Two good pieces of writing

My admiration for Alan Jacobs, both as a writer and a thinker, continues to grow. Today he published an … allegory? … which reimagines the Scouring of the Shire. Not only is it a fine piece of writing, but the outlook it suggests is very much one I’ve come to adopt.

I’ve been wondering what it will take to get me back to writing regularly. I’ve mentioned that I’ve become sick of the sound of my own voice … which makes me think I need to adopt another one, at least for awhile.

I not only admire Derek Sivers as a writer and thinker, I find him inspiring. He doesn’t write often anymore, but when he does he sends an email to everyone on his list with a heads-up. Here’s the piece he published today. It’s really good — spare, insightful, from the heart — like all his pieces.

After reading it I pulled out an index card and a sharpie, wrote “Write like Derek Sivers”, and put the card at the base of my monitor. Perhaps it’ll inspire me to write like Derek Sivers. Or at least to write.

4 thoughts on “Two good pieces of writing

  1. Well, that’s part of it — my sentences desperately need shortening! But I see Sivers’s short, choppy style as flowing out of something deeper, an impulse to present a thought unadorned, rather than obscured by the clutter of explanation, supporting evidence, tangents, and the like. That approach might make it easier for me to get something written — lately I’ve been frustrated that anything I start quickly becomes elaborate and intricate, to no clear purpose.

    There’s also something trendy about the choppy style, it gets used a lot by people who are trying to sell me something. I don’t care for that part. But Sivers isn’t trying to sell me anything, and so I don’t know if his use of the style is necessary to what he’s trying to do or just an irrelevant affectation. I suspect it may be at least important — but maybe not the only way to do it effectively.

  2. I share your frustration with the tendency of my writing to develop long, complicated clauses and interjections. I’ve started simply writing that way, then editing it out when I reread. But some things just *are* more complicated. I’m very frustrated with the mood of our age that everything should be absolute and distillable to one answer. (Weirdly reminiscent of moral theology of the mid-fifteenth century.) I prefer some complexity when it’s called for by the material under discussion.

  3. I prefer some complexity when it’s called for by the material under discussion.


    Well, I’m not coming out against nuanced and complex writing—far from it, I continue to consume plenty, to seek it out, and to appreciate the good stuff when I encounter it. I’m only considering whether it’s more profitable for me to try other equally valuable approaches that are also more in spirit with the times, and with the people I might reach.

    I like the nuanced and complex, but I also like good aphoristic writing—some of it I treasure—and whatever I can say in that format might be more likely to catch the eye of a modern reader, and perhaps stick with them longer. I am definitely out of the business of writing to persuade, maybe even writing to exemplify a way of thinking—but that still leaves a “Have you thought of this?” approach, a way to speak irenically in these extremely contentious times.

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