Rereading books – the art of change

rereading booksA couple of nights ago I was sitting on the porch at my friend’s place.

The sun was gone, just like the wine we had been drinking.

So, with that particular predisposition of the soul that most often comes when the right amount of food and booze and stimulating company all happen together, we started chatting about books and writing.

My friend isn’t a writer. And he isn’t planning on becoming one any time soon.

Indeed, he is perfectly content with being a voracious reader. And of having the opportunity to chat, as often as possible, about books and the inner mechanics of a story.

Now, while we decided whether or not to help ourselves with a last glass of wine–it was a damn fine Rosso di Montalcino we were enjoying–we ended up chatting about books we had reread and found dramatically different from the first time around.

For me, this subject is a tricky one. It’s so for a couple of reasons.

First of all, I reread only a very small portion of the books I’ve already read. It’s not a matter of how much I enjoyed reading a particular book. It’s more about the number of new books I have on my to-read list. Because I’m curious. And a sucker for a new story. A more than willing sucker.

Secondly, given that my memory is quite good, more often than not, for me rereading tends to be quite a boring experience. Even if the writer’s style is egregious and now and then I find myself reading passages I had completely forgotten. Continue reading

Vacations for writers — why they improve your creativity

vacations for writersFirst off, let’s make it clear: writers do not need any vacations.

After all, theirs is a dream job.

They get to do what they love precisely when they prefer to.

And if this isn’t the definition of a dream job, I don’t know what else could be.

Ok. Ok. I’m just kidding.

In fact, a lot of writers, also the successful ones, have a day job. Because, you know, it helps pay the bills, and forces some kind of structure on their day, things like these.

Secondly, writers too have families, and pretty much all the same social obligations each of us has. Yes, they learn to say “no” more often to be more productive, but still…

Indeed, apart from those who sell in the millions, writers are just human beings. This means they are strange clusters of idiosyncrasies, fears, addictions, aspirations, noble intents, and bullshit. A lot of bullshit.

Just like we all are.

The only difference is that, for some reason, they feel they need to make their musings public. Usually in a fictionalized way. At least, for sure I do.

Ah, you’re wondering about those who sell in the millions? Continue reading

Where do good ideas come from? Myths about creativity and the creative process

the creative process

A diving whale!

When it comes to human relationships, and the most effective ways to improve them, a large number of people resort to self-help books .

It’s reasonable. In fact, given the hectic times we live in, most of these people hope to find some quick and dirty tricks. Something to solve their problems with a minimal amount of time and effort on their part.

Unfortunately, the truth is that such tricks rarely solve anything at all.

Just think about it for a moment. Many self-help books tell us to smile and repeat over and over again the name of the people we’re talking with. These books also suggest that we ask the people we’re talking with about their jobs and hobbies.

These I just mentioned, are just some of the most banal examples. However if we follow these suggestions in a mechanical and opportunistic way the people we are interacting with will soon realize what we’re up to.

As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Instead, if we have cultivated our character in such a way that it comes natural to us to care about the people around us, we don’t need to be reminded to smile and call the people we’re speaking with with their names.

Consider. In the first scenario we have a dry list of rules that to some extent work, though only for a short period of time. Besides, we don’t grow as a person. We just learn to be manipulative.

Instead, in the second scenario we don’t have any rules to follow. Rather, we have a series of guiding principles that help us both create deeper relationships and grow as individuals. Continue reading

The creative writing process – why it matters more then any grammar or stylistic rule

Rules can be helpful. But there are really too many of them. So much indeed that, once we have mastered the basic ones, to improve our style we’re better off concentrating on a more concrete creative writing process.

creative writing process

Phantom limbs can be extremely painful. Even if, given that they are not there, they shouldn’t pose any problem to their… owners.

I know this sounds paradoxical. But bear with me, please.

In the 90s the treatment of such type of pain was extremely difficult, and led to no or negligible improvements. But then V. S. Ramachandran came up with a brilliant solution. A solution only requiring a five dollar mirror.

In fact, in his opinion the brain was sort of locked and unable to disengage the phantom limb from an uncomfortable and painful position because, after all, the limb was missing.

But using a mirror, Ramachandran managed to give the brain the illusion of actually moving the blocked phantom limb (when in reality it was just the reflection of the healthy one.)

As a result of this cognitive dissonance, between what its nerves and its eyes told it, the brain was forced to “reset”.  Consequently, in a relatively short number of sessions many patients reported the resolution of their problems.

All this is interesting, but how do phantom limbs relate to creative writing? Continue reading

The writing life – why I love writing

why I love writingIf you write because you think it’s the quickest way to becoming a millionaire, think better.

In particular, you’re making two basic mistakes.

The make-a-living myth

The first is a simple matter of numbers.

To pay the bills and send their kids to school, most writers, even the moderately successful ones, have to balance their precious time between their art and an often mundane day job.

Of course, this doesn’t mean there are no authors able to accumulate a fortune with their books. We have all heard of people like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, and all the others.

However, considering the number of all the authors, those who sell enough to live from their craft really are a minority.

This is so even if we don’t take into account the gazillion aspiring writers out there in the wild who write sporadically, read erratically, and rarely invest time to learn how to improve their style and their sales. Continue reading