Archives for posts with tag: writing

“What we want is not authenticity; it is credibility. In order to be credible, you have to dress the thing in clothes of authenticity.”

John le Carre speaking about writing in the Paris Review


The pursuit of a good place to turn thoughts into writing is a continuing process. I need cleaness, simpleness and, usually, coffee nearby. Below are three recent homes to my creative sparks.

1) The most usual, the humble coffee shop, and English tradition, although in this case an Italian chain, where most of the Enlightenment was put together. Now of course people think of tea.

Photo 1246.jpg

Photo 1247.jpg

2) Then of course there is the out of the ordinary cafe. In this case it is the St. Martins in the field (church) Crypt cafe, which has an awe-some ambiance and acoustic quality.

Photo 0862.jpg

Photo 0858.jpg

3) Recently the most glorious place and way to write…Outside!

Photo 1308.jpg

(Yes that lady is hula-hooping, she was there for an hour, serious work out, and it must be said anybody who hula-hoops in public is showing off)

Photo 1304.jpg

(If Redbull gave you wings I am sure I would write in the sky as well)

The place I do my writing is becoming specific and I am thinking through what works and how. Once upon a time I could write anywhere. Now life is not so simple. On I go. As we all do.

This post is a little late, namely due to my forgetting it was in this notebook. I realise that this actually makes sense in relation to how i treat notebooks. Something I go into further below.

(Originally written 09/04/02009)

For the last nine months or so I have carried around and scribbled in a black, hardback, slightly larger than A5 size notebook. Instead of keeping separate notebooks for separate projects, writing in pads which i could detach the individual pages and keep all related pieces together, I kept this one notebook so that I didn’t have the chance of losing or destroying bits of paper as I have often done in the past.

Now of course If had lost or destroyed this notebook I was using I would have lost everything, but luckily I didn’t, I filled each page and now it is full and time to move onto scribbling ink into in to a new, different notebook.

I started my new book, a week ago, and as the now filled notebook had all my project(s) notes in it I kept it on me along with my new notebook so that I could flick through it and find pieces that I need to back to and consult.

Today I only took my new notebook as the plan was to only scribble down what had been dancing around my thoughts since i woke up this morning.

However, as it always goes, as I was in the cafe I had need to consult my, now filled, old notebook, and go over a few sections I had scribbled down mainly in the recent past. The problem of course was that it really was the past I couldn’t remember anything I had written on the subject beyond the general theme. So, alas, I realised perhaps for the first time, that my notebook was not simply a place that I scribbled down thoughts, to ‘exorcise’ them from me, but, instead, the notebook acted as some sort of external record for what I have been working on for the last nine months, a much more faithful residue than my memories perhaps.

– Now the point of this piece, I have become very attached to my notebooks and rely on them more than I realised. I wouldn’t function or research in the same way if I didn’t carry one around with me. And, as I have shown it is not simply the carrying of a notebook that is important, but the collection of notes and observations that goes along with carrying one.

– Now I just need to honour my notebook properly by going through it and ‘excavating’ and ‘rescuing’ the pieces that I have fully forgotten about. I did this recently with an even older notebook and found pieces I had no recollection of ever writing. Finding such pieces brought back ideas of the time and places I had written the pieces, and in some cases the people I had been writing with.

College and university essays are prime examples of situated educational praxis and an element of learning how to live. This view however, is in stark contrast with the more popular, wide spread and understood view that essays are important as far as the student gaining a grade that either passes or fails them in a given class. The college and university essay however, is a preface to future work, and life. That is, a training that sees the student honing their skills and raising their abilities ready for jobs that require specific skills and abilities. Therefore, the aim of this short piece is to discuss the meaning and place of college and university essays by situating them as important social, life living phenomena and not something separate to or removed from life.

University is an apprenticeship which trains the student in the necessary skills of their life to come. In this way then college and university essays are situated ‘outside’ or ‘before’, but instead they exist as a specific important, in many ways a necessary, way and part of the life of the student. This view does not simply apply to the young student who is the stereotypical writer of college and university essays, but for anybody who is embarking on education. In fact these view and the other viewpoints depicted here dealing with college essays could easily be transcribed into education and training at all levels. The difficult area is making the work relevant the showing the student its importance.

