Welcome to Knapsack 👋

Hello again,

You’re reading the third issue of Knapsack (The Writing Exercise Edition) and thank you for that. 🙏

Some of you had asked if I could share tips and tricks on writing. So in this issue, I’m introducing a new section, Write Away to address that need. The best way to learn to write well is by writing more. This section would be more of an exercise than just some generic advice on writing. So it would be nice if you could give the exercise a try. If you are okay with it, I’ll share your result in the next issue along with mine. I hope you enjoy the exercise.

This issue’s random useless fact is an interesting one and I hope it is something that you haven’t heard about before. And the regular sections on books, words, quotes, and questions are in their usual places in this issue.

This issue should’ve been out a couple of days earlier. And I have myself to blame for that. I spent time trying to create a new look for the newsletter. I could not get it ready before this issue but it is coming soon.

If you find any of the sections useful, share it with others and on social media.

As always, I would like to get some feedback on this experiment. 🙂

Thanks, Xavier

P.S. If you are a Clubhouse user, I host a club with a couple of friends every weekend. We usually talk about topics that affect us as part of the technical writing community and share thoughts on them. You can find us at PaperArrow. We would love to have you on board and get your perspectives on topics.

Book Bites: Micromastery by Robert Twigger

A micromastery is a self-contained unit of doing, complete in itself but connected to a greater field.

Making a simple omlette can be a skill. You can do this skill repeatedly as a micromastery and then expand from that skill towards becoming a chef.

A micromastery, because it is repeatable without being repetitious, has all the elements that allow us to enter a flow state, which produces great contentment and enhances physical and mental health.

A micromastery must show a level of skill beyond the ordinary. It must look hard to do and leave people—including yourself—impressed by your achievement.

A micromastery isn’t about spending 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, but rather doing things that are simple and can help practically.

Quotable Quote

“One good question can give rise to several layers of answers, can inspire decades-long searches for solutions, can generate whole new fields of inquiry, and can prompt changes in entrenched thinking. Answers, on the other hand, often end the process.” - Stuart Firestein, Ignorance: How It Drives Science

This is why I prefer questions over answers. Answers don’t make you think, but questions do.

Random Useless Fact

I came across this song by Kathyrn Roberts and Seth Lakeman called 52 Hertz on Spotify. The song was about loneliness and the lyrics were interesting. And what I found out about the song was interesting.

The subject of the song is a whale that has been dubbed the ’loneliest whale in the world’. Why so? Usually whales sing at a frequencies between 10 Hz to 39 Hz. This hitherto unidentified whale sings at a much higher frequency of 52 Hz.

First noticed in 1989, this single whale has been detected regularly in the Pacific Ocean off the US coast. Scientists have been trying to identify if this whale is a mutation or a hybrid species. They have been unsuccessful so far.

There have been a couple of books and documentaries about this mysterious whale 🐳.

Wikipedia link: 52-hertz whale - Wikipedia

Write Away

In How to Write a Sentence: and How to Read One, Stanley Fish has a wonderful exercise that I have often used and found it an interesting exercise.


You start small, with three-word sentences, and after you’ve advanced to the point where you can rattle off their structure on demand, you go on to the next step and another exercise. Take a little sentence (“Bob collects coins” or “John hit the ball”), whose ensemble of relationships you are now able to explain in your sleep, and expand it, first into a sentence of fifteen words and then into a sentence of thirty words, and finally, into a sentence of one hundred words—all the while never losing contact with the “doer-doing-done to” structure you began with.

Here, for example, is the sentence “John hit the ball” pumped up into something unreadable but perfectly formed:

In the middle of the sixth inning of a crucial game in the pennant race, John, the league leader batting third, weakly but precisely hit on the nose the ball pitched with great velocity by the sure-to-be Hall of Fame hurler who had won his last five starts in an overwhelming fashion while going the whole nine innings and who therefore presented an intimidating image to anyone facing him, especially as the shadows lengthened over the mound, obscuring the mechanics of his delivery and rendering it difficult even to see the spheroid as it curved its sinuous way toward the plate, behind which were the umpire, ready to say “ball” or “strike,” and the catcher, prepared for whatever was about to happen.

The more times you perform this exercise, always with different three-word sentences as the base, the easier it becomes, and the easier it becomes, the more practiced you will be in spotting the structure of relationships that gives sense and coherence even to verbal behemoths like this one.


So, go ahead and try something similar and send me your exercises. A couple of sentences to get you started:

  • I drink tea/coffee (or any beverage of your choice).
  • He/she saw a bird.

If you are attempting this, please share your work. No judgements but it would be nice to read what people can come up with just three words.

Question to Ponder

A couple of weeks back, my son asked me what an YouTuber did. This question struck me last week when a relative asked my son what he wanted to be when he grew up.

What jobs exist today that did not exist when you started your career?

Jobs like YouTuber, Instagram Influencer, or Social Media Expert did not exist I joined the workforce nearly two decades back.

As a corollary, the next question set me thinking even a bit harder.

What jobs will exist twenty years from now that do not exist today?

Think about it and send me your thoughts 📧.

👍 or 👎

Yay or nay! Let me know your thoughts on this issue, send me a 📧 or a 💬.

If you feel I could cover a specific topic the next time, I would be glad to cover it if possible.

Till the next issue,

Bye and stay safe 😷