Saturday, December 11, 2021

Applying the Word

Dale Ralph Davis is one of my most read commentators, whether it's in his series stretching from Judges to Kings, or in his writings on the Psalms, or his books on other matters. I've probably read each of his books that I own two or three times. 

I was going back through an old diary this morning, and found this quotation from his commentary on 2 Kings, The Power and the Fury, page 205. As always, Davis is able to find ways to apply God's Word to our contemporary situation:

We might call ourselves evangelicals and yet there is little zeal after personal piety, little effort to teach and indoctrinate our families, not much passion to bear personal or public witness - or to raise our voice against unbelief in our church denomination. We don’t see why righteousness must be rigorous or godliness aggressive.

This is so true of my own personal Christian behaviour, and no doubt of many others who claim to follow Jesus Christ, at least in the Western world. We live in a world full of stuff, full of distraction and full of things that call us away from our centre. Yet God has placed us in this part of the world. He doesn't expect us to succumb to its lifestyle, but to make our lifestyle distinctive in the midst of it. 

Father God, help us to change, to be 'holy as You are holy.' 

Follow the science?

Next time we hear 'follow the science' or its like, it might be worth thinking about this statement:

"Science is a passionate search for always newer ways to conceive the world. Its strength lies not in the certainties it reaches but in radical awareness of the vastness of our ignorance. This awareness allows us to keep questioning our knowledge and thus to continue learning. Therefore the scientific quest for knowledge is not nourished by certainty, it is nourished by a lack of certainty."
Carlo Rovelli, in the Introduction to Anaximander.
(Rovelli is an Italian theoretical physicist and writer who has worked in Italy, the United States and, since 2000, in France. He works mainly in the field of quantum gravity and is a founder of loop quantum gravity theory. He has also worked in the history and philosophy of science.)

Photo: Jamie Stoker

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Law of Human Nature

This is another post of quotes from books I've read recently. These two occur early in C S Lewis' Mere Christianity, which I've certainly read a couple of times, if not more. It isn't always an easy book, and you wonder, when the first sections were broadcast as talks, how the listeners were able to keep up. Plainly they did, and the enthusiasm for the talks was such that they were very quickly published in the form of three separate pamphlets, and then into a single book. This book remains one of the top-selling Christian books of all time, and has been instrumental in changing the lives of many a reader. 

The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not. In other words, when you are dealing with humans, something else comes in above and beyond the actual facts. You have the facts (how men do behave) and you also have something else (how they ought to behave). In the rest of the universe there need not be anything but the facts. Electrons and molecules behave in a certain way, and certain results follow, and that may be the whole story.* But men behave in a certain way and that is not the whole story, for all the time you know that they ought to behave differently.

Notice the following point. Anyone studying Man from the outside as we study electricity or cabbages, not knowing our language and consequently not able to get any inside knowledge from us, but merely observing what we did, would never get the slightest evidence that we had this moral law. How could he? for his observations would only show what we did, and the moral law is about what we ought to do. In the same way, if there were anything above or behind the observed facts in the case of stones or the weather, we, by studying them from outside, could never hope to discover it.

A little later he says:

Do not think I am going faster than I really am. I am not yet within a hundred miles of the God of Christian theology. All I have got to is a Something which is directing the universe, and which appears in me as a law urging me to do right and making me feel responsible and uncomfortable when I do wrong. I think we have to assume it is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know—because after all the only other thing we know is matter and you can hardly imagine a bit of matter giving instructions. But, of course, it need not be very like a mind, still less like a person. In the next chapter we shall see if we can find out anything more about it. But one word of warning. There has been a great deal of soft soap talked about God for the last hundred years. That is not what I am offering. You can cut all that out.

I love that last sentence! Imagine hearing that while you were listening to the broadcast; it would make you sit up suddenly. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The commonsense of ordinary people

A few weeks back I finished reading Jason Riley's biography of Thomas Sowell, entitled
Maverick. It's a great book, and full of quotable things that are especially relevant to our current times. I'm going to go back through my Kindle highlights over the next period of time, and add some of the highlights to this blog. Here's the first:

His early struggles to make a life for himself meant “daily contact with people who were neither well-educated nor particularly genteel, but who had practical wisdom far beyond what I had,” he recalls. “It gave me a lasting respect for the common sense of ordinary people, a factor routinely ignored by the intellectuals among whom I would later make my career. This was a blind spot in much of their social analysis which I did not have to contend with.”

