Book Review: Alphabet vs the Goddess

Book Review: Alphabet vs the Goddess

Book Review – Definitely recommended. “The Alphabet vs The Goddess – Conflict of Word and Image” by Leonard Shlain with a very provocative historical thesis – that with the introduction of alphabetic writing (left brain masculine) and the moving away from pictorial writing (right brain feminine), we moved to a writing style, the very basis of our culture, that “subliminally fosters a patriarchal outlook… giving cultures, especially in the west, a strong masculine thrust.”

What a slap in the face to a woman who loves to read and write! Well there is nothing wrong with being in the more organized left side of the brain. Words and knowledge need a way to be conveyed and it is true that if you use speech or a film to do it, then you have more of an influence of the right creative side of the brain, but there are limits as to how much you can convey.

Also there are limits on how much one can take in. The written word, I believe, allows us to ponder, question, ‘sit with’ information at our own pace. Knowledge comes in many layers at once and we absorb it at the level we are currently in so being able to engage with written words has its’ advantages. The words can be about the feminine, for it was the book “The Feminine Mystique” that sparked a huge women’s movement. And the book “Silent Spring” that sparked the whole ecological earth movement. The written word can be preserved, it can be shared, it can be read again and again. It is a very important evolutionary development.

“Most people believe that the benefits that have accrued to women are due primarily to a high level of education among the populace. As Levi Strauss stated – ‘There is one fact that can be established: the only phenomenon which, always and in all parts of the world, seems to be linked with the appearance of writing … is the establishment of hierarchical societies, consisting of masters and slaves, and where one part of the population is made to work for the other part.’ Misogyny and patriarchy rise and fall with the fortunes of the alphabetic written word.” Shlain

Reading is a linear process and my inability to grasp how life would be without it probably supports his thesis. I know that many things are learned through experience and that is often the greatest teacher, but without the written word I wouldn’t know the great philosophers. Perhaps it is not that the written word has ‘diminished women’s power’ but that our over emphasis on the written word has done that. And as we move from the written word to TV, to film, to gaming, to internet with all the pictorial ways of communicating information, things will balance out. Indeed this is what Shlain presents as hope at the end of the book. “Unlike all the scribes of past cultures, men now routinely write using both hands (on computers) instead of only the dominant one… and is, I believe, an unrecognized factor in the diminution of patriarchy.”

He states that as we moved in this direction women started to gain back their power.

Which brings us to a common research question – Does correlation prove causality?

He instead says he ‘appeals to competitive plausibility’.

As I read the book in more depth I will update my review. I find his thesis fascinating and engaging. Though I believe there are several factors that allowed patriarchy to thrive, this may very well be a plausible part of it.


“Reading words is a different process. When the eye scans distinctive individual letters arranged in a certain linear sequence, a word with meaning emerges. The meaning of a sentence, such as the one you are now reading, progresses word by word. Comprehension depends on the sentence’s syntax, the particular horizontal sequence in which its grammatical elements appear…This process occurs at a speed so rapid that it is below awareness…To perceive things such as trees and buildings through images delivered to the eye, the brain uses wholeness, simultaneity, and synthesis. To ferret out the meaning of alphabetic writing, the brain relies instead on sequence, analysis, and abstraction.” Shlain


15 day writing mark

15 day writing mark

So you are all about half way through 30 days! Congratulations. (as seen in

Some of you probably are rolling along just fine, in a zone. Some of you are in a panic because you didn’t write as much as you had hoped by now. Some of you wrote more than expected and started to feel drained, maybe questioning the merits of your story.


Wherever you are in the process, it doesn’t matter, only getting words on the page matters. Don’t edit, don’t judge, don’t stop.


If you’re rolling along, stop reading this and just keep doing whatever you’ve been doing. Just think twice before sharing your good muse fortune as many people who were happy for you in the beginning may be dealing with some halfway mark demons of their own. Just keep pressing forward.


If you’re in a panic because you didn’t write as much as you had hoped, then don’t worry. Just figure out how many words per day you need to complete and take it day by day… In the end any word count is still amazing! But at this point you can still make up a low word count.


If you wrote more than expected and are feeling drained or doubting your story’s merits, take a quick break far far from the computer, get out in the sunlight, walk, move the body, see some beauty around you. Get back into your body, that is where creativity is… Don’t you dare question your story’s merits at this point. You are in no mental or creative place to make such judgments. You are going for a word count no a masterpiece.


