“On Writing” posts show interesting copy from around the web.

David Simon
David Simon, Baltimore-based author, journalist, and writer-producer of HBO’s The Wire, on the goal he has in mind when he writes:

Whoever the average reader was of my newspaper, I never wrote for him. I always wrote for the people living the event. And I wanted not to be embarassed in front of them as a writer.

So if I’m writing about somebody who is struggling with addiction, I want other people who have struggled with addiction to say “Yeah, you got it right.” Or people who are police doing a certain job, I wanted them to say “Yeah, you got it right.” Or a street level drug trafficker, I wanted them to say “that was real”.

Pamela Slim
Pamela Slim is a consultant who has worked with clients like Hewlett Packard, Cisco, Charles Schwab, and Sun. Her About page talks about her work with San Francisco gang members.

Despite lots of corporate experience, I learned some of my best coaching skills from gang members on the streets of San Francisco. For ten years, while working with corporations during the day, I was also the Executive Director of Omulu Capoeira Group, a non-profit martial arts organization. Through my work with Omulu, I developed innovative gang-prevention programs, and often walked the streets of some of the most gang-ridden parts of the City, talking with teenagers and encouraging them to join our program.

You can imagine the positive body language I got from them at first – crossed arms, glares and puffed out chests. But since I had worked with teens for so long, I knew that underneath they were vulnerable, bright kids who just needed some positive encouragement and structure.

One day when I walked into the conference room of a corporation to do some work with the executive team, I noticed similar body language from the executives, although it was a bit more subtle. So I told them so.

“Wow – you look just like the gang members that I work with. They look at me like that when they want to intimidate me. What’s up?”

After a tense silence (when I was wondering if I had finally lost my mind), they burst out laughing and immediately changed their demeanor.

What I learned from the kids is that the worst thing you can do when confronted with hostility is to appear afraid. The best thing is just to act relaxed and confident and start talking. Ask questions. Gain trust. Pretty soon the walls come down and rapport develops.

Leonard R Budney on Christopher Alexander
Leonard R Budney on Christopher Alexander’s “The Timeless Way of Building”:

It applies to almost every aspect of life, not just to architecture. When a situation makes us unhappy, it is usually because we have two conflicting goals, and we aren’t balancing them properly. Alexander’s idea is to identify those “conflicting forces”, and then find a solution which brings them into harmony. It’s a simple concept, but once you appreciate it you realize how deep it really is.