I know some fine academics, people who are attuned to commonsense of ordinary people. But of course, we all know and hear of academics who are not! 

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Finding ideas

As someone who writes day in and day out, I sometimes have to stop relying on the muse and resort to a more pragmatic approach to idea-finding. One possibility is to work through the 10 tips in Howard Scott’s Finding article ideas without leaving your desk.  Mr Scott listed these 10 tips way back in a 1993 Writers Magazine, and I wrote them down for a rainless day.

First, he says, ask: What if? What if I did such and such? Hmm. There used to be a columnist in New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times who wrote just such an article each week. However, he actually did the things he wrote about, setting - or having others set - often absurd challenges which he then turned into a column. But since Scott talks of finding ideas without leaving the desk, I think we can put that suggestion aside.

The second approach is to consider your latest rants. Here's this week's.  Is it surprising that our society is becoming more violent when abortion is considered 'safe' as long as the mother is okay - even though the safety of the person within is violated?

Too complex for a short blog post.

Observe an object, says Mr Scott, or a process. Don't just observe; think about it.

Well, I've sat here observing my computer screen for several minutes while my wife and son debate the rules of draughts behind me. Gritting my teeth and turning my ears off hasn't helped. The whole point of this exercise is to assist me, not frustrate me.

Next. Read news stories; pause over something that interests; what further questions or reactions? Hmm. A cellist in a European orchestra due to play Peter and the Wolf quits her job because she feels wolves are being discriminated against in the story.

This ranks alongside the ill-considered removal of a Pinocchio mural from a children's hospital wall. Adults' screwed-up notions being foisted on children who think political correctness has something to do with keeping your elbows off the table. (Whoops, this sounds more like a rant.)

Mr Scott next suggests I should find a new angle on an old article. I have enough trouble trying to find an angle on most of the ideas I do have without going through the process twice over.

I once wrote myself an enthusiastic maxim. Every idea has two outlets. Sadly, my brain has found the effort of forever conceiving twins quite unsustainable.

Next on the list. Reverse the popular notion - what if the opposite were the norm?

This is rather like lateral-thinking Edward de Bono's creative notion of using the word 'po' when you

Edward de Bono

make a statement that's norm's opposite.  'Po - planes fly upside down.' In Mr de Bono's books this approach always works - within minutes. My lips say 'Po,' however, and my brain says, 'Pooh.'

Talking of Mr de Bono, have you noticed that as time went on all his books said the same thing? The only difference was they got longer.

Back to Mr Scott. Use your friend's experiences, he says. Though I have tried this, I think it's a good way to have no friends from whom to glean experiences, eventually. One of our friends, for instance, complained that the only time I mentioned her family was in relation to toilets.

On to the next.

Recycle old ideas, says Mr Scott. This is certainly very ecological, but I'm not sure if people want to hear my thoughts on slaters (or wood lice) again, even if I approach them from a different angle.  (Say, upside down.)

Mr Scott gets desperate by this time and recommends for number nine: Try to come up with an answer to a silly question. Hmm, what about: Why are some people so masochistic they try and write a blog post a day? Is that question silly enough?

And finally, he says, think of something you're curious about and ask questions. Okay…

What does it mean to poke mollock? Does anything rhyme with orange, or month? Why isn't there a word in the English language for the back of the knee?  Is there a word in any language for the back of the knee?

Well, well, these idea-inducing tips work after all.

This piece was originally written for the now defunct site, Triond, around 2007/8, at a time when I was 
writing blog posts much more frequently. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

100 things to do...

Dave Freeman, the man who wrote the book, 100 Things to Do Before You Die, died after completing only around half of the list.  Ironically, he died not while doing one of the many adventurous things he wrote about, but at home, after falling and hitting his head.    

This book, and all the imitations of it, from 500 CDs You Must OwnBefore You Die, (what happens then?) to 1001 Movies to See Before You Die, all assume a long life, as well as plenty of money and spare time. 

