Conspicuous consumption has a bad reputation, for good reason. It’s about relying on flash rather than substance, status symbols rather than earned admiration.
We can often tell when someone is trying to impress us with flash. Most of the time, we lose respect for that person.
According to a study into the use of jargon titled “ Compensatory Conspicuous Communication,” the same thing may happen when people use jargon in their speech or writing. The research suggests that people sometimes use jargon as “a communicative form of conspicuous consumption.”
The authors of the study start by offering one of the…
Watching the presidential inauguration, I was struck by the comfort I found in the ceremony itself.
The event moved forward through a predictable process rooted in the past. People sang, gave speeches, and administered oaths in a predetermined order. Then the work of the new administration started with process as well, as Vice President Harris swore in senators and President Biden signed executive orders.
While many people, myself among them, greet the new administration with a sense of hope, the hard days ahead will define this term.
Hope and process are necessary companions.
Whenever we start anything major, we’re always…
I lost my maternal grandmother to Alzheimers when I was young. (You might say she lost us first.)
In the decades since, I’ve tried to keep track developments in Alzheimer’s research. But that’s been kind of tough.
Aluminum is the cause? No, wait, that was an artifact of testing. A new drug? Years later, we’ve heard nothing more of it. There have been real breakthroughs in understanding the disease, but few substantive changes in its outlook.
So I was happy to find the book Mind Thief: The Story of Alzheimer’s by Han Yu.
This book explains where we are now…
For a few years in my late 30s, I was a poet.
I’d never really written poetry until then. In college, as an English literature major, I took the bare minimum of poetry courses, if you don’t count Shakespeare. (The Milton course was anything but paradise.)
After college, I went straight into writing about technology. If you don’t count lyrics of songs and arias, my poetry exposure was pretty light to this point.
Signing up for a Continuing Education course on writing poetry as an adult was a stretch. …
At the end of the year, many of us get retrospective, looking at the accomplishments and lessons of the past year. 2020 taught us a great deal, much of which we will be processing for years. But in this post, I want to reflect on a writing lesson that has been its parting gift.
Over the year, I published more than 40 writing-related blog posts and book reviews on my website. It seemed like a good idea to look back and learn which were most effective or had the biggest impact.
Impact is tough to measure, so let’s settle for…
This year more than most, fear has been an unwanted guest in our homes-intruding at the dinner table, interrupting our sleep in the early mornings, and inserting itself into conversations with friends and family. Fear is an uninvited companion whispering in our ears as we pass others on the street or pick up a few things at the grocery store.
Fear has many sources: the virus, election uncertainty, wildfires threats, economic worries. The content of its conversation may vary, but most of us have seen and heard more of fear this year than we care to.
This isn’t a post…
2020 has been a strange year. Some of us need motivation, others need comfort and encouragement.
No matter what the people in your list need, I’ve got you covered.
Every year I do a round-up post of books I’ve reviewed or encountered in the year that would make wonderful gifts for writers. The list this year is sorted by the book’s “vibe”-encouragement or self-care. (Clearly many books do both, so take the division with a grain of salt.)
I hope you find ideas for the writers in your life, and possibly yourself.
Writing seems like a one-way communication, whether you’re publishing a book or a blog post. Although you can envision your audience, they aren’t with you. You take a deep breath and send your work out into the world.
You can’t see what happens next. But sometimes the world answers back. Faintly. Often enigmatically.
Pay attention to those signals.
They may show up in reviews, in emails, in mentions of your book by people on podcasts. (You may have to search to find those.)
My latest book Get the Word Out shares stories of authors who listened to the messages from…
What motivates you to write, and how do you know when you’ve achieved success?
The world offers writers all kinds of proxies for success:
These basic metrics are important to understand, but we often get caught up in them.
What if you measure success based on the what happens in the reader’s world, rather than yours? Instead of clicks or sales, you might look for:
What’s the purpose for your writing?
Have you thought about it lately, or are you stuck in the daily demands of hitting deadlines and building readership? It’s easy to lose sight of a long-term goal when you’re swamped in details.
Take a moment to think about your broader purpose for writing. What impact do you hope to make?
This past summer, I conducted a survey of nonfiction authors. Two survey questions asked about people’s motivations for writing their books.
People could choose from the following objectives: