Today I walked through a Dense but not boring Concrete Jungle.
I bought the book for a young person. But it was left in my house for a long time. So one recent day I decided to buy some coloring pencils and tried out this pass time activity. The first picture was a rather futuristic one and my audience did not comment so I knew it was really not presentable. I did a second one without recognizing the objects until I finished and took a picture and read the small heading which labeled “Bon Voyage”. I realized then I was coloring a whole lot of sails on waves! Someone sent a few claps. So I was encouraged to do a third one. This is the result and I finished it on time for this week’s picture, “dense”.
When I first looked at the densely packed buildings in this concrete jungle I really had no clue what colors I should use to make it a bit more cheerful looking. So I just picked whatever color pencils I pulled out from the pack at odd time when I was taking a break from my usual writing or translating work. Often it was after a meal. It became quite fun as I was amused by the colors that come out at random after a while.
I like to imagine what kind of people would reside in such colors. Would they like the colors? I imagine myself as a friendly giant who tries to be helpful by breaking the monotony of the colorless world through splashing bright colors at random on people’s houses. Perhaps he is trying to cheer up some home alone children who look out of their tiny windows. I hope they like the colors. Being fictional characters they can swap house if they prefer the colors of their neighbor’s house and vice versa of course.
Writing involves seeing and spotting little things that require spotlights. How can we see better or know where to highlight? My experience is that I see by reading others. I just read three biographies, two are translations from German and Russian. One is in its original language-Chinese. How did I have time to read three books in three days? I read them while I walked on my treadmill or ride on my stationary bike. Instead of watching TV I read while doing my physical exercises. Why do I do exercises? Because I enjoy them. I also unwind and relax my strained muscles from long hours of typing.
By pacing myself in my body and my mind I manage to complete five out of seven parts in the book I am translating and re-writing. Quite a good progress considering my reluctance to write this book.
On top of keeping fit body and soul, I keep fit in my spirit. Being a Christian I enjoy my daily communion with my Lord, reading the Bible, praying and sitting and talking to God before dawn. I receive my day’s supply of spiritual nourishment by actively seeking God. When not reading I pray too while walking (not running). Being refreshed in body, soul and spirit help me to write without stress and burnout.
For those who aspire to write or want to improve their writing, many schools offer free online courses and materials through OpenCourseWare (OCW) projects. While formal admission isn’t necessary to access lectures and other materials, these courses don’t usually award college credit. Students looking for the same ease of access and the opportunity to apply their study time towards a degree or certificate program might want to consider courses that can lead to an alternative form of credit.
Free Online Non-Credited Writing Courses
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Writing and Reading the Essay
Writing and Reading Short Stories
Through MIT’s OCW program, students can download a variety of undergraduate and graduate-level course materials that cover topics in, among others, essay, expository and technical writing. Course activities and formats include assignments, exams, lecture notes and video presentations.Writing and Reading the Essay focuses on the essay as a popular literary genre. The syllabus indicates two essay anthologies as course texts, which can be purchased online. Course activities include a reader’s journal and a series of personal writing assignments.The course in Writing and Reading Short Stories offers students the opportunity to study character development, plotting and point of view. Featured authors include, among others, Flannery O’Connor, Alice Walker, William Faulkner and John Updike.
New Jersey Institute of Technology
The New Jersey Institute of Technology is a scientific and technological university that offers OCW courses and materials. The Technical Writing course is geared toward the advanced writer. In this course, which consists of about 40 video-taped lectures, students apply theory to analyze and solve complex communication problems. Course topics include audience awareness, document design, ethics, gender equity and rhetorical theory.
Start Writing Fiction
Writing What You Know
The Open University is the largest educational establishment in the United Kingdom, as well as the country’s only distance-learning school. The university’s free online classes may not provide access to the same resources used by formally enrolled students, but course formats might include Web- and print-based content as well as the ability to interact with other students through a comments feature.Start Writing Fiction is a 12-hour, introductory course that can provide students with the inspiration and tools they need to put their words on paper. The course emphasis is on developing character and settings within a variety of fiction genres. Writing What You Know is designed to help students improve their descriptive writing skills. This 8-hour, introductory class encourages students to view their everyday lives from a new perspective, demonstrating how an author’s personal life can serve as a source of inspiration.
Professional and Technical Writing
The Writing Process
Through Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), students and teachers around the world can enjoy 24-hour access to a variety of Web-based resources, including handouts, podcasts and PowerPoint presentations. These include topics in grammar and mechanics, professional and technical writing, English as a Second Language (ESL), research and writing style. Professional and Technical Writing provides a list of varied Web-based resources that can show students and professionals how to research and write business letters, memos and other office-related documents. Topics include audience analysis, parallel structures and writing tone. Additional technical writing resources include information on how to write scientific abstracts and white papers. The Writing Process includes a list of mostly text-based resources and exercises that cover everything from overcoming writer’s block to proofreading strategies. Additional topics include pre-writing, thesis statements, outlining and audience analysis, which can be applied to a wide variety of writing tasks.