In the end this is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed to get you down the path of self expression. You will have accomplished what many only dream of – actually writing THAT novel. It’s everyone’s secret dream.


In two weeks you will be able to call yourself a writer, (or reaffirm it) that is what is important here – words on the page so you can call yourself a real writer the second you get to ‘the end’.


Worth, merit, publication, save all that for later. Write these doubts and emotions down on a piece of paper marked ‘later’ and set them aside.

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Break Out of a Rut

Whether you’re a writer now or you long to be one, creativity isn’t something that’s always easy to wrangle. You’re heard the stories about writer’s block and you know that some writers are good, but never quite great. The most difficult experience for any writer – new or not so new – is the experience of getting into a rut. When you begin to write the same things over and over, or you just begin to feel like your creativity isn’t flowing the way it used to, it’s time to take action.[more…]

Get Out of the House

Writing is so often a solitary practice, one in which you sit at a computer screen and try to come up with new ideas. But since your computer isn’t going to help you with these new thoughts, it’s time to get out of the house. You need to get out and experience life in order to write about it. Whether this means you head out for a coffee at a local café or you go to the park for a walk, you need to make sure you get out and experience life more often than you are doing right now. When you begin to interact with the outside world, you will begin to see things that will inspire you.

Change Your Routine

Many times, just being in a routine can cause you to feel like you’re in a rut. Maybe you’re a person who writes in the morning or a person who writes late at night – try changing that up for a week. When you do this, you will find you’re able to create from a different perspective, and with a different energy. Though you might not keep this new schedule up forever, sometimes just doing something that you wouldn’t normally do will give you the energy to write things that you wouldn’t normally write.

Write Anything

When all else fails, the best plan of action to get out of a creative rut is to write anyway. Even when you think your words have no meaning and they’re only causing you frustration, write anyway. Write for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or for an hour, without stopping. Don’t judge what you’ve written, don’t even go back to read it. Just write. The more you write past the point of being frustrated and bored with the process, the more you will push past any mental blocks that might be causing your rut.

Get Inspired

Another great way to break out of a creative rut is to read books and poems from those who inspire you. When you begin to look at the creative results of writing, you can begin to want to pick up the pen or the laptop again. Head to poetry readings, writing conferences, etc. Surround yourself with others who are creating, and you’ll reconnect with your muse again.

Writing is something that allows you to be creative, and yet, everyone gets into a rut sometimes. You will too, but you don’t have to stay there for long.

Feel Worthy?

It’s hard to pursue publication and success, especially in a creative field, if you don’t feel worthy of succeeding.

Do you have thoughts floating around the back of you head that you aren’t good enough? That you will never be successful at this? That it is all a waste of time? That the odds are against you? That maybe you could sell a few books but a 100,000 seems impossible? Do you tell yourself you can do it, yet deep down you know you are lying to yourself?[more…]

If you’re not sure, then try this: set a timer to go off every 60 minutes and just record what you were thinking at that time. You’ll be amazed when you start to see a pattern emerge…. is it a good pattern?

You have to believe in yourself, this is not just about saying affirmations mind you, this is about BELIEVING in yourself and what your thoughts tell you, you can accomplish. Explore it and see what happens.

80/20 Rule

Thanks for all your great responses to last blog’s question (both privately and on the blog). I’m glad to know many of you are interested in the creative process!

Ever heard of the Pareto Principle? It explains how successful results come from 20% of your hard work and the other 80% is just wasted effort. In business this is a well known principle and has been proven true time and time again. [more…]As writers I think we can all relate to this principle whether it’s wasting time on chores that don’t really need to get done or wasting 80% on starting numerous writing projects without getting any of them completed. Boy if we could just focus on that 20% all the time how wonderful that would be!

The question is – “How do you know what the 20% is that will get you results without having to waste the other 80% to get there?”

Calm your mind. Pure and simple. When you are calm you develop 20/20 vision and can see which actions will give you that 20%.You can calm your mind before you decide what needs to be done in a day, or which projects to work on, with meditation, deep breathing, soft music or any number of calming activities you enjoy. In one sense Julia Cameron’s daily pages serves to accomplish this task, I know many of you love to write daily pages and swear by them.

Just a thought. Being more productive with your time will help you get those projects completed.