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robertogreco : shyness   12

The Mind of John McPhee - The New York Times
"Much of the struggle, for McPhee, has to do with structure. “Structure has preoccupied me in every project,” he writes, which is as true as saying that Ahab, on his nautical adventures, was preoccupied by a certain whale. McPhee is obsessed with structure. He sweats and frets over the arrangement of a composition before he can begin writing. He seems to pour a whole novel’s worth of creative energy just into settling which bits will follow which other bits.

The payoff of that labor is enormous. Structure, in McPhee’s writing, carries as much meaning as the words themselves. What a more ordinary writer might say directly, McPhee will express through the white space between chapters or an odd juxtaposition of sentences. It is like Morse code: a message communicated by gaps."



"“Draft No. 4” is essentially McPhee’s writing course at Princeton, which he has been teaching since 1975. This imposes a rigid structure on his life. During a semester when he teaches, McPhee does no writing at all. When he is writing, he does not teach. He thinks of this as “crop rotation” and insists that the alternation gives him more energy for writing than he would otherwise have.

McPhee’s students come to his office frequently, for editing sessions, and as they sit in the hallway waiting for their appointments, they have time to study a poster outside his door. McPhee refers to it as “a portrait of the writer at work.” It is a print in the style of Hieronymus Bosch of sinners, in the afterlife, being elaborately tortured in the nude — a woman with a sword in her back, a small crowd sitting in a vat of liquid pouring out of a giant nose, someone riding a platypus. The poster is so old that its color has faded.

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, where McPhee has been a staff writer for more than 50 years, took McPhee’s class in 1981. “There was no fancy discussion of inspiration,” he told me. “You were in the room with a craftsman of the art, rather than a scholar or critic — to the point where I remember him passing around the weird mechanical pencils he used to use. It was all about technique. In the same spirit that a medical student, in gross anatomy, would learn what a spleen is and what it does, we would learn how stuff works in a piece of writing.”

Much of that stuff, of course, was structure. One of Remnick’s enduring memories is of watching Professor McPhee sketch out elaborate shapes on the chalkboard. One looked like a nautilus shell, with thick dots marking points along its swirl. Each of these dots was labeled: “Turtle,” “Stream Channelization,” “Weasel.” Down the side of the chart it said, simply, “ATLANTA.” An arrow next to the words “Rattlesnake, Muskrat, etc.” suggested that the swirl was meant to be read counterclockwise."



"John McPhee lives, and has almost always lived, in Princeton. I met him there in a large parking lot on the edge of campus, next to a lacrosse field, where he stood waiting next to his blue minivan. He wore an L.L. Bean button-down shirt with khaki pants and New Balance sneakers. The top half of his face held glasses, the bottom a short white beard that McPhee first grew, unintentionally, during a canoe trip in the 1970s and has not shaved off since. He is soft-spoken, easy and reserved. Although McPhee possesses intimidating stores of knowledge — he told me, as we walked around campus, the various geological formations that produced the stone used in the buildings — he seems to go out of his way to be unintimidating. Whenever we stepped outside, he put on a floppy hat.

McPhee proceeded to show me every inch of Princeton, campus and city, narrating as we went. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone so thoroughly identified with a place. His memories are archaeological, many layers deep. Not 30 seconds into our orienting drive, we passed the empty lot where he used to play tackle football as a child, and where, at age 10, he first tasted alcohol. (“One thing it wasn’t was unpleasant,” he wrote recently.) The lot is no longer empty; it is occupied by a new house, boxy and modern. I asked McPhee if he felt any animosity toward the structure for stomping out his memories.

“No,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of stomping grounds stomped out.”

McPhee was born in 1931. His father was the university’s sports doctor, and as a boy McPhee galloped after him to practices and games. By age 8, he was running onto the field alongside Princeton’s football team, wearing a custom-made miniature jersey. He played basketball in the old university gym, down the hall from his father’s office; when the building was locked, he knew which windows to climb in. McPhee was small and scrappy, and he played just about every sport that involved a ball. To this day, he serves as a faculty fellow of men’s lacrosse, observing Princeton’s practices and standing on the sidelines during games.

