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How to study


Elaborately Cautious Language

’In every day life we cheerfully use language as a blunt instrument for cudgelling our way through the cut and thrust of events around us. However, in academic writing language is meant to be used more like a scalpel, cutting precisely between closely related arguments, so that they can be prised apart and analysed in detail.’ Northridge (1990:29)

An academic text is not a narrative – it is an argument.

An academic text aims to be unemotional, detached and logical.

Whilst I can understand applying this to a TMA or ECA, this is surely not the required or desired approach in what is called a Blog? And for writing in a forum, should we reference everything? It doesn’t half interrupt the flow of ideas. If talking over coffee or a glass of wine would we cite references we knowingly made? The lines distinguishing the spoken word to text or TXT or blogging and messaging are blurred if not broken.

Manage Feelings 2.6 Northridge (1990:31)

Find ways of:

* building upon your enthusiasms
* avoiding sinking into despair
* making the topic interesting
* accepting specialist language
* accepting academic text styles
* constructing valid criticisms

My preferred approach to reaching:

* cafe
* walk
* pool
* while travelling (trains, planes, ferries and yachts)

Though surely not

* in bed
* on the kitchen table in the middle of the night
* in the pub
* on holiday

(though this can be exactly what I do/have done)


* a room of my own

(married life, children and a modest home have left me with a cluttered shed or lock-up garage packed with the contents of our last house – we moved three years ago).

Approaches to Reading

Skim paragraph ahead, then read more slowly using the ‘mile stones’ to guide you.

Skimming – about the text
Reading – follow the argument

Lighting skim – very fast.

I typically ‘light skim’ the last chapters of a Stephen King novel, as the plot becomes ludicrous yet I feel an obligation to have glanced across the page in case at some stage sanity returns (it never does). Though the story will reach a resolution.

Intensive Study – very slow

Something new, something I don’t understand. Something I need to understand or want to understand. But never the small print of a bank overdraft facility. Probably the diaries of Anais Nin and the novels of Henry Miller. Probably the history of WWI, as I need to glean info from it for my own writing. And of course the books and papers I read for H807 (Innovations in E-Learning) and will read for H808 (The eLearning Professional).

Is it making me think?

Am I getting a better grasp of the subject?

‘The underlying purpose of reading is to develop your thoughts; to weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have and to give new angles to your thinking.’ Northridge, (1990:34)

My reading speed, 300 wpm? i.e. far to quick, but is a page a minute that fast? it does depend of course on the writing style and my familiarity or otherwise with the concepts.

The purpose of reading = ‘rethinking’ Northridge, (1990:34)

I like that ‘re-thinking.’ So building on what you now already, whether or not you think you know much at all … or know a great deal.


* To develop your thoughts
* To weave new ideas and information into the understanding you already have
* To give new angles to your thinking

The point of reading:

‘The point of reading is to be able to understand what you read and to be able to get back the ideas at some future point when you need them again.’ Northridge, (1990:38)

The point of taking notes:

‘Taking notes forces you to think; to ‘grapple’ with the ideas in the text as you read them, because you have to decide what to write down and how to say it.’ Northridge, (1990:44)

I don’t grapple at the note taking stage, I find it more mundane than that, I do desire a tussle at some stage, which is why I can find the manner in which we engage asynchronously (its nature) somewhat tame. I don’t recommend debating online either, or getting into an argument (or even a heavy discussion) … when in Elluminate, messaging or anything else.

This is why the face-to-face tutorial at least, fellow students over a beer in the MCR or in a formal debating chamber ideas gain a voice, that becomes your Word, and your Voice.


Anais Nin on giving her life meaning

How many seek solace in the journals of a woman in France in the 1930’s?

I’ve fallen in love with Anais Nin and Henry Miller and wish, even if it only meant being Richard Osborne to their relationship, that I could be with them watching it all unfold.

I’m over £100 into Anais Nin and can’t think where my desire to know her and Henry will end. Only when  own and have read all her diaries, all her fictions and erotica, all her letters too … and as much from Henry Miller.

Just pages into her first Journal I am making long notes which I want to record and discuss. Take this for example

‘What makes people despair is that they try to find a universal meaning to the whole of life, and then end up saying it is absurd, illogical, empty of meaning. There is not one big, cosmic meaning for all, there is only the meaning we each give to our life, an individual meaning, an individual plot, like an individual novel, a book for each person. To give as much meaning to one’s life as possible seems right to me. For example, I am not committed to any of the political movements which I find full of fanaticism and injustice, but in the face of each human being I act democratically and humanly. I give each human being his due. I disregard class and possessions. If it is the value of their spirit, of their human qualities, I pay my respect to, and to their needs as fast as I am able to fulfil them. If all of us acted in unison as I acted individually, there would be no wars and no poverty. I have made myself personally responsible for the fate of every human being who has come my way.’ (Anais Nin, Journals Vol 1)

And if we see life as a novel then we deliberately set out to make it worthy of a novel, and if this novel is dull written on a day to day basis as experiences unfold then surely the diarist goes out of their way to ensure that they experience and do things worthy of a novel?

They take lovers, they are unfaithful to other halves, they feign homosexuality got to places and do things they would never otherwise have done?

Such a belief sustained and enriched much of my teenage experience; I should write about it. Most people make no attempt to seek any ‘meaning to life’ let alone ‘universal meaning to the whole life’ most people are blessed with far more mundane and more easily satisfied demands that give them the right car, the right house, the right number of kids and the right number of brain cells to keep it all in suitable perspective.

Some of us struggle in our minds.

This is the  artist’s struggle.

How to keep the tide of middle class mediocrity from drowning out all exclamations.

I would have been the witch doctor in a tribe, the oddball. What makes us? What in this assembly of DNA creates this? Why me? Why me to be the pinball which refuses to sink? The ball which gets flipped and flapped, which dings and dongs. This game of pin-ball into which I was shot.

Like Anais Nin and Henry Miller

Volume 4 of Anais Nin’s Journal

I’m through volume 4 of Anais Nin’s Journal. I wish I could have begun with her childhood diaries, or at least 1931 in Louciennes, Paris.

I can commune with an ageing lady who evidently attracted much attention from younger followers.

One thing which could soon influence this journal of mine will be an increasingly descriptive stance on the world and the people around me rather than deep and tedious introspection. No longer the book of self-analysis but the book of observations.

As a teenager I was clear in my mind that I was an observer.

I frequently stood back from the world the better to observe it. I would go to parties not only to participate but to tick off another experience and then write about it. (Don’t all teenagers do the same?)

Adulthood brings with it a crusting over of earlier enthusiasms

Adulthood brings with it a crusting over of earlier enthusiasms, unless of course the indulgent world encourages and develops those early desires.

Character sketches. Like drawings.

Can I do them? I must. Can I picture the people with whom I am familiar, let alone newcomers? Dad, for instance, (give me two years and several million words), or Mum, neither of them simple people in analytical terms. Are any of us?

The traumas of his current break up with wife No 3 could turn into a Hardy-esque catastrophe.

If only he wasn’t so public school and conservative. He stamps his foot and thinks P will return to him to cook his meals and do his washing. He sulks and becomes ill to persuade N  to give up things which matter to her so that she will nurse him.

I don’t have the nerve to be as blasé about money as Henry Miller

What in fact I crave is enough money to do more of this, precisely this, whether it makes a bean or not!

A diary is not book keeping with words

Finding Anais Nin and Henry Miller (at last) as allowed me to escape the book keeping approach to my previous diaries. Then the intention was to do little more than catalogue the events of the day, the week, the year (the cycle). Now, hopefully I can do much more. Here I can let vent, discuss, record, consider, practice my observations, try lines, invent words and phrases. Now, reading like a graduate, I can put notes in here (not in the Arch lever files).

As before I will dip in years later and find (or not find) reflections on those years gone by.

[This visit comes over seven years after the entry was written – 9th January 2000]

[Then this visit in August 2010 comes another ten years on]

  • Do I change my mind?
  • Have I learnt owt?

I wish I hadn’t driven over to a second hand book shop in Hay on Wye and sold my collection of Anais Nin diaries and the Henry Miller books I hadn’t graffittied with notes.

Dare I compare myself with the likes of Anais and Henry?

In my teens and early twenties I shared much of Anais’s sexual hunger (I adored the erotica she wrote and knew her for this alone for a decade or more). Today I relish the gutsy frankness of Henry Miller, flavoured by sticky fingers and his insatiable appetite for cunt. He didn’t have to intellectualise about loving a person the way we did.

I don’t enjoy intimate sex for sake of having sex.

