Monday, July 30, 2007

In My Humble Opinion

I confess I don't understand how anyone can enjoy reading depressing books (Thomas Hardy leaps to mind) that portray life as defeat for the protagonist. I admit that books portraying life as all rainbows and roses are dull, too, but surely there is a happy medium.

To me, books that portray the protagonist in an important conflict, with himself or other people or nature, yet end with said protagonist triumphing in some way are the most satisfying reads. Perhaps the depressing books are touted because they are technically good, but that doesn't strike me as enough to warrant wading through such sad reading. It is true that real life doesn't always come out the way we want it to. We don't always triumph in our conflicts. However, books aren't real life. I would think that ending a book on a hopeful note would give the reader the courage and hope they need to continue with their own struggles.

I suppose I look on books as teaching tools. They portray conflict and then show ways to approach the conflict so that the protagonist overcomes the conflict and is able to put it behind him and move on with his life. Obvious teaching and preaching are also not good, but the example of persisting in the face of conflict surely is a good use of writing talent, rather than portraying gritty realism ending in defeat for our hero.

I realize that there are many viewpoints among people, but I have to wonder if anyone really likes depressing, defeatist books. Do they pretend to like the books because those books are supposed to be intellectually important? I do not believe that intellectual maturity requires that we torture ourselves emotionally. If they really like the negative books, what does that say about their view of life? Are they just naturally pessimistic? I confess I don't know the answer to those questions.

I think that showing a protagonist using all his faculties to overcome a conflict is a more true intellectual exercise. It is also emotionally satisfying. There is no reason that such a book cannot be technically good, as well, if that is what the reader is looking for. On top of everything else, such a book can be an example of persistence and diligence, of how to use one's abilities to their limit to overcome the conflict. It gives hope to the reader that he, too, can overcome the conflicts in his own life. That seems to me to be the best gift that a writer can give to the reading public.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Nature Writing Considerations

I have been mulling over in my mind the various considerations that go into writing about nature. A common approach is to describe one's observations out in the field. This is what readers of nature writing enjoy most--learning about plants and animals and the earth in its natural state. How do the various kinds of animals act? How do they react to the other things in their environment? What about plants? What grows well in the area you are observing? What does it contribute to the environment?

In addition to simply describing observations, what else could go into nature writing? It depends, of course, on your intended audience. Are you going to write in a more technical way, or are you writing for a general audience? The latter would be my own goal--to write so that any reader can enjoy what I have to say and learn a little in the process.

Environmental concerns often enter into nature writing. This is a good thing because I believe that humans should be good stewards of their environments. There is a wide range of opinion on how this should be accomplished, though, and that will affect what outlets are available to you for publication of your nature writing. Some venues will support one viewpoint and others another. I do believe that we need to be aware of how what people do affects the environment. We need to avoid pollution of land and water and air. However, a certain amount of pollution is inevitable in normal human activities. Some blame capitalism, some blame humans en masse, some blame other things.

My personal viewpoint is that the earth was created for the benefit of man. It is a place for people to grow and learn and develop their talents and abilities. It is not okay to trash the environment, but it is okay to use it wisely. I believe that the more property that is in private hands (individuals or businesses), the better the care that property will receive. People are more likely to be careless with that which does not belong to them. If it is theirs, they will want to conserve its resources and use it wisely, preserving it so that it continues to produce food or beauty or whatever it is that is intended.

Writing about nature (or any other subject) helps one to consider his viewpoint and to make decisions about what approach to take. This leads to research and investigation to find information to help make those decisions. It seems to me that writing, whether for publication or not, can help a person solidify his ideas and learn to express them well. It develops talents and abilities in that person. It develops discipline of mind and thought. It can also help those who read the writing to learn and grow and have ideas to consider. For this reason, I write and hope to someday publish some of my work so that others might benefit. In a sense, I am publishing my writing on this and my other blogs, but it is for a somewhat limited number of readers. Still, however small the audience and whether people agree or disagree, they will have something to consider.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Some Links

I have added links to my sidebar now and again, but there are four new ones I especially want to point out because they belong to a friend, Confutus. He has quite a project started having to do with an outline of knowledge and also showing how various subjects connect with one another. The sites he has set up are as follows:

Sapience Knowledge Base

Independent Learning Forum (can also be accessed from the SKB home page)

Independent Learning (blog)

From the Ground (this is more of a political blog)

Come visit these sites and leave comments on the blogs or discuss independent learning on the forum. Anyone who is interested in continued learning will probably find something they are interested in. Also, homeschoolers and unschoolers (a term new to me!) will probably find this useful, too.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Mid-July and we have already surpassed our normal average yearly rainfall this year. It's very green here, with accents of color from the blooming flowers. The birds and insects are out in full force, living their lives with enthusiasm.

I find that I don't remember the identities of many plants and animals that I used to know when I lived in the country. Still, a memory can always be refreshed with the help of a field guide or two. That is a good thing if I want to write about nature!

I splurged this morning on Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape edited by Barry Lopez. It is something of a nature dictionary and promises to be interesting reading. Thanks, Anna Mills, for recommending this book!

Writing is a heady mixture of reading and studying, writing, and experiencing life. It doesn't get any better than this!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Difficulties in Writing

It just isn't easy to write if you are serious about it. You have to have ideas, characters, plot, setting, and so forth. Sometimes one of those will come to you and catch your interest, but you still have to find the right mix of all the others in order to tell your story.

You think about voice and style--what is appropriate to what you are writing? You wouldn't want to write a serious novel in a breezy style. You also need to think about dialogue. How can you write so that all your characters don't sound alike. Then there is viewpoint--first person, third person, sometimes even second person. And which variety of third person or whichever you have chosen? What about length? Is this short story material or novel material? Long poem or short poem? Essay or book-length nonfiction?

You need to start out in a way that will catch your reader's attention and make them want to read more. You have to end the story in a satisfying way so that the reader doesn't feel cheated.

We musn't forget research. You need to know your setting--place and time in history. Even if your work is set in modern times, there will be facts to confirm for your setting and for your plot.

Those things apply to some extent and in some form to poetry and nonfiction, as well as to novels and short stories and other forms of fiction.

It helps to read about writing. Check your library and the internet for information. Check a local bookstore or Amazon or Barnes & Noble for books and magazines. These offer definitions and explanations and how-to guides on all of the above plus marketing. Look around for methods that appeal to you--believe me, they vary a great deal!

Read, read, read. Read in the fields and the genres that interest you. See what others are writing about and how they handle their material.

Write, write, write. Write for yourself. Experiment with different ideas and methods. Find out what type of writing you best like to do and what you have a talent for.

Jot down ideas as they come to you. Many writers carry around notebooks for just this reason. You may think you will remember those thoughts, but they can evaporate in no time, never to be found again.

There is a lot to writing, but there is a lot to anything you care enough about to do well. And above all, enjoy yourself!