How do you

The following is an anecdote told by a senior academic at the farewell for the Vice-Chancellor at My Place of Work yesterday.

J, the senior academic: I asked K [the VC], how do you succeed as Vice-Chancellor?

K: Two words: Good Decisions.

J: How do you make good decisions?

K: One word: Experience.

J: And how do you get experience?

K: Two words: Bad Decisions.

At another function, I had the opportunity to ask the VC how he managed his time and stayed balanced. He told me: “8 hours sleep everyday, and take time out whenever you can.”

Good lessons.

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Me and my writing

Page of writing with broad nib

In case you can’t read my scratchings:

Sometimes my writing is just so I can hold the pen and watch the words come out of the nib, liquidly, with ink in whatever colour I might have chosen (usually an unimaginative shade of blue, or plain black, but that’s not the point.)

Right now I’m writing this with my special-purchased-in-Den Haag-Pelikan with its beautiful bold [i meant broad] nib and just loving how it all feels on its paper. Writing my letters with extra flourishes, just so, because I can.

Writing for the sheer mechanics of writing. I hope I never stop enjoying this aspect of it, too mundane for most, I suppose.


Other times, of course (in fact most times) the writing is because I have something to say. Or I just want to see my words onscreen. (This month’s writing exercises have been challenging, though. I had to stop writing confessional pieces every single day. I don’t think anyone should be subjected to reading that much tripe!)

It’s not just the physical act of writing, pleasurable though I find it, but the thought that’s behind it, the ideas and the choice of words to convey them, the construction of sentences. I love choosing one word over another, exercising my vocabulary muscles.

I was thinking today about my writing and imagining how my writing would be if I wrote as much as I read. (Is there enough time in the day for that much reading and writing?) Presumably – hopefully – my writing skills would improve.

I don’t think I have a book in me. I mean, I’ve never wanted to write a book, or a novel. From time to time I idly toy with the idea of doing a PhD but I don’t know if there’s any topic that would engage me that much.

I already said I have to write a fair bit for my job (email, papers, articles, reports). Ultimately I just want to write better. However that’s defined.


Today’s topic: “Me and my writing”.

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Writing whatever

When I looked at today’s topic*, this morning, my mind went blank.

If I can’t handle a free topic, does this mean I won’t be able to blog once this month is over, and there are no more daily topics to write to?

It will be strange to not have to think about blogging. It will have been two months of daily blogging challenges, will I know what to do with myself when it’s over?

Will I be so relieved at not having to blog that I’ll quit?

And you’ll note I said blogging not writing. Even if I quit blogging I have so much writing to do before this year is over. All work-related. (Maybe that’s why these blogging challenges have been fun, some writing that’s not for work.)

When did this happen, when did my job become so much about writing?

At library school I don’t think there was much emphasis on the fact that when you work in a library, the chances are very high that 1) you won’t ever be called on to catalogue anything, ever, and 2) you will need to be able to speak in public (delivering classes to your clients, or training sessions to your colleagues, for instance), and 3) if you can’t cope with having to learn a lot and very quickly, you will suffer. Oh, and also, that you will need to write lots. Reports and briefing papers and business cases and of course email. I won’t dismiss email as part of the writing task you will have to do, because writing good, clear, concise email is so important.

So anyway, I enjoy and value these blogging challenges as they help me focus more on my writing and put me in the habit of choosing my words, and redrafting and rewriting things.

I do wonder, how many people handwrite their posts before putting them up on their blogs? I’m sure this is very inefficient of me! But I do love to sit with my notebook, pen in hand, nib gliding across the page and thoughts slowly spilling out. Even if it is slower than typing.


*Today’s topic: “Write about whatever you want to”.

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