xkcd with a reflection on how writing skills are developed ... or not.
In his mouseover, which you'd have to visit the actual site to see, he speculates that -- leaving aside kids who love to write and taking average kids as a group -- a generation that conducts much of their social interaction in writing is bound to have an advantage over one for whom it was an assigned task, even though the social interaction was informal while the assigned task is carefully monitored and mentored.
He suggests, if we could, comparing whole-class-assignment writing, like "everyone write a letter to the president," from decades ago to the same assignment today, so that we would be seeing the full spectrum and not just samples from the kids who love to write.
I can't furnish a complete answer, because the "class-assignment" stuff I get is from fourth and fifth graders, while the willing-writer material I see comes from middle schoolers, so there is a difference in both their ages and in their length of exposure to social media, as well as their tendency to self-select things they're good at.
He's certainly correct that Joyce was informal in how he expressed himself in private writing, and if you had a stack of his letters to Nora mixed with Robert Browning's letters to Elizabeth B., you wouldn't have much trouble sorting them.
And, as Munroe suggests, Joyce's flamboyant disregard for formality in his private writing is reflected in the prose adventure of Ulysses, and it is not simply wrong but would be absolutely foolish to call the book undisciplined simply because it doesn't follow the formal structure in which novels were written up to that time.
Mistaking "following the template" for "being disciplined" is not simply ignorant but kind of sad, the mark of a hide-bound, gray spirit that has little understanding of creativity, art or, well, life itsownself.
In fact, one of the great Kingsfieldian professors of my college life was at once a deeply conservative Irish Catholic and an absolute Joyce fanatic, and, if he was too -- in Joyce's term -- "priest-ridden" to grasp all the emotional and sexual implications behind the characters and actions, he was yet fascinated by the combination of scholarship, precision and insouciance with which Joyce constructed his prose.
However, I can only imagine the horror with which the old fellow would view texting, had he lived long enough to have students with smartphones. It's a collection of dots that grammar nazis will never connect.
But whether they get it or not, there is more discipline in Joyce, as he casts off traditional formats, than there is in poor old Scott Fitzgerald, not only aping plot and character elements of Stover at Yale (and thus, Tom Brown at Oxford, which Johnson was aping) for his breakthrough best seller, but then, throughout his career, diligently laboring to write what he thought a good novel should sound like based on the good novels he'd read.
Which, by the way, gets you praise from professors and critics in much the same way that a new comic strip that looks just like Zits or looks just like the Far Side or looks just like Calvin and Hobbes will be picked up by editors who see that Cul de Sac doesn't look like anything they've ever seen before and so isn't "good."
It doesn't mean that those exemplars are not "good." They are.
It means that consciously, or even unconsciously, duplicating their style isn't.
You don't have to come to the festival to get hold of some art. Part of the mission is not only to bring cartooning to the community, but to let cartooning benefit community charities.
More details here, even more to come, but note that the on-line part, which is more of a straight fundraising sale than an auction, begins Sept 13 and that items will change throughout the 12 days, so you should visit more than once.
We ask you to take off your “I’ve gotta get a deal” hat and put on your “I’d like to help out as much as I can” hat and be generous with your bids! -- Anne Morse-Hambrock
Now here's a song for 'good' artists and writers: