We suggest a duel at ten paces. With some simple research, you can get your handles on Revolutionary War-era one-shot pistols. Besides that, the easiest way to handle disagreements is to avoid them. You should also consider your expectations for how the book will develop.
For example, if one of you wants weekly meetings, while the other would prefer setting the book aside for six months and burning the midnight oil for the last three, the former will be constantly anxious at the lack of progress or the latter will feel hectored. Agree on the process before you begin. Everyone has obligations that could interfere with the writing and promotion of the book.
Disclose those obligations to your writing partner, editor, and eventually publicist. You should also decide whose name will appear first on the cover. We suggest picking the author with the most unusual last name. Kyle website works for a biotech company in the San Francisco Bay Area and spends his free time thinking about how his projects could be incorporated into the plot of a sci-fi action movie, hopefully starring Bruce Willis.
Terry blog is currently a lecturer in the bioengineering department at UC Berkeley. Nine years ago, I could have written this. If you asked me about co-authoring, I would have said it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.
I had fun writing with a co-author. Then the partnership exploded. Calling people names and telling them to fuck off…Lol disrespectful! Yet your article is practically all about respecting your people… Good luck with that…Lol.
Looks like you need to read up on tone policing: So if a woman does what a man would do to earn a headdress, how is she honored? It is rare, but it does happen. Often female soldiers will wear what is traditionally thought of as male regalia for example. I am so grateful to have stumbled on your blog. This is so enlightening. But more so, I can comprehend the tone and emotions in your writings.
I have great respect for indigeneous people all over. We have very little national presence, let alone global presence. Sending you my warm heartfelt greetings to you all. It usually has nothing do to with honor or respect. The headdress itself may be a symbol of an achievement, but it is itself not the achievement. Frankly, it only holds as much value and authority as one decidedly places on it, just as words have only as much value and meaning as you place on them.
One person can hold a rock and feel it is the most important thing in the world to them, while another will look at it as just a rock. That kind of thinking is something that creates boundaries, not something that promotes unity or individual freedom. If I wear something that you like, I feel you should be allowed to wear it, too, regardless of what it is.
Likewise, I feel I should be able to wear something that you do if I like how it looks. If you feel I follow traditions that are silly and you want to mock me, I encourage you to do so.
That is your right as a free, living being. Nobody controls my emotions but myself, and if I disagree with what you think, say, or do, why should I become upset? It would be selfish of me to expect you to think like I do. Instead, I choose to respect you and your views, no matter how much I disagree with them. You are fully capable of doing the same. You call upon an extreme form of cultural relativism wherein nothing has any meaning but what the individual engaging in the behaviour gives it.
Of course, this extreme form of cultural relativism completely ignores the reality of social structures and norms, and the way in which societies give things importance because we do not exist as individual units.
Your entire post reeks of idiocy, to be frank. This is not an issue of individual perspective. I have to say a lot of your points are valid but they are lost in your bad attitude. You act like a child anytime anyone disagrees. You made absolutely no attempt to engage any of the points in the piece, you simply invoked some vague notion of complete and total individual freedom.
You do not have complete and total individual freedom in the real world, and despite your adherence to the notion of individual cultural relativity, we do indeed restrict certain things in human societies. So put that in your pipe and smoke it! I prefer an honest racist to one who hides it. It may be insensitive, you may not like it, and you are free to be offended, but how is not following Your social structures and norms racist? I have been thought to treat everyone the same, no matter gender, age, race, social background.
But respect has to be earned and the attitude you have displayed in comments here does not make me feel any regarding your person. In my humble opinion it would be more reasonable to simply point out that people who wear such imitation headdresses have nothing to do with Native Americans. The racism comes from a long history of outlawing Indigenous cultural practices such as the potlatch and sun dance.
The racism comes from the Prairie pass system which made it illegal for natives to leave the reserve without permission and was deliberately set up to prevent social gatherings and political organization. The racism is in the attitude that our culture is yours to commodity, take from or deny us via colonial structures of power.
Engaging in the appropriation and tokenization of our cultures is a proud colonial legacy, and only the wilfully ignorant can ignore that. Fuck off with you denial of colonial history and present and fuck off with your tone policing as though refusing to engage ignorant ass racist pricks is somehow equivalent to structural racism itself rather than merely the appropriate response.
