Tag: newsletter

When I began the little side project about ten weeks back, I hadn’t set any specific expectations from it. Or from myself. I had an itch, an idea for sharing my interest in everything about writing with other folks who share my passion. I wanted to explore the newsletter as a medium to reach out to other people. It was only natural to bring them together.

I had no idea at that time that more than 2 months down, I would still be pumped to word each issue with care every week.

At the risk of getting cheesy about a random number, the 10th issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter needed a special mention. I paused before publishing the issue in haste in the last week. I hadn’t got enough time to work on it. I wasn’t happy with what I reviewed as I about to schedule it. So I skipped sharing any issue in the last week. I took the time again and reworded the whole issue. And it is out today.

It features some insightful essays that attempt to decipher and explain the past, present and the future of the complex obscurity that is language. I enjoyed reading each one of them; they made me appreciate the intricacies of human communication. It made me wonder that maybe the languages evolved because we human beings are an intelligent species. However, possibly we evolved into an intelligent species because we had the backing of complex languages. Maybe both.

Anyway, do give it a read online; this one is a special one for me. If what you read interests you, please subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, I will appreciate if you forward them to your friends. And any which way, I would love to hear from you.

I am planning to rework the structure of the newsletter a bit without losing on the core idea. I will share more details as they crystallize in my mind. If you think any aspect is just not working, do let me know. It would help me make some easy decisions.

I recently took a big decision to travel across the state and temporarily settle down into my hometown. Closer to my family and friends. I’m anyway working from home. So it doesn’t matter how far away from the office I actually am. It wasn’t an easy decision, but a strong desire to break the monotonous routine made it a lot clear. So over the weekend, I and my close family travelled and have begun to settle into a new place.

Consequently, I could hardly find time for everything that was routine for me. One of them is the weekly issue of my newsletter. With just a couple of days in hand, the self-doubt had started clouding my mind, making me question whether I’m on the right track. Should I continue to spend time on publishing the weekly issues? Would I have enough time to curate each issue to make it interesting? Am I failing at another side project? A timely comment from a reader cleared the doubts. And it also gave me the topic for the next issue; I cleaned the slate and started curating it afresh.

In this week’s issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard, I feature the essays that, in no way, preach how the fear of failure can be, should be overcome. Rather they attempt to persuade that it is all fine to fail. I needed the nudge myself. Each of these essays lent that to me.

Do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, please subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, I will appreciate if you forward them to your friends.

PS: The issue also has a glaring mistake — so fitting to let the first one (that I know of) slip through in an issue about failing.

Inspiration, Focus and Craft

Writing is a difficult trade which must be learned slowly by reading great authors; by trying at the outset to imitate them; by daring then to be original and by destroying one’s first productions.

André Maurois

A writer is driven to satisfaction by three key factors. The first is an inspiration to think of a way to put his or her thoughts, the ideas, into words. Another factor is the focus to sit down staring at the blinking cursor without getting lured by the myriads of easily accessible distractions. And the final one is the craft that the writer brings to the table, one that he or she horns and perfects over the year.

This issue features a few essays from the masters who have, over the years, learned to command the art by confronting each of these factors. Let’s get straight to the recommendations.

Featured Writing

Where do you get your ideas?

Neil Gaiman answers the question that each published author gets asked a lot – “where do you get the idea from”. And apparently “out of my head” is not an acceptable answer for most.

The ideas aren’t the hard bit. They’re a small component of the whole. Creating believable people who do more or less what you tell them to is much harder. And hardest by far is the process of simply sitting down and putting one word after another to construct whatever it is you’re trying to build: making it interesting, making it new.

But still, it’s the question people want to know. In my case, they also want to know if I get them from my dreams. And I don’t give straight answers. Until recently.

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators

Everybody is a procrastinator or most have been some time in their life. Megan Mcardle argues writers are a special kind; for them, being a procrastinator is “a peculiarly common occupational hazard”. Megan goes on to lay out why she is convinced that the writers are the worst. I always believed that the fear of doing something badly, not perfectly, is a prime driver for procrastination. But if the researchers are to be believed, the fear of doing nothing trumps the ills that perfectionism induces.

