“Creating content” vs writing

Given that blogging is somewhat correlated with writing, I thought this article about tips for novelists may be of interest to some of you:

Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody,” said Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet more than a century ago. “There is only one way. Go into yourself.” Rilke, of course, was right – nobody but yourself can help. In the end it all comes down to the strike of the word on the page, not to mention the strike thereafter, and the strike after that….

“This most of all,” he says. “Ask yourself in the most silent hour of night: must I write?”

Everybody who has ever felt the need to write knows the silent hour. I have come across many such people – and indeed many such hours – during my writing and teaching life. I’ve been teaching now for the best part of 20 years. That’s a lot of chalk and a lot of red pencil. I haven’t loved every minute of it, but I’ve loved most. More here

And then The New Yorker’s Evan Waite and River Clegg giving it everything in this rant in their “Daily Shouts” about advertising and “content”.

I hate the term “content”. So American commercial, it’s like it’s a commodity. Aristotle didn’t create content, he wrote!

“How was your day?”

“I created 5 GB of content today!”

“Gosh, that’s amazing!”

Anyway, it’s brilliant:

Isn’t content great? It’s such a helpful distraction from the things that worry you. Like how your hair is thinning and your daughter no longer looks up to you. That stuff is a real bummer—unlike content. Content is awesome! It’s got everything: music, jokes, unlikely animal friends. One video is just eighteen seconds of a dog sleeping. Over three million views. Is watching an ad really too much to ask when your reward is a brief respite from thinking about what’s become of your life? More here

Road to year end 2017

I think, I say, I do

Inspired by Dr. Martina Feyzrakhmanova / her post, September Planning Session, I have decided to follow her footsteps and also be accountable and share with you what I want to accomplish by December 2017. I am counting the whole of December, by the way.

Oh, I am a list person for as long as I can remember. I love ticking the items once completed. It also makes me feel that I have control and there is order.

Here’s my list:
  1. Finish reading four (4) of the nine (9) books on my bedside table.
    • “Four in the Morning” by local South African author, Phillipa Mitchell
    • Stephen King’s, “On Writing” (finally!), since I need to give myself some new knowledge
    • Danielle Steel’s classic, “To Love Again”, because I need to remind myself how romance or love story is written.
    • “Maybe This Love” by Jennifer Snow, purely to learn how others…

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The French nose triumphed over the Bashkir arrow

“During the course of an exchange of fire, we took prisoner a French lieutenant colonel whose name I have now forgotten. To this officer’s ill-fortune, nature had bestowed on him a nose of extraordinary size, and to make matters worse, this nose had been shot through with an arrow which was embedded to half its length. We helped the lieutenant colonel down from his horse and set him on the ground so that we could free him of this distressing adornment.

A few Bashkirs were among the curious people who gathered around the sufferer. Our medic grabbed a saw and prepared to cut the arrow in two so as to remove it painlessly from either side of the enormous pierced nose, when one of the Bashkirs recognised the weapon as one of his own and seized the medic by both hands.

‘No,’ said he, ‘my good sir, I won’t let you cut my arrow. Don’t offend me, sir. Please don’t. It is my arrow. I’ll take it out myself.’
‘Are you raving?’ we said to the fellow. ‘How will you get it out?’
‘Well, sir, I’ll take one end and pull it out, and the arrow will stay in one piece.’
‘And the nose?’ we inquired.
‘And the nose,’ he answered, ‘the devil take it!’
You can imagine the roar of laughter that greeted his words. Meanwhile, the French officer, not understanding a word of Russian, was trying to guess what was going on. He begged us to chase the Bashkir away, which we did; the affair was settled, and in the end the French nose triumphed over the Bashkir arrow.”

Memoirs of Denis Davidov

Are you good at writing stories, be they fictional or real?

Where do you start?

Photo by Henry Chuy on Unsplash

“I won’t cry when she dies”

I came across a heart-wrenching story shared by a Russian blogger, here it is translated:

“I had a sister when I was younger. I’m the older of the two. My sister was terminally ill from the age of six. And for our parents, she was everything. They never paid attention to me. There was never any praise for my hard work – and I tried, I wanted them to notice how I hard try.