For people who don’t regard death as the end of everything, such lists might not be so relevant, but for people who believe this life is all there is, then perhaps these lists gain importance. Regrettably, making collections of escapades or movies or music is never going to be completely satisfying. You’re always going to be worrying about the things that aren’t on the list. And whether, like Freeman, you’ll actually make it to the end of your inventory. 

And it also depends on whether you can afford to contemplate starting any one of these lists in the first place. For most of the world’s population, managing to get to a recent movie is an achievement, hearing good music is a privilege, and travelling to places you want to go (rather than just places you can afford) is a luxury.   

In the movie, The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson challenges Morgan Freeman to live out the dreams he’s written on his bucket list – the list you make before you kick the bucket. But Freeman could never afford to do some of the things he’s listed, and it’s only because Nicholson is a multi-millionaire that they can manage to set off at all.    

There’s some hint in the movie that a certain degree of realism needs to come into achieving things on a bucket list. A certain degree: the two characters have been through cancer treatment but appear to suffer few ill-effects from their scampering around the world. (That is, until both of them die at the end of the movie.) 

But apart from health, there’s the difficulty of up and leaving family, or jobs, or responsibilities. The people who make these lists often seem to have a casual attitude towards the more stable aspects of life 

I think most of us could come up with a list that would be far more satisfying (and far cheaper) than the 100 Things/Die type of list, if we thought about it.     

For example, a list with just one item in it: One God to get to know before you die.  

Or a slightly longer but still manageable list: 3...5...7 family members to make up with before you die.

Or a list that takes a bit of stepping out of the comfort zone: 95 homeless people in my town to help before you die. 

These may not at first seem to be exciting and adventurous.  But I’m sure you’ll get a lot more long-term satisfaction out of achieving them.


Image by aga2rk from Pixabay 

This piece first appeared on the now defunct site, Triond, in 2008

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Describing - or not describing - your characters

Today I came across this piece I'd written back in 2004, and never seem to have done anything more with. If nothing else it's fun to read how different writers describe their characters: 

A character in a recent* Tim La Haye novel is described as ‘a hunk with dark hair.’  This may not be La Haye’s fault, since he regularly uses other writers to fill out the details, but it’s symptomatic of the weak descriptions prevalent in many current popular novels.

Here’s another from a recent thriller: ‘Linda. Soft, beautiful, generous, and solid, his backbone for three and a half decades.’ Solid? 

Many writers tend to avoid describing characters these days, partly a result of fashion, and partly a result of the ‘show, don’t tell’ school of writing, whereby they reveal their characters through dialogue and action. But an author who can give us a succinct description of one of their creations, adds something to the reader’s imagination.

Consider Agatha Christie’s first description of Hercule Poirot: ‘He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side.’

Dorothy Sayers’ detective, Lord Peter Wimsey, fares worse: ‘His long, amiable face looked as if it had generated spontaneously from his top hat, as white maggots breed from Gorgonzola.’ Looking at the various images of Wimsey, from drawings to TV performances, no one seems to have achieved anything like this wonderful description. 

Chesterton manages to describe Father Brown in endless ways, but here are a couple: ‘there shambled into the room a shapeless little figure, which seemed to find its own hat and umbrella as unmanageable as a mass of luggage.’ [He had] a breathless geniality which characterises a corpulent charwoman who has just managed to stuff herself into an omnibus.’

P G Wodehouse not describing a minor character: ‘There is no need to describe Teddy Weeks….a sickeningly handsome young man, possessing precisely the same melting eyes, mobile mouth, and corrugated hair so esteemed by the theatre-going public today.’

One of my favourite character descriptions comes from Middlemarch. George Eliot gives us more than a page on Sir James, so it’s difficult to pull out any particular piece, but here goes: ‘a man’s mind – what there is of it – has always the advantage of being masculine – as the smallest birch tree is of a higher kind than the most soaring palm – and even his ignorance is of a sounder quality.’ Fortunately, Sir James turns out to be worth more than this description of him. 

Likewise, Annie Proulx in The Shipping News builds up a picture of her main character paragraph by ruthless paragraph: ‘A great damp loaf of a body. Head shaped like a crenshaw,** no neck, reddish hair ruched back. Features as bunched as kissed fingertips. Eyes the colour of plastic. The monstrous chin, a freakish shelf jutting from the lower face.’ It’s almost as if she didn’t like him very much.

