Musings on the Craft of Writing

Posts tagged “creativity

►Writing on Both Sides of the Brain

This is one of the first books I read on novel-writing, and it saved me.

I’d always been a tyrant with myself as I wrote, slicing into each section, paragraph and sentence as I typed it on the page. I was driving in circles.  Henriette Klauser’s book helped free me from that habit.

Klauser

^^^^^^^^^^^^

It’s true that unrefined creativity (more…)

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►Typing ≠ Writing

typists type

So true.

It feels so good to “actually be ‘writing’” the story.  Although it may sound strange, a danger is hiding here, for the emotional highs we get from “finishing” sections/chapters/books can sometimes hinder the creative process.  We have to be careful to consistently step back, get to the window and stare.

We should repeat this practice throughout the entirety of our projects.  Milling over our stories before, during and after the keyboarding is vital to writing a great novel. Keep musing, charting, planning,  critiquing and, of course, typing.  Novel writing is the sum of those parts.

~Daniel


►The Magic of the Mind, Part 1: SDN

In 1890 William James (philosopher/psychologist) posited that our thoughts and experiences shape our brains.  Of course, we didn’t even have the equipment to verify that on a cadaver’s brain, let alone on a living one.  But we finally do, and this research on our brains has yielded extraordinary findings.

~ Jill B Taylor ~

~ Jill B Taylor ~

Neuroscientists have dubbed this ‘Neuroplasticity’ (and the subsequent “Self-Directed Neuroplasticity” or “SDN”).  The quickie version on SDN: Humans can volitionally rewire their brains to help change thought/behavior patterns, even decades-long such patterns (bad habits, OCD, addiction, crippling depression), and even the most profound of changes as in the extraordinary stroke-recovery case of Jill B Taylor.

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►Just… Don’t Do It! (Yet) [Planning v. Pantsing]

So much of the advice we all see about novel-writing is, “Just get your ass in the chair and start writing it!”

Nope.

OK, I’m being flippant.  What I mean is, “No.  Don’t.”

There are two polar opposite camps regarding the novel-writing process: Planners and Pantsers (the former is obvious, the latter comes from the notion of “writing by the seat of your pants”).  But no one is truly at either extreme of those ends.  All die-hard Planners still discover and change elements of their tale as they write, and all Pantsers are planning some of the story (in their heads, even if they refuse to write down those plans).

~~ And, now what? ~~

~~ And, now what? ~~

I try to stay as far in the Planning camp as possible, for I am convinced that we save ourselves not just hours, but months (and years?) of frustration and pain by spending the time charting our story before we sit down to type our manuscripts.  What contractor do you know who just “starts building” a house without planning out every minute detail?  Why would we, (more…)


►Mind Termites

I’m an IT professional for a University… and daily am tempted to become a Luddite.  Why?  The mountain of evidence showing us that the 21st century has created a world filled with addiction to our devices.  That unrelenting use is continuing to damage our attention spans and general ability to calmly ponder complex issues. [I’ll here stop myself from writing an academic piece since hundreds have already done that work for us.  You can Google as well as I can, but I will give you just a few (in case you’re feeling lazy). ]: NPR, NYer, NYT, NW.

sideshow b

Aside from what is a crime against our minds (and ‘souls’ if I’m feeling bold [and antiquated]), I think it’s especially damaging for the work of creative endeavors.  As I am charting a 7-novel series, I require many hours of uninterrupted musing.  Daydreaming is not just nice, it’s essential.  The power of our brains at work when in a steady, relaxed state is vital to the outpouring of a deep story.  (Again, Google away, but here.)

Our addiction to being perpetually connected to the internet/playing with our gadgets robs us of this deep flow, which means that what artists produce lacks the depth and richness they may otherwise have had.  The useful tools that are our many computing devices have the clear and likely danger of becoming mental termites.

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►Muses and Monsters

Novel writing is complicated, but not nearly so complicated as novel writers.  Creativity is a strange animal, and it leads authors in strange directions.  Recently I discovered Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, which is primarily about overcoming resistance and truly chasing the artist’s life.  It’s filled with many excellent insights, and I recommend it.  However, he does spend some time discussing his sincere belief in the ancient Muses and Daimons  and their influence over his own writing.  (In case you don’t know, this is tantamount to saying that you really do believe in Zeus, and that Apollo is really guiding you on a journey.)

apollo_muses

And then last week I came across a Ted Talk where Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) makes similar claims of the guiding force of supernatural agents. Weird?  Well, yeah, but really this is no different than people believing that the “Holy Ghost guides them” in their projects, as some Christian artists assert.

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►Without which you will fail

Scores of elements can be listed that are prerequisites for someone soaring high in their craft, from ludicrously overpaid sports icons to the world’s deadliest assassins.  There are many essential skills a writer must have in order to produce great work.  The most important one, however, is not all that mystical.  It’s not “inspiration” (however we want to define that).  It’s not witty, flowing prose or enthralling characters.  It’s not complex (but unconvoluted) plots, and it’s as sure as hell not how strongly the writer feels when he writes it.

This single skill, to the disappointment of all of those who believe that lightning will strike and make you a Shakespeare, is simply iron-clad discipline.

True success as an artist means that you’ve accepted that it’s adult-time; artistry of any realm (even being a world-class assassin) means that you must develop serious discipline in order to perfect those 20-30 other serious skills required to succeed. (Being a superb marksman by itself only accounts for a small fraction of the killing business.)  Of course, by ‘succeed’ I do not mean that you got published by a major publishing house and/or sold millions of copies.  That happens with a lot of people who I’d call mediocre (if I am feeling generous).  Nepotism/cronyism/billion dollar religious cults can get any hack to the NYT top 10 list.

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