"Hold on a minute," Socrates replied. "Before telling me anything I'd like you to pass a little test. It"s called the Three Filters Test."
The Art of Writing
As a frequent writer I've been wondering a lot about how-to express myself, what to say and of course what NOT to say. When thinking along these lines it gets you deeper into the art of writing and you begin to understand that there is definitely something that tells the great g(r)eek writers apart from the mortals.
Some of the greatest mentors I've had the privilege to meet do not only communicate by what they say; to all they say there is (yet) another layer underneath, which only reveals itself after applying a few simple thoughts ("Why did he put it like this?", "What could she have said instead, but didn't?" or "Why did he not say it like this or that?")
Once you have started to learn how to listen on this level you start what is referred to with "reading between the lines." That's when you start to recognize and appreciate the most subtle nuances in writing and the individual style of authors. That's when reading pieces starts to feel like meeting an old friend...
Playing Field and Guidelines
Seems like everybody has to find his/her own (guide-) line and style. It's a personal thing - by nature. In terms of blogging it is the simply question "why blog?"
In my situation, working for SAP Custom Development puts me into a pre-defined playing ground. There are certain things I can freely blog about, yet there is also a set of topics and memes I should rather avoid. While I do have an explicit disclaimer indicating that "all my thoughts are my own and not endorsed by my employer in any way" - however, I do still wear a name tag that points to SAP. So, it's good to keep that in mind when (micro-) blogging.
The social media guidelines we have at SAP certainly read a lot like "just apply common sense", yet it's a good to have read them and use them as a starting set of blogging principles - especially at the early steps. Sooner or later your own style will manifest and down the road you may stretch or even intentionality cross some of the guidelines as you progress. It's a personal type of thing (again) - yet I would recommend to take it easy at first.
I think a good way to start writing is by reading a lot. Start by commenting on other people's work and get a feeling of what type of style you like and for what reasons. Then just jump in the cold water - too much theory won't do you any good anyway.
Interestingly enough, I found a very simple formula that seems to work out most of the times. At least it does the trick to me. It resolves around being authentic, modest and positive. Writers and bloggers alike, this trinity seems to be the most appealing to me.
Nothing wrong with a good rant once in a while - the opposite! In fact I believe that this set of characteristics also applies to ranting - the good thing about rants is they tend to have a positive background: they want to change things for the better and the authors do care enough to step up. The best rants provide constructive critic based on research and shared experiences - at least when reading between the lines 😉
So, that's the only guideline I can truly promote: just be yourself, have confidence, be open and willing to learn and most importantly - have fun!
It's that simple (well, at least on paper!)
Sources of Inspirations
In Ancient Greek people believed in Muses "who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge [...]"
In my experience a good story finds the author and not the other way round - it's mere a cause of serendipity. As such I am not looking for stories consciously, but rather pick up on what is happening around me.
Those close to me know that one of the strongest inspirations for me lately have been the SAP Mentors. This group that is sometimes referred to as the "wolfpack" may look to be of chaotic nature at times, yet it's more of a swarm-ish aspect to it - a collective understanding, a shared master plan -a mindset best expressed with "Open Thinking!"
Styles change, Style doesn't!
It's hard to describe or even put your finger on as a whole, which may speak in favor of looking a little closer then...
I got to know Tammy at SAP TechEd 2010 in Vegas and around since then we have been working together in the editorial team of the Not authorized to view the specified document 7840 magazine. What can I say... it's simply a blast working with her. Mark already wrote a Laudatio for her in his announcement blog and for those who know Tammy there's little else to do other than to node our heads in approval, slightly bow down and acknowledge - well deserved!
So, I did and while doing so I spotted one particular comment to the above mentioned blog post, which caught my eye:
Based on your comments/blogs, it seems you follow a very simple guideline in life:"If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, Don't Say Anything At All".This looks like a very simple guideline; very difficult to follow. You're doing a great job in following this guideline.
I think that Bala has nailed it and his quote made me remember a great story about Socrates called "Three Filters."
I believe that it's a great guideline, not only for writing or blogging ... but for life.
In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem.
One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”
“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It”s called the Three Filters Test.”
“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the Three Filters Test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”
“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it”s true or not. Now let”s try the second filter, the filter of goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“No, on the contrary…”
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it”s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really.”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”
This is why Socrates was a great philosopher & held in such high esteem.