Invaluable advice for writers: know yourself

It never ceases to amuse me the way we have to be reminded over and over again of things we should have already learned a long time ago. For example, there’s no doubt that the ancient Delphic maxim Know thyself—know yourself–holds true today as it did when it was first uttered. Indeed, there’s no doubt at all. And such a maxim holds true for everyone, writers included. In fact, if you know yourself you can avoid a lot of stress and useless worrying about your career as an independent writer. Just think of it. If you spend some quality time…

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Rereading books – the art of change

A 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…

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Vacations for writers — why they improve your creativity

First 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…

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

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…

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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. 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…

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The writing life – why I love writing

If 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…

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Is daydreaming bad or good? What I discovered

Life is complex and multilayered. Indeed, any question worth asking rarely has a simple and straightforward answer. For example, take the question about the actual usefulness of daydreaming and its supposed drawbacks. Some facts Daydreaming is a short-term detachment from one’s immediate surroundings. During these events people, while awake, tend to substitute their reality with a fantasy. In general, this is a pleasant fantasy, for example where aspirations and ambitions are fulfilled. Psychologists say daydreaming is quite common. It happens to pretty much everybody and it happens repeatedly too. Sex seems to be the only activity we undertake without indulging…

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Reasons for writing – the story behind the story

I write fiction for many different reasons. About some of them, I’m pretty sure. About some others, less so. But that’s fine. Because writers aren’t books. Writers are made of flesh and blood, and can be fickle creatures. Indeed, they’re more like a perennial work in progress, a messy first draft, than a flawless published book. And rightly so, I would say. Otherwise writers would be doomed to write the same book over and over again.

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Flashbacks in literature – how to make them effective

There are many examples of flashback in literature. Some are skillfully pulled off. Some others totter on the brink of disaster, but manage to lead the reader back to the story before all is lost. Finally, some other flashbacks are like a knife in the hands of a butcher: they slaughter the story and leave it agonizing, bleeding to death. This doesn’t necessarily mean that writing a strong and effective flashback is a herculean feat. In fact, this could merely mean that flashbacks tend to be overlooked by authors. Because they are considered “easy stuff”. From a purely technical point…

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