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

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…

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

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.

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…

A masterpiece of children’s literature about grief, friendship, human difference, and the art of waiting.

It is a story where nothing happens. Nothing other than waiting, and hope, and friendship, and the fear of living in a world we only partly understand, and a sense that life could be somehow different, if we could only work out how, or could drum up the courage to change things.

Tove Jansson’s Moominvalley in November was published in Swedish in 1970. In the original Swedish, it was called Sent i november, or “Late in November.” It was the last of Jansson’s books about the Moomins—a little family of round-snouted trolls who lived in a remote valley.

At the…

The ancient Chinese philosopher Yang Zhu argued that pleasure and bodily well-being are central to the good life.

Yang Zhu, also known as Yangzi or “Master Yang”, was a Chinese philosopher who lived sometime around the fourth or fifth century BCE, during the Warring States Period in China. We know very little about Yang Zhu himself, and what we know of his philosophy is based on the accounts of other, later writers.

Yang Zhu has always been a controversial philosopher. He was a hedonist who put a robust emphasis on the importance of care for oneself. As a result, he was often criticised for being a monster of self-interest, whose philosophy inevitably leads to the destruction of society…

The Buddha’s true revolution was to turn our attention from cosmic speculation to the analysis of human experience

Siddhārtha Gautama, more often simply known as “the Buddha,” was one of history’s most influential philosophers. Despite this influence, we know very little for certain about his life. And yet, this historically obscure thinker set in place a philosophical revolution that still has a powerful resonance today.

Who was the Buddha?

The Buddha’s dates are not well-established: estimates range from between the sixth century BCE to the latter half of the 5th century BCE or even the early part of the 4th century BCE. And despite the vastness of the Buddhist textual tradition, the details of the Buddha’s life are still controversial.

By the…

Why we need new models for community education

Fifteen years ago, I was living in Birmingham in the UK, working on my PhD in philosophy. I was studying part-time. Meanwhile, I was making ends meet by teaching philosophy classes to adults in draughty community halls across the city.

When I started on my PhD, I was relatively new to philosophy. Before, I had studied art and then anthropology. The change of disciplines was hard and there was a lot to learn. …

Three rules for the creative life: avoid suffering, embrace difficulty, seek out pleasure

I have spent most of the last two decades teaching the art of writing. And over the years, one thing I have encountered again and again is the myth that creativity necessarily entails suffering. This myth has deep cultural roots. We are smitten with the idea of the tortured artist. We love the idea that creativity is close to madness, that it takes us to the brink of the abyss.

This idea no doubt has a certain romantic charm. Sometimes I’ve fallen under its spell myself. After all, the idea that we are suffering can make us feel our labours…

Diogenes was a fierce critic of hypocrisy. He turned his back on the culture of his day and lived in accord with nature

Diogenes — also known as the Dog — was a native of the state of Sinope on the Black Sea coast. He was born around 410 BCE, by which time Sinope was a busy commercial hub, standing at the end of a trade route that stretched all the way to Mesopotamia.

According to early accounts of Diogenes’s life, his father Hicesias was in charge of managing the Sinope mint. But there was a scandal about counterfeit, defaced or adulterated coinage, which led to Diogenes fleeing into exile in Athens.

The exact details of the scandal differ depending on whose account…

Reading systematically is no way to read philosophy

Philosophers and storytellers

The moment you pick up a philosophy book, if you are anything like me, you will almost immediately feel heavy with a cluster of obligations. The obligation to understand. The obligation to take this great work seriously. And the obligation to read systematically, one page at a time.

But as I suggested in the previous article in this series, which was about reading philosophy at a gallop, this approach can slow you down — to the extent that you end up grinding to a halt. …

Will Buckingham

Writes nonfiction & fiction. PhD in philosophy. Next book “Hello, Stranger” (Granta 2021). www.willbuckingham.com www.lookingforwisdom.com.

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