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‘And so to bed’. Learn to blog with Samuel Pepys and this wonderful BBC dramatisation of his diaries
This first episode is a wonderful interplay between domestic and civil life, the prospect of joining the ship that will fetch the King from exile, while the ‘wench’ who works for them refuses to kill the turkey they’ve been feeding up because it’s her friend.
On the 1st of January 1660, the 26 year old Samuel Pepys decides to start keeping a diary.
How many of us have begun on the 1st of January never to get beyond the month? Or choose to pick it up again after an absence. Don’t let this be an excuse, start now. What did you have for breakfast? And if that’s too mundane what’s you solution to the debt crisis?
In the first episode Pepys is behind with his rent, he gets drunk and both he and his wife wish for a family. Pepys reflects on the great events of the 17th century but he also tells us what people ate, wore, what they did for fun, the tricks they played on each other, what they expected of marriage, and of love affairs.
In this episode some house guests play a game after dinner called ‘Getting Married’. By all accounts it sounds like a 17th century invitation to do some wife-swapping.
This BBC radio drama is on every day at 10.45 and again in the evening at 19.45. Episode 2 today.
You can follow Samuel Pepys on Twitter. You get regular 140 characters or less updates.
Read his diary, offered on a the basis of ‘on this day 350 years ago.’
Nothing’s changed much, the most important things in our life are loves, family and friends.
Our lives may touch on the politics and events of the time, they may not. Pepys got through the restoration of the King, Plague and the Fire of London.
He so often ends is entry with, ‘and so to bed’.
This reflects the typical keeper of a written diary, you tend to use the evening to catch up. I have to wonder if he had given up the diary he may have produced some children. I stopped keeping a diary on getting engaged after 16 years of writing – I had better things to do in bed than prop myself up on one and scribble secret notes into a hardback book. In any, there is no longer a best time to ‘blog,’ Twitter like you can post an entry whenever you like, as the events unfold or as a thought crosses your mind.
For radio for boring bits have been left out; it therefore reads like a novel.
Not a recommended style for these pages, but great for an external blog in WordPress (HERE), Blogger or LiveJournal. Or my favourite, Diaryland.
How, where and when do you learn?
Think about your own learning – the resources and tools you use, where and when it takes place.
Early mornings from 4.00am, weekends, mornings only ’til 10.00 or so.
Occasionally some reading in the evening.
But vicariously too, in a conversation, or going for walk, say looking at pebbles and shell washed up on the shore, or the layers of deposits in a chalk cliff.
What is your experience of being a learner?
If I’m not learning something new or building on my knowledge I am bored. I’m staggered I survived formal learning, I found the Oxford approach tedious, skipped all lectures, and relied instead on libraries and Blackwells which could between them supply every book or journal I wanted.
I failed to get far with a correspondence course on writing.
I learn best with a mixture of doing, reading/workshops and further application. I can be inspired or frustrated by my peer group. They can be a vital part of the mix, a course I did across Europe having the most refreshing mix of people.
What tools and resources do you use?
I’m slowly getting it all down to the iPad for its speed to the web, then grabbing and pasting into websites that I use as folders, eportfolios, writer’s journal as well as open blogs. I also chuck things into my email folders to collate, aggregate or check through later.
What are your views on different technologies?
I make the time to try most things and will become temporarily hooked. Currently fixated on Linkedin, WordPress blogs and Stumbleupon.
Likely to read most content as an eBook putting notes into iWriter. This is in stark contrast to printing everything off a year ago then filing it.
Forever grabbing screenshots or taking pics that go from Picasa to Picasa Web and then into blogs.
Can you think of examples where technology has made a significant difference to the way you learn?
When I started the MAODE I fell back on methods I had used during A’ levels snd quickly filled several files.
A year on and I hold the iPad in my right hand and manage a kind of touchtyping with the other. I try not to rely on harddrives and memory sticks instead putting it online, increasingly as private or password protected entries in a number of blogs hat act as themes or categories.
I would worry about learning away from The OU and finding the VLE not up to scratch or being cut-off from fellow students.