There must be a person at the other end. “There’s nothing wrong with it if both people enjoy it,” offered Suzi on one of our very few affair like reprieves in September 1989. She was justifying her repeated infidelity, a trait I worried about in her when I first met her aged 15, cared less about when we starting going out together a year later … until we started to hurt each other another five years on from that.

If I’d known Anais Nin in my youth (20’s)

I would have been her Hugo making money not in the City, but in the cash crazy world of advertising in the 1980’s. Hard when my inclination was to scrap it all and do a Henry Miller . If only my hunger had been to find a personal voice rather than a public (and paid) one.

Though I’m struggling with “Tropic of Capricorn” after the narrative and journalistic rumpus of “Tropic of Cancer” I am still inclined to pick out a few truths. I am still keen to hear someone else’s voice justifying and provoking my difference:

“At this a faint smile paned over his face. He thought it extraordinary that I should remember such things. He was already married, a father, and working in a factory making fancy pipe canes. He considered it extraordinary to remember events that happened so far back in the past.”

And so Henry Miller goes on to indulge his memory on a rock fight that killed a boy when they were only 8 years.

Like Henry Miller I relish dredging up, reliving and reviving childhood events. (And Nabakov, some to think of it). Courtesy of a diary I started age 13 it is too easy for me to relive many moments, from many days, many, many years ago. An adequate entry, as no one got to see the contents of these diaries until 2000, was enough to bring the moment alive, to trigger the memory, to tag that moment, wherever it might have been. As an exercise I went back to my earliest memories, scrambling around the recesses of my mind to put down events from when I was four, five and six … first day at school, first day at boarding prep-school, my parents splitting up … the three day week.

I love to dissect the pain and pleasure of past relationships too, especially the passion and punches of yours truly and ‘Suzi Bean’.

Euphoria of writing

And describing the private joy of a day spent writing in the head:

‘At last I reached that point where you abandon all hope of remembering your brilliant ideas and you simply surrender to the luxury of writing a book in your head. You know that you’ll never be able to recapture these ideas, not a single line of all the tumultuous and marvellously dovetailed sentences which shift though your mind like sawdust spilling through a hole. On such days you have for company the best companions you will ever have – the modest, defeated, plodding workaday self which has a name and which can be identified in public registers in case of accident or death. But the real self, the one who has taken over the reins, is almost a stranger. He is the one who is filled with ideas; he is the one who is writing in the air; he is the one who, if you become too fascinated with his exploits, will finally expropriate the old, worn-out self, taking over your name, your address, your wife, your past, your future. Naturally, when you walk in on an old friend in this euphoric state he doesn’t wish to concede immediately that you have another life, a life apart in which he has no share. He says quite naively ‘feeling rather high today, eh? And you nod your head almost shamefacedly’. Miller, (1949 p29)

Well put!! Say what you want to say the way you want to say it. Hey, Presto! There are great chunks of Miller, some of which I may have already written out.

In Sexus, look at pages 77,78,79, then 92,93.

Here Miller describes the image of his wife when she discovers Henry’s intentions to leave her. It aptly describes my parting moments with X (No. 1) and Y (No 12 ?)

‘At this she hung her head. She looked indescribably sad and weary, like a human wreck hanging from a meat hook. I looked down at the floor, unable to bear the sight of her face’. Miller, (1949 p 91)

Art makes you restless, dissatisfied.

On art, Miller says this through the mouth of Ulric: ‘The world is going to the dogs. You don’t need much intelligence to get along as things go. In fact, the less intelligence you have the better off you are. We’ve got it so arranged now that things are brought to you on a platter. All you need to know is how to do one little thing passably well, you join a union, you do as little work as possible, and you get pensioned off when you come of age. If you had, any aesthetic learning you wouldn’t be able to go through the stupid routine year in year out. Art makes you restless, dissatisfied’.

On art, a variety of thoughts:

‘You only become something in order to be it – there wouldn’t be any fun in just becoming all the time’.

And …

‘The enjoyment of a beautiful thought is nothing to the joy of giving it expression – permanent expression’.

On earning a living (or not)

‘Recognition and reward are two different things. Even if you don’t get paid for what you do, you at least have the satisfaction of doing. It’s a pity that we lay so much emphasis on being paid for our labours – it really isn’t necessary and nobody knows it better than the artist. The reason why he has such a miserable time of it is because he elects to do his work gratuitously. He forgets that he has to live’. Miller, (1949 p 128)


Miller, H.V. (1949) Sexus. The Rosy Crucifition

Continuing with Henry Miller

‘He believes in you only in so far as he knows you; the possibility that you are greater than you seem is disturbing for friendship is founded on mutuality’. (Sexus, P28)

This seems like an excuse to be the lonely introvert – but how much is it necessary to cut yourself off? Can I take Darlingest along and live in a mud hut, or cottage, or chalet somewhere? That would isolate us from friends and family – but Darlingest is my friend and family. That is the compromise?

