"Diaries, A Healthy Choice" - The New York Times. At the time of the year when many of us try to envision ways we can improve our physical and mental health, Matthew Lieberman, a psychology professor at U.C.L.A., the editor in chief of "Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience" and the author of the forthcoming "Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect" proposes something very old-school, yet extremely effective. The notion is, keep a diary. His research finds that something as simple as labeling our feelings and articulating our beliefs and insecurities is enough to reduce our distress and produce other mental and physical health benefits.
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. I've been making my living for a while as a writer but have never had any formal training. A friend recently suggested that On Writing Well is a must-read for any nonfiction writer. Here's how Zinsser describes his ambition as contrasted with E.B. White's, The Elements of Style.
"The Elements of Style was essentially a book of pointers and admonitions: Do this, don’t do that. As principles they were invaluable, but they were only principles, existing without context or reality. What his book didn’t teach was how to apply those principles to the various forms that nonfiction writing can take, each with its
special requirements: travel writing, science writing, business writing, the interview, memoir, sports, criticism, humor. That’s what I taught in my course, and it’s what I would teach in my book. I wouldn’t compete with The Elements of Style; I would complement it.
That decision gave me my pedagogical structure. It also finally liberated me from E. B. White. I saw that I was long overdue to stop trying to write like E. B. White—and trying to be E. B. White, the sage essayist. He and I, after all, weren’t really much alike. He was a passive observer of events, withdrawn from the tumult, his world bounded by his office at The New Yorker and his house in rural Maine. I was a participant, a seeker of people and far places, change and risk. At Yale I had also become a teacher, my world enlarged by every new student who came along. The personal voice of the teacher, not the literary voice of the essayist, was the one I wanted narrating my book.
For that I would need a new model—a writer I would emulate not for his subject but for his turn of mind, his enjoyment of what he was teaching. That book wouldn’t come from a professor of English, squeezing the language dry with rules of rhetoric. It would have to come from an entirely different field, and it did. My model for On Writing Well was American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950, by the composer Alec Wilder." As someone who came to writing from an entirely different field, I cannot wait to dig into Zinsser's On Writing Well more deeply.