A few years ago, I had the chance to ask Daniel Pink — author of the books Drive and To Sell is Human — if there were any secrets to his exquisite writing skill. After all, he’s sold more than five million books, so he’s obviously made some fantastic writing connections.
“Earplugs,” he said without hesitation. “When it’s crunch time, and I need to concentrate on my writing, I use earplugs.”
I’ve tried earplugs a few times — after all, it’s Dan Pink — but for some strange reason, I ended up distracted because (ironically) I couldn’t hear myself think.
I’m in the midst of my first ever MOOC, which is the reason for this post. Offered by edX and in partnership with The University of Queensland, the course authors of Write101x English Grammar and Style asked learners to write a 300-word blog post regarding the writing-thinking-learning connection.
That’s when I recalled with vivid fondness my encounter with Dan Pink and his earplug writing-thinking-learning connection strategy.
I make my connection in two ways with my writing.
First, whenever I’ve met with an individual or a group of people, that conversation often triggers something in my brain. An actual connection is made, so I quickly write it down. Typically I use Evernote, the cloud-based app that encourages users to “remember everything”. The new connection is often re-purposed for other forms of writing. I suppose it’s akin to a writer’s double-entry journal where I’m thinking and learning about what I’ve unearthed.
The second connection often comes in moments of quietude. When I’m on my bike or an airplane, an idea will formulate. Wherever I might be, I will stop to write it down. It then gestates, as I think and learn how it can be used as a golden nugget for some form of prose later on.
Earplugs unnecessary. Sorry Dan.
<end of course requirement blog post>
If you’re wondering why I’ve enrolled into the Write101x English Grammar and Style course … the answer is three-fold:
- I committed to myself at the beginning of 2014 to register, participate and complete a MOOC this year. I want to learn about the MOOC culture, and particularly how edX is running their version of MOOCs. I’m honouring my commitment to learn about MOOCs by selecting a course where (I hope) thousands of users will participate so I can properly gauge for myself a) how it works and b) what pro’s and con’s there are for such a ‘massive’ course.
- I love to learn, and I love to write. The learning part is easy, the writing part is easy too … although I often make up my own language and grammar rules. (people around me call it “Danism’s” – I believe it’s a term of endearment, but I could be wrong) I thought it would be great to have a refresher on the rules I ignore. I also thought it might be good to learn a grammar lesson or two, given I have equal propensity to think I actually know what I’m doing as a writer.
- I’m in the midst of completing Book #2 but I need a distraction. I could continue to look at real estate properties online — do we knock down a house and build from scratch, gut the interior of another, or just wait for the perfect house to show up on the market, which is likely never — or I might use my time more wisely, by knocking off bullet points number one and two from above. (besides, the book may end up being infinitely better if I up my grammar game and refrain from misuses of semi-colons and colons ad nauseam)