I once asked a talented and fairly famous colleague how he managed to regularly produce such highly regarded 8,000 word features. “Well,” he said, “first, I put it off for two or three weeks. Then I sit down to write. That’s when I get up and go clean the garage. After that, I go upstairs, and then I come back downstairs and complain to my wife for a couple of hours. Finally, but only after a couple more days have passed and I’m really freaking out about missing my deadline, I ultimately sit down and write.

Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully

In this short essay, Stephen King delivers advice for any writer who wants to be successful at writing good fiction. King does that in his signature style – clear and direct.

I know it sounds like an ad for some sleazy writers’ school, but I really am going to tell you everything you need to pursue a successful and financially rewarding career writing fiction, and I really am going to do it in ten minutes, which is exactly how long it took me to learn. It will actually take you twenty minutes or so to read this essay, however, because I have to tell you a story, and then I have to write a second introduction. But these, I argue, should not count in the ten minutes.

Featured Video

Featured Writer

Neil Clark

“Then there was the romance between the carton of smoothie and me.” Neil begins his flash fiction “Ferris Wheel” with this amusing lead. He goes on to narrate his unique romance with the “box of the carton”. He regularly writes flash fiction with each having a unique premise and wonderful narration. Another of flash fiction Two Earthlings tells a story of the visit of two aliens and their encounter with the dwellers of our planet – one that makes them wonder if the earthlings were “sentient or hostile or what”. Give all of Neil’s published work a read.

Featured Tool

Forest – Stay focused, be present

“Forest is an app helping you stay away from your smartphone and stay focused on your work.” It is a unique take on the timer app where you plant a tree as you lock your phone down. If you want to quit the app, your tree will die. The belief is that the guilt acts as a deterrent to not access the phone until your focused session is done. The team behind the app also “partners with a real-tree-planting organization, Trees for the Future, to plant real trees on Earth”. A free app that, for sure, is worth a try.

One Final Inspiration

Postscript

This post was delivered first as part of my weekly newsletter Slanting Nib & A Keyboard. Do read the archives and subscribe here.

Another issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features a few essays from the masters who have, over the years, learned to command the art by confronting each of the factors that drive every writer or a creative mind to satisfaction – inspiration, focus and craft.

I had to delay this issue by an hour as I could not complete my final review in time. It was a race against meeting the deadline and the last-minute call from work made it all the more difficult. I usually find the links that I want to feature way ahead of time. However, I carefully include the comments later to be sure about why I’m including the link as part of the issue. I had to rush through the commentary part today. So, if you find the description slightly incoherent, my planning-gone-wrong is to blame – a learning experience to not trudge too close to the deadline.

Do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, please subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, I will appreciate if you forward them to your friends.

Another issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features a few well-written essays that talk about the partisan debates around the different forms of the books, starting with their evolution over the years, from “the clay tablets to the e-book format”. The physical, emotional and psychological effects of eBooks and paper; a love letter to audiobooks. This issue has it all.

Do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, please subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, I will appreciate if you forward them to your friends.

Library Is a Space Ship, Time Machine and Much More

“A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.”

Norman Cousins

Though it’s an apt characterization, a library has been labelled in many more ways. For some, it’s a getaway, a place they tip-toe into to gain a momentary respite from their daily grinds. For some, it’s a vast ocean of knowledge they dip their minds in to get enlightened. For writers, it can be both. And so much more.

This issue features a few essays that depict what libraries mean to a few writers and what, according to them, they should mean to everyone else.

Featured Writing

Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming

In this lecture explaining the importance of using our imaginations, and providing for others to use theirs, Neil Gaiman emphasizes on why it’s an obligation for all us, citizens, to support libraries and to inculcate the love for books among children, right from early ages. Highlighting first the significance of reading books, specifically fiction, he goes on to make one understand why it’s absurd to “perceive libraries as a shelf of books”.

Libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about education (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information. I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

A library is many things

One would agree whole-heartedly with the title when it’s a mix of prominent personalities – an astronaut, a sci-fi writer, a painter, a cartoonist and a children’s author – convincing you about it. “Early-1971, in an effort to attract as many youngsters to the premises as possible, Marguerite Hart — children’s librarian at the newly-opened public library in Troy, Michigan — wrote to a number of notable people with a request: to reply with a congratulatory letter, addressed to the children of Troy, in which the benefits of visiting such a library were explained.” From amongst the responses from the likes of Neil Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, and Dr Seuss, here’s a snippet from the letter from E. B. White.

A library is many things. It’s a place to go, to get in out of the rain. It’s a place to go if you want to sit and think. But particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books. If you want to find out about something, the information is in the reference books—the dictionaries, the encyclopedias, the atlases. If you like to be told a story, the library is the place to go. Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together—just the two of you.

My Manhattan; Not Just a Library, an Oasis of Civilization

Susan Jacoby’s love letter to New York Public Library, particularly its newly restored main reading room and its Center for Scholars and Writers. As she recounts the time that she spent in the library as the world changed outside, you can’t help but wonder if there’s any other apt description for this place than “an oasis of civilization” as she refers.

In a compartmentalized and bureaucratized American academic culture, the library is one of the last bastions of respect for those who try to carry on an older but increasingly archaic tradition of independent scholarship embodied by men like Kazin. My current research is concerned with the marginalization of secularism and free thought – the lovely, anachronistic term that appeared at the end of the 17th century – in American history. The range of the library’s holdings on this quirky and controversial subject has given me a new appreciation of the courage and vision of past generations of New York librarians, who collected material without regard for the received religious and political opinion of their time.

Featured Video

Featured Writer

Lena Valencia

A writer, editor and a teacher, Lena has published many short stories as part of publications and anthologies; one among them is the brilliant short story Mystery Lights published at CRAFT magazine. Though it’s not a mystery, Lena has you glued throughout as you learn more about the central character Windy and the other supporting characters. As the main plot about the show around Marfa lights is slowly unravelled, it glides into a crazed climax that brings a smile on your face. You can’t help but wonder if the Marfa town and the notorious lights that form the backdrop to this story are indeed magical.

Featured Tool

Pocket

Though libraries act as a repository of all the words ever written and published as books, many are also published independently online. Nonetheless, they can be equally significant, powerful and meaningful for an individual. As a free read-it-later service, Pocket allows you to catch up on these articles without being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of the written works available. With an optional premium subscription, it can also be your permanent library of articles and stories that you read online.

One Final Inspiration

Postscript

This post was delivered first as part of my weekly newsletter Slanting Nib & A Keyboard. Do read the archives and subscribe here.

The sixth issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features a few essays that depict what libraries mean to a few writers and what, according to them, they should mean to everyone else. A mix of prominent personalities out to corroborate, with their powerful words, the significance of library, and how a library is many things — now that’s something I wouldn’t want to miss.

So, do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, do subscribe. If you are already subscribed and have been enjoying the issues, please forward them to your friends.

This, That and A Lot on Punctuation

“I found a great many pieces of punctuation and typography lying around dormant when I came along – and I must say I had a good time using them.” – Tom Wolfe

A lot has been said and suggested by authors, amateur and experienced, on how we should and should not use punctuation. Setting aside the perpetual debates around specific punctuation marks, the importance of punctuation in making writing intelligible for a reader is never in doubt.

This issue features essays that provide a brief history of how punctuation evolved, its significance, some valuable tips and witty guidelines on using the marks.


Featured Writing

The Definition and Basic Rules of Punctuation

Richard Nordquist at ThoughtCo. takes us deep into the meaning and importance of punctuation. More than being an essay about brief on punctuation, it details the history of punctuation, its relevance before and after the introduction of printing, and the recent trends in the use of punctuation. Dr. Nordquist has it all covered.

The beginnings of punctuation lie in classical rhetoric—the art of oratory. Back in ancient Greece and Rome, when a speech was prepared in writing, marks were used to indicate where—and for how long — a speaker should pause. Until the 18th century, punctuation was primarily related to spoken delivery (elocution), and the marks were interpreted as pauses that could be counted out.