And finally, Shakespeare on one of his favourite characters, Falstaff: ‘that trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swoln parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years.’

* 'Recent' in 2004, that is. 

** A variety of melon, apparently. 

It's probable this piece was originally intended as a column for the NZ Anglican magazine, Taonga. Those columns were published under the heading of The Juggling Bookie. 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Goodbye to the Counterfeit Queen

Thanks to Dollen 

With great reluctance, I'm abandoning my children's fantasy, The Counterfeit Queen. It would have been the third story in a loosely-connected series. I love what I've written so far, and feel very loathe to abandon it, but I don't want to spend what's left of my life on a story I can't get to function properly. 

I'm abandoning what is now the third draft and the longest - so far. In this draft the story isn't even half over yet, and already it's longer than my three previous kids' books. This draft differs substantially from the two previous drafts, which both differed considerably from each other. That's not to say they weren't all telling the same basic story, but the hero became a heroine, three main characters (or was it four?) got whittled down to two, and innumerable scenes came and went. The villain lost her substantial magic power - which might have been a mistake - but to compensate she increased in cunning. The plot, by the time the third draft was in process, was increasingly complex, as was the world-building. The complexities required more complexity as I went along, until my poor little brain couldn't keep up anymore with the politics, a possible rebellion, hints of racism and dozens of other things. 

Worst of all, I'd never been able to persuade my usual co-writer to like the original idea of the story. This is my co-writer in the sense not that she writes any words but that she acts as sounding board, discussion maker, checker of plot-holes, suggester of wackier ideas than I often have, and a person with a sharp eye for inconsistencies. Without her assistance I've had to work even harder to overcome difficulties, and I think that in itself has been wearying. 

Not that the previous books we did together didn't have their complications. The third book we worked on, which wasn't part of the 'series,' was also written and rewritten, but at least it moved forward. This one has been like pushing one wall in a room outwards, one strenuous step at a time, which required the two adjoining walls to stretch further and further without breaking. 

That's not to say the writing didn't flow, and didn't continually bring up interesting details as it went along. The writing was enjoyable; the plotting and all the rest of it not so much. 

Incidentally, in a rough count of how many words were written in either drafts or notes for this book, it comes to around 260,000. Quite a few for a book that should have been around 30,000 to 40,000 words. 

So it's off to something new, something different altogether. In spite of reading what seems like endless books on the how to plot and how to construct and how to do this or that when it comes to writing, I think I'll stick to my mostly tried and true method of just starting to write and see where that takes me. I know this is the method used by plenty of good writers; some of them get the story functioning from early on; others, like me, usually have to write draft after draft along with copious notes before the finished product arrives. 

So it goes, to quote Kurt Vonnegut - who was also a writer of many drafts and a tendency to discover the story as he went along. 

Monday, July 26, 2021

Ministry of Advice

 If I have a fatal flaw in my character it is an inability to pass by a piece of paper with words on it. I have to read it - even when the print is upside down. 

Consequently, I misread a missive the other day and thought that a new ministry had been created: the Ministry of Advice

The mind boggles (well, it would boggle if it knew how. Boggle is a variation of Bogle, I find, and an archaic version of Bogey. A bogey is a mischievous spirit, which may explain the loss of innumerable golf balls.) 

Anyway, one wonders what the Ministry of Advice would advise on, since the Department of Internal Affairs seems to be the place to get answers to legislative matters. Might the MOA, for instance, replace those agony columns in magazines? 

"Dear MOA, my boyfriend says my zits drive him crazy. He says he can't make up his mind which to squeeze first, them or me. What should I do?" Signed, Helpless and Confused. 

"Dear Helpless and Confused, we must first point out that no one in this nation should consider themselves helpless and confused. The sense of purpose and direction of this nation's leadership is such that it has taken the people from the doldrums of international debt to recovery in a matter of a decade, and now all citizens can be proud that they are part of a movement which will raise the level of opportunity, finance and welfare far above that experienced in any period since this country was colonised.

"Therefore, since his country cannot be classified as beyond help, no individual member of the nation can be classed as helpless. Confusion we find is a matter for the Ministry of Health, however, and we have referred the relevant section of your letter to them. 