I would  never sacrifice her to burry myself in some life long hermitage.

But I can see the sense in trying to confide in semi-strangers; in someone who might believe in me (whether or not they have the right to judge).

More of Henry Miller …. ‘It is almost a law that when a man embarks on a great adventure he must cut all ties. He must take himself off to the wilderness, and when he has wrestled it out with himself, he must return and choose a disciple’. (Sexus, p28)

My own idea of a disciple is a pupil – ‘Robin’ to my Batman, but probably (undoubtedly) female. So that there is a hint of sexuality, a taste of sexual involvement – something to make the blood race, lustre and speed to the imagination. Temporarily I have felt in such positions with VL and with TT.

I need my Anais Nin!!

Darlingest is my rock, my support, my love. I shouldn’t burden her with a side of my mind she accepts but cannot switch into – she is numbers, I am words; she is pragmatic, I’m inventive.

Satisfying this ‘must’ called writing

I write when I want, about whatever moves me

But something must move me; I can’t just catalogue the routine of my hours, my journeys, my physical and mental joys and strains. I have to wait, in ambush, and capture a thought then run with it pell-mell as if it were running over heaps of books stacked in piles on the floor.

I want to write like Henry Miller

I’m reading like I’ve never read before. At last I’ve found a rich vein of literature that I enjoy:

  • Anais Nin
  • Henry Miller
  • Bill Bryson
  • Evelyn Waugh
  • and Clive James with nuggets from
  • Bruce Chatwin
  • Ken Russell
  • and Brian Keenan.

I want to write like Henry Miller

I  to describe sexual encounters with verve and honesty, to describe my life as if it were driven – had a purpose.

To copy Henry Miller’s style would be like learning to stand upright on a log as it spins, learning to control it and guide it on calm waters and through torrents,  over falls and through the sawmill ’til the wood-pulp has been turned into paper, the words written on the paper and the resulting novel is on display in the window of the book shop on Gosforth High Street.

Let it be so.

And so eighteen years on from writing the above, a  hundred sexual encounters relived or invented, look for readers and a home. (Not here, I think.)

Four books on the go

I somehow manage to have four books on the go at any one time.

Only this can satisfy my boredom threshold:

  • ‘Sexus’ Henry Miller
  • ‘Volume Five: Journals’ Anais Nin
  • ‘Neither Here Nor There,’ Bill Bryson
  • and ‘The Letters of Henry Miller and Anais Nin.’

Is that all?

In between I have to dip into old (and find new) enthusiasms:

  • Bernard Levin, ‘Enthusiasms,’
  • Clive James (autobiography
  • and Evelyn Waugh

(because his letters are being read on BBC Radio 4 each morning).

For the first time I want to quote from them, mark their books as I read them, read what they read, pursue my passion, stir harder the feelings they unsettle, then have a go myself, turn my own hand to these pages.

My problem is that a burst of enthusiasm gets me to 2,500 words.

Then I rethink it, rework it and like running into a tall fence of chicken-wire I can suddenly get no further, I become enmeshed by my own re-writing.

I must learn in one breath, not to need to go back over and plod about. Find your ‘Voice’ through writing honestly.

Again, on writing, on the experience, satisfaction and method of writing Henry Miller says, ‘It was revealed to me that I could say what I wanted to say if I thought of nothing else, if I concentrated upon that exclusively and if I were willing to bear the consequences which a pure act always involves.’

His search for ‘truth,’ for his ‘voice.’

Satisfying this ‘must’ called writing.

If only I had my Anais.

Life Drawing

When I drew Lucinda I drew the sex and warmth of a horny 19 year old, I drew the revealed lust and smell of her, I drew with my organ. I held it in my write hand and stroked it across a series of pages capturing what I saw and the way in which I saw it. I wouldn’t sleep with her because that would extinguish the passion I was playing with at my finger tips. I was letting my excitement add fluidity and texture to each mark on the page. I wasn’t just drawing from the shoulder, I was drawing with my entire body, with my whole being. Each time I tore off a page to start again it was like squeezing my balls to stop me coming, each time I got Lucinda to pose differently, to close her sex and turn her back on me I was reducing the volume, turning down the heat, keeping my dick at heel! If I’d slept with her I wouldn’t continue to have wet dreams about the moment, after such a heated game of ‘look and see’ I would have burst my body on first touching her.