Every summer growing up, McPhee went to a camp in Vermont called Keewaydin, where his father was the camp doctor. One of his grandsons goes there today. (“I have 200 grandchildren,” McPhee told me; the number is actually 10.) McPhee speaks of Keewaydin as paradise, and his time there established many of the preoccupations of his life and work: canoeing, fishing, hiking. “I once made a list of all the pieces I had written in maybe 20 or 30 years, and then put a check mark beside each one whose subject related to things I had been interested in before I went to college,” he writes in “Draft No 4.” “I checked off more than 90 percent.” Keewaydin put McPhee into deep contact with the American land, and introduced him to the challenge of navigation — how the idealized abstractions of plans and maps relate to the fertile mess of the actual world. The camp’s infirmary is now officially named after McPhee’s father. McPhee’s own name still sits in the rafters, an honor for having been the second-most-accomplished camper in 1940, when he was 9."



"McPhee is a homebody who incessantly roams. He inherited Princeton and its Ivy League resources as a kind of birthright, but he comes at the place from an odd angle: He was not the son of a banker or a politician or some glamorous alumnus but of the sports doctor. His view of the university is practical, hands-on — it is, to him, like a big intellectual hardware store from which he can pull geologists and historians and aviators and basketball players, as needed, to teach him something. He is able to run off to Alaska or Maine or Switzerland or Keewaydin because he always knows where he is coming back to.

“I grew up in the middle of town,” McPhee said. “It’s all here.”

McPhee took me to his office in the geology building, in a fake medieval turret that, before he moved in, was crowded with paint cans. Now its walls are full of maps: the Pacific Ocean floor, United States drainage, all the world’s volcanoes. On the carpet in the corner of the room, a box sat stuffed with dozens more, from the center of which protruded, almost shyly, a folded map of Guayaquil, Ecuador. His enormous dictionary, open to the letter P, sat on top of a minifridge. Multiple shelves were loaded with books published by former students, above which stood framed photos of McPhee’s wife, Yolanda, and his four daughters.

McPhee sat down at his computer and clicked around. Green text appeared on a black screen. That was all: green text. No icons, rulers, or scrollbars.

McPhee began to type in command lines.

x coded.*

dir coded.*

x coded-10.tff

x coded-16.tff

Up came portions of his book “The Founding Fish.” He typed in further commands, and hunks of green text went blinking around: a complete inventory of his published articles; his 1990 book, “Looking for a Ship.”

I felt as if I were in a computer museum, watching the curator take his favorite oddity for a spin. McPhee has never used a traditional word processor in his life. He is one of the world’s few remaining users of a program called Kedit, which he writes about, at great length, in “Draft No. 4.” Kedit was created in the 1980s and then tailored, by a friendly Princeton programmer, to fit McPhee’s elaborate writing process.

The process is hellacious. McPhee gathers every single scrap of reporting on a given project — every interview, description, stray thought and research tidbit — and types all of it into his computer. He studies that data and comes up with organizing categories: themes, set pieces, characters and so on. Each category is assigned a code. To find the structure of a piece, McPhee makes an index card for each of his codes, sets them on a large table and arranges and rearranges the cards until the sequence seems right. Then he works back through his mass of assembled data, labeling each piece with the relevant code. On the computer, a program called “Structur” arranges these scraps into organized batches, and McPhee then works sequentially, batch by batch, converting all of it into prose. (In the old days, McPhee would manually type out his notes, photocopy them, cut up everything with scissors, and sort it all into coded envelopes. His first computer, he says, was “a five-thousand-dollar pair of scissors.”)

Every writer does some version of this: gathering, assessing, sorting, writing. But McPhee takes it to an almost-superhuman extreme. “If this sounds mechanical,” McPhee writes of his method, “its effect was absolutely the reverse. If the contents of the seventh folder were before me, the contents of twenty-nine other folders were out of sight. Every organizational aspect was behind me. The procedure eliminated nearly all distraction and concentrated just the material I had to deal with in a given day or week. It painted me into a corner, yes, but in doing so it freed me to write.”"



