Why to say no is important, and political correctness is bullshit

Why to say no? Well bred people never say so, right? And values like appropriateness, politeness and inclusiveness…shouldn’t they guide our stylistic choices? After all, we don’t want to make anyone angry, right? Well, not so fast.

why to say no - lionThese days political correctness seems to be a hot issue for everyone.

So much so that as someone wrote, we can say with confidence that political correctness has gone mainstream.

Now, while I believe it is important to respect everyone, I also believe all this political correctness is in most cases a heap of nonsense.

In fact, there’s a fine line between granting people basic and inalienable rights, and instead enforcing such rights with a series of laws and policies. Laws and policies that in most cases force people to act in certain ways, but don’t teach them anything about the underlying principles.

Basic and inalienable rights have to do with education, role models, and culture at large–and though they need time to bear fruits, they are the ones that really do the job.

Instead, enforced policies only look at numeric entities that aren’t necessarily representative of any meaningful improvement in the way disadvantaged or discriminated groups of people are treated. Continue reading

The importance of challenging the status quo

challenging the status quoWhen I was a toddler I was taught to fit in and do as I was told.

Nobody ever told me about challenging the status quo.

Rather, on the rare occasions someone mentioned it, the implicit message about the status quo was that it was something desirable.

Of course, from a practical point of view this makes sense, at least in part. In fact, if a child begins to question everything she is told she can turn her parent’s life, and her own, into a misery of never ending crises.

In fact, a small child, despite her apparent harmlessness, can refuse to do a lot of things and so disrupt the lives of her parents, her parent’s friends, and all the people the above mentioned parents may come in contact with.

Challenging the status quo is normal for a child

Shoes? Who needs shoes? Even if we’re in the middle of winter and it’s freezing outside, I want to ditch them and run barefoot.

Soup? Soup isn’t even a proper food. Besides, it’s too hot, or too cold, or simply too liquid. I want to make a sandwich with ham and Nutella. I want licorice. I want to watch the TV. What? I can’t eat it? Shame on you!

Time to sleep, you say? Well, I don’t feel like. Not in the least. I want to cry my eyes out at full blast instead. Why? Well, let’s say I’m teething, maybe. Or maybe not. I just feel like my vocal cords would benefit from some extra exercise.

You see, I want to grow a voice as powerful and thundering as Pavarotti’s was.

I bet we all have some experience of this. Either direct or indirect. Either as children ourselves or parents. Continue reading

Psychological resistance and creative writing

psychological resistanceThe concept of psychological resistance is nothing new, but it’s extremely important to know about it and its pernicious effects, if we want to keep improving in whatever we’re doing.

A classical example of such psychological resistance is when we take for granted that we¬†already know all the really relevant and important stuff about what we’re doing.

Often, in such a case we discount any new piece of information because to examine it from an unbiased perspective we would have to challenge a lot of deep rooted perceptions and beliefs. We would have to challenge them with truth and reality, a situation that invariably leads most of us to experience fear, anxiety, uncertainty.

Yet, in life nothing is certain. And everything is in perennial flux. Heraclitus wrote about it something like 2,500 years ago. As a result of this perennial flux, it’s essential to understand that knowledge too undergoes a continuous evolution.

An evolution we cannot stop, but we can harness and put to good use, if we dare to. Continue reading

How to tell if your writing is improving – 4 easy tips

writing is improvingWhen it comes to judging our writing talent we can be incredibly biased. We can delude ourselves and believe we are the next big name; we can also be so critical with ourselves we end up believing we only write rubbish.

Indeed, even the most balanced aspiring writers can feel discouraged and have the impression that despite their best efforts they’re getting nowhere. In particular, they feel their writing isn’t improving in any significant way.

Now, even if it can be difficult to be objective about our own work, this doesn’t mean it’s an impossible task. And indeed, the following suggestions can help us to assess our own writing with at least a certain amount of equanimity. Continue reading

Describing characters in fiction – literary techniques

describing characters in fiction In a previous post about memorable characters in fiction I wrote that writers must offer their readers many occasions to get to know the characters populating their stories.

In fact, just as in real life the more we know about someone the more intense our feelings can grow for that person, the same happens in a novel.

However, given that any work of literature, even the lengthiest one, is always an heavily edited and condensed version of reality, we must choose with care which scenes to include in our stories and which are instead better left out.

For example, if in our book we describe Ms. Jones going through an endless series of only relatively trivial incidents, we can rest assured our readers will put down our book and find something better to do.

Of course, if we really want to write some experimental book full of meta language and self referencing remarks, and discard any description of characters in fiction, nobody prevents us from doing so. But then we shouldn’t be shocked to find out readers wouldn’t touch our brainchild with a two meters long pole. Continue reading