Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
It's the start of a new year, so we're looking back and looking forward: the word(s) of the year in 2013, and some ideas to get you writing more in 2014.
First, however, we raise our likely now-empty champagne flutes to scribes with a look at why so many of us writers are drinkers.
We also explore why we write about pop culture.
Writing and drinking:
The writer with a drinking problem is a story told often enough that the trait has become cliché. But since a new book devotes 340 pages to the topic, there must be something to it. Olivia Laing wrote “The Trip to Echo Spring” about six famous writers, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Cheever, and stories about the vice that they shared. No doubt tales of drunkenness about famous and brilliant people can make good reading. More important though, are accomplished, full-time storytellers more prone to alcoholism (or drug abuse)? This review from The New York Times
suggests Laing may be examining that more than the writers themselves:
“I was beginning to think,” Laing writes, “that drinking might be a way of disappearing from the world.” It’s a beautiful sentence and it hints at the torment she is trying to locate.
The Word of the Year:
The American Dialect Society met Friday to unveil its Word of 2013. If you're a writer, you've likely noticed that they weren’t the only ones to do that. The Economist's language blog takes on the criteria from several dictionaries and language watchers (like ADS) who came up with their own Word of the Year. Merriam-Webster used search results (not a good idea) to declare that "science" was the word of 2013. Oxford University Press declared "selfie" the winner. That's probably about right. The Economist
's criteria led it to look for a word that best captures the major cultural concern of the year.
Why write about pop culture?:
Since we just came away from the end-of-year gusher of top 10, 20, or 50 lists of things that probably don't matter, now is a good time for this post from NPR's Monkey See
blog. Editor Linda Holmes explains why some of these things do matter, and we should be writing about them. Perhaps we should
all be reading and writing about global economics, politics or military conflicts, but what people actually do, when given the chance, is read about “Breaking Bad,” “The Hunger Games,” and Miley Cyrus. Therefore, good, thoughtful writing about these things is not just ok, it's important.
[RELATED: Get advanced writing and editing tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela.]
A challenge to writers for 2014:
The biggest obstacle to writing more is often that we refuse to just sit down and do it. Jeff Goins is offering a solution on his blog with a new year's resolution-type challenge to spend the next 31 days writing 500 words each day. The idea is to get you writing something, anything, and stop finding distractions and reasons to avoid the painful experience of making sense on paper:
For the next 31 days, we’ll be writing 500 words a day. These won’t be great words, but they will be written. We’re not trying to reach perfection; we’re just trying to get more ideas out of our heads and onto paper.
Or even better yet, as Stepahnie Vanderslice writes on The Huffington Post
, keep it going past 31 days, and resolve to write every day this year
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.