The only racist I see on this page is the you. Thanks for coming, see yourself out! This person likes to spew racist, homophobic bile. How about considering a more humane outlook that is based on our interdependence? How much harm would it truly do to us to not wear a headdress? Not much, I believe. Especially in comparison with the harm it may cause to another person, considering the perpetual colonial relations, cultural genocides and oppression Indigenous peoples have faced for centuries.
I have no religion, though I do believe in one God-Goddess i. I do see your point. And some things in the article are a bit exaggerated. But why would you and others in the comments here keep pushing and pushing the agenda? You may not believe in god and deities, but to them Nature is god and the headdress is something sacred.
And when you put it in for Halloween without even knowing the meaning of it, you disintegrate its sacredness, without even knowing its meaning and purpose.
Without being aware that it is the same as celebrating Holocaust. But that I a different topic. So have some respect. This is a sensitive topic you wont understand. Jacob, I agree with your opinion. A model wearing a headdress is not implying that she fought in battle or similarly earned her headgear. It can just be a fashion statement. I would like to make beaded headbands for my Cree children as part of our study of aboriginal culture.
We will not be including a birds worth of ceremonial feathers, but I will add one feather of a colour I deem appropriate to their spirit and nature. An individual cannot give permission to access something that is communal.
As for your final question, this article and the longer article linked to at the beginning both explore the boundaries in great detail. But you got offended in your replies to several people with differing opinions. Then an individual cannot get offended either,. People can have differing opinions. This does not make all opinions equally valid. The opinion of someone outside the culture to which a restricted symbol belongs, for example, is of no consequence when it comes to determining whether or not accessing said restricted symbol is offensive or not.
Nor can the individual opinion of a person from within the culture to which a restricted symbol belongs render a communal symbol unrestricted. I recall when imitation used to be the biggest form of flattery, when did that change? Are we truly suggesting that we can only have heroes from our own race? If so, then I believe we have become the racist we wished didnt exist. Lets celebrate and embrace our culture as well as that of others. As soon as our culture becomes ours alone then we have nothing.
This is not imitation, it is ignorance. Please do not claim to be paying homage to cultural symbols you are too lazy to understand, or pay any actual respect to. Thank you for sharing your unapologetically racist, colonialist opinion.
As enlightened as I am after reading your article, and with the risk of being called racist and winning Bingo, your attitude is atrocious. Your article was very well written, and was more fact and less opinion, which is definitely debate If you want respect, you should learn how to give it.
I have no links to this culture, and I really have no business replying to this. I am no expert on the subject. But I would like to point out several statements in the above article that answer these questions already. Imitation is flattery when you are respecting the one you are imitating — for example, looking up to a role model, or taking on the fashion style of your friend. But the imitation mentioned in this article comes with disrespect, and is actively promoting harmful stereotypes.
Many of the photographs found online of others wearing headdresses are of people being drunk, smoking, nude, etc. Sharing culture is great! But only when you know the significance of what you are inspired by. And there are things that are off limits. As the author mentions, it is like the difference between wearing a hoodie and producing a fake war medal. Pretty much, compare and contrast picking up a few traditional recipes from my mum and this video: You may not be Christian, but I hope you understand the sentiment.
There is a long history of this crap in Canada, and even today, the government is refusing to do anything. Apologize if you do. Strive to be better.
I would equate it more with Catholic Communion and using the Eucharist as crackers… and the blood of god to get your drunk on. Or just claiming you are a veteran when you are not even ex-military. I think your comments add a lot to the discussion and will be very helpful to those looking for help understanding. Note the significant difference in our approach. I ask questions with the hopes of engaging an opportunity to learn from each other.
You reply with accusations and attempt to denounce who I am as a person! You wish respect by being disrespectful? I believe you have a lot of anger and unfortunately that can blind a person to truth and understanding. Perhaps it would have been prudent of you to ask of me if I am an Iriquois Chief or European Pauper first?
Have you tripped over you anger and made assumptions of who I am? Yes yes yes, you are special, and your arguments and tone policing are special no matter how many thousands of times they have been rehashed by others. You deserve time and consideration and engagement despite the fact that you did not address a single point made in the article. You merit celebration of your radical ideas of harmony, while you blithely wave aside the specific reasons given as to why certain things are disrespectful.
