Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Maria Popova

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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#WritingAdvice


There are 66 posts about writing advice on this blog and they include this one since I tag my posts with keywords; so, if you take that last link, you might see this post again at the top of the list, unless I’ve written another post about writing advice before you take that link—ah, the ins and outs of the Internet :-)

Today’s post features another blog’s articles about writing advice

The blog is Brain Pickings and the blogger is Maria Popova and I wrote about her in my post, A Blog for All Seasons.

However, she has a particular post, Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers, that may have a somewhat flamboyant title but does pack a severe punch

It’s essentially a link-post—as she says:

“By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and more.”

Maria has 109 links to various authors’ advice; and, here’s just a bit of advice from this author (especially, if you’re relatively new to the craft of writing)—it’s much better to read the books of other authors that have no writing advice than it is to read writing advice and not apply you’re own judgement to it.

Naturally, that would mean I’m actually sharing two pieces of advice:

  • Read a lot.
  • Write a lot

If you don’t do the second one, you can’t generate your own judgement to apply to the advice of other writers.

I know, that may sound quite convoluted; but, we’re talking about writing, not about baking bread—though, there may be a few tricks that can be transferred from baking to writing
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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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Writing and Self-Forgiveness


From a rather long life of making mistakes, gaffes, miscalculations, and oversights, I know the critical value of forgiving myself.

Ann Patchett

Image of Ann Patchett courtesy of Wikimedia Commons & Rodrigo Fernández

Yet, this must be done with deep sincerity or one ends up just accumulating excuses for continuing to run rough-shod over Life

Continually saying, “I’m sorry” (offered to others or ourselves) when it’s not deeply felt can accumulate tremendous internal guilt and grief.

In just a minute, I’ll give you Ann Patchett‘s comments about the self-forgiveness of writers; but, I must build up to it

Ms Patchett is a novelist and independent bookstore owner.

Her latest work, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriageis a memoir that gives keys into the world of Ann’s writer’s mind.

I found out about the book from Maria Popova’s article, The Workhorse and the Butterfly: Ann Patchett on Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art.

I’ll share a few excerpts from Maria’s article (quotes from Ann) that I feel lead up to a writer forgiving themselves:

“…what I love about both novels and dogs is that they are so beautifully oblivious to economic concerns. We serve them, and in return they thrive.”

Some very interesting comments about the roles of fiction and nonfiction follow, until:

“We should be able to tap into the constant narrative flow our minds provide, the roaring river of words filling up our heads, and direct it out into a neat stream of organized thought so that other people can read it….But it’s right about there, right about when we sit down to write that story, that things fall apart.”

“This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of indescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its color, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life.”

“When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it.”

“Only a few of us are going to be willing to break our own hearts by trading in the living beauty of imagination for the stark disappointment of words.”

“I never learned how to take the beautiful thing in my imagination and put it on paper without feeling I killed it along the way. I did, however, learn how to weather the death, and I learned how to forgive myself for it.”

Now

All those quotes from Ann are my way of teasing you into reading Maria’s article, which might lead you to reading Ann’s book

And, before I share the ultimate quote about self-forgiveness for writers, I want you to consider that, even if you’re not a writer, your life is your own Work of Art—we are constantly writing the book of our own life

So

The following quote is for Everyone:

“Forgiveness. The ability to forgive oneself. Stop here for a few breaths and think about this because it is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.

[…]

“I believe, more than anything, that this grief of constantly having to face down our own inadequacies is what keeps people from being writers. Forgiveness, therefore, is key. I can’t write the book I want to write, but I can and will write the book I am capable of writing. Again and again throughout the course of my life I will forgive myself.”

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Read Some Strange Fantasies
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