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American journalist, author, and filmmaker Sebastian Junger oncewrote on the subject of “writer’s block”: “It’s not that I’m blocked. It’sthat I don’t have enough research to write with power and knowledgeabout that topic. It always means, not that I can’t find the right words,[but rather] that I don’t have the ammunition.”7
7 Tim Ferriss, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers (New York: HarperCollins, 2017), 421.
relate this to Eminem's "stacking ammo".
- Apr 2022
Reviewing The Original of Laura, Alexander Theroux describes the cards as a “portable strategy that allowed [Nabokov] to compose in the car while his wife drove the devoted lepidopterist on butterfly expeditions.”
While note cards have a certain portability about them for writing almost anywhere, aren't notebooks just as easily portable? In fact, with a notebook, one doesn't need to worry about spilling and unordering the entire enterprise.
There are, however, other benefits. By using small atomic pieces on note cards, one can be far more focused on the idea and words immediately at hand. It's also far easier in a creative and editorial process to move pieces around experimentally.
Similarly, when facing Hemmingway's White Bull, the size and space of an index card is fall smaller. This may have the effect that Twitter's short status updates have for writers who aren't faced with the seemingly insurmountable burden of writing a long blog post or essay in other software. They can write 280 characters and stop. Of if they feel motivated, they can continue on by adding to the prior parts of a growing thread. Sadly, Twitter doesn't allow either editing or rearrangements, so the endeavor and analogy are lost beyond here.
- card index for writing
- atomic notes
- Hemingway's White Bull
- combinatorial creativity
- Vladimir Nabokov
- tools for creativity
- The Original of Laura
- Feb 2022
One subtle advantage of this approach is that it helps you avoid the “blank page problem,” one of the major drivers of writerly procrastination.
Steven Johnson's "blank page problem" isn't as prosaic as Ernest Hemingway's "white bull", but is an encapsulation of the same problem writers face.
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Every intellectual endeavour starts from an already existingpreconception, which then can be transformed during further inquiresand can serve as a starting point for following endeavours. Basically,that is what Hans-Georg Gadamer called the hermeneutic circle
All intellectual endeavors start from a preexisting set of ideas. These can then be built upon to create new concepts which then influence the original starting point and may continue ever expanding with further thought.
Ahrens argues that most writing advice goes against the idea of the hermeneutic circle and pretends as if the writer is starting with a blank page. This can prefigure some of the stress and difficulty Ernest Hemingway spoke of when he compared writing to "facing the white bull which is paper with no words on it."
While it can be convenient to think of the idea of tabula rasa, in practice it really doesn't exist. As a result the zettelkasten more readily shows its value in the writing process.
- Dec 2021
The main feature of iA Writer is not having many features. The program is, essentially, a white rectangle, where the user can do little else but type in a custom monospaced font. There are no headers, footers, drawing tools, or chatty paper-clip assistants. The bare-bones interface uses special characters in a simple formatting language called Markdown to bold, italicize, or otherwise transform text—a way of encouraging writers to keep their hands on the keyboard and their minds on their work.
Using a completely blank page as the start of any creative endeavor is a miserable choice for writing. Start with some other object and annotate either on it or next to it. Look at something else as a base. Starting with blank nothing is a recipe for loneliness and disaster. So-called distraction free writing tools are the worst.
Didn't Ernest Hemmingway analogize staring at a blank page like facing a white bull? There is a litany of quotes about writers facing the blank page.
Why not, instead, use the advice of ancient rhetors by starting with the best? Become a bee and collect the best materials for your honey first. If we don't look to them, then perhaps follow the lesson taught by Benjamin Franklin on writing or the same lesson repeated in the movie Finding Forrester. Start with someone else's work and rewrite that until you find your own words. This is what makes writing while annotating so easy and simple. You've got a nice tapestry of textures to begin your work.
Giving birth to something fully formed as if from the head of Zeus is a fallacy. It only works for the gods.
“One of the vital things for a writer who’s writing a book, which is a lengthy project and is going to take about a year, is how to keep the momentum going. It is the same with a young person writing an essay. They have got to write four or five or six pages. But when you are writing it for a year, you go away and you have to come back. I never come back to a blank page; I always finish about halfway through. To be confronted with a blank page is not very nice. But Hemingway, a great American writer, taught me the finest trick when you are doing a long book, which is, he simply said in his own words, “When you are going good, stop writing.” And that means that if everything’s going well and you know exactly where the end of the chapter’s going to go and you know just what the people are going to do, you don’t go on writing and writing until you come to the end of it, because when you do, then you say, well, where am I going to go next? And you get up and you walk away and you don’t want to come back because you don’t know where you want to go. But if you stop when you are going good, as Hemingway said…then you know what you are going to say next. You make yourself stop, put your pencil down and everything, and you walk away. And you can’t wait to get back because you know what you want to say next and that’s lovely and you have to try and do that. Every time, every day all the way through the year. If you stop when you are stuck, then you are in trouble!” ― Roald Dahl