"Boyfriend under the terms of the Act (section 205, paragraph 9a) is not only a relationship of degree that cannot make claims having no foundation in fact, it is a relationship that is not yet a relationship, as 'boyfriend' has no legal or legislative status. Therefore you are no obliged to take this person's statement as being in any way true for yourself. We would suggest you get a second opinion, one that will hold valid in a court of law. 

"Furthermore, we can find no mention in parliamentary proceedings to indicate that minute growths on the skin can cause any kind of delirium, dementia, derangement, lunacy, mania, or state of unsound mind. This would incline us to the conclusion that the 'zits' are not responsible for the state of your boyfriend's sanity, and we have thoughtfully passed on your letter to the Ministry of Women's Affairs, which is well able to deal with inaccuracies of thought, counterfactual opinions and specious solecisms by members of male sex. 

"It is our opinion that many persons in this country are in a state of indecision, and this in spite of the consistently straight-as-an-arrow approach to leadership our beloved leaders take. We admit some bewilderment therefore when you say that your male associate is unable to make up his mind regarding a certain process of compression. 

"From where we sit, at this point in time, with all things being equal, and considering all options, we believe that an undeviating procedure is the prerequisite in this particular case. Your acquaintance of the masculine gender should take pen and paper and, sitting at a desk, write out an order of attack. 

"Depending on the number of skin eruptions involved, he may have to work out at which point of the facial features he is going to begin. Only when he has dispensed with each outbreak, will he find it sensible to pass onto the next stage - embracing your person. However, stage one of the plan may take some time. We do not suggest you fret unnecessarily until it is completed. 

"We have enclosed a large number of Government-produced pamphlets showing how to occupy yourself during such a time. We hope these, and the advice contained above, will assist you with your request. 

"Yours sincerely…."

This was originally published on a now defunct site, Triond. 

Listless and listful

English lacks a number of what could be quite useful words, particularly in the suffix departments labelled, ‘ful’ and ‘less.’ (That’s ‘full’ to people in the USA.)

Just to take an example, think of the word, ‘wrongful.’  We use this in relation to a person being unjustly arrested. Surely the word should be ‘wrongless.’  If you’ve done nothing wrong, then how can your arrest be described as wrong-ful?

We think of certain kinds of marriage as ‘loveless.’ Why then don’t we call those marriages that last for 50 or 60 years – you know the Darby and Joan kind that get reported in the paper – as ‘loveful?’ What about the person who wins several prizes at once in Lotto? Isn’t he luckful? (If ever I have occasion to possess a Lotto ticket, I can always be described by the more familiar luckless.) 

And don’t we often wish politicians were more speechless than speechful, and would let us have a truthful earful? 

Isn’t it curious that we describe certain kinds of sunless rooms as airless, when in fact only a vacuum can be airless. All rooms are airful, though not all are sunful. 

One of the most commonly used adjectives is ‘awful,’ which is a shortened form of what used to be a word of great strength: ‘awe-full’, meaning full of awe. It would be far more accurate to describe most awful things these days by its opposite. We should be using that awkward little squashed down word, ‘awless.’  

Turning to another awless area of life, dentists must be pleased that we are toothful rather than toothless. Equally chiropodists should be pleased with footful people – even if they are wearing footless tights or fingerless gloves. (Actually haven’t you thought how much more couth it would be to give someone a fingerful rather than a fistful? Though I’m usually pretty fistless when it comes to such occasions.) 

I’m sure the peaceful would like to see a lot more hateless people around them, while most mothers would be grateful for willess children, rather than grateless and wilful ones (when you use the word ‘willess’ however, you can see why it’s never really made the grade. And should it be spelt with two ‘l’s or three?) 

Actually I was being truthless when I said I’d made a lengthy study of this matter. These endful curiosities first distracted me in the middle of listening one morning at church to an otherwise interesting sermon. 

It was there that I saw that we’ve managed to retain some twin words. Even in our less than Godful society we still have sinful and sinless, faithful and faithless, graceful and graceless, joyful and joyless, fearful and fearless. 

How come all these kept their opposites, when lustful has no lustless, or topless no topful, or bottomless no bottomful? (The mind boggles.) 

I guess they were successful instead of successless. 