Can you think of counter examples where you had a bad experience of a particular technology?
I hate Outlook and Excel.
I both instances I feel the nerd has taken over, that my mothball of a mnd is being shoe-horned into a match-box. Worse, My unregimented, freefalling, excitable mind is being containerised, my best thoughts quaterised. It disables some minds and enables the petty. These are to me like walking in crocodiles to the school dining hall; they are overly prescriptive.
I am starting to hate Word 2011 in favour of an iPad App, iWriter which is less like trying to write while dressed as a Morris Dancer and playing the Great Whurlitzer.
Interested in the potential of computers I joined an undergraduate group in 1983 but found having to learn programming was akin to sticking stamps onto envelopes with my toes.
I used interactive DVDs successfully to learn AdobePhotoshop, FilemakerPro and Dreamweaver.
Simply a voice talking through the screen shots then getting you to do the same. The next best thing to having someone sit at your side and be your guide.
All self-paced, vital as I might prefer to do 20 intensive hours in one shot rather than nibbling at it.
What did this do to your motivation for learning?
There must be intrinsic motivation.
How did you deal with the situation?
Giving up. Which I know now was unnecessary. Thinking my mind isn’t suited to a thing instead of tackling it.
Support is vital.
Some formal training, then support at your shoulder. Time to figure it out. Understanding as you get it wrong. Those expert at these things can be unsympathetic to new comers, assuming their knowledge, rather that helping or nuturing.
Had the motivation been there could I have found my own way into the technology I do wonder.
I love the intuitive, where the learning is self-directed and incremental. Anything that needs an instruction manual or behaves like the off-side rule will put me off.
I love the Sony flip. IT just does video. Like Google ‘just does search’.
Excessive bells and whistles should be offered as Apps to add later rather than being offered up front.
Visualing metaphors I use to explain learning online:
It is like the letter a …
- A dandelion in seed (Content online)
- The solar system (Social Media Networks)
- Drops of ink in water (Content online)
Akin to my ever changing Personal Learning Environment mindmap:
- Lichen (How your knowledge grows/links)
- Ball-bearings (Dependency and interaction)
- A map (layouts, representation)
- The water-cycle (Binary code as water molecules)
- A Catherine-wheel (Spinning beautifully then falling of its stand!)
- A glider riding a thermal (Personal development)
- Delibes, Lakme. (Music as metaphor. Dance. Entanglement. Rising)
- Learning to sight read music
- Soaring and bound
- Swimming pool (coaching/training)
Each might emphasise different aspects of the process: –
- What is being learnt
Ways of expressing yourself
- Shared experience
What artifacts (tools, resources, etc.) are being used?
Where and when things are happening
- MRI scan
- Engestrom’s activity systems
- Google Images
- David Mcandless
Some thoughts on writing by Norman Mailer
From ‘The Spooky Art’
‘Over the years, I’ve found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing.
It’s a simple rule
If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time.
Count on me
You are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.
The point is that you have to maintain trustworthy relations.
If you wake up in the morning with a hangover can cannot get to literary work, your unconscious, after a few such failures appear, will withdraw.’
‘If you are ready to look upon your unconscious as a curious and semi alienated presence in yourself with whom you have to maintain decent relations – if you are able to see yourself as some sort of careless general and picture the unconscious as your often unruly cohort of troops – then, obviously, you wouldn’t dare to keep those troops out in the rain too long; certainly not at the commencement of any serious campaign. On the contrary, you make a pact: “work for me, fight for me, and I will honour and respect you.”’
‘To repeat: The rule is that if you say to yourself you are going to write tomorrow, then it doesn’t matter how badly you’re hungover or how promising is a sudden invitation in the morning to do something more enjoyable. No, you go in dutifully, slavishly, and you work.
This injunction is wholly anti-romantic in spirit
But if you subject yourself to this impost upon yourself, this diktat to be dependable, then after a period of time – it an take weeks, or more – the unconscious, nursing its disappointments, may begin to trust you again.’