She is a story I must write and rewrite, draw and redraw.

We lived in France too

On France Henry Miller says how his friend Ulric had gone to Europe and how this man’s experiences so differed from his own approach (and my own). ‘I had more in common with Ulric than with any of my other friends. For me he represented Europe, its softening, civilising influence. We would talk by the hour of this other world where art had some relation to life, where you could sit quietly in public watching the passing show and think your own thoughts. Would I ever get there? Would it be too late? How would I live? What language would I speak? When I thought about it realistically it seemed hopeless. Only hardy, adventurous spirits could realise such dreams. Ulric had done it for a year by dint of hard sacrifice. For ten years he had done the things he hated to do, in order to make his dream come true. Now the dream was over and he was back where he had started. Farther back than ever, really, because he would never again be able to adapt himself to the treadmill. For Ulric it had been a Sabbatical leave: a dream which turns to gall and wormwood as the years roll by. I could never do as Ulric had done. I could never make a sacrifice of that sort, nor could I be content with a mere vacation however long or short it might be. My policy has always been to burn my bridges behind me. My face is always set forward to the future. If I make a mistake it is fatal. When I am flung back I fall all the way back to the very bottom. My one safeguard is my resiliency. So far I have always bounced back. Sometimes the rebound has resembled a slow motion performance but in the eyes of God speed has no particular significance.’ (Sexus, Henry Miller)

Thrill seeker or career builder?

Have I fallen? Not so far. Have I been the adventurer seeking experiences about to write about?

Quitting JWT and tumbling from a flat in Whitehall Court to a bed in a Lewisham Terrace?

My trip to Gottingen, my run, safe run to Grenoble and the Alps?

My even safer return into Darlingest’s arms?

Have I been neither one thing nor the other? Neither reckless idiot on the streets of Paris, begging, nor the die-hard executive in the UK.

God don’t let me become Ulric.

Nor let me stumble so far into misery that I will be a pain to myself and my family. The time is right to write I have enough experiences to keep me writing for the rest of my life.

Like Henry Miller I make the idle boast about the number of words I have written.

These diaries alone (paper form and online come to 2.5 million words +. Then there are the screenplays (eight), TV adventure series (six), short films (thirty) and songs (seventeen).

Here in 2010 there may be a million more words in boxes, on floppy discs and zip drives, on CDs and memory sticks and boxed in one memory block to splat across cyberspace should she so please.

As Thoreau wrote, ‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’

To an outsider it is like a revelation of a serious malady.

‘How could I do this to myself?’

My earnings to date?

£500 for the rights to a short film (That’s Nothing Compared to Passchendale) that never went into production.

I could see it at one of my mum’s coffee mornings, doing a Henry Miller, happy to join in as the scrounger of lives, picking their brains for snippets. I suddenly announce to the genteel Gosforth gathering:

“I’ve been xxxxxing since the age of 11. For the first 15 years I kept it up once, twice, sometimes four times a day. Nearly 5,500 times.”

They look at me in dismay, then look at Mum and sympathise. I hear them remarking how much better it is to have me at home than in an asylum.

And so I feel when I tell Dad I have diaries and stories of various half finished kinds making up another million. It’s not that tears fill his eyes, its not that his lip begins to quiver, but you know he is feeling despair.

‘Too many words,’ were his words of dismissal or encouragement for lyrics to a song. Lyrics.

Not that I’ve failed to climb the ladder of some multi-national, not that I’m so impoverished (and inclined) that I’m temporarily living at home, but because I have expended so much time and effort getting nowhere (flagellation in a corner for my own self satisfaction).

Must I prove anything to him (or anyone else?)

I’ve shown that I’m capable of writing for a living, but incapable of boxing my words into a neat publishable package, incapable of deriving any satisfaction except from my own way of doing (and saying) things.

My life in a box

Moving my life from place to place in boxes has become my way: from mother packed trunks and tuck boxes at school, to the castle and stately home covered Post Office cardboard ones I filled with my books and stationery in London, to the yellow French cardboard boxes filled with the scraps of Paris.

‘My Life in a Box,’ always (nearly always) on the move.

