I’m Lou Franco and this is episode 39 of Write While True.
Write While True is an infinite loop, and that’s because I think of writing as an infinite game. A game I play for fun and to get better at it. Like a game of catch.
So in each episode, I’ll tell you something I learned about writing, and then I’ll throw you the ball with a writing challenge or a prompt.
In the past eleven episodes of Season Three I’ve been exploring writing exercises that are like practicing scales on a piano or making marks on paper with charcoal. You aren’t playing songs, or drawing objects, just learning the tools.
I was at a life drawing session this week and I was trying out a new tool, a white soft pastel pencil. I draw mostly with charcoal, which can make a very dark black mark. You can smudge it or erase it to get it lighter, but you can’t really get it to be back to white. The lightest areas are the ones without any charcoal at all on them, which is hard to control, and it’s not white anyway, since my paper isn’t white to begin with.
The white pastel can draw white on top of the charcoal, so now I can make white marks, which can also be smudged and mixed. It’s giving me a range of values I couldn’t get before. Throwing white highlights onto a dark drawing is a way of directing attention and makes it more interesting.
Black and white, on a drawing, are the extreme values. If I try to apply this idea to writing, it should also be a juxtaposition of opposite extremes.
I’ve been thinking about this all week—trying to come up with an idea for a podcast about it. And then I thought of Jonathan Swift and his essay, A Modest Proposal. It’s a satirical essay where he proposed that the English could solve the problem of Irish poverty by buying and eating their children. The subject is dark and the problem is serious, but the solution and choice of words are ridiculous. The humor draws attention to the problem.
I’m no Jonathan Swift, so I would not personally try to do this with an actual serious problem. But, my niche is software development. Our problems are ripe for ridicule.
I’ll give you an example after this message from our sponsor
Write While True is sponsored by me.
In the first episode I told you about how I start every day by doing morning pages. I do 20-30 minutes of stream-of-consciousness writing and it helped me learn to write on demand. In episode 19, I followed that up with talking about prompted morning pages. Having a prompt gets me going because I don’t think to think about what to write.
So, I made 4 morning pages journals. Each journal has 30 days worth of prompts. I think by the end of the 30 days you’ll learn what it feels like to write on demand and it will spill over into your normal writing.
You can get them by going to https://loufranco.com/journals.
Ok, back to the show.
The prompt this week is to write some satirical sentences to address a problem in your field. I’m a software developer. Some of our problems are
- Undocumented code
- Code that’s hard to read or change
- Slow builds
- Untested code
Here’s a stab at a Modest Proposal to fix all of those.
“Large projects have thousands of lines of code that no one understands. To solve this, we should just delete them. Doing so would speed up our builds and bring up our test coverage percentage. If someone notices that a feature is missing, we can just reimplement it in a better way. Instead of begging for time to fix technical debt, we’ll just declare bankruptcy.”
That’s off the top of my head, so please don’t judge me. Try out the style and mix the darkness of a problem with the lightness of a ridiculous solution.
This has been Write While True, a podcast where we love infinite loops as long as they’re fun.