I deeply apologise for not getting a sample of your DNA or giving due reverence to your individuality before I lumped you in with every other shithead who says the tired crap over and over again without a shred of intellectual integrity or consideration of the material presented.
Thank you I believe that I understand and I am grateful. I need to research and study, understand more then copy and duplicate. My culture is vastly different from yours and I will try to learn more. I think the problem here has nothing to do with the headdress, and more to do with the reality or idea that the show itself was pretty racist and disrespectful to the native people themselves in how the characters were depicted and not as much the culture of the people.
Maybe try to convince your friend not to go at all as the Lone Ranger. If he insists maybe he should go it alone. I still want to do something different, and its very hard trying to let go of the headdress, is there a way to meet in the middle without offending anybody. No one has to steal stuff to look good. The last thing America needs is more celebration of European heritage. A lot of people claim they are just trying to fill a cultural void, when really, they could be looking to their own cultural backgrounds for inspiration.
Who are you tell me that I should only wear clothes or take inspiration from my own culture? Perhaps reading it again would help? I have a few questions and I am not trying to antagonize I am simply curious. Also you stated that there are on occasion people awarded with a headdress in a matter similar to an honorary degree, is this honor exclusive to First Nations?
If it can be awarded to non First Nations peoples how would that individual go about wearing it without being offensive? Or to be more clear, without people making the assumption that they are being offensive when they have the special permission you discussed above. Lastly you stated that it would be offensive for a native person who has not been awarded a headdress to wear one.
But it is okay to depict a native person who has not been awarded a headdress as someone who has? So if I am a native male model who a artist has made a painting of wearing a headdress, would that not be offensive to my fellow natives to see a painting of me wearing one when they know I have not been awarded one?
Thank you for taking the time to satisfy my curiosity and Thank you for your informative letter. I apologize if my questions offend in any way, I am simply trying to understand this issue as much as possible.
I have a follow-up to this that I am curious about as well. They are just feathers in a band done up in some way. But the original labels are missing so it is hard to tell if the image itself is offensive or if calling it Native is what makes it offensive. Thank you for writing this. If its alright with you, I want to print a few of these off and hand them out when I see them, and hopefully make them think twice. Thank you for writing this post!
Step number in not being a doosh: I appreciate that there is legitimate feelings of offence here, but your argument is completely flawed. But no one who wears a headdress at a tailgate party is claiming they are a respected Native chief.
You are free to have fun with all of our sacred icons… you can dress as a rabbi, a priest, a military hero, the president, Mother Theresa, a free mason… go nuts. The only one that might get you into hot water is dressing as a Hells Angel, in full colours. The analogies to important symbols in Western cultures are just that…analogies, to give people a sense of what these symbols mean in our cultures.
They are not mere adornments or fashion statements to us. They have deeper meaning. If people wish to make light of that deeper meaning and engage in disrespectful behaviour while participating in colonial stereotypes, no one is preventing them from doing so. What we are doing, however, is making it clear that we feel disrespected, and that this is not okay by our standards. Not while we continue to struggle with a load of symbols and regalia left over from the Second World War that are still highly toxic and therefore very sacred at any rate.
Agree with the general direction of your argument, though. Having grown up in a military family, I am well versed in what insignia is appropriate for a non-military member to wear and it is extremely limited. It would never be appropriate for a family member of a Purple Heart recipient to wear the award.
By drawing a direct comparison, I would think it would not be an issue to create and wear a fantastical version of a feathered headdress that only mildly resembles the original. But perhaps my mistake would be in attempting to draw a parallel between two very different cultures any symbols. Rather they are an important symbol earned by military veterans and even college graduates. They demonstrate commitment to the community, hard work and personal sacrifice. They are used in religious ceremonies and have been imbued with a powerful feeling or respect and appreciation.
In recognition of this special relationship, eagle and other migratory bird feathers may not be owned or possessed by non-natives here in the US by federal law. Its a cultural difference…. I really wanted to learn from reading this.. It is truly terrible. It is clear that lot of people feel the same way and are truly let down after seeing your attitude outside of the informative article that you took the time to write.
Please borrow from another culture and do some meditation or crystal healing.. I promise nobody will be offended. It is not even remotely true that if we only spoke in the sweetest of tones we would convince people like yourself to change your ways. This is just another excuse to continue doing whatever you want. I have a question. My father is a hunter he got a Turkey. I cleaned the bird. While doing so I de-boned the wings and are in the process of drying the skin. I planned on making a headdress of sorts.
Not resembling a Native American headdress, but a large feather head piece. Racism never goes away, but always needs to be challenged. I have a hard time with this argument, as I see both sides. You make some valid points. I understand we live in a society where cultural and religious symbols are revered and respected and many times expected to be kept sacred.
I am in no was racist. Just like being an asshole. However, I refuse to give any symbol more value than it intrinsically has. That is my choice as an intelligent, considerate and independent human being. And I can honestly say that I hope one day our human race evolves to the point that it does not give stuff and symbols more value than they actually have and will stop making them restricted and stop taking offense to people using them how they want.
People will call you out for it, and it is becoming much more probable that your career will suffer as a result. To call yourself an intelligent and considerate human being while stating flat out that you do not care what value we put on OUR symbols, symbols you feel you have the right to devalue any way you see fit, is laughable.
But it is your right to make such claims. Have fun with that attitude. The less being a racist asshole is considered socially acceptable, the more serious consequences people will face for engaging in such behaviour i.
We hold sacred items as determined by us in respect. We define the origin, content and boundaries of that respect. WE have that right…not you…. I honestly agree with you. That cross represents everything I believe in spiritually, but it really is not my issue if that is what they want to do because it is the United States and people can do whatever they please.
If someone wants to go to the bars dressed up as the Pope, okay, then do it. My relatives are from Poland and if people want to make fun of what they wore, okay. If they respected the idea and wore it, I would be happy. If you want to wear American military medals, go ahead. Every culture is a mixture of other cultures. There is no centuries long history of oppression of Christians peoples in North America.
You have not had your lands stolen, only to be moved onto tiny pieces of arid land. You do not continue to have your land whittled through expropriation, and your children were not taken from you in order to erase your language from their tongues. Not with a single ounce of intellectual honesty or historical accuracy.
How do you expect others to embody your views? She said her family is from Poland. Everything you mentioned has happened to Polish people. Their land WAS claimed by others for centuries and they were wiped off the map, denied an education or their language, etc. In perspective, maybe YOU are the priveleged one, compared to your ancestors, and other peoples in nations in this world currently at war.
You demonstrate privilege and entitlement in full force. My favourite part of your ridiculous spiel was telling me that Indigenous peoples of the Americas are privileged, demonstrating the stunning depth of your ignorance. We still are experiencing this. There are things that we as indigenous people hold sacred. I am not from a plains tribe, hence I would never think of disrespecting them by taking what they hold sacred and using it.
How is that not also appropriation? Then yet they might claim they are the only ones given the right to wear or use the cultural tradition solely because they are ethnic or racially connected to the symbolism how is that NOT racist in and of itself? The argument that its wrong to impersonate an false identity via authentic tribal regalia: I have no idea what you mean when you say 1st American etc.
Only about a dozen nations in the Plains use the particular headdress being aped by so many. We have every right to determine how our symbols are used within our culture. People have every right to go and steal those symbols…and we have every right to point out how disrespectful, and often racist that is. Basically no amount of attempts on your part to logic yourself out of that is going to be effective.
I honestly think the wrong word is being used here though. Someone wearing a headdress might be ignorant and misuse of the piece but that does not automatically make them a racist. Unfortunately they have succumbed to encouraging stereotypes which is denigrating as well but again not racist.
An ignorant misuse of headdresses, additional clothing and other aspects of the culture may be disrespectful but again not racist. Its really funny because My first thouights about the Pharell incident was about viking helms and here I see on two totally separate discussions more than one reference to Vikings.
I agree with you Vikingmetalgirl.. In fact I think a vangaurd of human consciousness has already evolved beyond alot of petty virtues and dogmatic symbolism and rituals, but that does not mean that the ritual motions and language forms are not potent and in many ways necessary to further our ways of life..
Just wanted to support your perspective because it insipres me to see people with a like minded sense of sober optimism. If I were to appropriate your identity and went around as you collecting your pay, pissing everyone off at you and tried to seduce your significant other I imagine it offend you, rightfully so. It belongs to you and is sacred to you. Transfer that feeling to other peoples sacred. Actually how offended you choose to be is entirely up to you. And an object only has as much as importance as you choose to give it.
