The first challenge of all writers is to find a voice. How will you speak to your reader? As a sober-minded teacher? As a just-the-facts-ma’am reporter? As an open, inquisitive questioner? As a jokey, smart-alecky ham? As an engaging raconteur? At the heart of Brian Williams’s Embellishgate is his failure to find his voice. On the […]

Moment by Moment

The defining moment in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird comes when Anne’s younger brother panics the night before a school assignment is due. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by […]

The Power of the Fairy Tale

The master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, often stepped away from the movie set to refer to a small guide called “Plotto” The guide lists three 92 ideas that can be mixed and matched to create 1,462 permutations of scene and story, each with a beginning, middle, and end. The ideas were elemental, involving love and […]

The Mighty Pinker Has Struck Out

Somewhere, right now, someone is bemoaning the decline of writing. Grammar scolds lay down the law on the “proper” ways to speak and write. Business executives complain about the poor quality of emails. Government bureaucrats wade through piles of regulatory documents, sending some back for rewrites. And of course teachers grouse that texting and social […]

On the Power of Stories in Medicine … Cliches … Sounds … Monopolies … And More

Note Bene | Words, Words, Words | Quote/Unquote | The Business of Writing | Publisher’s Row Note Bene Peter Kramer, the author of Listening to Prozac and other popular medical works, writes passionately in The New York Times about the power of stories to guide medical care. In recent years, Kramer says, the medical profession […]

The NaNoWriMo Survival Kit

The first piece of advice that all writers get is to “write what you know.” By the time we have decided to write for an audience—to share thoughts, voluntarily, with anyone who will listen—we have developed a whole store of experiences and memories, thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears, and insights and ideas. In other […]

Writers as Innovators

Take a look at my review of Walter Isaacson’s new book The Innovators here. While working on the review, I kept thinking about how the lessons of innovation apply to thinking and writing. Some quick thoughts: 1. The Combining Process: “What is imagination?” Ada Lovelace, one of the early visionaries of computing, asked in 1841. […]

On Storytelling, Violence in the NFL, Discovery, Amazon, and Processing Trauma

Note Bene | Winners and Sinners | Quote/Unquote | Riffing on Writing | Research | The Business of Writing | The Psychology of Writing | Publisher’s Row Note Bene Joanne Yatvin, a veteran English teacher and author, talks about what writers need to master the craft: More than lessons on how to write an effective argument or an informational piece students need to immerse themselves in the worlds of stories, […]