Writing with Style

Since at age 74 the topic was of personal interest, I recently read Martha Weinman Lear’s 2008 book Where Did I Leave My Glasses? She has written two other books, one of which was made into a TV movie, and is a former staff writer for the New York Times Magazine. I’m not a regular reader of the magazine so I was not familiar with her writing, and the 1984 ABC TV movie has never been released on DVD.  It was about the death of her first husband.

It is difficult for a writer to present scientific research in a readable and entertaining style while maintaining credibility.  She has managed to do both by including anecdotes to illustrate the point of the research topic she presents in each chapter.  The theme of the book is trying to determine what is normal decline in memory due to aging and what is not.  She also explains the different types of memory, what memory is, the sources of memory, and how the brain stores memories.  It’s too complicated to try to explain in a few paragraphs, but she does it very succinctly in the book.  Her research is based upon extensive personal interviews with experts, which she says is the most important type of research.  Literature reviews and Google searches are helpful, but they don’t get to the heart of the issue.

So why another book review (even in summary form?)  My current writing projects are in limbo: one is waiting for publication by the publisher and the other is waiting for approval so I can’t say anything about either one.  I’m sure that you’re not interested in my daily routine, and aside from my monthly writers’ club meeting and occasional queries I can’t say much about the craft of writing.  I’m weak on self-promotion, and I think I’ve exhausted the topic of social media.  I’m still active on Facebook for personal contacts but don’t use it professionally.  I’m burned out on LinkedIn and its total emphasis on self-promotion with very few valid discussion threads.  I don’t care who has 500+ contacts or when they add another one or have jiggled their resume for the umpteenth time.

As Martha explains, the analogy of the human brain to a computer breaks down when you get into the details of how each one works.  We remember the full range of sensory and emotional events and don’t “record” just the visual or auditory  responses.  A lot of what we don’t remember is due simply to the fact that we didn’t pay attention to the event in the first place.  If it doesn’t interest or directly relate to us, we more or less ignore it.  If we tried to remember every little detail of every minute of every day, we would accumulate a lot of useless information.  Our brain is good at setting priorities, so the old adage of “use it or lose it” is more than a canard.

We can compensate for memory loss by organizing our life more efficiently (a place for everything, to do lists, computer calendars and address books, etc.)  I’ve never had much of a mind for detail and prefer to focus on the “big picture” and to analyze the deeper meaning rather than the superficial.  I guess that why I don’t read or write fiction; I just not that into artfully phrased descriptions or carefully plotted character development.  I’ll wait and watch the movie.

The focus of my summer has been on a chronic health problem rather than on writing, and it just seemed to slip away without anything significant happening.  I made a couple of short trips, but the rest was ordinary daily routine.  I guess you could say that it was a summer than I would just as soon “forget.”

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