And when I was a child, I used to collect all sorts of feathers, which included an eagle feather. I would say the disrespect you are showing here, is towards the argument I have laid out. But does it promote negative? Very good outlines here and some boundary setting. Leave it as inspired without specific names and it seems good.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Fashion,music,language,everything is a copy of previous work. I notice you are using the alphabet. Is that politically correct? I really like the way you have addressed the disrespect to culture that is so prevalent in many societies. Seriously, it was almost to be expected from others outside of our country. What surprised me the most, was the disrespect from those whom I had called friends.
I was told to lighten up because it was a joke. Actually, they might was well have been telling me to whiten up. Joke or not, it was disrespectful and I felt it was right that the TV presenter was asked to apologise. I feel, that until cultures that are not predominantly European are treated as Taonga treasures by the majority, there will never be quality. Pretty great way to ensure that the profits go to the indiginous people and not souvanir companies.
I liked the bingo card idea, I also unfortunately honestly appreciate the fact that my art appropriates the native culture that I grew up with. While my whiteness is a burden, the native american in me moves me toward the center.
They symbolize their sacredness to others using unrestricted totemic shape u forms. By your criteria I am behaving badly.
Its a family tradition I drew the the story of the Most Great Name…. The iron in your back bone is unavoidable, I am wrong. I still love my pieces of art and relate to their message with each atom of my being. Respect for the culture I choose to imitate should have been enough to stop me when I painted them…I did not feel disrespectful, I made every effort to maintain tradition……. Devaluing my art because of my race seems racist,… unity is more important than what ever I think I might feel.
So now I must destroy the paintings that convey the message human survival depends upon,as an act of purposeful racism to promote the unity that the paintings speak of…..? I think that I will allow them to quietly melt back into the forest…like tradition requires. The spirit of what you communicate can and will be affected by the spirit and power of the idea that you emulate. Better I think to figure out who you really are, and speak with that voice……when we are young we speak with many voices until we find our own….
Have you ever considered asking the people whose symbols you are appropriating as to whether they think your art is disrespectful? That would be a lot more straightforward than whirling around the edges of the question to little purpose. I did ask, most people agreed that there was no harm done, some thought that it was good to have ANYONE using this art form. That was 30 years ago, opinions have undoubtedly changed. My behavior has changed. I was comfortable with it before, now I am not.
A different kind of respect for the cultural heritage of the people is necessary today,. You should ply your trade. By your logic you should not even be preparing food while using traditional recipes. I think the message the ancestors are sending is survive long enough to breed and remember us and the source.. Individuals and communities must strike these balances.. I find this an interesting discussion. At first, my father was concerned it would be seen as appropriation.
I think if people took that approach with things it would be better. However, wearing something that is sacred or ritual is different. I like how you attempt to find a way to relate this to something western people would more likely grasp. Of course many are going to throw out comments about how they are free to do whatever they want which is true in the United States. I have the right to say that all people in Dallas, Texas are short, ugly and full of horse manure for brains.
Well thought out piece. Misrepresentation here breaks a fundamental trust in society, perhaps even imperiling human life, as membership in that group requires a certain level of knowledge and skill that that person does not have. Cultural symbols, used quite clearly as aesthetic devices, do not signal to society that same sort of achievement.
This is the key distinction. There is surely no art in that. Instruct others that the use of appropriated and important cultural symbols by non-community members ultimately dilute their meaning to the people who those symbols matter to most. Through great educational sites like this, I wager that people will respond. I thought I made that clear actually.
Just because non-Natives do not understand what achievements are signaled by the wearing of the headdress in the cultures from whence the headdress originated, does not mean those signals are lacking. It continues to have meaning in our cultures, and that is what we are trying to explain to the people using them. Good point but it loses what small significance it carries in situations concerning those who have no direct dealings with people who could be affected by this scenario and thus brings you back to square one..
Anyway I think you are tossing the racist card around all too easily. If we limit our measure of respect to cultural identity then those people who are separated intellectually from any culture we expect from them, then a whole lot of people would be considered worth less than animals..
