Simon Carne – ‘I learned to write’

Carne 2

Simon Carne



Yesterday, a few hours before I went into my current isolation, I got a mail from Simon Carne.

I know I was not alone, this is what my friend Con Keating wrote me



I thought this was extremely good – well worth a read.

You might even want to mention it in the blog


This is the gist of Simon’s mail to me (and Con)

I am launching a new website – completely free to access – called I learned to write. As it says in the title, it’s a story about learning to write. Not as a 5-year-old, forming letters and words. But as a 25-year-old business consultant, a 35-year-old writing in the Financial Times and a 55-year-old teaching in business school.

I had a lot of fun creating the website and I’ve done my level best to ensure that readers can have at least as much fun reading it. The website is punctuated with links to many articles, news items and videos (not of me!) containing thoughts that reinforce the narrative. Videos on the site include content from Jerry Seinfeld, Greta Thunberg, Rachel from Friends, Tony Blair and a dance coach who prised his way onto the site through sheer force of personality.

 The point of this blog is to get you to go to the site and spend time on it. I have plenty of time, I am going nowhere  in the next four weeks (but for a couple of days in hospital).

What is the point of learning to write.

I haven’t learned to write, I did go to a training day with Simon where he tried to teach me to write but I was a difficult pupil and did a lot of arguing and not a lot of listening.

The last piece I read of Simon’s was this on Dominic Cummings, which almost exactly mirrored my sentiments.  We have similar views on a lot of things, though Simon writes them down rather better than me,

I do see his point in learning to write well.  It is in this paragraph on Simon’s homepage

This website will appeal to anyone who wants to read about making a point clearly and persuasively … in print, on a web page or when speaking … perhaps in business, to a business or nothing at all to do with business … writing to someone important or about something you consider important … in an email, a letter, a blog or on a social network … in a sales message, a job application, or just trying to get noticed in a crowd … with humour or with complete seriousness.

“If you write as good as you talk -nobody reads you”

I heard Lou Reed say that to a heckler (he was talking his way through Sweet Jane at the time).

I’ve always thought that good writing is the direct transmission of the best words you could have said to text.


And I also think that the words you say are remembered when committed to text (I no longer say written).

Elliot aspired to write for “the stillness” which I take to mean for the future beyond our deaths. This is what Shakespeare wrote about in Sonnet 55

Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme

Shakespeare’s argument is that his words pass into the stillness because of their subject, in this case perhaps his mistress, the poem turns in on itself and it’s almost is that his mistress is his writing.

I suspect that this is behind what Simon Carne is doing with his website, which is published at a time when death is closer to us. But Simon , who is highly rational, will probably dismiss this line of thought as speculative!

The question remains “why does a man curate a website like this to others?”

A metaphyisical statement or a commercial shop window?

Rather than being Simon’s “Sonnet 55”, this website may be no more than a way to get him work and this will be the answer most people will arrive at.

I doubt that Simon needs to advertise himself, I doubt he is short of well-paid work. He has ,in any case, a commercial website

The clue to Simon’s intentions probably lie in the cultural references strewn around the site, including a link to Natasha North’s “The End” which sits at the start and end of Simon’s personal journey. The song begins

Speak those words, let it out
Give me something that we can talk about
Don’t hold back, let it loose
I’m giving you the option to speak the truth

The song abandons any narrative early on, the final section is to use Eliot’s words form and pattern trying to reach the stillness.

This is the end
This is the end

My guess is that this website is Simon’s stab at immortality, though he’d call it a bit of fun.

A curious mind will spend many hours on this site.

As I hope you can tell, I have already spent some time on I learned to write . com

If you have a curious mind and want to write better, you may want to spend time on it too.

Simon’s got one of those minds that gets you answers, but he’s best at teasing the insidious questions you couldn’t quite ask.

The  question I have to answer over the next four weeks is what do I do with excess time and the answer may well be learn to write!


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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