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Perfectionism Will Ruin Your Writing

“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

writingBesides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground–you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird (Anchor, 1994), pp. 28-29.

The Wonder of a Good Book

Woman reading inside a huge book

“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. t/hey show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life—wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean. Aren’t you?”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird (Anchor, 1994), p. 15.

How to Destroy Your Research Paper in One Simple Step

I don’t normally repost articles. But as we’re working through our Back to School Series, I thought this topic was worth visiting again. I still see too many students destroying their own research papers with this one simple mistake.

I’ve made quite a few changes to the original version, so here’s an updated description of how you too can destroy your research paper from the very beginning.


writing research paper

Some words should never find their way into research papers. Wikipedia is pretty high on that last (though I do think you can and should use Wikipedia for research). So is anything that is not technically a word (IMHO). Fortunately, though I’ve heard from others who’ve experienced the terror of encountering these in papers, I have not yet experienced them myself. That’s a good thing.

But there is one mistake I run across all too frequently, one that I’d like to see disappear forever: papers that begin with something like the following:

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Good Rule of Thumb for Writing Essays

I am always on the lookout for creative and insightful comments to make on student papers. This has to be one of the best ever!

A good rule of thumb for essays (on viewing sheets or exams) is called the ‘mini-skirt’ rule–they should be long enough to cover what needs to be covered and short enough to be interesting. For many of you, your essays were more comparable to an ‘elderly, overweight man in a Speedo’–your essays were way too short, didn’t cover much at all, and some were just sad and pathetic.

Of course, many of the essays I see are more like a seventeenth-century woman in a formal gown with multiple petticoats and a jacket.

Source: Buzz Feed

Saturday Morning Fun…38 Common Spelling & Grammar Errors

You may not think learning about spelling and grammar errors qualifies as fun. But watch this anyway. It’s an interesting look at a lot of mistakes I see all the time (usually in something I’ve just written).

How to Write a Research Paper (infographic)

This infographic is actually about how to publish a book. But almost everything also applies directly to writing a research paper. So, whether you’re trying to write your first novel, or you’re just trying to finish that research paper that you’ve been procrastinating on all semester, I thought you’d appreciate this. enjoy. (Click to embiggen.)

How to Break through Your Creative Blocks

It happens to everyone. Maybe you’re working on a sermon, a research paper, a poem, or anything else that requires you to come up with some new ideas and express them in unique ways. Whatever it is, you run into the dreaded “block,” that state of being that seems to keep you from coming up with anything more interesting than what you ate for lunch. And, when that happens, it can be pretty frustrating.

A new book takes a unique approach to tackling that problem. Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination offers tips and suggestions from 90 people from different walks of life on how to break through creative blocks. And the suggestions themselves are often rather creative. (One of my favorites is to check into an expensive hotel for a couple of days. The thought of how much money you’re spending just to be there will motivate you to keep working!)

Much of the advice, though, boiled down to two somewhat contrary-sounding ideas:

  • Creativity is hard work and sometimes you just have to push through.
  • When you’re stuck, you often need to take a break and come back fresh.

And the book offer some great suggestions for how to do both of these. But it still leaves you with a pretty fundamental problem: How do you know when you should push through and when you need to take a break?

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More Needed Punctuation Marks

Sometimes a simple simple comma or period isn’t good enough. Maybe you just wrote something brilliantly snarky, but you’re concerned that people will miss the subtleties of your sarcasm. Or perhaps you want to ask a rhetorical question, but you don’t want people to mistake it for a more mundane interrogative. With the current system, you don’t have much of a choice. Just slap a period or question mark at the end and pray that people are paying attention. Our punctuation options seem remarkably limited.

I suppose the day may come when these functions will be filled by the ever-growing universe of emoticons, and we’ll sprinkle our writings with smiling, winking, and smirking little faces. That terrifying future probably isn’t too far off.

Or we could adopt some of these handy little punctuation marks. I’ve commented before on the fabulous percontation point, which lets you signal that rhetorical question, and the much-needed exclamation comma, for those times when you get really excited in the middle of a sentence. But here are some other punctuation possibilities.

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The Evolution of Language vs. the Grammar Police

I have to admit that I’m a little torn when it comes to using language correctly. As someone who spends much of his day reading–whether it’s for fun, for information, to grade papers, or to chip away at the ever-growing pile of emails–I appreciate it when people use language well. It makes my job easier, and it causes significantly less angst.

So some part of me wants to insist that everyone use language correctly, particularly those entrusted with communicating God’s truth. I know you can still communicate without necessarily writing well, but good grammar makes it so much more pleasant for everyone else. It’s like having good table manners. You can eat without them, but it’s rather nasty to watch.

But another part of me wants to push back just a bit. Do we always have to use language correctly? That’s a tricky question to answer. And the problem comes from the words “always” and “correctly.”

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It All Started with the Naked Mole Rat: A New Video for My Book

Here’s a short video describing my book Gospel for the Living Dead: A Fresh Take on the Gospel Story. It’s pretty low-tech: just me, a couch, and an artificial ficus tree. (Do real ficus trees even exist?) But I think it does the trick.

We’ll be sending the video to some publishers later this week. And I’d like it to look like the video is really popular. So if you could hit “play” twenty or thirty times, I’d really appreciate it. Or, if you have children, students, and/or friends who need to be punished, you could make them watch this repeatedly. Either way works for me.

Oh, and feel free to hit the “thumbs up” button on You Tube as well. I’ve made arrangements for you to receive a crown in heaven for every thumbs up you give me. I have connections.

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