I think across the board people realize the more feathers in the dress the more respect the person commanded, Its pretty obvious. Even Peacocks use this formula. Your comment on that would be akin to claiming a beret looks pretty much the same as a tiara.
I never knew that wearing the war bonnet carried such significance and the degree of ritual around when and to who it could be awarded to. Allow me to add this single wonderful thread to the tapestry of thought here: It is heartwarming to see kids of all cultures participating in a Pow Wow like this. For many of us here in Winnipeg, the incorporation of ceremonies at the institutional level has been long, long overdue.
Your analogy comparing wearing an unearned medal of honor to casually wearing a headdress is excellent! Thank you for writing an informative article! It is clearly mocking Rosie the Riveter. How could you be so insensitive? Not so much outside of your jurisdiction. The general design is certainly not patentable or copyrightable. Perhaps if you contact Washington you can get some laws drafted making it a criminal offense for impersonating an officer of your war party. Good luck with that…not so much.
Anglo commonlaw is not at all what is being appealed to here, nor is it any sort of authority to be invoked, making the entirety of this post a complete red herring. I absolutely love this article, and I think your comparison of restricted symbols to military medals was a brilliant example and spot on. My grandfather was both half-cherokee and a purple heart awarded veteran, and spent his whole life answering questions and getting annoyed with people who disrespected him for his race and for his accomplishments.
So many people just want to toss any symbol on themselves in an effort to impress, without observing the significance and context. It was maturing up and realizing that I was raised whiter than miracle whip that I opened my eyes and started noticing all the problematic stuff I did and still have to catch myself on as I see it.
Again, great article and writing. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the matter! It was well worth the read. What if you create a fantasy version of a headdress that is wildly colored, oversized, shaped very differently, etc?
If it very obviously is very different from traditional headdresses to the point of simply becoming a wacky feathered headpiece is this offensive to wear? Should we never wear feathers in our hair or on our heads in any configuration? So, I guess there is no harm in asking questions. There is no need for that. Where is the offense in saying it is inspired? First Nations are mostly the ones who use these styles. Art can be inspired and noted as such without specifically labeling it as being from a particular nation when it is not.
It would seem odd to me, to create a fantasy piece that is clearly inspired by a native headdress and then not say that it was inspired by that. People speak of their inspirations out of a desire to be honest and communicate what is it they are moved by and are passionate about. Your not going to stop people from wearing their own or inherited headdress.
Its just not gonna happen. Its better for you to realize that most people are not doing it out of disrespect Of course we each define disrespect in our own terms. If it belongs to anyone at all, it belongs to humanity and posterity. You appropriate the cultural ideas from your ancestors the values they passed on to you are upheld by whoever they entrusted with the knowledge. But the staff writers feel obliged to write something "balanced.
Abortion, for or against? This group says one thing. That group says another. One thing is certain: But don't get mad at us. We didn't draw any conclusions.
The River Questions aren't enough. An essay has to come up with answers. They don't always, of course. Sometimes you start with a promising question and get nowhere.
But those you don't publish. Those are like experiments that get inconclusive results. An essay you publish ought to tell the reader something he didn't already know. But what you tell him doesn't matter, so long as it's interesting. I'm sometimes accused of meandering. In defend-a-position writing that would be a flaw. There you're not concerned with truth. You already know where you're going, and you want to go straight there, blustering through obstacles, and hand-waving your way across swampy ground.
But that's not what you're trying to do in an essay. An essay is supposed to be a search for truth. It would be suspicious if it didn't meander. The Meander aka Menderes is a river in Turkey. As you might expect, it winds all over the place.
But it doesn't do this out of frivolity. The path it has discovered is the most economical route to the sea. At each step, flow down. For the essayist this translates to: Of all the places to go next, choose the most interesting.
One can't have quite as little foresight as a river. I always know generally what I want to write about.
But not the specific conclusions I want to reach; from paragraph to paragraph I let the ideas take their course. This doesn't always work.
Sometimes, like a river, one runs up against a wall. Then I do the same thing the river does: At one point in this essay I found that after following a certain thread I ran out of ideas.
I had to go back seven paragraphs and start over in another direction. Fundamentally an essay is a train of thought-- but a cleaned-up train of thought, as dialogue is cleaned-up conversation.
