The simplest solution in creative writing – understanding Occam’s razor

Keep it simple, this is a mantra so short and appealing that we end up thinking it must be always true. Unfortunately it is not. However, once we understand what the simplest solution means in creative writing, we can really step up our writing style. What is Occam’s razor, and why the simplest solution? In short, Occam’s razor is a principle stating that, among competing hypotheses, the simplest one should be preferred. However, this is just a tool, and like any tool it’s far from perfect. In fact, the preference it accords to the simplest solutions is such not because these have been proved to be always the correct ones—not at all. Rather, Occam’s razor gives preference to the simplest solutions because they are the more easily testable. The fact they often are also the correct ones is just a nice bonus. For example, just think of the stars we see in the …

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The role of art in society, the ultimate mind map?

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. As the quote from Hamlet makes it apparent, Shakespeare knew quite well that the world around us, just like the one residing in our head, is simply too vast and rich for an artist, any artist, to ever hope to describe it in its entirety. This might seem like a terrible limitation on our ability to create art. It also seems to undermine the role of art in society. Instead, I believe this apparent inability, this sort of limitation, is one of the strong points of art. Arts and maps In fact, just like Borges points out in his On Exactitude in Science, maps that are so rich and detailed as the territory they are meant to describe are quintessentially useless. The reason is simple. Maps are by definition representations of a limited number …

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Why creativity is special and infinity and monkeys cant’t crush it

In many cases slogans are just strings of words simple to remind—and a bit too simplistic. Creativity is special may sound like a slogan. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Have a look at the use over time for the word ‘creativity’ (table 1). You’ll immediately realize this is a trendy term to say the least. In fact, while before the 50s the word ‘creativity’ was used only in certain fields, nowadays we all sprinkle with ‘creativity’ and creativity-related terms a vast part of our everyday discourse. Indeed, nowadays most of us readily recognize that creativity is special, and hold it in high esteem. I mean, creative jobs are in high demand, just like creative professionals. So much so that even professions where creativity and imagination were once considered non essential are now trying to change such a perceptual misconception. However, despite the enormous attention creativity is getting these days, …

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Unique gifts for writers – no matter the season

Let’s be clear from the get go. The unique gifts for writers I’m speaking here are those that can really make a difference for a writer, not those ‘unique gifts’ that end up collecting dust on a shelf. Yet, such notable gifts are quite common… When it comes to creative writing, what writers everywhere need is not a new telepathic laptop, a new magic keyboard, or a speech-to-text app able to understand them even when they cough and sneeze in the clutches of a cold. Not even a new secretary, a new house, or a brand new life are required. Sure, a brand new life—maybe one in which the bank account is in black and with a pleasantly long number of zeroes after the initial non-zero figure—can be of help, but only marginally. Let’s face it. Omero, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Nabokov, the Brontës sisters, Stephen King, and Neil Gaiman—just to …

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Book spoilers – do they really affect the reading experience?

Book spoilers are bad. Book spoilers are so bad that when you review a book you are often requested to clearly mark the sections of your review that contain book spoilers. This to avoid having hordes of enraged potential readers calling you names for having destroyed their reading experience right from the start. Or rather, even before the start. Yet, some guys have put this belief about book spoilers under a magnifying glass, and what they have found seems to disprove the conventional wisdom about the subject. In fact, it seems, book spoilers aren’t such a bad thing. Not at all. Wielding about the results of their work, the researchers claim that when we read a story whose outcome we already know, we can appreciate it more than when we read it without having any previous information about it. They also say that although the reasons for this go “beyond the …

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