The Macleod Post December 2023 Newsletter

I share actionable writing strategies and high quality insights from across the web, directly to your inbox. Here are some of the resources, books, content makers and ideas that have been top of mind this month.

The Macleod Post          December 2023 Newsletter

Hello friends,

I am going to try a new layout for the newsletter, which will hopefully add more value for you as a reader.

I’ll write about ideas, resources, books, content makers and so on, which I hope will provide some interesting leads for you. 

It’ll also allow me to post more articles (of varying lengths) to the blog, which I’ll link to if they add value.

It’s possible for subscribers to continue the conversation on the website. As writers and artists, what are your burning questions? What kind of resources do you feel you could benefit from? What have you found which helped you in your work?

BLOG POSTS

I have written a blog post about how we can use various A.I apps to help both our lifelong learning and research for writing. Here is a link to it.

I use Google Bard mainly just now. Google are increasingly integrating it with their other apps on Google Workplace. I find it better than ChatGPT for research - but not as good as ChatGPT when you want actual text produced. 

However, in most cases I’d not recommend it for writing finished text . ChatGPT has a nice, clean style of writing and produces ok stuff. But using it means you’re not using your own original voice and it means your writing is no different to millions of other people who use it. 

It’s also a disaster when it comes to trying to write dialogue. It doesn’t understand subtext very well. 

It is good, however, for letting you build a frame of reference for a subject. I give a practical example of how to use it for this purpose. And by using it to point to resources, you are then double checking its output so you can avoid its hallucinations and occasional BS answers. 

I also shared a short story which I wrote called 'The Third Wave'. It is set on New Year's Eve in 1918 and based on the HMY Iolaire disaster on the Isle of Lewis, as servicemen were returning home from the Great War.

MY FAVOURITE THINGS THIS MONTH

Book - Hilary Mantel - ‘A Memoir of my Former Self’.

More than one person has said that when writing a novel, it is best not to read Nabokov. I find the writing of Hilary Mantel has somewhat the same effect. So sharp and observant, wide-ranging and eloquent.

’A Memoir of my Former Self’ is  a collection of Mantel’s journalism for publications like The London Revew of Books and the Spectator (she was the film reviewer from 1986-90.)

The writer leaves an impression of themselves on every page and her writing, her sentences, seem to work on different levels. The writing is crafted so that the word choice, the way she puts together sentences, is satisfying in itself. Her many frames of reference go so deep that other landscapes are opened up to you during the reading, and her truthfulness and how much she gives of herself brings us closer to understanding the human condition.

She exactly hits her aim in whatever she is writing, especially when she is writing about the craft of the writer. 

“There are plenty of books that tell you how to become a writer, but not one that suggests how, if you want a normal life, you might reverse the process.”

Podcast - ‘How I Built This’

Guy Raz now has three podcasts with NPR (National Public Radio in the US) and I return regularly to ‘How I Built This’.

It’s a podcast where he interviews entrepreneurs about their business journey and how they built their brand. 

I often re-listen to some of the episodes - check out the episodes with Sara Blakely (Spanx), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia) and Ben & Jerry.

It’s very seldom that people have a straightforward journey towards success and this podcast highlights that. Each entrepreneur faces challenges, sometimes existential for their business. It’s informative for artists - the speakers deal with the same doubt, hard work, knock-backs and successes as everyone else who embarks on creating their own path through work. 

Blog

I have recently tried changing how I consume content, especially social media. 

We all have limited time in which to write and unlimited and wonderfully entertaining distractions. Social media sites especially are perfectly designed miniature dopamine factories, designed to hold your attention in order to provide value for advertisers and create a profit. Your attention is the commodity. 

I’ve found increasing value in newsletters, following writers on Substack and the like. You can align the content you get to your interests and you can choose to have it sent to your inbox, for however long it interests you. 

So a newsletter like Morning Brew gives you the main stories each morning (they are mainly tech focused). Like most homebrewers, they also have other concoctions on the go like 'Founder's Journal' and 'Marketing Brew'.

Substack is a great place to start to find writers who are writing about your interests. I find that it gives a bit more control of the content that I'm consuming and there's some amazing work being done by people in this space.

As Stephen King said "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that."

Thanks for reading.

Iain F

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