Perhaps readers will like the next one more than writers? Though, I’d recommend writers do read it… It’s from Canadian NewsWire:

Libraries Call on Multinational Publishers for Fair Ebook Pricing

The next one, from Salon, has an incredibly long title:

Erased from history: Too many women writers — like Constance Fenimore Woolson — are left to languish in moldy archives. What will it take to bring them back?

Now, from the indefatigable blogger at Brain Pickings:

Umberto Eco on the Future of the Book

And, from Medium, a look at patterns—weirdly interesting:

Punctuation in novels

Finally, from The Paris Review:

How Repulsive ~ On the merits of disturbing literature

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If you don’t see a way to comment (or, “reply”) after this post, try up there at the top right…
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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#Wattpad #Authors & 2015’s Best Brain Pickings . . .


Another year… 

Tomorrow, this blog will be 5 years old—with 1,327 posts

Looking back in just the right way can help you look forward

One thing I definitely did right in 2015 was to engage with Wattpadexplained by them as “…a place to discover and share stories: a social platform that connects people through words. It is a community that spans borders, interests, languages. With Wattpad, anyone can read or write on any device: phone, tablet, or computer.”

Another thing I did was to enliven the already existing 60 Author Interviews by adding interviews with two Wattpad AuthorsHolly GonzalezJ. A. Partridge.

And, in case you’re not a follower of Maria Popova‘s blog, Brain Pickings, I’ll leave you with enough interesting reading to get you well into next year :-) 

“The paradoxical psychology of why we fall in love, what maturity really means, how our emotions affect our immune system, the transformative power of solitude, and a year’s worth more.”

The Best of Brain Pickings 2015

* Happy New Year *

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A Blog for All Seasons


Brain Pickings

Click This Image for Some Fine Blogging…

This will be the 16th post I’ve done about Maria Popova—and, I should point out that if you take that link, you’ll see this post at the top of the other fifteen—I “Tag” my posts and they get gathered-up in the Top Tags area—down a bit in the left side-bar

You may want to spend some time checking out the Top Tags since there are over 1,200 posts on this blog and, in all honesty, today is not my best day to write a post

Just dealing with more than a bit of physical and psychological and emotional stress—I quit smoking about a month ago—I’ve been unkind (to say the least) to my Best Friend—I’m hoping her compassion will continue to protect her from the insanities of someone being devastated by withdrawal symptoms

So, before I have to just lie down and swirl in the juices of my muddled mind, let me tell you why you should check out Maria’s blog, Brain Pickings.

One reason is who Maria is:

“I’m a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large. I’ve previously written for Wired UK, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, among others, and am an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.”

Another reason is why she writes her blog:

Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.”

More on her mission and what creativity means:

“The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.”

So, take a listen to Maria (while I go lie down…) and she just might convince you she has much to say that you need to hear

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Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Just Bleed On The Page . . .


That title up there is a very writerly way to describe how to write. Variations on it have been attributed to assorted writers and you can track its citations Here

So, what does it mean, non-literally, to bleed on the page?

Pour out your heart?

Give your earnest best?

Write gruesome crime novels?

In the past post, Productivity vs Satisfaction ~ or ~ Success vs Peace of Mind, I referred readers to some of Annie Dillard‘s writerly wisdom—gonna do it again today.

You may have noticed I’ve used material from Maria Popova’s blog here a number of times.

Today, I’ll direct you to her post, Annie Dillard on Writing, where Maria says: “What does it really mean to write? Why do writers labor at it, and why are readers so mesmerized by it?”

Ms. Popova shares some quotes from Dillard’s, The Writing Life, and I’ll bring a few of them here to encourage you to go read the full article.

Let’s see if Annie talks about bleeding on the page:

“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year. You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. At the end of the path, you find a box canyon. You hammer out reports, dispatch bulletins. The writing has changed, in your hands, and in a twinkling, from an expression of your notions to an epistemological tool. The new place interests you because it is not clear. You attend. In your humility, you lay down the words carefully, watching all the angles. Now the earlier writing looks soft and careless. Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.”

I especially like the “surgeon’s probe”

“When you are stuck in a book; when you are well into writing it, and know what comes next, and yet cannot go on; when every morning for a week or a month you enter its room and turn your back on it; then the trouble is either of two things. Either the structure has forked, so the narrative, or the logic, has developed a hairline fracture that will shortly split it up the middle — or you are approaching a fatal mistake. What you had planned will not do. If you pursue your present course, the book will explode or collapse, and you do not know about it yet, quite.”

Being stuck while writing may bring on a few drops of blood

“Write as if you were dying. At the same time, assume you write for an audience consisting solely of terminal patients. That is, after all, the case. What would you begin writing if you knew you would die soon? What could you say to a dying person that would not enrage by its triviality?”

This is beyond mere bleeding, more like pouring your soul on the page

One last quote, for those overly involved with genre fiction:

“Why are we reading if not in hope that the writer will magnify and dramatize our days, will illuminate and inspire us with wisdom, courage, and the possibility of meaningfulness, and will press upon our minds the deepest mysteries, so we may feel again their majesty and power? What do we ever know that is higher than that power which, from time to time, seizes our lives, and reveals us startlingly to ourselves as creatures set down here bewildered? Why does death so catch us by surprise, and why love?”

If you’re a writer, what does bleeding on the page mean to you?

If you’re a reader, do you want your writer’s blood on your page………?

Care to share in the Comments?
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To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com
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