"McPhee’s great theme has always been conservation, in the widest possible sense of the word: the endless tension between presence and absence, staying and leaving, existence … [more]
johmcphee  writing  howwewrite  structure  2017  conservation  princeton  place  humility  process  kedit  organization  belonging  local  gaps  shyness  celebration  nature  geology  time  editing  outlining  naturalhistory  history  maps  mapping  writingprocess  focus  attention  awareness  legacy 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Whitney Houston and the music of loneliness / Snarkmarket
[via a small collection on loneliness by Tim Carmody: https://twitter.com/tcarmody/status/609837487414988800 ]

"After the death of Whitney Houston, our reflections on Twitter included these thoughts on pop music, loneliness and connection."



"So many of Whitney Houston's hits, even the happy ones, are about loneliness."

"Yes. I've been nursing a theory that some of the best pop songs - dance songs particularly - have loneliness at their core."

"I mean, it's also ultimately about desire being the cause of loneliness and the engine that overcomes it. But the appeal to loneliness is how the song gets into your head. It's how you suture yourself into its world."

"We bind ourselves most strongly to characters that seem to express our particular vulnerabilities."

"Yeah, that's kind of what I mean by "suture" -- it's how we stitch ourselves into, imagine/identify ourselves in that world."

"Whitney is really about loneliness, shyness, insecurity, uncertainty -- and hope."

"It's like Proust; the other person doesn't really matter as much as the emotion, the memory, the first-person resolution."
loneliness  timcarmody  2013  mattthompson  whitneyhouston  music  desire  beachboys  royorbison  vulnerability  insecurity  shyness  uncertainty  emotions  love  connection  humans  beinghuman  hope  proust 
june 2015 by robertogreco
Danny O’Brien’s Oblomovka » Blog Archive » organically-grown audiences
"In the end, the conversation moved away from “building traffic” and we ended up talking about how slowly you can grow a blog: avoiding ending up with a mass-produced audience, and instead taking the time to organically grow a smaller, perhaps more costly, but ultimately more satisfying bunch of readers."
slow  introverts  blogs  blogging  media  attention  shyness  audience  2008  dannyo'brien  growth  slowblogging  scale  scaling  conversation  snarkmarket 
november 2011 by robertogreco
russell davies: three months at R/GA
"I often look bored or unengaged in meetings - going as far as being actually rude to people. I'll cop to this. It's a fair point and it's bad of me. I apologise.

My only possible excuse is that personal circumstances have been a bit shit recently and it's been hard to think that any meeting has been worth being in - in comparison with where I should be. But that's not the fault of anyone in the meeting and I shouldn't be taking it out on them.

It can't be just that though, I've had this before. I got this as w+k and I imagine I would have at Ogilvy. I have to accept it's probably true. I like to think it's a symptom of shyness rather than arrogance but that might be entirely self-serving, the line between the two is probably very thin."
russelldavies  introversion  introverts  meetings  cv  2011  work  social  shyness  intorverts 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Humingyay — How To Be Friends With An Introvert
"1. If you must drag us to a party, please don’t abandon us…

2. If they actually call and wants to talk, listen!…

3. Realize that they do want to be alone sometimes. They may have gone to that party, and even enjoyed it, but they burn out faster than you and need time to recharge alone. The assumption that all introverts are shy really bugs me. This is not always the case. They can be charming, tell jokes, and generally be the life of the party…but for a limited time only.

4. Skip the small talk. Introverts are reflective beings and enjoy conversations about feelings and debating things like the ontological argument, and whatever interests they have. They can only tolerate chitchat with people they just met or haven’t seen for awhile…

5. Introverts don’t hate people. They just find them tiring.

6. Introverts are socially aware. Yes, we are well-versed in social nuances, customs, and mannerisms; we just don’t implement them as frequently as extroverts do."
introverts  social  cv  shyness  parties  people  conversation  socialawareness  fatigue  friendship 
may 2011 by robertogreco
Shyness.com [The Shyness Institute]
"Shyness and social phobia do not have to interfere with achieving professional and interpersonal goals. The pain of shyness can be relieved by challenging automatic thoughts and beliefs, and learning new behaviors.

