Latest Newsletter: Writing, Morals, and Brain-Hacking

Hello, everyone! Here’s my roundup of interestingness from the week:

On Writing
I’m bookmarking this one. My favorite thing from Brain Pickings in a while, it’s a look at a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin’s speeches, essays, and reviews. In the post, Ms. Popova focuses on Le Guin’s musings on Where Great Ideas Come From and the “Secret” of Great Writing, and she pulls out some really great quotes that I no doubt will continue to revisit. Here’s one of my favorites:

All these kinds of patterning — sound, syntax, images, ideas, feelings — have to work together; and they all have to be there in some degree. The inception of the work, that mysterious stage, is perhaps their coming together: when in the author’s mind a feeling begins to connect itself to an image that will express it, and that image leads to an idea, until now half-formed, that begins to find words for itself, and the words lead to other words that make new images, perhaps of people, characters of a story, who are doing things that express the underlying feelings and ideas that are now resonating with each other.

Now I’m not a story writer, but I do consider myself an idea writer (and would like to be able to call myself an essayist someday), and I think Le Guin’s words apply to me and my kind as much as they apply to fiction writers. And they probably apply similarly to artists of any kind. So go, be inspired.

On Morals
Writing in the New York Times, professor of philosophy Justin P. McBrayer explains Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts. Whether or not you agree with him, I think it’s worth reading, and I think he raises some valid points concerning issues that will have no small effect on the future of thought in our country.

On Brain-Hacking
Sorry for using the h-word; I sort of hate it myself. But I feel like I had no choice. First, there’s this piece from Aeon Magazine that discusses brain plasticity and the development of drugs that are able to “reawaken” the brain’s ability to learn in the way we did when we were children.

Second, I’ve been hearing a lot lately about nootropics, a sort of “brain energy drink”. Kevin Roose at Fusion wrote this piece discussing his own experience with them. Right now, I will remain a cautious observer, but maybe somewhere down the line we’ll all be using them. Still, I can’t help but think of “Flowers for Algernon” and I will let others be the guinea pigs for now.


I send out my newsletter every Friday. Check out the “My Ideas-Letter” tab above to look at the past issues, and please go to if you are interested in subscribing. Thank you!


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