‘On the other hand, you can sometimes say to yourself, “I’m not going to work tomorrow,” and the unconscious may even by now be close enough in accord not to flood your mind with brilliant and all-too-perishable material.
That is also important
Because in the course of going out and having the lively day and night you’re entitled too, you don’t want to keep having ideas about the book you’re on. Indeed, if you are able on your day off to avoid the unpleasant condition of being swarmed with thoughts about a work-in-progress when there is no pen in your hand, then you’ve arrived at one of the disciplines of a real writer. ‘
He wraps it up:
‘The rule in capsule
If you fail to show up in the morning after you vowed that you would be at your desk as you went to sleep last night, then you will walk around with ants in your brain.
Rule of thumb
Restlessness of mind can be measured by the number of promises that remain unkempt.’
When does a diary become a blog and is it diminished as a result?
In the Guardian Review, March 2003, William Boyd discussed the journal
‘There are many sort of journal: journals written with both eyes fixed firmly on posterity and other that were designed never to be read by anyone but the writer. There are journals content to tabulate the banal and humdrum details of ordinary lives and journals meant expressly to function as a witness to momentous events of history. There are journals that act as erotic stimulants or a psychoanalytic crutch and there are journals designed simply to function as an aide-memoire, perhaps as a rough draft for a later, more polished account of life and so on. But buried within these varying ambitions and motivations is a common factor that unites all these endeavours – the aspiration to be honest, to tell the truth. The implication being that in the privacy of this personal record, things will be said and observations made that couldn’t or wouldn’t be uttered in a more public forum. Hence the adjective “intimate” so often appended to the noun “journal”. The idea of secret diaries, of intimate journals, somehow goes to the core of this literary form: there is a default-setting of intimacy – of confession – in the private record of a life that not only encourages the writing of journals but also explains their fascination to the reader.’ William Boyd
I’ve written here often enough about why we blog.
I’d love to hear what you think. Why do we do it? The ‘we’ being the obsessive journal writers. I’m trying to gather ‘you’ (vous i.e. plural) into this debate.
William Boyd’s to Ten Journal Keepers
James Boswell http://www.jamesboswell.info/literature/boswells-london-journal-1762-1763
Keith Vaughan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keith_Vaughan
Paul Klee. http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Paul_Klee
Evelyn Waugh http://evelynwaughsociety.org/about-evelyn-waugh/diaries-letters/
Gilbert White http://www.infobritain.co.uk/gilbert_white_biography_and_visits.htm
Cyrical Connolly http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/c/cyril_connolly.html
Virginia Woof http://www.woolfonline.com/?q=diaries/vw/overview
Edmund Wilson http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/books/reviews/12446/
Valery Larbaud http://m.eb.com/topic/330472/Valery-Nicolas-Larbaud
Katherine Mansfield http://www.tusitala.org.uk/blog/katherine-mansfield-the-journal-and-the-collected-stories/
‘It mimics and reflects our own wayward passage through time like no other writing form.’
‘You have to be dead to escape the various charges of vanity, of special-pleading, of creeping amour-propre.’
My diary http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diary
My deleterious exploits.
I’ve been at for thirty years; that isn’t a boast, it’s an confession. What Boyd says is true too, there’s no value in it until I die.
I wonder why? Often. But I do it anyway.
To save events in family life and to capture memories that may serve some literary purpose.
In the past I thought I might achieve something, it would become the record of a successful anything.
I can’t even do this properly.
I have details from estate agents (realtors) in France; I fancy a change. Different language, different culture, better weather – I should know. I’ve lived and loved there.
On vera. Il faut …
And the words fail me, I’ve not spoken French for five years and not written it for a decade.
Why keep a diary then put it online?
A diary is many things
‘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.
It is as apt if you are writing a blog. Here are some thoughts
Some of this thinking can be brought up to date in the context of keeping a diary online; the essential principles 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.
‘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.
Write quickly so that you don’t know what will come next. How the unexpected can happen. Surprise yourself.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
P.S. The Marlowe quote is John O’Farrel’s invention and appears in ‘I blame the scapegoats.’