Typewriter writing

Back To The Basics: Reading and Writing

One of the disciplines drilled into me in high school was to write every day. And I mean, EVERY day. I have stacks and stacks of essays from all of my classes including history, theology, English, Spanish, etc.  I remember how daunting it was at first, struggling to hit the minimum page count while avoiding the temptation to change the line spacing from 2.0 to 2.1.  Sure enough, the process slowly became tolerable, and then expedient, and finally, genuinely enjoyable.  I used to exchange written works with my classmates and diligently pour over sentence structure, grammar, and vocabulary with the finest toothed comb in a never-ending game of literary one-upsmanship.  (By the way, send your kids here – it’s life changing:  Canisius High School, Buffalo, NY.)

Unfortunately, as my university studies were less rigorous than my high school studies (bizarre, I know), much of this literary fluidity fell by the way side.  As I pursued an ever more technical career path, things got even worse, as my daily routine was focused around equations, solutions, and mathematical proofs.  It’s worth noting however, that mathematics is a language in it’s own right, especially the more theoretical facet.  Having a keen grasp of written languages, especially more than one, seems to help make the process of thinking abstractly more palatable.  More on that some other time…

Fast forward to my post doctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan, where I was buried up to my eyeballs with the most technical and nuanced research in the world.  I was working in a laboratory studying low power microelectronic circuit design (read: making computer chips from scratch.)  One morning, I arrived for a meeting with one of my advising professors, and he was just finishing up his “writing time.”  I didn’t quite get it at first, and he explained that he sets aside at least one hour EVERY morning to write.  It didn’t matter what – correspondence, grants, book chapters, papers, journal entries, etc. as long as he was focused exclusively on writing.  That moment really struck a chord with me.  Here is a guy at the pinnacle of his field, in one of the most technical and quantitative vocations in existence, yet he spends more than 10% of his time writing prose.  Why?  Writing focuses your mind, and forces you to slow down your thoughts.  It encourages a natural reflection and revision process as you read over the words that you just laid down.  It broadens your vocabulary and quickens your ability to choose just the right word on the fly, even when you’re speaking out loud.  It forces you to be creative.  After all, nobody wants to be boring, especially in something permanent.  And the list goes on…

So here I am today, September 5th, 2017, trying to get back to my roots:  reading and writing.  The old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” might still hold true, but in the world of Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, I might be compelled to argue the point. Pictures are leaving me underwhelmed, videos inciting skepticism.  As such, I find myself thinking “I know what is certainly worth a thousand words. A thousand words, written on a page.” Well, maybe considering inflation, it’s closer to twelve hundred words, but I digress.

With my favorite tools at hand (my MacBook Pro and MarsEdit), I am endeavoring to write at least one blog post each week.  Ironically, the posts will be mostly inspired by photographs.  Looking back over the last couple of years, I’ve accumulated thousands of photos about which I could write for days on end.  The posts might be technical, funny, informative, or just narrative.  Hopefully, they’ll all be interesting to someone.  With each post, I’m planning an announcement over the usual social channels.  I’m actually not even sure how people “follow” blogs these days!  So here we go… wish me luck.