How the electric chair metaphor can help you tighten your creative writing

I’m a fervent advocate of scientific research. So much so indeed that I think we can’t have such a thing like too much science or too much knowledge. However, unfortunately, we can have something like too much technology. In fact, while science simply uncovers and explains the principles that make our universe tick, and is therefore neutral, technology isn’t necessarily always a good thing. This holds true even if, in principle, the dichotomy between basic and applied science is bogus. For example, while science explains what electricity is and how and why it works in such a way and not…

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Too many books to read and too little time to read them – a blessing in disguise?

Too many books to read and too little time to read them. This is one of my my constant problems. And even though I know perfectly well this is a typical first-world problem, I can’t help but to get frustrated about the way my list of to-read books keeps growing faster and faster. So fast indeed that even if I were a sort of octoculis lectorem (this is a word I just made up) and had eight independent pairs of eyes, I would be nonetheless unable to close the gap between my literary wants and my actual reading count. Luckily…

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Where do you get your ideas from? It’s quite a common question… but what about the answer?

Where do you get your ideas from? is probably one of those questions that writers are asked most often. Unfortunately it’s also a loaded question. In fact, it uncritically assumes that ideas are sort of objects completely formed and ready to be used—maybe like objects sitting neatly on a shelf somewhere in a magic shop, all happily waiting for a writer to come by and choose one. In reality ideas are made of the fuzziest substance in the universe: jumbles of often erratic human thoughts. So much so that even if you ever managed to find a magic shop with a…

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A writer’s inspiration – Italian postcards

We have all a mountain to climb. Sometimes we get to choose which mountain to challenge. Some other times we aren’t offered such a choice. But of one thing we can be sure. We have all to work our way up, no matter how high or how far the mountain top seems. This is true when we start writing a new novel. This is true when we start a new story with someone we’ve just met. It’s true of happy periods and sad ones. We can only proceed one word after the other. One tentative step at a time. Really,…

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Is your writer’s block telling you something?

Usually you tend to consider the writer’s block like an obstacle that prevents you from putting down on page your ideas. Or even an obstacle that prevents you from having any fruitful ideas in the first place. In the first case, you can usually overcome your writer’s block in several different ways. Go for a walk. Have some coffe or a cappuccino. Do some sport, like running or cycling. Reduce distractions. Read a book. Listen to music. Try to stick to a routine. Force yourself to write anyway, no matter how shitty your writing is going to be. Cook a…

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Linguistics – how we relate to language

It has always fascinated me how we relate to language. We use it every day, constantly and quite skillfully. Yet we know little about how it works. Think of it. We yell at the dog to get him off the sofa. We pause a moment to make sure we have actually scared the damn thing away, then we resume our chatting on the phone with our friend. Later on, when our spouse gets home we say hello to him, or her, and ask about their day. Finally, we promptly adopt motherese to speak to our three year old daughter, who…

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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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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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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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