Last Week’s Links

The best books on Critical Thinking

I’ve been concerned that schools are not adequately teaching critical thinking skills since I first started teaching writing to college students back in 1971. Since then my concern has turned into alarm as I’ve seen the results of the lack of these skills pervade modern culture. 

Here philosopher and writer Nigel Warburton lists five books to help us learn about topics like straw man arguments and weasel words.

What Role Should Work Play in Retirement?

Behavioral scientist Utpal Dholakia, Ph.D., explains that “the idea of retiring as not working may need to be reconfigured for our times.”

Can Bullet Journaling Save You?

I keep reading about the benefits of bullet journaling, a process touted as not only the best productivity tool but also as many people’s favorite creative outlet (just search Instagram to see all the fancy bullet journal layouts pictured). “Bullet journaling has taken off as a kind of mindfulness-meets-productivity trend that equates organized journaling with an ordered interior life.”

Here Anna Russell writes about her discussion with Ryder Carroll, the thirty-nine-year-old digital designer who invented the Bullet Journal. Carroll offered Russell this parting advice: “You’re not doing it right, you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just figuring it out as you go along.”

On planes, adults have tantrums too. Here’s how to handle bad behavior at 38,000 feet

Writing for The Seattle Times, travel writer Christopher Elliott declares, “The worst behavior on a plane? It’s often adults.” And doesn’t it seem that we’ve heard and read of lot of examples that prove him right on news broadcasts and Facebook lately? Elliott has some concrete suggestions on how to deal with bad adult bahavior if it should happen near you on your next flight.

And as you’re crammed into your ever-shrinking coach-class seat, console yourself with this fact: “The worst behavior on a plane often happens in the first-class section. It’s the super-elite frequent flyers who behave as if the plane belongs to them.”

Tina Turner Is Having the Time of Her Life

I was lucky enough to watch Tina Turner perform at Harvard Stadium in the summer of 1970.

Here Amanda Hess reports on the retirement life of Tina Turner, “the symbol of rock ’n’ roll stamina for 50 years.” Now 79 years old, she has been retired for 10 years in now lives in Switzerland in a home she calls the Chateau Algonquin, with an unobstructed view of Lake Zurich. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

What ”Going to the Office” Means to Me Now

This morning when I got into my car to drive to my office, I was afraid I might not remember the way. I haven’t gone to the office in two and a half months.

After the age of 29 I didn’t have an office that I went to every day. I had about a six-year stint as a stay-at-home mother. Then I began a 30-year career as a freelance writer and editor. Eventually we added an office for me to the back of our house. I then “went to the office” to work, even if that only meant walking through my family room. I did occasional contract work that required me to show up at a client’s office and work there, but mostly I worked from my home office.

When we retired, we moved 2,100 miles away and downsized from our 2,100 square foot house (that number includes my office but not the garage) to a 1,300 square foot unit (including the over-sized one-car garage) in a senior community. This is a two-bedroom unit, and I had to choose between a home office and a guest room in the second bedroom. Because we wanted to be able to have guests come to visit us in our new location, I was left without an office. Despite lining the wall of the combination dining room—living room in our new house with bookcases, there wasn’t enough space for all the books that my husband and I had both accumulated over a lifetime of reading.

Since I had a lot more books and work stuff than my now retired husband, the plan was to find a small office to rent where I could store my books and work. After nearly a year we finally found the ideal space and set off for Ikea to buy a desk and several bookcases. Once the furniture had been delivered, assembled, and installed, I unpacked my books, which had been filling up the garage, and got to work.

After a 30+-year career of avoiding both the academic and corporate worlds, I finally have a real office to go to.

“Going to the office” now means something quite different to me than it would have earlier in my life. I spent enough time going to an office in my early adult jobs and later contract work to know that I would not want to spend the majority of my life working like that. Staff meetings, the proximity of desks, crowded cafeterias, the semi-required socialization of after-work get-togethers all do not suit my introverted nature. And it’s not just that I like to be alone; I also work better alone, without the noise, movement, and other distractions of having a lot of people nearby. I feel certain that going to the office would have become something I both dreaded and hated if I had had to work like that all my life.

Now, in retirement, “going to the office” excites and invigorates me. My office is in a small building, and very little talking or movement goes on in the hallway. With my door shut, I’m able to work without distraction. Most of my books are here, and being surrounded by books has always comforted and inspired me. I had always wanted to shelve my books alphabetically by author, and the move allowed me to do that. Also, I now have separate sections for fiction and nonfiction.

I don’t ever have to go to the office; I go in when I choose to go. And now that my husband and I are traveling more than we did earlier in our lives, there are sometimes stretches, like the last two and a half months, when I’m not around to go to the office.

I realize that I’m very fortunate to have had my dream job of writing and editing from home most of my adult life. But now I’m enjoying going to the office—and sometimes not going.

8 Lessons College Bowl Season Teaches About Writing

I haven’t talked much about my writing here before, but I’ll be discussing it from now on because of my commitment to my writing for 2015.

Watching the Rose Bowl recently got me thinking about how dedicated and committed to their work these college athletes are. What can they teach me about how to commit more fully to my work of writing?

1. Success requires regular and frequent practice.

To win, you have to put in the time and do the work. Every day. If you’re serious, there is no off-season. For a writer, this means not thinking or talking about writing, but actually sitting down and writing.

2. Sometimes you have to drop back to move forward.

A quarterback steps back to see where he needs to go. For a writer, this means looking at what you last wrote to see where the work needs to go. This is why many writers advise stopping in the middle of a section instead of at the end. And once the first draft is done, a writer steps back to look at revising and editing the work.

3. Small amounts of progress can add up to big accomplishments.

Two five-yard runs earn a football team a first down. For a writer, writing even a small amount every day will eventually add up to a finished piece. Don’t knock incremental progress, just keep working at it steadily.

4. You have to study the playbook.

A team has to know what plays are available and when and how to implement each one. For a writer, this means reading widely to see what techniques other writers use and how they use them.,

5. There’s more than one way to advance.

There’s running and passing and all kinds of trick plays. For a writer, this means knowing what writing techniques are available (see #4) and what effects each one produces.

6. You have to be open the opportunities that present themselves.

The best quarterbacks are able to see the whole field and to recognize what options for advancement are available. For a writer, this means not only knowing what writing techniques are available, but seeing which approach or variation of an approach is the best choice in a particular context.

7. Sometimes you have to abandon one approach and try something else.

Often a team has to improvise when the planned play won’t work. For a writer, this means trying technique after technique to find the one that works best.

8. A season is more than just one game.

Whether a team wins or loses one week, it must be ready to play again a week later. For a writer, this means that finishing one piece means that it’s time to start working on the next one.