What Does It Take To Write Something Good?


Tuesday, 7.37pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly. – Thomas Sowell

There’s more and more non-physical stuff out there, floating around the universe, thoughts and ideas and memories and asides and intimate moments and insipid chatter. The stuff you could turn off and you don’t and the stuff that you’d never find in any other way. And I wonder, do we already know what we should do and don’t because we can’t or because the incentives are wrong or because it’s just too complicated or because some voices are loud and insistent.

Let me back up a little.

Writing is thinking. I use this blog as a place to think – to understand what I think about something and so what you are seeing and reading is thinking in progress. I’m not trying to persuade you or sell to you or convince you of anything. I’m just trying to work things out.

But if I were trying to sell to you I’d have to take the thoughts I think and repackage them in a way that was persuasive and convincing, that told you a story you could believe in and buy into.

But what if there was no point. Should I still do that? Perhaps because it could make money? Perhaps because I believed it was a good thing to do – perhaps because you needed it?

Let’s take an example – if I were to talk to you to try and convince you it would make sense to have a story – one that sounded authentic and natural – like the way people are on telly. Of course, you know that it’s all scripted – you really really know that in your heart of hearts but you don’t want to believe it. Because it’s more fun to believe that it’s all authentic and natural. If you want to see what happens when you don’t work off a script search for Grand Tour Series 2 Episode 4 Review “unscripted”. It’s educational.

Ok, so I’ve told you that you need a script to do a good job. Now should I also sell you a teleprompter? Do you need some software to help you out – that scrolls text while you’re reading to the camera?

Well, I wondered if I did and had a quick look. And then I remembered you can do everything on the command line in Linux. So if you want to go through a text file and scroll the lines you can use a one liner using the awk programming language that looks a bit like this:

awk '{print;system("sleep 0.75")}' file.txt

That’s it – that should work and you can change the number to make the scrolling slower or faster.

awk, in case you don’t know, was first written in 1977 by Alfred V. Aho, Brian W. Kernighan and Peter J. Weinberger and the version that we now, gawk, was written by Paul Rubin and Jay Fenlason.

I don’t know about you but I like the fact that a 40+ year old program can help you do something you want to do and you don’t need to buy anything else or do something new. You just need to be willing to learn and think and use what is already out there.

But I can’t sell you that idea and I won’t try. There’s no money in it, after all.

I’ve just poked a hole in a theory I was holding – one that suggested that a willingness to pay for something was an indication of value. Therefore if it’s free it has no value. And that’s not the case, not for almost everything that adds value to my own working practice.

If you’re wondering where I’m heading with all this then let’s just look at the picture at the start of this post.

I don’t think I’ve done anything that’s listed there – but I would if I weren’t trying to think things through.

This list comes from a BBC video on scriptwriting if you want to get some useful information.

For now, I think I’ll move on.


Karthik Suresh

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