The Comma From Which My Heart Hangs

Benjamin Samuel at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency describes the great power comma possesses in our writing. Backing his argument with some pertinent examples, he delivers his point with an abundance of wit and tinge of humor that is a signature of every article at McSweeney’s.

If nothing else, one ought to know how to treat a comma. Abandonment or abuse of the comma muddles discourse, and this lack of respect is akin to neglect, to a lack of appreciation, to an unreasonable rejection of the very foundation of all worthy human interactions. (…) It simply cannot be said too often that punctuation, not just the noble comma, is crucial to communication and comprehension. Truly, a poorly constructed sentence can set worlds crumbling, can alter perceptions irreparably.

Tips on Grammar, Punctuation and Style

“If the rules you learned about commas and semi-colons don’t mean much to you, forget them and try this.” That is how Kim Cooper begins this helpful guide on punctuation published for Writing Center at Harvard University. This is a handy list of suggestions on how one can check the selection of punctuation like commas and semi-colons, dashes and hyphens as part of her writing.

If you don’t want your reader to pause, there shouldn’t be a comma, there, because as, this demonstrates it’s very difficult to figure, out, what you’re saying when your punctuation, makes the sentence unreadable. Your sentences shouldn’t leave your reader hyperventilating from the constant shallow breaths that over-punctuation requires. Nor should they be gasping for breath at the end of a long, unpunctuated sentence. (Consider yourself responsible for your readers’ cardiovascular health.)


Featured Video


Featured Writer

Caleb Tankersley

Caleb published a dark short story “Swarm Creatures” as part of Carve magazine’s Summer 2020 edition. He has woven the story wonderfully with some intricate, mysterious elements. With his vivid imagination and a fascinating way to word it, he very beautifully mirrors the darkness and the messy calmness of the swarm with mind within the central character.

The swamp is impressive, a gargling pool stretching as far as we can see from our backyard, tall ghostly trees sticking out of it and obscuring the horizon. We’ve been renting the same house two years but never explore too far back, some sense of reverence holding us.


Featured Tool

The Punctuation Guide

This is a pretty comprehensive guide to punctuation, though primarily focused on the current style of American punctuation, meticulously created by Jordan Penn. It also has clear examples of how American style differs from the British style. In Jordan’s words, he “consulted dozens of authorities, both online and in print. Where the authorities disagree, I either have explained the various positions or have presented the style I believe to be most useful”. This should be a pretty handy reference guide for anyone writing at any level.


One Final Inspiration


Postscript

This post was delivered first as part of my weekly newsletter Slanting Nib & A Keyboard. Do read the archives and subscribe here.

Another issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard newsletter is out today. It features essays that provide a brief history of how punctuation evolved, its significance, some valuable tips and witty guidelines on using the marks.

This week’s issue also introduces a slight twist in the featured author’s section. With every issue going ahead, I will feature specific writing from the writer being featured instead of a broad collection of works from him. It can be a short story, a poem or an essay.

Again, do give it a read online. If what you read interests you, do subscribe. If it doesn’t interest you, do let me know what doesn’t work for you. I would love to hear it all.

I have published 5 issues of the newsletter and I have set the tone for the newsletter now. Setting the tone was the next mini-milestone for me. The newsletter has already been featured by Inbox Reads and Thanks for Subscribing and I couldn’t have asked for more. Now, I wish to continue the journey and focus on how I can interest more people to subscribe. Your feedback will, for sure, help.

The next issue of Slanting Nib & A Keyboard is out now and should be in your inbox if you have already subscribed. It features a few brilliant essays from some well-known voices on the importance and effectiveness of writing styles.

If you haven’t yet subscribed, do give it a read online. I appreciate each and every bit of feedback I receive — it helps me stay motivated to keep doing this every week. I have been extremely delighted with the feedback I have received until now on past issues.

On a personal front, I am reading a lot more to curate each issue of the newsletter and there’s nothing more positive that can come out of this whole exercise.