Why does writing seem so difficult in a digital world?

Bird Droppings February 3, 2016
Why does writing seem so difficult in a digital world?

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley

In 1965 I was introduced to this author in a tenth grade English Class. The book was Brave New World, written in 1932 and you would think that a book thirty years old would not have been that controversial. However for our class and the reading list we had, an English teacher was let go. What amuses me is how these books we read did impart more than simply the words contained between the covers; it was a catalyst for thinking that was developed. Today on another hallway in our school English teachers use the books my tenth grade teacher was fired for as part of their reading list as do many high schools across the country. Such books as 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time fifty to seventy years ago and still today can inspire students and adults to think and ponder.

“To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking — and since it cannot, in order to become its echo I have, in a way, to silence it. I bring to this incessant speech the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence.” Maurice Blanchot

“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” Sir Winston Churchill

Each morning as I sit down and wonder about the direction that the ideas may or may not flow. I try and find a spark a starting point for the day. Sort of my kick start of the day to revitalize my own cerebral cortex. I was thinking of experience as a start earlier but within the semantics of the word so many limits the concept of experience. I was seeing a teacher and most as I read were seeing experience as a limit, coming back to a note the other day and actually I used yesterday talking with future teachers, the idea of a container as per students. That was until I read this line from Huxley.

Over the past few days numerous emails from former classmates in high school perhaps prompted by nostalgia and finding a few in Facebook, remembering fondly a nearly forgotten class of tenth grade yet one that truly started a process of thinking that has continued for me nearly forty five years later. But the direction changes as I look, it is through writers and writing that we convey so much.

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” Charles Caleb Colton

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” William Faulkner
Each day I walk outside and look at the sky. On an almost clear morning unlike today with a haze across the sky and moon, if only a bit less haze and I would be seeing stars spreading through the sky, constellations and for some they are beacons of direction and purpose. If it is clear tomorrow I may be following the full moon for a bit in the morning as I drive east to drop off our electric bill. As the seasons pass the constellations change as to time of day and position in the sky and often as I go out I am greeted by a new or slightly different sky appearing before my front door. If by chance I am writing at home as I have for a few years now I can go out into the back yard surrounded by pine, pecan, black walnut, persimmon and oak trees depending on where I stand much will be obscured and I see only a shrouded sky laced with the branches.

As I read the Faulkner note so often this is true, we do not think about something till we read what we have written. Many the times I will return to a piece weeks or months later and find a new meaning or understanding of what I was thinking at that time. I wrote a philosophy of teaching paper some time ago and until it was returned with comments I wasn’t sure what my philosophy was. A journey that began in reading, then in experience and moves through writing for it does take written word to be read.

“You must often make erasures if you mean to write what is worthy of being read a second time; and don’t labor for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice readers.” Horace

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Samuel Johnson

It is true as I write each morning glancing through previous writings and reviewing articles and emails and any books handy at that moment looking for and pondering where and how I will direct my thoughts. Often my morning consists more of reading than actually putting words to paper or computer screen. It is so many times a search for an idea a thought that has eluded me.

“If written directions alone would suffice, libraries wouldn’t need to have the rest of the universities attached.” Judith Martin

“Although most of us know Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti as if they were neighbors — somewhat disreputable but endlessly fascinating — none of us can name two French generals or department store owners of that period. I take enormous pride in considering myself an artist, one of the necessaries.” James A. Michener

What comes so easy for some it has been said may not be for others. I sit each morning writing two or three pages reading numerous articles and emails and then go onto class and ask students to write 500 words about what they learned this year in school. Most will say nothing, since that makes it so much easier to write. As I think as to where that student is coming from, maybe they never read Brave New World. It could be because somewhere, somehow, and or someone did not give them the opportunity.

In my room often it is because somewhere and someone did not teach them to read effectively or to think beyond just surviving day to day. It might have been that was the only alternative. I was reminded in an email of Dr. Laura Nolte’s famous poster, “Children learn what they live” as I spelled checked I made an error I had typed “Children learn what they love”. As I thought a bit you know what? That is just as true too especially in education. So how do we help children love learning, and love reading? I wish it could be an easy answer. Perhaps we can start with ourselves. Let’s all set an example today and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)

3 thoughts on “Why does writing seem so difficult in a digital world?

  1. Psychology Remedy for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia Found, But Public Unaware

    By Robert V. Rose, M.D. (retired) and Douglas R. Rose, M.A.


    This article describes recently discovered information about the fact that scholastic reading problems can be successfully treated or prevented. Some original research by one of the authors is described, along with references to others’ writings and findings.