Learning how to discuss, reason and argue in a sophisticated way is important to writing, specifically, and in life, generally. These are skills that must be demonstrated sufficiently well within the confines of an essay for a good grade to be conveyed.

Chambers online dictionary cites the root/route of ‘essay’ as a sixteenth century French word meaning ‘to try’. This meaning is exactly what students wishing to demonstrate their knowledge, through learning, do. Students try, they attempt, they make a go at laying down, writing down, an understanding of something they have been taught. The other beauty of the essay is that it is short form prose, and most usually consists of a sole thesis which is introduced in the first paragraph and elaborated upon for the length the essay.
The fact that essays are also prominant in academic journals, as well as newpapers and mainstream magazines, books are also most usually composed of a collection of essay length chapters. Thus, this makes the teaching method of essay writing relevent when one is learning their trade. After all, when one is learning how to make a brick and mortar wall, the ultimate test is whether they are able to build the wall correctly.

The old adage ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ is one to be mindful of. This is because the most powerful of non-fiction, in some cases even fiction (see 1984), are the pieces that demonstrate learning not simply as an esoteric academic study, but as something important and necessary in the world. A piece of writing that discloses to the reader something that changes them.

Below is an extract from my BA dissertation in which I attempted to explain human being to a non philosphical audience. It may have some relevence to the post below

” Dasein: “We are ourselves the entities to be analysed…the essence of Dasein lies in its existence” (Heidegger 1962: 67). Therefore Dasein is equated with being human. The structures to be investigated are those of human beings.

Present-at-hand and Ready-to-hand: “ The things Dasein encounters are usable, employable in the pursuit of its purposes: in Heidegger’s terms, they are not just present-to-hand, the object of theoretical contemplation, but handy or ready-to-hand. That is the way in which Dasein encounters them when it looks after something or makes use of it, accomplishes something or leaves something undone” (Mulhall 2005: 41).

Being-in-the-world: The state in which human beings exist, Dasein itself literally means ‘being-there’ (Mulhall 2005: 40). Dasein’s Being-in-the-world is a unitary and holistic experience (Heidegger 1962: 78, Mulhall 2005: 36) therefore its everyday experience, is not an inner mental state and then an outer world. Being in should not be confused with Being-in, that is humans are not ‘in’ the world like water is in a glass (Heidegger 1962: 79). “


Heidegger, m. 1962 Being and Time Oxford: Blackwell

Mulhall, S. 2005 Heidegger and Being and Time: Second edition London: Routledge

1. People are beginning to ask a lot, what is I am doing, and what I am.

2. Now I am embarking on my own work, it’s time to really think about what it is I want, my longer term plans etc.

3. I don’t particularly need a one word descriptor, but people I talk to seem to need it. So lets see if I can combine the above two points and make some sense.

The one word descriptor is that I am an anthropologist. An Encarta definition gives me:

The study of humankind in all its aspects, especially human culture or human development. It differs from sociology in taking a more historical and comparative approach.

Apart from the ‘human development’ and the ‘comparative’ phrases, I would largely agree with this definition. I would however have to extend it to add an emphasis on studying human being, and in particular human being in the world ( I realise that I should also explain my specific use of ‘being’, but will do so when i am not so foggy and full of flu). Similar words have been spoken recently by Tim Ingold in his ‘Anthropology is not Ethnography‘ talk at the British academy. I would also have to add the idea that anthropology studies the past, present and future (if that wasn’t already understood to be the case). Therefore, it matters little how I am defined other than this, many people would want to say that I am ‘multi-disciplinary’ or ‘genre blurring’ in my work. My own comments on how wrong this is can wait for another time, and I hope to an extent the reasons are made manifest in this post.

So, my aim and long term goals are to teach and write about people, in the myriad ways that are possible, even the fictional, and I don’t just want the talking and/or writing to be to other ‘in the know’ academics.

This is becoming a manifesto as well, isn’t it?

After all that it seems that I have distanced myself from the one word descriptor, as my definition of anthropology is different to what people usually think, and I would have to rehearse the contents of this post to people, and usually don’t have the time, or people aren’t interested, or I don’t want to do it because I sound pretend-tious (like now).

