Psychology of writing: word accessibility

You can pick out a skilled painter or draftsman because they keep their eyes on the canvas or paper without having to constantly check every line they draw by comparing it to the model or original image, or having to look up, again and again, pictures of what they have to draw on google images. They trust their instincts and skill, and their lines are precise, and they have developed the necessary muscle memory that allows them to be skillful artists.

All the arts have that, a combination of skill, knowledge, and automatism that baffles the uninitiated. It’s mostly years of experience and practice. Well, I said all the arts, except writing apparently. There doesn’t seem to be a writing equivalent for that process of learning the fundamentals that other arts have, like painting has color, tone, and values, while draftsmanship is mostly line, shadow, and perspective.

Continue reading “Psychology of writing: word accessibility”

November 18 post: Increase your writing output through meticulous timekeeping, precise reinforcements, and pure HATE

I mentioned in the previous post that writing is a very peculiar behavior, with a great chasm between its execution and hypothetical reward. That makes it hard to reinforce, to keep it consistent, comparable to similar activities with equally deferred rewards, like strength sports.

I thought I was being original when I wrote that but reading the papers I had ready for today’s post I noticed I was probably just paraphrasing one of them. It’s from a 1977 paper [1], which includes an introduction and discussion by a psychologist, but the core of the paper is the novelist Irving Wallace explaining his charts and timekeeping methods he used to become a professional writer.

Continue reading “November 18 post: Increase your writing output through meticulous timekeeping, precise reinforcements, and pure HATE”

November 12 post: the participial phrase (-ing verbs) pandemic.

This post has been in my draft folder for a long time. It’s one of the most common issues I see in texts I read or proofread, and it’s also the one that more easily sets me off. I’m talking about the overuse of participial phrases or, as you probably know them, -ing verbs. They are everywhere, and although they can be used correctly, they usually aren’t.

This is the pattern, and once I mention it, you’ll probably recognize it: “Character A did X, Y-ing something else,” or “Protagonist said, twirling his mustache.” The participial phrase is the entire, well, phrase, “twirling his mustache,” not just the word twirling. Grammatically, they usually work as an adjective, modifying a noun or pronoun (like the subject.) I was surprised when I discovered that because I had intuitively thought they worked as adverbs, saying how something was done (How did he say it? Twisting his mustache) but in fact, they modify a noun, here, “Protagonist.” Basically, it’s like saying “The Protagonist, he-who-is-twisting-his-mustache, said.”

Continue reading “November 12 post: the participial phrase (-ing verbs) pandemic.”

Women’s faces? Absolutely haram.

Via the Elder of Ziyon I have discovered this funny bit of Palestinian politics.

There was an election for the Peple’s Committee of the Jenin camp.

Two of the candidates on the winning slate are women.

Here is how the winners were shown on the official Fatah webpage:


The two drawings on the bottom represent the women, named Najat Abu Qatana and Hanadi Abu Qandil (a former prisoner).
This is the official photo of the winners from the Jenin camp Facebook page as well.
Here is how the winners were depicted in the news site
While these media will routinely show faces of women in other cases, there seems to be no pushback that the Jenin committee is clearly so Islamist that they consider the depiction of women to be forbidden.

The high percentage of Palestinians who support fundamentalist interpretations of Islam is a very under-reported story. The last Pew poll on the topic showed that 89% of Palestinians support Sharia being the law of the land.

(h/t Ibn Boutros)

I have decided to improve the images so they get with the times:




Much better now.