Ask Vinni

Longer, well researched posts primarily focused on philosophy, psychology and self improvement. Topics I've mulled over for weeks. Irregularly updated.

 

Essays and other writings

Shorter, weekly articles on principles and thoughts that have been in my mind for a couple of days. Contradictory and rough, evolving as I do.

Heaven and Hell by Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Heaven and Hell Jón Kalman StefánssonThis is a book about hell. About death, about feeling helpless and having no reason to go on anymore. It’s a book about choices and contrasts.

But heaven is found in the words.

The reality of a village somewhere in northern Iceland in the 19th century is the perfect setting for such a contrast. When everything is as uncertain as it was back in those times, when darkness is all we have for a good half of the year and no matter how much we fight the cold, it will reach us eventually, we have to find other ways to warm ourselves.

In those cases, it’s okay to find solace in words. As long as we don’t rely solely on them, because of course “words are not enough and we become lost and die out in the heaths of life if we have nothing to hold but a dip pen.”

The story is simple and serves mostly as a background for the wonderful prose that carries the reader through this book. A boy loses his friend on a fishing expedition. A friend who was too busy memorizing lines from Paradise Lost to remember to bring his windbreaker along. The boy sets out to return the book to its owner so that later he can meet his friend in death.

But even though the choice between “life” and “death” might seem simple, everyone hesitates. Everyone trembles from time to time, looking over to the other side, wondering if the simple exit is the right exit. If it’s about time we leave this life we came to. And as complicated as life is, even “dying has its responsibilities.”

This is a book that will touch you if you allow yourself to be touched. It’s a book that will make you think, make you drop it halfway through to reflect on a passage you just read, it’s a book that will give you a new way of looking at the smallest things, and it’s a book that will motivate you.

Heaven is to be found in the words. But hell, well… “Hell is to be dead and to realize that you did not care for life while you had the chance to do so.”

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

On Writing Well William ZinsserWhen I started writing more seriously, I knew I needed to learn how to write better. My quality standards are high, but my skill wasn’t (and isn’t) up to par. Thankfully, books like this exist. Books that see writing not as an art, but as a craft, and I guess if we look at things from that perspective, there are no arts, only crafts.

It’s a solid and practical book, and this is all I can say about it. It’s a book I’ll often go back to and reference, it’s a book I’ll reread more than once over the coming years. Writing well is an important skill and the only way to get better at it is to practice, practice and practice. Eliminate whatever can be eliminated, tighten up sentences, revisit and rewrite. I noticed even when I had just started reading the book that my writing had become tighter (well, my second drafts, first drafts are things we only see here in the books section) and my approach to writing had changed. I’m excited for the coming months and years, I’m sure there’s still a long way to go but it’s a very rewarding road, one that I would recommend to anyone.

It also helps that Zinsser sees language with a fair amount of respect and that’s something I can always get behind. He is conservative in a few ways and forward-thinking in others. It’s always a pleasure to read a book written by an author who treasures the English language this much.

You can find On Writing Well by William Zinsser on Amazon.

Drive by Daniel H. Pink

DriveWhy am I writing all of these posts, anyway? Last I checked I never received a single cent for any of them. More so, why did I go through the trouble of migrating everything from Medium to my personal website? Well, Drive explains. I am doing it for myself, I am doing it because it is meaningful to me, and when that is at play, money takes the backseat. Why do I volunteer and lead intercultural seminars at every opportunity, spend so much of my time when I could instead be making money? I choose how I spend my free time and it just so happens to be that reading and writing about such books, or being an intercultural trainer, is something I deem worthy enough.

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