Where next? It’s something to be settling, but back to Paris first, then Prague or Milan? Anywhere to fill my words with experiences (or my experiences with words). The awfulness of television – a 1946 perspective Anais Nin wrote in 1946 about the awfulness of television. Fifty years later I feel we have gone (are going through) a new phase. So much of experience is television that fiction must go beyond the first reflection of reality and reflect the reflection.

Decades on my boxes are now ‘Really useful.’ Is this because we cannot afford the furniture or don’t want to purchase the furniture or because I want to be ready to move on?

Instead of holding a mirror up to reality, we must hold up a mirror to the reality already reflected in TV. Our fiction must be that much more extreme, more violent, more cookie, bigger, bolder, brasher, faster. I’ve gone this far. Crude. Violent. Pat Califia kind of stuff. Scary. Nightmarish.

Gulp it down – TV overload

Audiences (and readers) are used to gulping it all down in an over-spiced smorgasbord of channels. Can I deliver?

‘The secret of a full life is to live and relate to others as if they might not be there tomorrow, as if you might not be there tomorrow. It eliminates the vice of procrastination, failed communications, failed communions. This thought has made me more and more attentive to all encounters, meetings, introductions which might contain the seed of depth that might be carelessly overlooked. This feeling has become a rarity, and rarer every day now that we have reached a hastier and more superficial rhythm, now that we believe we are in touch with a great amount of people, more people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch with a great amount of people, more countries. This is the illusion which might cheat us of being in touch deeply with the one breathing next to us. The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.’ (Anais Nin, Vol 4, Journals, May 1946).

Inspired to be up and at it!

For the second night in a row Darlingest has been up typing a marketing essay into my Amstrad. This morning I came down at 5.00 a.m. and joined her. Two hours later I am still writing.

We are joined by Mum; she too wished she was ‘up and at it.’

I agree. She should be painting, not worrying about the time of day (or night), what the neighbours think or the would be purchasers of her house. We joke in the family that Mum likes to keep the house tidy and bare as if it is up for sale. I must get her to read Anais Nin’s Journals about a woman’s struggle to find her creative outlet. To write you have to read. If you want to read a ‘how to write book’ (or books), read Henry Miller and Anais Nin.

Between them, across everything they wrote, Henry Miller and Anais Nin have produced a library on how to write.

Ray Bradbury, with an abundance of gusto, does the same in one slim volume, ‘Zen in the Art of Creative Writing.’ Zen in the Art of Creative Writing. Whilst I don’t hold Ray Bradbury in the same esteem as Henry Miller or Anais Nin, but ‘Zen’ is worth reading.

On keeping a diary online

‘When people ask me how to keep a Diary, I refer them to Ira Progoff’s Intensive Journal [method]….One cannot help being amazed by what emerges from this skilled inner journey. All the elements we attribute to the poet, the artist, become available to everyone, to all levels of society.’

Anais Nin

  • How to start your diary
  • In ‘The New Diary’ Tristine recommends that you:
  • Begin with a self-portrait
  • Begin with a period
  • Begin with today

Each time I come back to a blog after an absence of weeks, months or years I approach it in one of these ways: I assess who I am, go over the previous period when I’ve been away from the diary, and count these musings as my first entry.

From Ira Progoff’s A Journal Workshop seven useful techniques for diary writing are offered:

  1. List or Period Log
  2. Portrait or Life History Log
  3. Map of consciousness (Recapitulations and rememberings)
  4. Stepping Stones/Scenes from our lives
  5. Twilight Imagery Log
  6. Altered point of view
  7. Unsent letter
  8. Dialogue Dimension

Then read a few inspiring blogs from fellow OU students such as Rosie Rushton-Stone.

Blogging works – Why you too should keep a diary.

Blogging works – you too should keep a diary.

Don’t think its anything new, this one dates to the 16th century. Lady Anne Clifford would know how to build a website and keep a blog. She did.

You can always go private.

Edit, then publish later. Or password protect so only a few get to read.

To give you confidence.

To become emboldened.

Start small. 50 years before Twitter there was the Five Year Diary. This is mine. I think the entries here are around 140 character.

‘Maketh up a quote at ye beginning of thy book; it will make people think thou art clever.’

Christopher Marlowe ‘The Obscure Tragedie’ Act II, Scene ii.

The following comes from a seminal book on diary keeping by Tristine Rainer.