PS.   Thanks for my daughter’s listful help. 

This was originally published on a now defunct site, Triond. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Anglian Worms

 This item first appeared on my old back in 2011. Unfortunately, like everything else on that blog, it was deleted summarily by the company who ran it. I've included it here because it's linked to from another blog. 

Anglian Worms is a small business run mostly by Amanda Jennings on an industrial estate some eight miles past Fakenham in Norfolk.The business works out of a couple of former Nissan huts.

Amanda’s been running the business for around 18 months, and is only now beginning to make some profit out of it. She has a farming background, and says farmers in general are helpful to one another when it comes to problems and difficulties. Worm farmers, though, are keen on keeping their secrets.

The first ‘hut’ has an office, small worm plastic boxes, larger wooden-encased sections, and a lot of horse manure. Plastic sheeting heats up the manure and cooks it, making the process of breaking it down a good deal quicker.

In the second hut there are some twenty large boxes set on the concrete floor. They were built by her husband (who’s a farmer) and are around three metres by two. A few thousand worms live in each of these - and multiply.

Like any business, the biggest issues come with the marketing. (Though the physical work involved in worm farming is considerable too). Worms can be sold to fishermen - via fishing shops - to home gardeners, and in some other areas. However, getting a foothold in these areas is a major task, one that’s still taking up a good deal of Amanda’s time. With the increase of interest in things ecological, however, she seems to be in the right business.

Worms don’t need much looking after: watering when it’s warm, and feeding. In Anglian Worms case the food comes from a combination of the horse manure and peat. The heavy work is in turning the horse manure, filling up the boxes, and packing.  Hardest of all is sorting out worms from the peat/manure mix.   This is done by hand, one or two worms at a time.

Having the large box containers on the ground brings problems in terms of needing to bend over and reach down to get the worms. If she was starting again, Amanda says she’d make her worms more accessible.

Thursday, June 03, 2021

Procrastination post one hundred and something

I'm typing up an old handwritten journal from 2005 at the moment and just came across a section that struck a real chord. It says:

“I could probably get on and do some more of the novel, but it’s near ten, and I don’t know if I want to get onto it tonight. Apart from that, it’s not warm in here, and I’m in the middle of a bit I’m not enjoying much…although at least I’m writing it. I went back and began the sequence I’d missed out earlier because I couldn’t work out how to do it. It wasn’t nearly so hard as I thought. In fact, it’s never the writing that’s hard, it’s the getting started, and yes, I know I should write at least five minutes if nothing else, but five minutes is never enough to get into it.”

Note all the excuses: too late in the evening, not warm in the room, writing a section I’m not enjoying writing, five minutes isn't long enough to get started. 

On the other hand, note that I was still writing the bit I wasn't enjoying - when I wasn't procrastinating. Furthermore I'd gone back to a section I’d missed out before, discovering I’d worked out how to do it in the meantime. (I think I'm talking about two different sections here in the journal, but I might not be.)

Perhaps seemingly least, but not necessarily: It’s better to write for five minutes than for no minutes.

Procrastination is my biggest problem. One excuse I didn't use here is: 'I don't know if it's worth carrying on with this book because I've had so many problems with it.' But problems are part and parcel of putting a story together, especially if there's anything complex in the plotting. I've had immense problems with the latest children's story I've been writing for what now seems like years. And have solved most of them eventually. No doubt, since I'm probably only halfway through it, there will be more problems to come. 

Anywho, I'm impressed with my younger journal self; I was 60 at the time. I was prepared to keep on writing through a section I wasn't enjoying. Not that this meant it wasn't a good piece to work on, but that it was hard to write. 

And it's also encouraging to see that I'd sensibly had left a section aside when I couldn't sort out how to do it - this required guts on my part because I don't like leaving (writing) things undone. even now. But better still, the problem with the section, whatever it was, actually got solved by the fact of leaving it aside. 

Lastly: it's better to write for five minutes than not write at all. Why, do you ask? I'm sure you already know the answer, but I'll jot it down anyway, as a reminder to myself as much as anything else. It's better to write for five minutes, because once we've got into that five minutes, we usually carry on writing, and not only does more get done than we anticipated, we remember how much we enjoy the sheer fact of writing...