This is The Shyness Home Page, a gathering of network resources for people seeking information and services for shyness. It is sponsored by The Shyness Institute, Palo Alto, California (an institute for research in shyness and social fitness). The Institute is also closely associated with The Social Fitness Center (for coaching) and The Shyness Clinic (for therapy).

(Note: This page is to encourage networking. The Shyness Institute cannot, and does not, necessarily evaluate or certify the quality of the services mentioned here.)"
shyness  psychology  health  anxiety  social  socialanxiety  introverts  introversion  shynessinstitute  intorverts 
march 2011 by robertogreco
Jorge Luis Borges interview
"Encyclopedias have been, I’d say, my life’s chief reading...used to go to the Biblioteca Nacional in Buenos Aires — and since I was so shy, I felt I could not cope with asking for a book, or a librarian, so I looked on the shelves for the Encyclopædia Britannica...one night I was richly rewarded, because I read all about the Druses, Dryden, and the Druids — a treasure trove, no? — all in the same volume...I thought, well, I’d write a story of the fancy encyclopedia [previously described]. Then of course that would need many different people to write it, to get together and to discuss many things — the mathematicians, philosophers, men of letters, architects, engineers, then also novelists or historians....
borges  literature  interviews  writing  academia  philosophy  books  shyness  encyclopedias  libraries  bertrandrussell 
april 2010 by robertogreco
russell davies: not playful
"don't like...these new social, interacting-w/-real-people games...[they're not] bad, just not for me. & I'm not that special, so I bet they don't appeal to some other people...might be worth thinking about. Because...seems to be some consensus that more social = better & I'm not sure that's true...I don't like meeting people I don't [know]. That's why web has been such joy, I've been able to 'meet' people & get to know something of them before I really meet them...Which means I find many of efforts of social & pervasive gamers scary. Werewolf seems to be codification & enforcement of all horrible about dinner party...lots of my favorite games are only slightly social...why I'm drawn towards idea of 'pretending apps' - not about imposing rules, [but] suggesting context...you can play them in your own head...[they're] Social Toys...toys because they're for playing w/, not in...social because they're connected & you can play in a shared context. But it's your play, in your head."
russelldavies  play  pretending  immersion  gamedesign  cv  shyness  web  online  social  socialsoftware  games  toys  2010  allsorts  playful  gaming  interactive  contemplative  imagination  creativity 
april 2010 by robertogreco
Harold Jarche » Learning socially and being social
“@BFchirpy “The killer learning management system is the Web – silly” [in case anyone is still wondering]” ... "Are we too professional: has professionalism gone too far?" ... "Great slide presentation by @sachac on how to be a shy connector – Shows that it’s not necessary to behave like arrogant self-aggrandizing jerks"
learning  education  professionalism  haroldjarche  self-promotion  introverts  presentations  networking  socialnetworking  tcsnmy  shyness  ples  lms 
january 2010 by robertogreco
7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me - Joi Ito's Web
"I'm shy and relatively lazy. I've worked most of my life overcoming my fear of meeting new people and my tendency to slack off. I actually remember a conscious moment when I noticed that the things I wanted to do the least were at the bottom of my to do list and never got done. I started working on my to do lists from the bottom instead of from the top. I forced myself to do little things like this to overcome my problems. It turns out that I may be lazy but I'm trainable and have trained myself to be a bit more productive than I was as a youth."
joiito  shyness  productivity  laziness  life  cv  training  listmaking 
january 2009 by robertogreco
/Message: Alienation Increases With Loosening Of Social Norms
"Teaching is politics. We need to wrest the education of our children, our inheritors, from the hands of mad men. We can continue to drive our children crazy, with alienation and ADD, or we can rethink growing up."
education  flow  teaching  parenting  etiquette  society  technology  communication  social  psychology  alienation  change  reform  schools  shyness  introversion  childhood  stoweboyd  intorverts 
september 2007 by robertogreco

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