August 25, 2016

Being Truly Creative

Came across this excerpt from The Harvard Business Review (Dec. 1, 2015) while reading this pretty cool book I started, The Mental Game of Writing, which I thought was interesting and wanted to share with you:

     "What determines whether the ideas we generate are truly creative? Recent research of ours finds that one common factor often gets in the way: we tend to undervalue the benefits of persistence.
     In a series of experiments we observed that people consistently underestimated the number of ideas they could generate while solving a creative challenge. In one, we brought 24 university students into the laboratory during the week leading up to Thanksgiving and asked them to spend ten minutes coming up with as many ideas of dishes to serve at Thanksgiving dinner as they could. Then we had them predict how many more ideas they could generate if they persisted on the task for an additional ten minutes.
     On average, the students predicted they would be able to generate around 10 new ideas if they persisted. But we found that they were actually able to generate around 15 new ideas.
     Several similar follow-up studies we conducted produced the same result. We asked professional comedians to generate punch lines for a sketch comedy scene; adults to generate advertisement slogans for a product; and people to come up with tactics a charity organization could use to increase donations. In each of these experiments, participants significantly underestimated how many ideas they could generate while persisting with the challenge.
     Importantly, after each study we asked a separate group of people to rate the creativity of the participants' ideas. Across the majority of our studies we found that ideas generated while persisting were, on average, rated to be more creative than ideas generated initially. Not only did participants underestimate their ability to generate ideas while persisting, they underestimated their ability to generate their most creative ideas.
     Why do we underestimate the benefits of persistence? It's because creative challenges feel difficult. People often have the experience of feeling "stuck," being unsure of how to find a solution, or hitting a wall with one idea and having to start over again.
     [C]reative ideas take time. They are often generated after an initial period of thinking deeply about the problem, and exploring different possible solution paths."

And it's true! I've been working dutifully on the Morgana Trilogy every day after work, but coming up with scenes and dialogues and all that jazz that makes a book (I hope) fun to read--even if I've already made a detailed outline and everything!--is going much slower than I'd wanted.

OK, granted, writing 6000 words a day is a big challenge, even (I think) for a full-time writer, and my average 1500 words a day falls way short of that. So I'm afraid I may end up having to push back the publication date for Curse of the Fey after all T.T

I'll keep you posted soon in another entry.

In the meantime, let me know if you discover some amazing fantasy books!

August 15, 2016

On Original Thinking...Basically, Don't Be A Rhinoceros

My French classes during the last years of high school were spent mainly dissecting a bunch of avant-garde, absurd and stream of thought books and essays. One such book was Ionesco's Rhinoceros, a critique of nazism and how some people easily allowed themselves to accept and adopt the evil views (thereby turning into a big, fat rhinoceros).

And here's what Oscar Wilde had to say(1) about thinking outside the box or, should I say, common thought:

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone elses opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.

I like to think from time to time about how I would have thought and acted had I grown up in another part of the world, or during another era. Would I have been a forward-thinker, brave enough to go against the mainstream? Or would I, like so many others, have been easily indoctrinated, unable to see past the end of my nose (to paraphrase Mary Poppins)?

I'd like to think it would have been the former, of course, but to be totally honest...I have no idea. What about you?

(1) From De Profundis (1897), a letter written while in prison.

August 8, 2016

The War Of Art: On Resistance & Healing

I just had to make another post (as warned in my previous one) on Steven Pressfield's The War of Art because this part he mentions Resistance (aka the Great Tempter away from your heart's task or, in my case, writing) and Healing.

Healing?! you might say. And yes, basically, in this instance "Healing" is used as a way to resist our true calling and getting my butt in the seat to type away! (Seriously though, I will get to it right after I've finished this post!)

Here are some excerpts from his piece on Resistance and Healing that really resonated with me:

The concept...seems to be that one needs to complete his healing before he is ready to do his work. 

[But] what are we trying to heal, anyway? The athlete knows the day will never come when he wakes up pain-free. He has to play hurt.

Remember...the part we create from can't be touched by anything our parents did, or society did. That part is unsullied, uncorrupted; soundproof, waterproof, and bulletproof. In fact, the more troubles we've got, the better and richer that part becomes.

Besides, what better way of healing [our personal life] than to find our center of self-sovereignty? 
Resistance loves "healing." Resistance knows that the more psychic energy we expend dredging and re-dredging the tired, boring injustices of our personal lives, the less justice we have to do our work.

That's it. Simple yet beautiful.

And it hit me to the core because as I've mentioned recently, I totally am guilty of this type of resistance (a repeat-offender, might I add), and when I'm not feeling 100% OK, I do have a tendency to slip into the I'll-get-to-it-tomorrow-when-I-feel-better mode. Yet, there have been a number of times where, despite how poorly I may have felt at that moment, I managed to plunder through my writing and, lo and behold!, felt so much better afterwards.

OK. Now I'm really going back to my writing.  So long, folks!

August 1, 2016

Invoking The Muse

I've been reading and hearing about Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, that I figured perhaps the Universe was trying to give me a hint.

After all, I have been struggling with finishing Curse of the Fey (new job with long hours, a constantly changing schedule, new living environment, and lack of sleep have made me an easy prey to what Pressfield calls the Resistance satan), and in desperate need of inspiration (or what an old teacher of mine would have called a "severe kick to the butt").

So I'll probably post a few interesting bits (though the book is full of them) over the uncoming days, so that I can easily find them again and perhaps share these inspirational or thought-provoking items with anyone else who may be in need like me.

The first one comes from Homer's Odyssey, and is this great storyteller's Invocation of the Muse, one that Pressfield apparently recites every day to start his writerly ritual (gotta get in that groove--anything to get your ass in the chair and get writing, or whatever project you want to accomplish):

O Divine Poesy
Goddess-daughter of Zeus
Sustain for me
This song of the various-minded man
Who after he had plundered
The innermost citadel of hallowed Troy
Was made to stray grievously
About the coasts of men
The sport of their customs good or bad
While his heart
Through all the sea-faring
Ached in an agony to redeem himself
And bring his company safe home.

Vain hope--for them
For his fellows he strove in vain
Their own witlessness cast them away
The Fools
To destroy for meat
The oxen of the most exalted sun
Wherefore the sun-god blotted out
The day of their return.

Make the tale live for us
In all its many bearings
O Muse