This is a guest post from a friend and customer of Write GEAR, Johan Zietsman. He inspires us with his work ethic, the fact that he has gone back to studying in his older years and that he is always happy when he comes into our office/shop. We asked him to consider writing a post for us because we know he does an exceptionally large amount of writing with his pens and we know we have stuff to learn from him. Enjoy. You can find his blog personal here: https://www.the-hungry-sailor.com
A big thanks must also go out to Christian von Wechmar for taking the photos of Johan writing in his notebook. Such fantastic photos. Thank you 🙂
I only recently realised that I am not the only person in this world having noises in the head. In this case, having noises in the head simply means that one has a lot of fuzzy thoughts. Those thoughts that jump into one’s mind when confronted with a prompt. These prompts may take various forms.
In my younger days it was rifles, traditional bows, transverse flutes, a new fly-fishing rod and sailboats. For some, it is a beautiful woman or man. For others, it is a nicely shaped motor car. The fact remains that some images trigger emotions and more images in your head. How does all this relate to writing, may you ask. Well, the skill of writing has something to do with getting enough order in your thoughts to make sense of them.
The penny dropped during a recent course on effective research methods. It appears that all of us humans think in images, whether we like to admit it or not. Edward de Bono has written extensively on the subject. We humans use a standard set of stored images of standard features in our lives, in order to relieve us of original thinking every time we receive a new prompt. Communicating those images to others is where a problem rears its head: We all have some difficulty in translating an image into words. Try explaining a sunset scene to someone on the other end of a phone line, not using video or a camera. Where do you start? The image is graphic, while words are sequential. You must order your mind and decide on where to start the explanation. Then there is another decision on what sequence to explain. Effectively the layout of the conversation.
The same argument applies to ideas in your head.
There was another penny that dropped: it is virtually impossible to get the explanation for a complex idea right the first time. This got me thinking about my everyday social interaction. I am forever chided for thinking erratically. This was the part of the course that really struck a nerve.
You need to write things down, just to order your thoughts. As well as to get some of the noise out of your head, so to speak. And the first version of writing will appear to be rubbish when you read it tomorrow. Ditto for the second version. Ditto for your cursive handwriting skills. And the only way to know that you are making headway is to write ideas down in long-hand. Not typing, because then you tend to just delete stuff and start over. No Madam, Sir. Write things down on paper, using an ink pen. Yes, effectively indelible. It is only when I started doing exactly this that I realised what my Afrikaans language teacher was trying to get into our thick teenage skulls in those days.
The image in your mind comes out in drips and drabs when you turn it into words. So, you need to make notes before compiling an essay. Otherwise the essay comes across as a bunch of erratic ideas. Having learned my lesson only after all these years, I submitted version 5.03 of my research proposal last year. Which means that I went through at least twenty updates along the way, in five different versions of the document. Some evidence of the concept that I am trying to get across in these few words.
There is another positive aspect on making notes. This is the idea of positive thoughts in a daily journal. Nothing heavy, just three positive things that happened during your day. Several media stars have made remarks on this topic, including Oprah Winfrey. And a Swiss university is doing research on cognitive effort and the emotional effects of these writing habits.
One of the things that happen when you write things down, is that you tend to remember them. Writing positive things down for a week has positive side effects, according to our visiting Swiss professor, that lasts up to six months, measured.
The big thing that happens when you write is that you become articulate. Professor Jordan Peterson has a lecture on this topic. You acquire critical thinking skills and can get your thoughts across unambiguously. A life skill that appears to be getting very scarce in this day of texted messages and little real conversation.
There is, of course, a caveat. You decide to start writing. Cool. Then you buy a notebook and a pen and start writing. Wonderful! Very soon you decide that this writing is boring, you need to hype this dreary work up a tad. Then you buy a decent starter fountain pen and a bottle of ink. And some decent paper. Copy and exam pad paper just doesn’t do well with a fountain pen. And that is where it all starts.
This writing of mine started with a need to get ideas onto paper in some orderly fashion. But ideas and concepts do not come in a steady stream, they come erratically and at odd moments. For this reason, I carry an A5 notebook around with me. The net result is that I have effectively filled two A4 ninety-page notebooks in addition to five A5, ninety-page notebooks from January this year up to the time of writing.
The nice part of this is that, in the line of not falling into a dreary rut, I now own eleven fountain pens and an ocean of ink, courtesy of your favourite stationery emporium. Another uplifting side effect of the necessity for writing: the habit has now turned into a hobby.
This hobby has other positive side effects too. Emergent properties, a term in line with my research topic, if you will. The amount of ink colours I own now enables me to choose a two-weekly or monthly palette. Then I can make sketches and diagrams, as well as write in different colours, in accordance with my moods and needs. The pens also have a selection of nib sizes, making available a choice of combinations of nibs and colours.
Furthermore, not all paper types and inks go together. Some paper absorbs one or more of the components of the ink faster, thereby changing the ink colour. Inks behave differently on different types of paper. I found this out the hard way, so there is a reason for the shop to stock a variety of paper.
The negative side of this hobby is that one may get spoilt with choices. However, I regard this as part of the fact that any sports have its injuries.
It will take a while before I get too many noises in the head again…