Context is very powerful

I’ve been teaching myself Spanish for the past six weeks or so, and am at the point where I can read very simple fiction such as the stories in this book, which are designed specifically for beginners, and use only simple, common words and phrases.

Although I don’t know all the words, and am still very confused by the grammar rules, tenses, and all that kind of stuff, it is surprising how easy it is to understand what a sentence as a whole means based on context. I find myself reading sentences, guessing at the meanings of words that I don’t know based on the sentence as a whole, and coming up with what I think the sentence means… and being right. Of course, sometimes I’m wrong (I always check, anyways) but not very often.

I remember being young and doing this with English words I didn’t know (before google!). If you see a word in context enough times you just learn what it means without anyone telling you, or if not exactly, then you get an aura, or flavor of what it generally means.

I also think that, aside from learning the meanings of words, we can learn all kinds of things just from context. Why did some character say a certain word, or act a certain way? What are a characters motivations or fears? We learn these things by the things that happen around the character. Not by having them explicitly, painfully, detailed for us.

Anyway, I’m having a lot of fun learning. It gives me that little hit of dopamine every time I successfully decipher a sentence, like solving a puzzle. My hope is that, if I can get good enough at it to read actual novels, I will become fluent through osmosis, by just reading and reading, which is how I got good at English, after all.

Then I could read Marquez and Borges in their original text! 😮 Life goals!



I wonder how or if my writing would improve if I knew multiple languages.

Haruki Murakami translated his first book into English, then back into Japanese when he first wrote it in order to simplify his style. I wonder if it added new ideas to it as well.

There must be some ideas that are easier to express in other languages, so knowing that language might open new avenues of thinking. Maybe there are some ideas that are only born in certain languages at all…

The answer is obviously to learn every language and find out!

Monastery life

I think I could be happy being a monk/scholar/priest, whatever you want to call it. A person who leaves behind ‘life’ in order to devote themselves to the world of the mind/spirit. If I could spend every waking hour studying, reading, learning, teaching, etc, I think I could give up material possessions and all the things involved in ‘real’ life.

This is what the character in ‘the glass bead game’ has done. He is devoting his life to study and learning, and introspection. This sounds very appealing to me. I sometimes think I could be happy if I could just be left to my own interests with a safe place to sleep and enough food not to starve.

But… the appeal of all the entertainment and other things I consume daily is strong, and might not be so easy to give up…

Several short sentences about writing, by Verlyn Klinkenborg

I got this as a gift last year, and am finally finishing it now after a long hiatus of distraction.

This is unequivocally the best book on writing I’ve ever read.

Each page–each sentence–is a useful insight that most ‘how to write’ books would stretch out into an entire chapter.

It is a joy to read, humorous, inspiring, encouraging and endlessly  helpful in such a clear and straightforward way that you will find yourself wanting to bookmark every page.

This is the first, and so far only book on writing I would recommend to any aspiring writer.

Get it!


Quantity over Quality

The year is almost over, and it’s going to be the worst year–as far as number of views–that my blog has had since its creation.

Probably cause I went three months without making a post.

It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that in the world of unknown writers, quality without quantity is as useless as an army of one. As pointless as a single, perfectly designed, edited and polished shout for help out the window of a burning building.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that quality is useless to worry about at all. Finishing things and putting them out into the world regularly and constantly is the only thing that will get you noticed.

No matter how good your novel is, if you only write one your chances of success are slim.

I’m sure there are millions of brilliant, took-10-years-to-write, life’s work novels sitting unpublished in office drawers around the world out there. Because not every novel gets published. Very few of them do, in fact. And if your odds are so low, why spend 10 years working on it? If you had instead written ten or twenty novels in those ten years, the odds of success would be exponentially higher.

And who wants to write just one thing, anyway? Why not write 2 or 3 novels a year? It’s just words on paper, you can produce those endlessly right? Right. (I say, as I come upon the stunning pinnacle of halfway through one novel in the past year… )

Same goes for blog posts, and short stories, poems, articles, whatever you write. Produce lots of it, or no one will ever know you exist.

If you are worried about improving, though, it just so happens that writing a lot of stuff is the main way to get better at writing. Not, as some may think, sitting around reading about how to write, taking writing classes, and fretting over each sentence until you have the perfect paragraph six hours later.

Write ten ‘crappy’ stories this month instead of one ‘perfectly crafted’ one.  Do that for a few months, then check how good your ‘crappy’ stories are compared to the ‘perfectly crafted’ ones of your past. You may be surprised how quickly you can improve by actually doing the thing you are trying to improve at.

Anyway, my point is, if you are going to focus on some aspect of your writing to improve, your quantity is a pretty good choice.

Word A Day: Interlace

In an effort to blog more thoughts and not just constant movie and TV reviews, as well as also learning some new words, I’m going to attempt to blog once a day about a new word each day.

I’ll be getting the words from this random word generator. The word generator contains 90,000 words, so that should keep me occupied for a couple hundred years at least. I do not plan to skip any words, even the never-used medical ones, or the uninteresting articles or conjunctions–they can still provoke thoughts, after all!

So, here goes, I push the button and the first word is…


 Definition: To unite as by lacing together; to insert or interpose one thing within another; to intertwine; to interweave.

This is not a new word to me, of course. It makes me think of space, and science for some reason. Maybe because I read lots of sci fi and am thinking of interstellar travel.

I do think that technology is becoming more and more interlaced with biology. I wonder if one day they will become indistinguishable. Maybe our technological advances will not be adjustments to our environment or tools exterior to us, but advancements in our own bodies. That would be something more than interlacing, though, that would be a melding, a blending, not two distinct things twisted together, but two becoming one. Two things changing into one, separate other thing.

But interlaced threads can become one rope… where do you draw the line? When do two things mix enough that they become one?

I would say it’s when you can no longer separate them without destroying both. I could see the human race’s relation to technology becoming that way in the not to distant future. To me, though, that seems exciting!

See you tomorrow with the next random word thoughts…