Real thought, like real conversation, is full of false starts. It would be exhausting to read. You need to cut and fill to emphasize the central thread, like an illustrator inking over a pencil drawing. But don't change so much that you lose the spontaneity of the original.
Err on the side of the river. An essay is not a reference work. It's not something you read looking for a specific answer, and feel cheated if you don't find it. I'd much rather read an essay that went off in an unexpected but interesting direction than one that plodded dutifully along a prescribed course.
Surprise So what's interesting? For me, interesting means surprise. Interfaces, as Geoffrey James has said, should follow the principle of least astonishment. A button that looks like it will make a machine stop should make it stop, not speed up.
Essays should do the opposite. Essays should aim for maximum surprise. I was afraid of flying for a long time and could only travel vicariously. When friends came back from faraway places, it wasn't just out of politeness that I asked what they saw.
I really wanted to know. And I found the best way to get information out of them was to ask what surprised them. How was the place different from what they expected? This is an extremely useful question. You can ask it of the most unobservant people, and it will extract information they didn't even know they were recording.
Surprises are things that you not only didn't know, but that contradict things you thought you knew. And so they're the most valuable sort of fact you can get. They're like a food that's not merely healthy, but counteracts the unhealthy effects of things you've already eaten. How do you find surprises? Well, therein lies half the work of essay writing. The other half is expressing yourself well.
The trick is to use yourself as a proxy for the reader. You should only write about things you've thought about a lot. And anything you come across that surprises you, who've thought about the topic a lot, will probably surprise most readers. For example, in a recent essay I pointed out that because you can only judge computer programmers by working with them, no one knows who the best programmers are overall.
I didn't realize this when I began that essay, and even now I find it kind of weird. That's what you're looking for. So if you want to write essays, you need two ingredients: What should you think about?
My guess is that it doesn't matter-- that anything can be interesting if you get deeply enough into it. One possible exception might be things that have deliberately had all the variation sucked out of them, like working in fast food. In retrospect, was there anything interesting about working at Baskin-Robbins?
Well, it was interesting how important color was to the customers. Kids a certain age would point into the case and say that they wanted yellow. Did they want French Vanilla or Lemon? They would just look at you blankly. And then there was the mystery of why the perennial favorite Pralines 'n' Cream was so appealing. I think now it was the salt. And the difference in the way fathers and mothers bought ice cream for their kids: So, yes, there does seem to be some material even in fast food.
I didn't notice those things at the time, though. At sixteen I was about as observant as a lump of rock. I can see more now in the fragments of memory I preserve of that age than I could see at the time from having it all happening live, right in front of me. Observation So the ability to ferret out the unexpected must not merely be an inborn one. It must be something you can learn.
How do you learn it? To some extent it's like learning history. When you first read history, it's just a whirl of names and dates. Nothing seems to stick. But the more you learn, the more hooks you have for new facts to stick onto-- which means you accumulate knowledge at what's colloquially called an exponential rate.
Once you remember that Normans conquered England in , it will catch your attention when you hear that other Normans conquered southern Italy at about the same time. Which makes it easier to remember that Dublin was also established by Vikings in the s.
September Remember the essays you had to write in high school? Topic sentence, introductory paragraph, supporting paragraphs, conclusion. The conclusion being, say, that Ahab in Moby Dick was a Christ-like figure. Oy.
The main problem with writers like Joe (and to be fair, that’s a Tiny group) is that they destroy the dreams of the rest of us, I’ve always been a pretty good writer and at times I think maybe I should start blogging and try to build an audience, but then you read a Posnanski piece like this and you realise, why bother, I’d just be wasting everyone’s time, why pollute the world with my.
This page contains material which is kept because it is considered humorous. Please do not take it too seriously. A painter keeps a sketchbook--a place to pencil-sketch persons and objects that might eventually be included in a painting. A writer's notebook, which all my students record original ideas in daily, serves as a our "painter's sketchbook" for our future writer's workshop ggettsy.cft me at [email protected] with any questions about this page.
Jake Tuck writes a humorous essay about quitting writing personal essays about quitting things: “No longer do I lug around the ball and chain of constantly having to dress up common life choices. There are unwritten taboos on the internet. There are things you Don’t Say. There are replies you may not give. There are comments you may not make.