on 24 October 2010
This is a remarkably brilliant discussion of the art of writing, concentrating on what Ayn Rand calls 'middle-range' articles: factual pieces that take fundamental philosophical principles for granted, which therefore belong mid-way between theoretical articles (academic papers dealing with abstract ideas and proofs) and journalism (reports of concrete events without theorizing).
I call Ayn Rand's discussion 'remarkably brilliant' because it is an edited recording of talks she gave to an Objectivist audience (followers of her personal philosophy), speaking from only a few notes. The coherence and clarity of what she said is therefore as remarkable as the wisdom and novelty of what she said.
Ayn Rand makes the case for writing as clearly as one can, with a good grasp of English grammar, and letting prose style emerge naturally. The key lesson is the idea of the subconscious mind being an automatic computer that is programmed by the conscious mind. We write with the subconscious and just as there are various techniques to help the subconscious work unimpeded, so there are techniques to order and clarify conscious ideas before they are automated in the subconscious. Practical advice follows, such as to leave a day to forget the actual sentences used before editing, not to correct as one writes, to stick to the outline and to ignore problems that will slow one down.
Altogether, a wise and profound guide to clear writing.
on 3 January 2010
In this slim volume we have a fair presentation of Rand's personal advice to writing colleagues, as given in a series of 1969 meetings. She disposes of writers' block, self-doubt, self-censorship, and muddled thought as someone with long experience in facing these goblins. Of course her program is colored by the Objectivist philosophy, which is for her essential to independent thought. But the way she applies this to writers' problems is quite practical and probably cross-cultural. At times she shows hints of a "greed is good" ideology, which sounds slightly less prophetic these days. But then she plows ahead, delivering sound advice on writing style, organization, work habits, editing, selecting topics, or reviewing books, always telling the writer what is essential and what to ignore.
on 30 July 2015
It reads of its' time. But the voice is so individual that Ayn Rand might only just have just finished speaking. She has her own philosophy, for sure, but then it just makes me wonder about all those other 'how to' books, and how they lack a personal philosophy, making them appear as if they are trying to appeal to the greatest number of writing wannabees, while really they lack concrete substance behind the writing of them. I read the first pages from the sample on Amazon, and I was hooked on her personal approach. There are no, what we no as 'sound-bytes' to tickle the wordly palette, just strong prose.
on 3 March 2012
"Writing is no more difficult a skill than any other, such as engineering. Like every human activity, it requires practice and knowledge. But there is nothing mystical about it." - Ayn Rand. This book takes you through the steps from preparing the outline, polishing a draft, to developing and mastering your own style. This book is a must for those who wish to understand the fundamental principles, that underpin all good nonfiction works.