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Category Archives: My Old Blogs

959734_22089591A few weeks back, I wrote about information overload: how overwhelmed I felt by the internet because it made it easy to find brilliant ideas. Because every click took me somewhere fascinating, I lost the ability to incorporate new information with my existing knowledge.

The solution I embarked on was a diet: a diet to cut information to a manageable level.

Since then I’ve added just one new blogger to my watch list. I’ve ditched bloggers who are only occasionally brilliant. Whilst this has made some difference, I’m still not happy with my current position.

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After many years of bright orange and black, it was time for something different. A move to the other extreme; that I did not foresee. Yet the choice has been made, the dice cast, and I have a new blog theme.

I have great faith in the power of blog themes to influence reality. Changing theme has bought on a powerful bout of introspection.

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This is as true today as when I wrote it 3 years ago.

The training contract is all but signed. In my mind I know its the right thing to do.

It’s the practical thing to do, especially in such competitive times.

I feel like such a sell out.

The idea of being a barrister has always been part of my consciousness, through books and the like, but seeing the reality of the work, I realize that this is a profession that I can really do well at but more then that, it would be a profession that I would enjoy.

The people I was working with, other summer students, found it incredibly odd that I chose to keep coming back, when they wanted to keep getting away with the minimum time that they could.

The fact was that it was just fun to be doing the work and trying to understand the background and methods of a barrister just didnt seem to register to them as a viable reason.

Work or Play

Substitute “damn” every time you’re inclined to write “very;” your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

Mark Twain

I spent a few days last week reading my blog. From beginning to end. Every post, some in depth, some more briskly. Every post is a good 156 spanning 26 months. A lot of words.

I’ve seized it as an opportunity to review how I write, and in the last few posts I’ve seen a distinctly different style take hold.

Yusuf’s point about information entropy is being taken to heart.

I used to write incredibly long posts. Tremendous detail, on obscure topics that interested me. Long paragraphs with complex sentences. Lots of redundant language and cumbersome phrasing. Almost compulsive use of weak hedged words; language designed to qualify speculation and present a plethora of perspectives rather then any position I hold.

In one respects things won’t change.

I’m still going to talk about the wide range of topics that interest me. I’ll still wantonly bounce of topics and clatter into ideas. That’s the reason d’etre of this blog. To see what falls when I hit hard the walls of my mind.

The rest had to go.

The long paragraphs have been axed. There’s an intimidation factor in seeing a wall of text. More importantly, it means I’ve not thought the point out with sufficient clarity. When I have, paragraphs get shorter.

Now, any paragraph longer then five lines is asked to justify itself. There has to be a strong reason for the whole paragraph to cling together. If there isn’t, I find a semi-natural break for paragraph mitosis.

I’ve tidied up my language to curb redundancy in word order and sentence structure. I’m prone to write phrases like “…and perhaps this is happening because..”, which can be trimmed to “this is because” or even “because”. This verbal circumcision makes the sentence punchier by removing the prevarication and hedged language.

Now, qualified language can be used, it can be necessary, but like long paragraphs it has to be justified.

I’ve created a black list of words. From now on, no post is allowed to contain the following words:

often
perhaps
maybe
actually
very
usually

In addition, the following words require strong justification. Namely that I can’t rewrite the sentence and preserve the intended meaning without them. Dark grey listed if you will. These are:

so many
must
all
be

They’re crutch words, designed to bridge bad writing. They take punchiness out of a sentence and replace it with a bland over-engineered smoothness. When included they make for unexceptional writing.

I remove these words by running a Control+F search in Windows Live Writer before posting. If found they can be deleted of the bat without affecting the sentence. If they can’t easily be removed, rewriting to minimize their use or eliminate them is the next port of call.

A further change has been the elimination of adjectives. Adjectives are effective if used judiciously, but overuse cheapens them. They should be deployed only when critical. When the need is overwhelming to ensure that a noun is seen in a certain light. It is better to trust the reading mind to interpret then to dictate for no reason.

The final change I’ve made is the switch from simile to metaphor. Similes present weak images, without the impact needed in smaller sentences and shorter paragraphs. This has ‘like’ perilously close to inclusion on the grey list, a promotion I haven’t decided upon yet.

This change, unlike its companions, was driven by reading a biography of Winston Churchill, one of the most effective writers and speakers in the English language. One marked thing about Churchill is his thundering use of metaphor. A simile by contrast is rare.

On the whole these have been changes easy to make. They’ve required minor tweaks to my style, but they’ve had a profound impact on the final result. I find the new posts are more readable, crisp and to the point. They’re more enjoyable for me to read, reread and read again.

Which is a true mark of mature writing.

I changed the name back to A Disorganised Mind. I’ve never been really content with A Fire to be Kindled. It seems that in this instance, second thoughts were a distinct step back from first.