Here are some key thoughts:

Some of this thinking can be brought up to date in the context of keeping a diary online; the essential principals remain the same.

A dairy is many things:

‘Everything and anything goes. You cannot do it wrong. There are no mistakes. At any time you can change your point of view, your style, your book, the pen you write with, the direction you write on the pages, the language in which you write, the subjects you include, or the audience you write to. You can misspell, write ungrammatically, enter incorrect dates, exaggerate, curse, pray, write poetically, eloquently, angrily, lovingly. You can past in photographs, newspaper clippings, cancelled checks, letters, quotes, drawings, doodles, dried flowers, business cards, or labels. You can write on lined paper or blank paper, violet paper or yellow, expensive bond or newsprint.’

Tristine Rainer, ‘The New Diary’ 1976.

Is this so different to blogging 25 years on?

Not at all. I go with the view of Reconstruction 6.4 that a blog is like paper, as versatile, but online.

Think about. I have and academic ‘papers’ have been written on the theme.

‘Flow, spontaneity and intuition are the key words. You don’t have to plan what you are going to do. You discover what you have done once you have set it down.’Tristine Rainer.

Keep it all in one place

‘When the dreams like next to the fantasies, and political thoughts next to personal complaints, they all seem to learn from each other.’

  • This works for blogging:
  • Write Spontaneously
  • Write quickly
  • This is so that you don’t know what will come next.
  • How the unexpected can happen.
  • Surprise yourself.
  • Write Honestly

Be open about what you really feel.

Few diaries actually lie to themselves in a dairy, but many out of shyness with themselves avoid writing about the most intimate aspects of a situation.

Write Deeply

Anais Nin, disappointed with her childhood diaries, developed the practice of sitting quietly for a few minutes before beginning to write. She would close her eyes and allow the most important incident or feeling of the day or of the period of time since she last wrote to surface in her mind.

That incident or feeling became her first sentence.

Write Correctly

  • Expressive language is not a science.
  • There are no rules.
  • You are writing for yourself, so self-expression is the key.
  • Test the range of your natural voice – it will develop.
  • Errors are part of the form of the diary, as they are part of life.

Blogging for Dummies claims this thinking for itself, treating the ideas of others like a tumble-dryer of ideas from which you can pick willy-nilly.

Choose your audience Your best audience is your future self.

In ten years time you won’t remember the situation unless you capture all its sensual vitality now.

My frustration is with the new comers jumping on the blogging bandwagon professing to know all about social media (including blogging). They don’t unless they have done it; I have. I do.

Value contradictions

In time they will develop towards a larger truth; leave them in.

‘Some diarists find when they go several weeks without writing they begin to feel off balance and take it as a signal that they are avoiding the inner self.’

Those of us who keep a diary regularly are stuck with it; whether it appears online, and which bits of appear online is another matter.

‘We taught the diary as an exercise in creative will; as an exercise in synthesis; as a means to create a world according to our wishes, not those of others; as a means of creating the self, of giving birth to ourselves.’

Anais Nin, December 1976.

There’s more to follow from Tristine Rainer on basic diary devices and special techniques.

The Marlowe quote is John O’Farrel’s invention and appears in ‘I blame the scapegoats.’ A diary cannot be ghost written, I’m sure some blogs.

A corporate blog isn’nt a blog it’s a online brochure.

21 reasons to blog

‘It seems to me that I follow only the most accessible thread. Three or four threads may be agitated, like telegraph wires, at the same time, and if I were to tap them all I would reveal such a mixture of innocence and duplicity, generosity and calculation, fear and courage. I cannot tell the whole truth simply because I would have to write four journals at once. I often would have to retrace my steps, because of my vice for embellishment’.

Anais Nin

(Henry & June, Journals, July 1932)

A diary can be many things:

1) a record of what happens to me and around me each day

2) a notebook for whatever I’m reading

3) a record and analysis of dreams

4) a place to try my hand at exposure

5) a place to describe how it is, or isn’t;

6)a place to practise lies

7) a place to drill, thrill and hone my skill

8) a place to underplay, exaggerate or avoid

9) a place to lose myself in Truth

10) a place to play

11) a place where a blank pages means something as a day missed is a day when I’m too ill, too depressed, too drunk or too bored with it writers keep diaries to record events -a writer’s journal I do this; working up events until they have become more real that reality as I obscure what happened with scene setting detail and by bringing narrative order to the muddle of a daily life.

