Sekou Sundiata on Writing, Poetry, and Music

E. Ethelbert Miller interviews Sundiata on ‘The Writing Life.’

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Seldom Discussed Everyday Activity

Image credit: Wikipedia

Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols (known as a writing system). It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.

Writing most likely began as a consequence of political expansion in ancient cultures, which needed reliable means for transmitting information, maintaining financial accounts, keeping historical records, and similar activities. Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and administration in Mesopotamia outgrew human memory, and writing became a more dependable method of recording and presenting transactions in a permanent form. In both Ancient Egypt and Mesoamerica writing may have evolved through calendrics and a political necessity for recording historical and environmental events. The oldest known use of writing in China was in divination in the royal court.

Read more at: Wikipedia

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Writer’s Block

Image courtesy of smokedsalmon/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writer’s block, we’ve all suffered its limitations. Any number of things can cause it. Often, it’s caused by anxiety: feelings of not knowing where to begin, not having a clear scope of the project, or other unknowns that create anxiety. You can develop strategies or techniques to get started on your writing.

Here is a standard formula:
1. State your thesis.
2. Write an outline.
3. Write the first draft.
4. Revise the draft.

A second strategy is to answer several questions about your chosen topic. Let’s say that your topic is study abroad:
1. Why should you write about this topic, and why should anyone read it?
2. Do you want the reader to consider study abroad or do you want to discourage it?
3. Do you want to compare study abroad programs based on quality or cost?
4. Do you want to analyze study abroad programs based on the selected destination and in-country opportunities to learn and experience the culture?

A third strategy is brainstorming:
1. Write down every idea related to your topic that comes to mind, no matter how bad or good it is.
2. Consider the questions that your readers might ask. What would they want to know?
3. Talk to friends and family about your topic. What questions do they raise?

If you find yourself jumping back and forth between these strategies, you are on the right track. Some strategies will work better at different stages of your writing process. Take a break and let your ideas percolate. Summarize what you’ve come up with and then tell it to someone in three to four sentences (this could be your thesis).

Write your first draft knowing that it will need serious revision later, not now. Just write. If you can, put it away for a day or two. Then read it aloud. Figure out what needs to be changed, added, deleted, or expanded.

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