And thank God I tried, because I was able to go to college and get an education.

There were no gifts. My mother often forgot to ask if I’d eaten.

Aged 10, my sister died of leukaemia. I was scared and felt sorry for her, and one day when I was crying, my mother came to the room and said: if it weren’t for you, she would have got more attention. I was 12 then.

Then it began: if it weren’t for you, we would have taken her abroad, she would at least have see the world. If it weren’t for you, we would have bought a house out the country and would have taken your sister there… and so on. My heart sank every time my mother came into my room.

It lasted about a year, then it died down.

But there was a cult of my sister in the house. I grew up and though that it would have been better if I had been the one that died, not my sister. Thank God, my father treated me much better than did my mother. He kept me from going mad. He helped me while I was studying. But then he died; it was his heart.

As soon as I could, I moved out. And now my mother demands attention from me. If I do not call for 2-3 days, she makes a complaint, she says I’m an ungrateful beast.

When I remind her of my childhood, she says: you are a liar! We loved you both equally! I say: try to remember at least one gift that you gave me. She replies: as if I am bothered reminiscing about dolls.

Now she demands that I take her to live with me, because loneliness kills, and she is already sick. It’s true, she’s really sick and angry at the world. I honestly do not know what to do.

On the one hand, she’s still my mother, although she pushed me away all her life, and on the other – I’m afraid that she will spoil my relationship with my husband if she comes to live with us. Whatever she says now, I know she will be horrible to me. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe life has taught her something. I’m really lost. But I know one thing, I do not like her. When she dies, I will not cry.”

Perhaps the narrator has a skewed view of what happened, but what can you expect from any of us when it comes to childhood memories. It’s so easy to blame our parents.

I didn’t have that level of drama in my life, I think. All the same, some of the feelings in the above entry definitely resonate with me. I am confident they resonate with my mother and how her parents treated her: she was the youngest of three girls and no one ever hid the fact that “she was meant to be a boy” from her. And it would resonate with my father: a man not overly suited to formal academic thinking forced to become an engineer – because to not follow his father’s footsteps is an abomination. And countless other people I know: virtually half the people I know well.

I guess there are good stories too. Everyone’s heard of Magdalene laundries in Ireland. One part that everyone forgets is that in a lot of cases, the woman’s family had to be complicit. Her father had to cave into the local priest, bring the poor expectant woman there and disown her – and not everyone did.

I don’t have a painful sibling story. I’ve countless stories of how my parents stood up – or bent over backwards as the case may be – for me. But I also have a painful divorce story. Every once in a while it rears its head. And I am like that too, still feeling guilty for the untameable destructive craziness of one of the parents, still feeling guilty for not being the perfect daughter though I realise the limiting factor there isn’t set by me.

  1. Are we all this fkd up or do I just have a very bad sample?
  2. What do you do with your crazy relatives?

Charlie Gard: suffering fights autonomy

I felt awful about Charlie Gard’s case from the start. I know very little about paediatrics and these are just my thoughts as a person reading the paper, not some sort of medical opinion.

Today, the boy’s parents ended their legal fight for their ill baby that aimed to have him flown to the US for experimental treatment. Their reasoning was that it was too late for the process to work.

The poor boy was born with a rare inherited disease, a mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. The parents were sourcing funds to have Charlie treated in the US. The UK doctors looking after Charlie felt that it was in the baby’s best interest to have life support withdrawn. The courts sided with the doctors.

It seems that the doctors thought that the further suffering caused through unproven intervention won’t ultimately result in any improvement. I think it is safe to assume this has been incredibly difficult for them to begin with, then also given the media scrutiny and hate mail.

But the fact that the state was able to have the final word and endorse this child’s death against the parents’ wishes stills my blood.

Is there a moral difference between withdrawing treatment and active euthanasia? Euthanasia that isn’t legal in the UK? Euthanasia against the wishes of the family? Against the wishes of the parents?

Is life support different to all other treatments when it comes to euthanasia?