12) At times I write as a drill, to practice, at others because I feel an obligation, it is what I do most days, every day.

13) I use these pages to extract a writing style and extricate myself from the bland.

Lately a form has emerged as I tripped and stumbled over a keyboard I’ve been hacking at the undergrowth until I have found my way, happily pursing forest paths and following streams back to their source.

14) I keep a diary as a record of events: what I did, where, with whom.

At times I reduce the diary to bullet points, satisfied that I’ve not lost the day forever to obscurity.

As a painter I had to draw what I saw, from reality, not straight out of the mind or by copying.

As a writer I hoped at first that I could write candidly about reality and once I had established that I could progress to fiction.

Do I want to put my life under the microscope?

Am I writing postcards to myself?

It all counts. It all mounts This writing is never supposed to be a draft of anything Francois Truffaut said he felt it was necessary to read everything to give the mind food and things to smart against. It is worth reading all kinds of things.

So how many diaries or journals do I need?

15) a dream book

16) a diary for a straight log of what I did during the day

17) a journal as a notebook (as here)

18) a memory jogger

19) something for assessment/analysis of what I am thinking and reading

20) a scrapbook.

How many is that? Would four do the trick?

You should try it for a year

There comes that moment when you can reflect on what you were doing exactly a year ago amd to feel the same every time another entry is composed.

I kept a five year day for eight years in my early teens: the five lines per day are hopeless unrevealing.

I washed my hair, cleaned out the rabbit kind of thing. Some rare moments bring back the day or event. I began to record dreams in my mid-teens, tiring off it when I found I could recall four or more dreams each night taking several hours to write them up the following day.

I kept a scrapbook and dairy in a ring-bind folder when I went on an exchange with a French boy and repeated this around my 17th birthday, filling a folder in one month and so realising I needed a different approach.

Then I settled for a page of A4 per day every day, not less and rarely more.

21) Write as much or as little as you like.

Being able to write as much as I liked I found myself filling a dozen pages plus and so quickly lost the detail that would have otherwise identified the day, month and year. I wanted to buy a scrapbook again for ages.

Then along came the Web.

Value judgments, CBT, BPD and blogging

As a child my late father labelled me as making too many ‘value judgments.’ It may have stuck. He was equally emphatic about the spelling of judgment, and the correct use of apostrophes.

This tendency to have an emotional response over the objective could compromise how I judge the work of others.

  • Being aware of this ought to help me to form opinions based on facts.
  • Having some understanding of child psychology I also know that labels stick.
  • ‘Money burns a hole in your pocket’
  • I was told (age six, or seven) and so I became this person … or I had confirmation of who I was.

All this I am trying to change.

Tangentially to all of this, eight months of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that was first mooted in 2005, is gradually adjusting my thinking and responses. My habit is to speak first, then think later. The same applies to what I write, particularly in a blog, an environment in which I have written, as I please, when I please and how I please for a decade. CBT ought to be turning off the negative, making me less prone to lash out; so far, so good. Where I am conscious I still fail is the willingness to agree with everyone & say ‘yes’ to everything in order to please. Later I begin to regret the view I had taken or the decision I had taken. Too phrases I need to use often are, ‘let me give that some thought …’ or ‘that’s interesting, let me get back to you …’

I know that there are many kinds and forms of blog.

As ‘entities’ I wonder even if a ‘blog’ is a suitable term where this space has many different uses & expectations imposed on it. Online Journal, E.Text book, e.notes … or the term I used, even registering the domain name in 2000 ‘The Contents of my Brain’ or ‘TCMB.’ i.e. in goes everything, a decade ago with no readily available function to ‘expose’ all or to ‘share’ with a define audience or readership.

Where in lies the next issue. If a blog, like a log or a journal or a diary is written for and by one author then by its nature it is likely to be more honest if kept locked and private. As I know, a blog, like a diary, becomes a very different thing once it is published or in the case of the Internet, ‘out there.’ Think of Anais Nin and her Journals.

Blogs are not what they used to be.

In 1998 those who blogged might have been shipwrecked travellers on a small island – it didn’t take long to suss each other out. Some wrote for the sake of it, others had something to say … one or two were innovators, and creatives, HTML wizards who constantly played with the possible and what was then impossible.

Mummy has come along and made us put our toys away

Many would so this depth of ‘reflection’ is counter-productive. Others argued that a degree of ‘exposure’ is required in order to establish connectivity with like minds and the curious.

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