Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


An Understandable Guide to Music Theory front coverby Chaz Bufe, author of An Understandable Guide to Music Theory

Yeah, I know. This would carry more weight if I were better known, but I’m not. I think this is good advice, anyway.

Here are a few samples of my songs for you to pick apart. (A note on the first song: I am a former postal worker.)

Hemingway once said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” That’s great advice for writing fiction and for writing songs (not so much for writing nonfiction). The takeaway is not to self-censor: knock the “what are you doing!? that’s awful” devil off your shoulder and just have fun. Who knows what you’ll come up with?

Of course, most of what you come up with won’t be good. So what? If even 5% of what you write is decent, let alone good, you’ll be ahead — you’ll have written something you wouldn’t have written if you’d self-censored. (The self-damning, self-censoring devil is far from infallible.)

Beyond that, here are a couple of other ideas:

  • Record every session where you’re trying to come up with songs
  • If you can’t record yourself and come up with something you like, play it over and over again, at least a dozen times: that way, there’s a decent chance you’ll remember it.

And another:Front cover of The Drummer's Bible Second Edition

  • Either have a lot of beats down in your head (e.g., standard shuffle, 12/8, standard rock beat, polka, samba, standard swing beat, 3-2 clave, soca, waltz) when you write songs, or listen to rhythm tracks with the various beats. (Self-advertisement: About 20 years See Sharp Press published a still-unmatched encyclopedia of beats with close to 200 of ’em on CDs, The Drummer’s Bible).

That’s it. Some people claim to come up with good songs by writing something everyday, which is plausible — and will mostly result in crap; but again, that 5% that might be good . . . — but the best ones just seem to come to you whole. They usually take no more than a half-hour to write. The two examples above being Postal and Abductee Blues.

Don’t self-censor and have fun.

 

 


“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

–W. Somerset Maugham, quoted in Thought Catalog


Is it better to be fucked up by religion than by life? And why is damage so sexy?
If I was going to choose, I’d rather be fucked up by religion. At least that is something I could feasibly escape and still be breathing.

Damage is indicative of vulnerability, which I think always feels a little dangerous. It is evidence that a person can feel deeply, that they can be open … then that delicious wall goes up and we just want to scramble over it and save (and feel) the person. It’s irresistible. I also think damage is a glimpse of something honest, and that’s always attractive.

Interview in The Guardian


The British analytical group, More in Common (“founded in memory of [British MP] Jo Cox [murdered by a neo-Nazi]”), reports that the vast majority of Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture.

The study has design problems, such as considering no political positions to the left of “progressive activists,” and defining “PC culture” only in terms of language. (Obviously, it goes far beyond this.)

Still, the study has some value. Among other things, it reveals that a full 80% of Americans (including 75% of Afro-Americans and 88% of Native Americans) “dislike” PC language and consider it a problem. As well, the single group most likely to view PC jargon favorably — though only a third do so — is “progressive activists,” 8% of the total population, who are overwhelmingly white, earn over $100K per year, and are most likely to hold advanced degrees.

In other words, “the liberal elite,” those most likely to control “progressive” media outlets (such as, to fairly single them out, Alternet), and to indulge in the use of PC terminology.

And PC terminology is to all appearances not intended to unite the oppressed against the common ultra-rich enemy, but to give its users a warm feeling of self-congratulation on being enlightened, morally superior, above the rest of us. It’s in-group, self-identifying, and self-congratulatory jargon.

Think about it for a moment. How many people do you know who use terms like “woke,” “people of color,” “white privilege,” “privileged”? I’ve lived for nearly 30 years in a barrio where maybe 25% of the people are white, and I have never heard any of my Mexican or black neighbors, or my poor white neighbors, use these or similar terms. Never. Over damn near 30 years. Never.

“Progressive activists” are not speaking the language of the people. They may want to shame people into using their jargon, but they are not speaking the language of the people.

It’s time for the “progressive” left to stop patting themselves on the back. It’s time for them to stop using jargon that alienates people. (Try telling someone who’s making minimum wage, spending 50% of their income on rent, has no health insurance, and can’t come up with $500 cash to cover an emergency, that they’re “privileged” because of the color of their skin — see how far that gets you; see how far that goes in building coalitions to build solidarity, to improve life for all.)

The PC left is a curse, navel-gazers intent on proving to themselves how virtuous they are in comparison to us unenlightened plebes, especially through use of their in-group jargon. They’re an ongoing disaster.

If the left is ever to make real progress in this country, to make concrete policies to benefit all, it won’t be through using bizarre jargon that plays into the hands of Trump’s “very fine people.” It’ll be through talking about economic policies that benefit all of us.


“When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”

— George Orwell, Why I Write

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(Thanks to T.C. Weber for this one, who’s doing the same damn thing.)

 


Steven Pinker

“Let verbs be verbs. ‘Appear,’ not ‘make an appearance.'”

–“Cognitive Scientist Steven Pinker’s 13 Tips for Better Writing” on BoingBoing

(Amusingly, and showing just how difficult it is to follow one’s own advice, no matter how good, Pinker’s 13th tip is “Find the best word, which is not always the fanciest word. . . .” while his first tip is “Reverse-engineer what you read. . . .” which leads to the question, why should one “reverse-engineer” rather than analyze?)

 


campbell

“[W]hen you have trouble with the beginning of the story, that is because you are starting in the wrong place, and almost certainly too soon. Pick out a later place in the story and try again.”

–John W. Campbell, giving advice to a young Isaac Asimov, quoted in Astounding, by Alec Nevala-Lee