Where did writing come from?

The Sumerian city of Uruk was one of the world’s earliest large cities. Its active commercial trade created an unprecedented volume of business trasactions, and Sumerian merchants required an accounting system for keeping track of the day’s inventory and receipts; this was the birth of writing. Here, liberal arts majors may need to set their romantic notions aside. The first forms of writing emerged not for art, literature, or love, not for spiritual or liturgical purposes, but for business – all literature could be said to originate from sales receipts (sorry). With the growth of trade, cities, and writing, people soon discovered architecture, government, and the other refinements of being that collectively add up to what we think of as civilisation.

Daniel Levitin, The Organized Mind


I love the line on liberal arts majors. As someone once said (in a different context), “this thing here is like a liberal arts major — it doesn’t matter.”


Tortured writers

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, similarly, whenever he wrote a successful novel, would feel that the financial security he had gained made the act of creation unnecessary. He would take his entire savings to the casino and would not leave until he had gambled away his last penny. Once reduced to poverty he could write again.

Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power


I wonder if this has more to do with having your back pushed to the wall, or the fact that writers need some form of angst and turmoil in order to produce a brilliant piece of work.

I do a bit of fiction writing on the side as well, and I find it far more difficult to write when I am lacking that element of emotional struggle.

Storming the Ivory Tower

What this blog is about

I read a lot — think ten to twenty books a week. Fiction. Non-fiction. There’s some brilliant stuff. But it’s all useless head knowledge right? Or I might even forget all that I’ve read.

So the purpose of this blog is for me to put down some of the things I read — either in raw quote form or summary. I might write some thoughts along the way. That would make it easier for me to refer too.

Otherwise it would really be just knowledge that’s stagnant in my head.


Along the way, I hope to write an essay about meritocracy as well.