A book I need to read

I’ve never read Anne Frank’s diary. After reading the quotation below, I think I’ve been missing someone who was a prodigy. I mean, how many 14-year-olds write like this?:

“I am the best and sharpest critic of my own work. I know myself what is and what is not well written. Anyone who doesn’t write doesn’t know how wonderful it is; I used to bemoan the fact that I couldn’t draw at all, but now I am more than happy that I can at least write. And if I haven’t any talent for writing books or newspaper articles, well, then I can always write for myself.”

Anne Frank, “I Want to Write” (1944), in The Living Language 386, 387 (Linda A. Morris et al. eds., 1984). (Source: Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day.)

Sherry Fowler closes one blog, opens another, and gives us all a lesson in writing

After a little more than three years' writing Stay of Execution, Sherry Fowler has decided to close the book on that blog. Her last post on Stay of Execution, a story about some yellow underpants, is a lesson in how to write. If you dabble in writing, you should read it.

Sherry has started a new blog, Stay, in which she plans to play with her camera and with some short writing exercises. I think there's a lesson here in how to grow: being willing to let go of old things and embrace new things.

Painting with words

As a blogger, brief writer, and occasional author or editor of articles, I sometimes fall into this conceit of thinking that I'm a Writer. Then I read something that reminds me that of the difference between my kind of writing and the kind of writing that, say, Walker Percy did, is; it's like the difference between painting a house and painting the Mona Lisa. Take, for instance, this passage by Walker Percy, from Signposts in a Strange Land. Walker is describing his uncle, Will Percy, who raised him from the age of 13 to adulthood:

For his eyes were the most memorable, a piercing gray-blue and strangely light in my memory, as changeable a shadows over water, capable of passing in an instant, we were soon to learn, from merriment—he told the funniest stories we'd ever heard—to a level gray gaze cold with reproof. They were beautiful and terrible eyes, eyes to be careful around. Yet now, when I try to remember them, I cannot see them otherwise than as shadowed by sadness.

Garner's Usage Tip of the Day is back

A couple of years ago, I signed up for Garner's Usage Tip of the Day, a daily e-mail containing one or more selections from Garner's Modern American Usage, with a bonus pithy quotation. Several months ago, the e-mails stopped. But just a few days ago, they re-started. You can subscribe by clicking here.

Yesterday's bonus pithy quotation is an excellent digest of the writing process, applicable to any form of expository writing:

We should "first think, and then write": think till we have thoroughly assimilated our materials and have determined what we would say, and then write as rapidly as possible, with minds not occupied with choice of word or turn of phrase but intent on the subject. After the first draught has been made, we may at leisure attend to matters of detail, criticise from various points of view, curtail here, amplify there, until each part has its due proportion of space and effectiveness; but unless we have a conception of the whole before beginning to write, and unless we write with an eye to that whole, there is little likelihood that our work will be a unit.

— Adams Sherman Hill, The Principles of Rhetoric 243 (rev. ed. 1896).