Any accomplished writer is also a reader—and usually a reader first. For the writer who is the least a bit humble, this sets up one of the most significant psychological barriers to pursuing a writing career: How could I ever produce something as wonderful as [admired writer / admired book]?
This is an area that Steven Pressfield is well known for covering (see The War of Art), and in this month’s Glimmer Train bulletin, fiction writer Danielle Lazarin shares how she deals with the challenge:
I was only halfway through Stuart Dybek’s I Sailed with Magellan when I decided I should just give up on writing altogether…and I wanted to leave it to him, a far more lyric, braver writer than I would ever be.
At these humbling moments, I remember advice I received from Dan Chaon while studying fiction at Oberlin. At the end of a semester, he wrote to me: “There’s a very specific world that only you can write about, a map that only you can make…”
Oceans: what remains to be discovered?
Brian Cox and Robin Ince are joined by Andy Hamilton, Professor Jon Copley and marine biologist Helen Scales, as they look at the riches still remaining to be discovered deep within our oceans. The deep ocean remains the last great unexplored frontier of our planet, and as Brian and Robin discover, what we might find there could provide us with some extraordinary insights and applications. We've only just begun to touch the surface, literally, in terms of identifying and learning about the huge and varied life forms that live in our oceans -from the microbes that could inspire and generate new drugs to fight antibiotic resistant diseases, to the deep sea snails with iron clad shells, that may lead to the development of new super-strong materials. Even the humble limpet is providing inspiration to material scientists and engineers: the limpets' teeth, it turns out, are made from the strongest natural substance on the planet.
Producer: Alexandra Feachem.
Every year, Oxfam publishes a headline number about global wealth inequality that takes this form: "The richest X people own more than the poorest Y billion people on Earth" (some examples: 2014, 2016, 2017, UK edition).
Africa is witnessing the birth of a new ocean, according to scientists at the Royal Society.
Geologists working in the remote Afar region of Ethiopia say the ocean will eventually split the African continent in two, though it will take about 10 million years.
Lead researcher Tim Wright who is presenting the research at the Royal Society's Summer Exhibition, described the events as "truly incredible".
Used to understanding changes in the planet on timescales of millions of years, the international team of scientists including Dr Wright have seen amazing changes in Afar in the past five years, where the continent is cracking open, quite literally underneath their feet.
In 2005, a 60km long stretch of the earth opened up to a width of eight metres over a period of just ten days.
Hot, molten rock from deep within the Earth is trickling to the surface and creating the split.
Underground eruptions are still continuing and, ultimately, the horn of Africa will fall away and a new ocean will form.
'A smaller Africa'
Dr James Hammond, a seismologist from the University of Bristol - who has been working in Afar - says that parts of the region are below sea level and the ocean is only cut off by about a 20-metre block of land in Eritrea.
"Eventually this will drift apart," he told the BBC World Service. "The sea will flood in and will start to create this new ocean.
"It will pull apart, sink down deeper and deeper and eventually... parts of southern Ethiopia, Somalia will drift off, create a new island, and we'll have a smaller Africa and a very big island that floats out into the Indian Ocean."
The researchers say that they are extremely lucky to be able to witness the birth of this ocean as the process is normally hidden beneath the seas.
The team hope to conduct experiments in the area that will help understand how the surface of the Earth is shaped.
They believe that the information they glean from observing the shaping of the Earth will help scientists better understand natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.