It's summertime in New England -- and all here are struggling to cram the days with activity. REST YOUR FRONTAL LOBE, attributed to Dainin Katagiri, is a koan to mull over.
Administrivia: We have a good group interested in the Nantucket gathering. It's called a "Gam" in homage to Melville who used this arcane word for a "gathering of whalemen" when discussing Nantucket sailors. To whet your nautical soul see: 36 Hours on Nantucket. Think about resting your gray matter on this island in the sea with us in October.
There's a program on our local public radio station called, "The Academic Minute." Sounds deadly. Not always. Yesterday, Amit Kumar, a professor of English from Vassar College spoke about V.S. Naipaul's rules for writers. Just as we are readers, we are also writers. I thought you might enjoy this simple list:
V.S. Naipaul's Rules for Beginners
(It is said that Naipaul's father, a journalist gave these rules to his son, an aspiring writer)
1. Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.
2. Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.
3. Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.
4. Never use words whose meaning you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.
5. The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of colour, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.
6. Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.
7. Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; short, clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it's training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them.