    Professor of Cognitive Sciences at Brown University (previously a famous education professor at Harvard) published her most influential book, ABC Foundations For Young Children, in 2013. In the preface to the book she gives published proof that most American students finishing first-grade still can’t name and write all of the alphabet letters. The best predictor of reading success in rising first-graders, she writes, is the ability to rapidly name randomly presented alphabet letters, and kids who can write the fluently can also name them fluently, and almost never have reading problems. (1)

    In 2004 Robert Rose did an online study involving many K-1 teachers and hundreds of students, and showed that youngsters who practice handwriting until they can write all 26 letters in a minute or less (40 letters per minute or better) read spontaneously, and without any further instruction at all.(2) This study was undertaken in response to Maria Montessori’s 1912 assertion that preschoolers learned to read spontaneously after they had learned to handwrite the letters “expertly”, without defining that term.

    And Rand Nelson, on his online blog, did another study which proves kids can name random letters at the same rate they can handwrite them. And kids who name 40 or more random letters per minute almost never have subsequent reading problems. (3) Nelson published this in Homeschool Magazine in 2012. (4)

    And the Sunshine Academy of Seattle, a remedial school, has found that kids in the second-grade who practice giving answers to simple addition questions (like 6 + 8 = ?) never have subsequent problems with math or science.

    More recently, psychologist Rowe Kaple of Tuscon has published her astounding finding that most kids with “learning disorders” actually suffer from the hereditary “Reverse Position Sensation” syndrome, which often causes dysgraphia (previously called “clumsy child syndrome”, “dyspraxia” or Coordination Deficit Disorder) unless they write with proper hand position. (5)

    Since ancient times, writing specialists have used a “remediation grip” of the writing instrument to force the hand into a proper palm-down position which ensures successful writing skill.

    This fact has recently been published online with and article in Scientific Research titled Teaching Fluent Handwriting Remediates Many Reading-Related Learning Disabilities. This message has reached over 125,000 educators throughout the world. (6)

    And in 1999 The Harvard Educational Review published an article by Sophia Vernon, showing that Mexican children taught to handwrite well knew “phonemic awareness” without being taught this specifically. The authors recommend early handwriting practice rather than phonemic awareness instruction for young students. (7)

    In 2014 Rose published an online article with this information in Escalating Research,an English language Pakistani science journal. (8)

    Some years ago, Dr Anthony Grieco, dean of alumni affairs at the New York University School of Medicine and a classmate and friend of Rose, published this in the school’s alumni newspaper Grapevine, too. This was the first published information on the subject.

    About five percent of the 50 million school students in America languish in Special Education classrooms, usually because of preventable reading problems.

    And America has lost more young lives to street shootings than were lost among soldiers of the Vietnam war. Such perpetrators were rarely good in school, which needn’t have occurred.

    In September, 2014, Judy Woodruff of the Public Broadcasting’s TV program NewsHour ran a segment on how the Orton-Gillingham “multi-sensory” method of reading instruction will successfully remediate reading problems. “Multi-sensory” instruction includes instruction involving the senses of sight, hearing, and the haptics (or “kinesthesia” or “proprioception”) of hand movement in writing. Ironically, Samuel Orton, the 1920s originator of the erroneous idea that “seeing backward” was the cause of dyslexia, also recommended handwriting practice as a “cure”.

    All conceivable methods of literacy instruction involve eyes, tongues and ears, so attention to hand position and motion are obviously the only real additions of this method.

    People tend to think that sight is the primary sense of human beings, while olfaction is more important in lower mammals. Actually, the evolutionarily earliest, and universally most important sense, is sense of motion and position. Without it, bees couldn’t dance to tell hive members the location of newly found honey bearing flowers, star fish couldn’t open clams, and hunters would get lost in the woods.

    This finding is of immense importance to both clinical psychologists, educators, and the public at large. The discovery has been obscured by the political values of politicians, the status of educators, and the selfish concerns of educator support from journalists.

    But the truth can’t be hidden forever. All people consider themselves to be psychologists with a good understanding of human nature. Montessori wrote that the best ages for children to learn to write and to read (the proper goal of literacy education) is from 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years of age. We all know that little girls are a bit easier to teachl than little boys are.


    1. http://products.brookespublishing.com/ABC-Foundations-for-Young-Children-P637.aspx

    2. http://www.peterson-handwriting.com/Publications/PDF_versions/BobRoseFluencyStudy.pdf

    3. http://peterson-handwriting.com/Blog/

    4. Nelson, R. H. (2014). Handwriting and reading, Is there a connection? Homeschool Magazine, Volume 18, pp. 28-29.

    5. http://adderworld.ning.com/forum/topics/abstract-university-of-az

    6. http://www.specialworld.net/2015/10/02/handwriting-fluency-linked-to-poor-literacy/

    7. http://hepg.org/her-home/issues/harvard-educational-review-volume-69-issue-4/herarticle/a-neglected-variable-in-the-consideration-of-phono

    8. http://aeirc-edu.com/wp-content/uploads/2download-full-paper.pdf

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s