Writing fiction is like making bread. You need to know when to knead it, and when to just let it rise.

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The other day, I took a break from my writing desk and went into the kitchen to make bread. There’s something therapeutic about the process of mixing flour and yeast and water, combining it, then turning it out onto the table to knead it into shape.

When I write, sometimes words and ideas start to slip away from me. Things become intangible. At times like this, it is good to roll up my sleeves, head into the kitchen and chuck a bit of flour around. There’s something about making dough, combining it, turning it out, and kneading it into shape…


In a world obsessed with conversation, physical books bring us solitude and freedom.

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Several years ago, I attended a talk by the Canadian poet Erín Moure. She talked about poetry and translation and writing. It was a talk so full of brilliant insights that, as I jotted things down in my notebook, I struggled to keep up. But after the talk, as I looked back at my hastily scribbled notes, one line stood out:

Books are emigrants. They belong where they end up. — Erín Moure

In a couple of short sentences, Moure managed to conjure something of the essence of why books matter to me, something about the solitariness and freedom this…


Myanmar helped me come to terms with grief. Now I am grieving for Myanmar.

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I arrived in Yangon for the first time in January 2017, my life broken into pieces. The previous year had been punishing. In August, Elee, my partner of thirteen years, died of breast cancer. Before her death, we talked about what I would do after. I said I didn’t know. ‘You should get away,’ Elee said. ‘Once everything has settled down, you should get away.’

And because Elee’s advice was always good, that’s what I did. The week after Elee died, I saw a job advertised in Myanmar. I had never been to Myanmar before, and knew very little about…


An interview with philosopher Alexus McLeod about Maya thought and what it means to think globally.

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Alexus McLeod is originally from Washington, DC, and now living in West Hartford, Connecticut. He teaches at the University of Connecticut and writes on a host of topics: Chinese and Mesoamerican Philosophy, mysticism, political history, the history of science (particularly astronomy and medicine), and several other things besides. For much of the past year, like many of us, he has been living the hermit life. Camped out in his home office, he has continued his work exploring the riches of the world’s philosophical traditions.

Broadening Out Philosophy

Q: Hi, Alexus. It’s great to chat with you. The first thing I want to ask is about your astonishingly broad interests. Sometimes I wonder if there’s anything you’re not interested in. I know you’ve thought a lot about questions of breadth and depth. So in the face of those who claim academic philosophy must be a business of ever-increasing specialism, I’d be interested to hear your defence of pursuing broad interests.

I’ve indeed spent a lot of time thinking about these issues. I’ve become increasingly convinced over…


The troubling, fascinating treatise on ancient strategy, loved by business leaders and politicians.

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Sunzi’s “The Art of War” is an ancient Chinese text that has become famous worldwide for its insights into strategy.

If you are a business leader wanting to inject some gravitas and swagger into your PowerPoint presentation, then Sunzi’s The Art of War is the way to go. This ancient Chinese classic is often cited at boardrooms and at training events in the business world. It is used by sports trainers seeking to inspire their players. And it is an inspiration for military leaders, who praise it as the go-to text for insights into military strategy.

But scratch the surface…


If you want to create, you need to be professional. But you also need to be an amateur.

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Several years ago, I taught a university course called Professional Writing Skills. I loved teaching the course because it explored all kinds of issues around writing: philosophical, technical and practical. We talked about the history of publishing, about changes in technology, about the ethical and legal questions around copyright, and about how it is possible, as a professional creator of new and wonderful things, to keep food on the table.

But however much I loved teaching the course, the more time went on, the more I became worried by the notion of the “professional writer.” There was something about the…


Three radical women philosophers from the ancient world

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Although it is sometimes said that the history of philosophy is the history of human attempts to understand ourselves and the world, if you pick up any introductory philosophy textbook, it doesn’t take long to realise this isn’t quite true. Philosophy may claim to talk about human universals, but it’s hard to sustain this claim when most of the named figures in the historical traditions of the world are men: the history of philosophy is also the history of the exclusion of women’s voices from these conversations about what it means to be human. …


The philosopher, poet and shamanic healer who claimed the universe was underpinned by Love and Strife.

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Life

Empedocles was a philosopher from the city of Akragas in Sicily. His traditional dates are around c. 494 BCE to c. 434 BCE, although these are uncertain. He came from a family of aristocrats, and his grandfather, also called Empedocles, was allegedly a skilled horseman who won the crown for his riding skills at the Olympic Games.

The dandyish shaman

Some have argued that Empedocles studied with philosophers such as Xenophanes and Anaximander, although this is largely speculation. There is some evidence that he was influenced by Parmenides and by the Pythagorean school. …


Writer’s block exists. But it is not a useful diagnosis.

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I have worked as a writing teacher for two decades. And in almost every course I teach, we inevitably come up against the idea of writer’s block: the mysterious ailment that scuppers the hopes and dreams of writers everywhere.

Many writers are sceptical that there even is such a thing. They protest that writer’s block is an idea we could do without. In 2009, on the Q&A section of his website, Philip Pullman wrote:

I don’t believe in it. All writing is difficult. The most you can hope for is a day when it goes reasonably easily. Plumbers don’t get…


The philosopher who could argue one thing one day, and the opposite the next

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Deng Xi was a lawyer and philosopher associated with the so-called “School of Names”. He was skilled in debate and frequently caused confusion by simultaneously arguing opposite viewpoints.

Life

Deng Xi (c. 545–501 BCE) was a lawyer from the state of Zheng, where he also served as an official. He is said to have written two works, but neither of them survives.

Deng Xi is chiefly famous for his unsettling approach to argument. He was famous for being able to ‘turn wrong into right and right into wrong,’ and according to The Annals of Lü Buwei, he didn’t recognise any fixed…

Will Buckingham

Writes nonfiction & fiction. PhD in philosopy. Next book “Hello, Stranger: How to Welcome the World” (Granta). www.willbuckingham.com www.lookingforwisdom.com.

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