The courts’ judgement on this controversial case is equivalent to endorsing passive euthanasia: an act of omission that leads to death and this was against his parent’s wishes. Isn’t it a little brave new world?

Or is it madness to consider dragging a dying boy half around the globe for an experiment?

But isn’t it when the person is dying that the risks of all treatments are outweighed by the benefits?

The hospital states: “A world where only parents speak and decide for children is far from the world in which GOSH treats its patients”. [GOSH is Great Ormond Street Hospital in London]

How much autonomy did the parents have? Given the uber complex medical aspects of the case, could it be said that the parents lacked capacity to weigh in on this decision? That’s pretty brave new world too.

The parents are quoted as saying this: “This isn’t about us being selfish, keeping him alive because we can’t bear to let him go. It’s because if we did not fight for this chance, we will have to live with the ‘what if’ for ever”…

I wonder what the legacy of this case is going to be in practice.

UPD: Excellent, balanced article on the ethics of the Charlie Gard Case from the British Medical Journal

MBTI quick and dirty cheat sheet

Warning: internet trash folklore ahead

At a work dinner last night, a lovely lady whom I mentally typed as an ESFJ confessed to being in love with getting flowers and elaborated on the joys of it at length… Just like I was told they did on some less than credible website. Coincidence?!

Albeit the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is quite unscientific and given way too much credence, it can be great fun. So I collected the in no way scientific (but hugely useful) internet-folklore findings on MBTI that resonated with me here.

How to make each MBTI type fall in love with you
Some classy pictures from Luttrelstown Castle, Dublin to lift the mood

How to know if they like you for each MBTI type:

ENTP: prove themselves by arguing and arrogance

ENTJ: criticise

ENFP: smile more than usual

ENFJ: try to be perfect in front of you

ESTP: get awkward

ESTJ: become very attentive and turn into great listeners

ESFP: make fools of themselves in an endearing way

ESFJ: brag

INTP: troll

INTJ: stalk

INFP: nobody really knows

INFJ: it’s a secret

ISTP: confront and act direct

ISTJ: make a lot of intense eye contact

ISFP: blush

ISFJ: throw little glance and smiles

What word do the MBTI types use to describe someone they like:

INTJ: Kind

INTP: Obliging

ENTJ: Charming

ENTP: Magnanimous

INFJ: Sweet

INFP: Compassionate

ENFJ: Giving

ENFP: Bubbly

ISTJ: Helpful

ISFJ: Sensitive

ESTJ: Helpful

ESFJ: Warm

ISTP: Unassuming

ISFP: Affectionate

ESTP: Welcoming

ESFP: Generous

What does each MBTI type like in other people

How to quickly understand each of the 16 MBTI types:

INTJ: logical, methodical, skeptical, intimidating

INTP: intellectual, calm, unaware of their surroundings

ENTP: analytical, charming, irresponsible, distractible

ENFP: warm, inspiring, disorganised, in need of constant approval

ENFJ: passionate, charismatic, manipulative

ENTJ: strong, authoritative, intense

ESTJ: responsible, hard-working, obsessive

ESFJ: bubbly, respectful, shallow

ESFP: flamboyant, brave, reckless

ESTP: confident, brave, crude

ISTJ: realistic, have high standards, stale

ISFJ: kind, conservative, obsessive

ISFP: considerate, artistic, self-pitying, manipulative

INFJ: patient, understanding, complicated

INFP: idealistic, sweet, emotional, in need of constant approval

Each MBTI type in a few words

My sources? An merged assortment from Tumblr and Pinterest, the cradle of modern science. (Seriously, the original posts are mostly gone, so I can’t even credit them properly). If you are the original author and wish to be credited, please let me know.


In the mood for some mind games? You can try it too.

The trick is to start with T vs F. That should be obvious.

Then move on to J or P: do they prefer certainty and clarity or do they like spontaneity and open options?

S vs N: are the down-to-earth, practical and pragmatic or do they prefer thinking about the future?

E vs I can be very hard, but it is probably the one that matters the least.


Let me know how this horoscope works out for you 😉