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

Is daydreaming bad or good? What I discovered

daydreaming is badLife 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 in daydreaming. It would be interesting to know if it is so because sex is often the subject of daydreaming–and not necessarily only among adolescents. But I’m daydreaming digressing… Continue reading

Reasons for writing – the story behind the story

reasons for writingI 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. Continue reading

Flashbacks in literature – how to make them effective

flashbacks in literatureThere 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 of view they are right–it’s not at all that difficult to devise an effective flashback. However, to fully exploit the evocative powers of a flashback it is essential to follow some basic principles. Continue reading

How to write badly – when fiction turns into friction

how to write badlyThe road to hell is paved with good intentions.

You don’t need to be a true faithful to have heard this proverb.

Of course, it’s a generalization, and like all generalizations it has its limits.

But I think it’s particularly appropriate when applied to the world of creative writing, where ideas and good intentions seem to be everywhere, but then actual writing ferries into existence only a small sliver of them all.

So, here is this list of one-liners about how to write badly. At the very least they’re all wrong, and in many cases they’re also incredibly counterproductive. Continue reading