Writing

In her acceptance speech for the US National Book Award, writer, scientist and ecologist Rachel Carson argued that the arts of science and writing are inextricably linked.

The materials of science are the materials of life itself. Science is part of the reality of living; it is the what, the how, and the why of everything in our experience. It is impossible to understand man without understanding his environment and the forces that have molded him physically and mentally.

The aim of science is to discover and illuminate truth. And that, I take it, is the aim of literature, whether biography or history or fiction; it seems to me, then, that there can be no separate literature of science.

Rachel Carson

Even ficticious work, which does not seek truth in the literal sense, uncovers and explores the nature of humans as we are, have been, and could be.

Science and writing are seperate forms of exploration, unfied by the same motive.

There’s something special about things which are refined; those which are distilled to their purest form. In language is perhaps where that simplicity is at its best.

We each share an intuitive appetite for sentences without fat.

When we receive a direction impossible to understand, or offered compliment so genuine that it doesn’t need to be prefaced, we are engaged in one of the most basic and delightful treasures the human experience has to offer.

The point is to get to the point, with as much precision and clarity as possible.

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.

If you go back just 25 years ago, plagiarism was hard work. One had to go to the library, find sources to copy from, retype those sources and then turn them in as their own. By the time one does all of that, they are a large part of the way to doing a non-plagiarized assignment so there was little benefit to risking punishment and shame.

Plagiarism isn’t necessarily about picking out the wheat from the chaff; it is about copying other peoples work without referencing or acknowledging it.

Whether it is Nick Simmons facing allegations of plagiarism in his comic book, plagiarism in crossword puzzles or accusations of plagiarism in photography, plagiarism is a problem in nearly every single field where creativity is valued.

You might think the one area of academia that would be safe from plagiarism is the research and discussion of plagiarism itself. You’d still be wrong.

In 2017, a paper published in Saudi Arabia on the factors leading to plagiarism, as well as suggested remedies, contained plagiarism. In 2015, an Indian paper presenting guidelines for plagiarism was retracted for, once again, plagiarism.

While such incidents are still very rare, especially when stacked up against other areas of research, even the research of plagiarism is not immune to plagiarism.


Incase it wasn’t obvious, I didn’t write a single word of the post above. The first paragraph was from a 2011 article from plagarismtoday.com, the second from an article by Zack Whittaker for iGeneration, and the closing paragraphs were plucked straight from a blog post on Turnitin’s website (the academic plagiarism checker my university uses).

Our ideas, once posted, are no longer safe. But when you’re giving them away, it’s hard to be bothered by anyone stealing them.

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.

Hey hey,

A little while ago I mentioned that I was preparing a book pitch and the first 5000 words of a creative non-fiction text. Today that draft was due.

7681 words, way too many hours of reading, and one mad scramble later, I’ve submitted it for my first round of formal feedback. But I felt I’d be remiss not to ask for your feedback too.

This is a link to the first draft. I have my own thoughts about what I like and what I think needs to change, but I don’t want to influence your read.

If you have the time and the inclination, I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have.

You can reach me via any of the usual means, but here is a link to an anonymous feedback form which you can use if you’d prefer.

Much love,

-Luke

It’s fascinating how quickly originality devolves.

Cliches are cliches for a reason. At their core is something pure and magical – they’ve just been done to death.

Nobody wants to hear another poem about a rose or song about crying in the rain.

… Unless you can find a way to do so with unique specificity.

There’s nothing interesting about a man reading a paper on a park bench.

But there’s everything interesting about a man reading a paper on a park bench if he smells distinctly of leeks and there’s a squirrel eating his shoe.

The devil (and the beauty) is in the details.

Here’s a few things I’m pretty convinced are true;

  1. There is a constant war being fought for the attention of our digital selves which is having dramatic adverse effects on people’s happiness, especially amongst digital natives who have never known a world without digital media;

  2. Activities practiced regularly which reward participants for consistent time investment over many years are essential to a meaningful life;

  3. The instant dopaminergic gratifications available through social media and the 24-hour news cycle are training us against investing time into activities which generate meaning over time;

  4. Therefore, it is necessary to reframe the benefits of investing time and energy into skills and activities which create meaning and value over time for those who don’t understand this intuitively.

There’s something spectacular about the first fully formed words which a child is able to piece together.

We all know the classics. My sister’s first (and still favourite) word was ‘No’. My partner’s first word was ‘Dad’, which she swears was a deliberate effort on her Mum’s part to make him feel specially requested by his little girl when her cries woke them in the night.

Mine were odd. At the time, I was obsessed with a little picture book full of animals and colours. My first words were from my favourite page, ‘Grey duck.’

If you, your children or anyone you know had an interesting first word, or were well trained to say something strategic, I want to hear it.

Moments like these are worth savouring.

Today I agreed to the terms of a big project with a mentor I value greatly.

We discussed objectives, expectations and a timeline. We scheduled meetings and identified the research I need to complete before starting.

I was warned not to work too hard over Christmas (a holiday I don’t care for), lest I spoil it for myself.

And at by end of our conversation we had a agreement;

On February 18th 2020 I will deliver the first 5000 words of a creative non-fiction text accompanied by a book proposal.

Exactly how this will go, at this point, is impossible to tell.

While the prospect a full length book is daunting, but there is no doubt in my mind that I can get the work done. What’s up for debate is whether or not it’ll be any good.

If it is, 2020 could shape up to be a year to remember. If not, there’ll be a whole lot of learning which gets done.

Either way, the possibility that I could be on the path to authorship as early as February excites my every fibre.

Watch this space. Big things are inbound.