Right now I am officially doing an MPhil in Archaeology, but if the above is understood then what I am doing is not simply digging a hole.

Why cannot people ask what I do, and want more than a one word descriptor, really is it so hard for people to be interested in other people?

When ‘Current World Archaeology’ started a few years ago, i subscribed from the beginning. And every two months I would get the magazine and read it through. Things became more difficult when at uni, because it was still sent to my home address, not the one for uni. Therefore, when I got home for the holidays I would have a couple of issues waiting for me and it would be nice. Things changed once again this year as I didn’t go home from uni for the year, and, even if I did have family visit the magazines never came with them. So, when I arrived home this summer I had a nice little collection of issues to read, and as happend often with me, I promptly forgot about them.

Now as I am once again packing up my life for my move to Sheffield and my MPhil, I am reading those magazines that have been waiting for me, some for over a year. It is interesting and relaxing to see that in some way, archaeology has a non hardcore academic frontline and place to present archaeology to the wider public who may be interested but not enought to pay the hight rates for the academic journals that publish maybe twice a year.

**Current World Archaeology are not paying me, or even asked me to write this post, the thoughts are from one who is interested in the subject matter and how it functions**

It interests me how mobile phones seem to have gone from being a way in which people can contact each other no matter where they are (as long as ther’s signal), to a form of social monitoring. I do not mean this in the sense that the ever increasing amount of phones with gps chips allows the government to track people. I mean more locally in the sense that parents give their children mobile phones, not so the children can contact their friends, but rather so that the parents keep an eye on their children. I over heard one parent asking their child if they got the bus and arrived at school in the morning, it was their first day at secondary school, and the child answered yes. The Parent then said, “I you had a mobile I would have been able to check this morning”. Now I understand that parents worry, I after all was not grown in a vat and unleashed on the world, I have a mum and family, and they worry. But I still don’t know where worry ends and keeping an eye and control on children begins. Especially if said children are not at home.

Being British I have grown up exposed a great deal to multiculturalism, where I am from in sub-urban London that is mainly in the form of an Asian community. I have been fortunate to have friends who were born in Britain to Indian parents, and also to have known students from India who have come to Britain to study. I have also been able to watch and enjoy a great amount of Bollywood films. I indicate all of this at the start because it is important to my understanding of the writings of R. K. Narayan (I will skip a brief biography as it is easy to find in the link for those interested) who is an Indian author who writes in English, and has added a great many new chapters to my understanding of India and its people, history and culture.

It is fair to say that the stories I have heard previously had always been told for some sort of reason, and often the sotry would be something I could not essentially grasp. I would understand what it had to do with the person/people telling it but not how it fit into the jigsaws that make up my thoughts. This was often true with Bollywood films which are unashamedly made for middle class India, and this has asmuch to do with my financial/social standing as it does my understanding of Indian culture and society.

Therefore, reading Narayan’s books was eye opening, his prose exposed me to an India I had only previously seen in glimpses or phrases, and with Narayan came full novels and a set of short stories. All dealing with an India which feels much more accesible to the casual reader. It cannot hurt that the texts are written in English forgoeing any problems of translation. Narayan’s India stretches from the rich to the poor and untouchables. In several cases it deals with the future and tradtion of India. ‘The vendor of sweets’ is just such an example in which the owner of a local sweet store (in the Indian sense of sweets) sends his son to America as that is what the son wishes. upon the son’s return he desses and talks like and American and even brings a wife who is not Indian. Through the father and son we see two generations ‘butting heads’ not because they do not like one another but because they do not and can not understand one another.

Perhaps though what is most accessible is the feeling of timlessness to these stories. I am sure that if I was better acquainted with india I would be able to discern a time period for the stories. This however is not necessary, as the stories are not historical chronicle they are instead commentary on the life people live, in this case Indians, and how this can bring about conflict and humour, while at the same time trying to discuss meaning and importance in life, which can not help but cross over into the readers own thoughts, even if they are not Indian. I hesitate here to say that they are ‘universal’ stories and narratives. That is not the case, but neither is it the case that they are inpenetrable if you are not Indian.