University of College Falmouth
Introduction to Novel Writing
Writing for Children
The University College Falmouth is a specialized art institution based in the United Kingdom. The non-credit classes offered through the school’s ‘openSpace’ project allow students to work at their own level and pace but don’t provide all the materials from the original course. Although registration isn’t required to access assignments, lectures and other materials, registered students may be able to participate in online chats and peer reviews. Introduction to Novel Writing was designed to provide graduate-level students with the structural skills to organize and develop extended pieces of creative writing. In addition to writing assignments and suggested readings, open course materials include YouTube videos by Joyce Carol Oates, Salmon Rushdie and Amy Tan. Writing for Children introduces students to the genres and styles integral to the market and helps them find the right age group for their story. Open course materials include assignments, background reading, examples of children’s books and an online lecture.
University of Iowa
How to Find the Short Story Within Your Novel
The Writing University is a Web-based resource for the school’s literary and writing community, providing direct access to a number of free audio presentations. Recent podcasts have included presentations on the sentence, creative nonfiction and experiential writing. Flash Fiction introduces students to the concept of the super-short story and its emergence as a mainstream literary trend. Listeners can learn how brief experiences or even a life story can be condensed to a paragraph or a couple of written lines.How to Find the Short Story Within Your Novel helps listeners identify the dissimilarities between these two literary forms. Students learn how to extract a quality excerpt from a longer piece of prose and how first-time authors can prepare their work for publication.
University of Massachusetts at Boston
Critical Reading and Writing
Critical Reading and Writing, with some course materials available through the school’s OCW project, is designed to help students achieve college-level reading and writing skills through a critical exploration of U.S. foreign policy. Students have access to the course syllabus, an assignment list and website. Through the course site, students can open and download text documents and PowerPoint presentations on topics like critical analysis strategies, brainstorming and building concepts, as well documents and links to online resources on foreign policy issues.
University of Michigan
Principles of Research and Problem Solving
This university participates as a member of the OpenCourseWare Consortium by providing free access to educational materials and course content through its Open.Michigan website. Principles of Research and Problem Solving is a course directed toward graduate students in pharmacy school. In this class, students develop scientific writing skills as they develop research proposals. OCW materials include ten PowerPoint lecture presentations, handouts and examples of student projects, as well as a syllabus and reading list.
Utah State University (USU)
Intermediate Writing: Research Writing in a Persuasive Mode
Introduction to Writing: Academic Prose
Utah State offers OCW materials in several academic departments. Students may be able to apply the knowledge gained from use of these open materials to pass exams to earn credit. USU may give credit to students who pass subject tests offered by individual departments, the International Baccalaureate Organization or CLEP exams, among other options.Intermediate Writing provides access to 16 weekly lessons, with links to readings and related writing assignments. Students learn how to engage in various components of the writing process while developing critical reading and thinking skills. Topics include writing about controversial topics, argumentation styles, source documentation and how to use multimedia resources. Introduction to Writing: Academic Prose is an online complement to a graduate-level course. The course materials are presented in a similar 16-week format, with links to several online readings and assignment descriptions. The syllabus begins with assignments related to debate and dialogue, cultural myths and visual literacy. Additional writing activities include a family narrative, a school board project and a media analysis.
I was in a developed Western nation with good English library facilities for about six months recently and borrowed many books and literature periodicals. The library system for online access is good and efficient. I could ask for books from the whole county and even beyond in other States. During those months of research I managed to access to many printed resources. Resources of various media such as audio-books, large prints, DVDs, and e-books etc. The only area where I believe needs improvement is the limited resources in foreign languages.
Any serious writer will agree that reading is essential for writing. To write well we need to read well. There is no short-cut. Personally I became an avid reader at the age of perhaps four. When I was eight I was reading thick books in another language. I could not really understand the depth of the literature but I read them anyway. It became a lifelong habit like breathing. Words breathing. I became selective after I learned to differentiate the good ones and the bad ones. Why bother? Someone asked. It matters a lot when we intend to write. Other good writers become our mentors. In a way they are feeding us so that we grow. We cannot have the wrong food and expect a healthy growth. Although by nature and interest I used to like and engage in reading lots of classical detective stories exhausting nearly all the famous names. However I soon realized that I was not going to write them. So I learned to read the genre I specialized in and the ones I knew I had talent in. Reading taste can be acquired with changes of our lifestyle and belief. For example, I became a born again Christian many years ago and my reading taste changed. My writing too. Admittedly my published written work was confined mainly in another language and genre group, I continue to read English books as my main diet and other languages according to their availability ad accessibility.
What can I gain from reading English books? I find the thoughts, concepts and the varieties of creative materials useful and can be used as generic base for writing. I prefer to read the original English versions. Some translated books are able to reflect nearly the exact thoughts and expressions of the original English books but some are quite far off the mark due to the vast differences in culture, tradition, value system and even religious belief between the English author and the non-English translator. Can a non-English author write well in English if English is his or her second language? My personal experience is that unless you think in the English language you cannot write it as well as those writers who think in it. Can thoughts be conditioned to think in a particular language? My answer is yes. So there is still hope if you are really passionate to read and write in a particular language which is not your mother tongue. It might be a big hurdle but if you persist in reading, thinking and writing in that language you may make it. One word of caution: you cannot become English unless you acquire its socio-economic culture, tradition, intrinsic value system and even religious belief. On the other hand, you may still acquire a small group of niche readers even if you are writing English as a second language if they can identify with your contents.