Once you begin to look for it, you’ll find parallelism everywhere in writing.
Structures balancing each-other delicately, ideas presented equally side-by-side; clauses that share similar openings, or perhaps those which share similar ends; and lists that don’t read like lists because of how smoothly they flow from point to point.
Parallelism creates consistency, inspires interest and signposts style.
Language works in wonderful and mysterious ways. Idioms are responsible for a decent chunk of this wonder.
To someone just learning English, Bob’s your uncle means something very different to what we understand that it means.
In becoming an idiom, the phrase has come to mean something beyond the literal sum of it’s parts.
Idoms are shared through place, but also shift through generations.
We don’t use ‘spend a penny’ to describe taking a leak anymore because we don’t use pennies, nor do we pay to use public restrooms.
For those unfamiliar with the weight categories in fighting, punching above one’s weight might not be a naturally obvious phrase.
And unless you’ve lived out bush, it’s unlikely that you’d ever understand why a cup of tea which is too hot was brewed with short sticks (it’s because kindling on a fire generates more heat that embers or logs).
Take time to catalogue the idioms you know, and the ones you’re at risk of letting go if any certain person in your life were to hit the road.
In a letter to his daughter of 15 after her enrolment in high school, the great F.Scott Fitzgerald heralded some poignant advice to writers;
“Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
He argues that brilliant writing is original in both form and theme.
It’s not enough to have a story worth telling, nor is it enough to have mastered the technicalities of the craft.
The best storytellers find a way to execute both.
It’s not easy. But as Fitzgerald himself said later on in the same letter to his daughter,
Seth Godin makes a hugely insightful point in his riff on Theodore Levitt’s famous quarter-inch drill bit quote.
People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill bit. They want a quarter-inch hole.
Theodore Levitt, Harvard Marketing Professor
Godin argues that it’s not even the hole that people want.
It’s not the shelf they plan on installing on the brackets they’re going to drill into the hole.
What people want are the feelings they’re able to access now that they have the drill bit; the feeling of pride when they install the shelf by themselves, the gratification of pleasing their spouse, or the safety and security they might experience when then can put all their things on the shelf, and keep their space tidy and organised.
This is important for marketers to understand, but equally important for us to understand as consumers.
When we spend (be it our money or our time), what are the feelings we’re trading for?
Are we being capitalised upon?
Are we making decisions which will serve us over time?
That next Big Mac might feel incredible at the time, but it won’t an hour later. And if that feeling you purchased diminished so quickly, what will it’s value be in twenty years when your health catches up with you?
People are plagued by the fact that we always want, but don’t always know what we want.
Learning to want less, and more specifically is the trick.
Nobody wants a quarter-inch drill bit – but we all want to feel safe, healthy, respected and loved.
Today marks 100 days of putting my thoughts on the line.
Three months feels like a blink. But in such a short time, this already feels like one of the most meaningful commitments I’ve ever managed to uphold.
In honour of that, it seems like as arbitrary a time as any to look back, reflect and take a moment to thank those of you who’ve been the fertiliser to my grass-roots.
The growth I’ve experienced over the past few months has been overwhelming. I’ve written some crap, and I’ve written some work that I’m intensely proud of.
Having a tangible accumulation of ever-improving work is something I still can’t wrap my head around; some posts I was proud of two months now embarrass me to revise.
I can see the weeks where I allowed myself to be tired or overworked.
I can pick out the posts I published in a rush at 11:58pm instead of getting writing done in the morning.
The clear disparity in the quality of that work motivates me to take care of myself properly.
Beyond all that, I’ve benefited hugely from cataloguing a d categorising my thoughts.
By organising thoughts into the ‘clusters’ in the menu bar, I’ve been able to refer back to information quickly when I’ve needed it.
When I started out, I didn’t think I’d go back re-consider content nearly as much as I do. I revisit the ruckus cluster often, usually when I need a boost.
In terms of readership, the views and visitors to the site have been on a slow but steady incline.
These metrics aren’t what I measure the success of the blog by, but the fact that there is an upwards trend means that more people are hearing about the blog.
Because I don’t pay to advertise the blog anywhere, this means that a significant portion of this extra traffic will be from word-of-mouth.
If you’ve been a part of that, thank you.
Seriously. Some of the most delightful conversations I’ve had in the past few months have sprouted from;
“Hey! I read that thing you posted about…”
Conversations like that mean everything to me. And if you’re someone who regularly likes, comments on, shares or talks about my content, you’re responsible for a portion of that joy.
Thanks also to those of you who have followed the blog on WordPress, or via email.
There’s more than 50 of you now, and while I’m sure that at least a couple of you are Russian bots, I know that there’s a chunk of you who are lovely, real, genuine people.
It means a great deal that you’re willing to get notified every time I put something out there (not just when it’s good enough for me to share it on a social platform).
Launching this site has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing, but it’s also fundamentally changed the way I think.
It’s hard to express how valuable forcing myself to constantly seek out stimulating information to distill has been. Every day brings with it a looming pressure to notice things, and I’ve never felt more engaged with the world.
So far I’ve had the opportunity to share 2374 views with 1408 visitors, through 37,212 words.
Martin McDonagh’s debut film, In Bruges(2008) remains one of my all time favourites.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched it. But every time I do, I discover another brilliant spec of writing that I hadn’t noticed before – there isn’t a wasted line, and every moment has relevance outside of the scene it takes place in.
If you think you found something inconsequential… Watch it again. The film is that tight.
Some of the jokes haven’t aged well, there’s a lot of swearing (in typical Irish fashion) and the plot is dark, but McDonagh’s uncanny ability to generate and string together tension results in the kind of sharp, dark, hysterical character driven drama which has become a staple of his work.
The thing I didn’t know until today (which has brought McDonagh back to the forefront of my mind) is that the Irish writer is also responsible for one of my favourite plays; The Lieutenant Of Inishmore(2001).
Learning this was a penny-drop moment for me. Finally, I think I understand why these films resonate with me so deeply; I fell in love with with the stories McDonagh tells for the same reason that I fell in love with theatre.
I adore stories where complex characters navigate tragic circumstances in the imperfect ways that humans do.
Dramatic theatre has an easier time with this, because its nature implies a restraint that modern cinema simply doesn’t have to worry about.
There aren’t any Michael Bay explosion sequences at the theatre.
Instead, playwrights rely on their characters to generate tension, set stakes scenes and drive plot.
McDonagh is an expert at crafting morally ambiguous characters and smashing them together to create tragedy, and it pleases me to no end that he’s able to translate this skill to the screen – the resulting chaos is so much fun to watch.
All of the works listed tackle horridly dark subject matter in a way which doesn’t shy away or undermine the severity of the tragedies, but still finds the humour in them.
Black comedy is at its best when it allows us to consider the most challenging aspects of the human condition in the most human way we know how, seamlessly blending tragedy and comedy to incite catharsis.
He knows exactly when to let the audience sit in a tragic moment, and when to loose the tension in a scene through a well written joke. Funny moments aren’t tacked on to scenes for cheap release, they are embedded deeply within those scenes.
When our lives become too much, we generally respond by laughing or crying.