New Year, New Habits: THL on Instagram

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It’s a New Year with new habits: I am on Instagram! I know, it’s hard to contain the excitement but please take a minute to check the posts below before you click over. They are drawn from TreeHouseLetters. Ever since my oldest child sat down with me for a how-to, I’ve joined the masses.

It reminds me of typing class in high school, when I went from writing in long hand to typing 70+ wpm (words per minute). I was learning to program on the Apple IIe at the time. And, you’ll see in one post an even earlier medium of corresondence, the manual typewriter.

Can’t help it. The handwritten letter and the typed note will have a special place in my heart. I suppose in some small fashion, the THL evolved out of these dual loves. Instagram is a fun and an easy way to engage readers, writers, and folks who love to learn.

Like other modern conveniences, Instagram can be a black-hole of time, with pet tricks, beauty tips, and whatever vice or passion du jour. OR, it can be a tool, to plug in with the human species worldwide, an expansion of the dusty shelves of books–which I LOVE and contain the best works, often of the dead–to a visually dynamic, global library of two billion people who are very much alive.

Please check it out and tell all your friends.

If TreeHouseLetter is the meal, then Instagram is the snack.


Check out TreeHouseLetter on Instagram.


mylinhshattan View from the TreeHouse this morning of the mighty poplar, stripped bare in winter.

I work at this farmhouse table.

Desktop references: Lopate, Dreyer, Le Guin, Strunk & White used, Strunk & White illustrated, Kleon, Gornick, Bradbury, CS Lewis, #janefriedman, 2 translations of Aurelius’s Meditations behind the mug. Unseen on right side: Palahniuk, Priscilla Long, American Heritage, Garner’s Usage, Oxford Thesaurus

Taped quote: “You can only do so many things great, and you should cast aside everything else.” Tim Cook

On the window frame: 7 Questions from Coaching Habit which I reference for interviews. Above that Six Steps for Story by Scott Adams.

Calendar with red binder clip of 2023 habits. Cleaned desk last year after reading #atomichabits. Set up separate work spaces for hand-written correspondence, Royal manual typewriter, library and personal books, craft items.

If a desk reflects the mind, I need to declutter! I love to learn how writers work, hoping to find the optimal setting. Usually for me that means keeping my arse in the chair.


mylinhshattan In the beginning there was poetry and my dad’s manual Royal typewriter.

I used the Royal for this photo. I have to lift the ribbon cover to type the letter ‘a’ and the carriage return is secured with rubberbands. But it still works.


mylinhshattan This idea is transformational for me as a writer. The past is not fixed because we are not fixed. We change and the ways we consider and revisit the past change.

No two biographies are the same. One may be favorable and another may be harsh.

And this is a reason I write memoir, essay, true story. It is personal history, the most intimate of writing. And we get to create narrative arcs of who we are. To understand ourselves and our place in the world.


When the Italian humanist Aldus Manutius created the first semicolon in 1494, he combined the comma with the colon, creating a pause longer than the comma and shorter than the colon and the period, or full stop.

My daughter designed this historic union in the photo with brush strokes on water color paper.

Here are widely accepted usage rules. (1) The semicolon links clauses that are closely related. (2) It may also be used to separate items in a series, when any element may have an internal comma. (3) And, it may be used for a longer pause.

Cecelia Watson @instagrammarian1 does a deep dive in her book on the semicolon and shows that prior to the nineteenth century, scholars advocated for personal taste and judgment as a guide to punctuating.

How simple and revolutionary!

In the 1800s, the demand from educators and parents to ‘scientize language’ with rules spawned an industry of grammar books. The Chicago Manual of Style as a current example is in its 17th edition and 1146 pages long. Today, online apps like Grammarly use Artificial Intelligence to review your writing.

Hmm. Better?

For punctuation enthusiasts who wish to learn more about the Sexy Semicolon, visit and search semicolon. Better, buy Cecelia Watson’s book, Semicolon – The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark.



THL is also available on podcast for those on the move. Content is largely written but on occasion you’ll miss visuals such as the marriage of the Sexy Semicolon. Some things have to be seen. The podcast link is in header toolbar at the top of the page.

Jan 20, 2023


About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

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