Story Threads


My last post of 2015 is about story telling and story sharing.

This year I have become more and more interested in the craft of writing. My focus for this interest has been #coachlearning in sport.

I have used my blog as a way of thinking out loud.

Steven Pinker has stopped me in my tracks. He has disturbed me in the best possible way. His discussion of classic style has given my work an orthogonal turn.

The turn has taken me to some fascinating places.

I found a post by Eamon Carey that introduced me to John Maeda’s Laws of Simplicity. Law 10 is:

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

Eamon suggests that “We consistently subtract the meaningful and add the obvious”.


This occurs in a world in which there are so many alternatives that compete for our attention. Faris Yakob invites us to value the attention communication consumes “to balance out the attention debts people are feeling”.

In 2015, I have been exploring how to include visual dimensions to story telling and sharing too.

A post by Mike Bostock has introduced me to Jacques Bertin and the semiology of graphics.

A sentence from Jacques’ introduction to his book has given me another orthogonal twist:

a system is polysemic when the meaning of the individual signs follows and is deduced from consideration of the collection of signs. Signification becomes subjective and thus debatable.


I hope to explore in 2016 how a story with text and visualisation written in a classic style can:

  • deliver the essential simplicity of John Maeda’s Law 10
  • stimulate discussion and reflection
  • value the attention given to stories I share.

Happy New Year.

Photo Credits

The Old Steam Engine at Reidsdale (Keith Lyons, CC BY 4.0)


If you had 53 minutes +


If you do have 53 minutes and would like to learn more about writing then I recommend this Steven Pinker video.

The + in the title of the post refers to 30 minutes of questions and answers following Steven’s talk.

Classic Style

Steven discusses Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner’s guide to writing classic prose. Their book, Clear and simple as the truth, has appeared in two editions (1994 and 2011).

The Princeton University Press home page for the 2011 edition observes:

In classic style, the motive is truth, the purpose is presentation, the reader and writer are intellectual equals, and the occasion is informal. This general style of presentation is at home everywhere, from business memos to personal letters and from magazine articles to student essays. Everyone talks about style, but no one explains it. The authors of this book do; and in doing so, they provoke the reader to consider style, not as an elegant accessory of effective prose, but as its very heart.

83 Minutes and Counting

Steven, Francis and Mark have set me off on a new journey. My guides to this point have been Elliot Eisner, Howard Becker , Wolfgang Iser and John van Maanen.

It is a journey that will be informed by and seeking the craft of writing.