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Reasons to Write #339

Reasons to Write #339

From Eric Barker’s, “The 3-Step Evening Ritual That Will Make You Happy
Writing helped people suffering from depression, anxiety or PTSD.
It helped their relationships too. But that wasn’t all …

Their physical health improved as well.

Women with breast cancer reported fewer symptoms and required fewer cancer-related doctor visits. People with asthma and arthritis “reported meaningful improvements in quality of life similar to benefits that would be expected by a successful new drug treatment.”

They landed jobs.

Within three months, 27 percent of the experimental participants landed jobs compared with less than 5 percent of those in the time management and no-writing comparison groups.

They gained insight.

what’s the biggest benefit people report after a few evenings of expressive writing? “Insight.” Most people said they understood themselves better. They felt more meaning in life. To my knowledge, nobody has ever reported effects like that from buying a ShamWow or a Foreman Grill.

Want to know how all this writing sorcery works?

Read the whole article over at Eric’s blog.


English is a “Phunnny” language (or When I Fell in Love with English and Reading)

As a kid, I read a lot of books above my level of comprehension.
More to show off and show folks my “smartness” and give off that snooty “I am a well read boy” air1 than from any sense of love or learning.

I know better now (I hope, I do) :)

But two books from those days will always stay with me.

One was my father’s science textbook, which I no longer have or remember the title of. I used it for four years in high school to understand what I was learning. The book was my secret weapon :)
The language in that old textbook was far more engaging and lively than the teachers in class. And it was beautiful with all those black and white line drawings, and anecdotes of the folks who made those amazing discoveries. (Faraday and Tesla and Watts and Madam Curie). It actually was a textbook from before science became “Science”; when it was Natural Philosophy
Despite years of searching, I haven’t found it again.
The closest textbook of that style I could point you to, would be Thompson’s Calculus.

The other book was a tattered copy of The Complete Yes Minister.2 I thought then, that the book was the real deal, an actual tell all, with its newspaper clippings and copies of memos. It took me a couple more years to realise what satire was. And it was a line in there, a really obtuse, verbose line that took my young brain a couple of days to “get”, that made me realise that reading was a dialogue, that a good book was not something to be just “read”. A good book is friend telling you jokes, a prankster scaring you, a father figure consoling you, a friend giving you advice and in this case a master exposing that language in general (and English in particular) was not something to be scared of, but just tools of expression, toys to be played with and enjoyed, and tools that could be expertly wielded.

It was this line and the delight I got in deciphering it, that turned me into a lifelong bookworm. You can see Nigel Hawthorne’s brilliant rendition, here.

This is what he said. “The identity of this official whose alleged responsibility for this hypothetical oversight has been the subject of recent speculation is not shrouded in quite such impenetrable obscurity as certain previous disclosures may have led you to assume, and, in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, the individual in question was, it may surprise you to learn, the one to whom your present interlocutor is in the habit of identifying by means of the perpendicular pronoun.”

“I beg your pardon?’ I said.
There was an anguished pause.
‘It was I,’ he said.”

Like our grand old thespian says, “English is a very phunnny language.”


  1. Aah, vanity! :) 

  2. Yes, I read the book first and discovered the show much later. 

Are You Learning Something New This Year? This Course Will Help.

Learning a new skill this year?
Putting your mind to learn programming?
Looking to wow folks with your newly acquired French?
A professional exam, you want to ace?

And yet, as you look back over years of broken resolutions, you think it might not be worth it?
That you aren’t cut out for learning physics on your own if you wanted to?
That you are “slow”?

Maybe that’s just because you haven’t realised that learning itself is a skill?
That you need to learn, how to learn?

Barbara Oakley has been teaching this critical skill for a few years now.
Her course on Learning How to Learn is the most popular course in the world.

How do you beat procrastination?
Do we still need to memorise?
How important is sleep?
What is learning?

Barbara takes you through all these and dives deeper into brain chemistry and modes of learning and a whole lot more!
At the end, you get prepared to learn anything.
Barbara’s story also serves as tremendous inspiration. A girl who flunked Maths & Science as a kid is now a distinguished professor of engineering.

The course is spread over 4 weeks
And it’s free!
The only thing that is needed of you is to commit.
And even that is not too much. 12-15 hours spread over 4 weeks.

You can go enroll in the course here.
If you are pressed for time or are a student, you can go enroll in the youth oriented version of the course here.

And hurry! Today is the last day to enroll.

Imagine spending 15 measly hours to learn a skill that will then enable you to learn and master anything that you set your mind to!
Here’s to a Happy New Year full of learning!
Jason

P.S. As a Happy New Year to me, you could do me a favor and forward this mail to folks and asking them to subcribe to the list here.
https://janusworx.com/subscribe-mail.html


Be Persistent

More Gaiman truisms for me.
He talks about writing.
Holds true for all of my endeavours though.

lazynoodlepuff asked: Hi Neil, I wonder what could tell not native speaker like me. I struggle with writing anything. Words don't flow in my native language and in English it's even more difficult. Sonetimes I struggle with every sentence. But I really want to create things in English and be a part of English-speaking culture. Is this too much to try learn not only to write but also write in another language? I feel like I am so far behind everyone and have to try so hard just to keep up (I moved to the UK to study)

Two of the finest writers of English – Nabokov and Conrad – were not native speakers.
So I would not worry.
It’s okay to struggle.
Just have patience with yourself, and keep learning.


Write with Respect and Interest

For me. For posterity. From Neil Gaiman.

miriams-song asked: Hey Neil. Someone recently told me that because I’m not ethnically Jewish (I’m a conversion student set to be “official” within the next year), I shouldn’t be writing ethnically Jewish characters. What do you think? I’ve been actively involved with my Jewish community for years so accusations like that are pretty hurtful.

As a writer of fiction part of your duty and obligation is to write characters who are not you.
Write them well, write them with respect and interest.
And don’t listen to anyone who tells you you aren’t allowed to write people who aren’t you.
You are.


Looking for Something to Read in the New Year?

As the year draws to an end, here’s what the folks I follow read this year.

Vishal Khandelwal, has a couple of short, sweet posts on “The Books That Made Me.” Here’s Part 1 and here’s Part 2.

If you’ve already read (and reread) Taleb’s books, here’s a list of books he loves (and hates).

Here is Ryan Holiday’s evergreen list and here’s what he was unto in 2018.

Patrick Collison has a whole antilbrary. (via this ttfs episode).

James Clear wins most organised list.

I follow this not a blog and this tumblr, because these giants who I have grown up on, always have something to recommend.

Not an annual list per se, but Brett McKay’s recommendations have always been awesome!

And finally the big daddy of them all, the annual Farnam Street reading list. While Shane Parrish changed my life in more ways than one, by teaching me how to read and focus, it was his opinions on the books he read that made me follow him all those years ago.

My own eccentric list of books is here.

And there you have it. My little gift to you.

I have about a hundred of you awesome folk on this list. And no matter how infrequent or erratic I am, more than half of you always read every mail I send.
And you always have an encouraging word for me.

For your time, and your attention, and your little acts of kindness, I am truly humbled and thankful.

Merry Christmas to you all! And a Happy New Year!

Gratefully, Jason

P.S. And if you haven’t already, you can always subscribe here.