Friday, March 25, 2016

TWIC: shamaning, not writing, answering, translating, fitting in, and more

This Week in Creativiti: links dump

Wikipedia diving: The book I am writing includes a lot of action in central and northern Asia.  It involves Buddhism, Hinduism, Tibetan Bon, and Shamanism.  I have been reading, therefore, about Tengrism, Shamanism and Wu (Chinese) Shamanism.

Writer's Block and Anna Karenina: Every unhappy writer is unhappy in his/her own way.
The first, more anxious group felt unmotivated because of excessive self-criticism—nothing they produced was good enough—even though their imaginative capacity remained relatively unimpaired.
The second, more socially hostile group was unmotivated because they didn’t want their work compared to the work of others.
The third, apathetic group seemed the most creatively blocked. They couldn’t daydream; they lacked originality; and they felt that the “rules” they were subjected to were too constrictive.
9 ways to crush creative burnout I don't see them crushing much and there is some repetition (#1 and #8 particularly) but there is a little value in this list:
#1 leave the room
#2 relive your glory days
#7 Don't become one-dimensional - don't over specialize
#8 get physical
#9 track your progress (you've come farther than you think)
I've been on a Quora tear lately, using all my genius there to answer questions regarding evolution with the utmost in persuasiveness and politeness.  Guess who's a Most Viewed Writer in Evolution (process)?
Quora also has questions about creativity, including:
What are some of the most creative fiction books?
I get good grades so who cares if I am absent?
What are some tips for writing fantasy?
Saumya Saxena responded (I have excerpted it and the numbers do not match the original):
  1. Picture your work and create images (in mind and/or on paper if it helps), it will help you keep track of "what happens where" and "who looks how"....
  1. Outline your work, no matter how formidable and dull it might sound, you will thank yourself later! ...
  1. Believe in what you write, if you can't convince yourself, you can't convince anybody, have faith in your idea, no matter how absurd it might sound to your friends, it is plausible if you can think of it, you just need to be more convincing.
  1. Well this is not specific to fantasy, but just DON'T GIVE UP on that idea you have conceived. It is worth all the discomfort you might have to go through.
What standard email phrases really mean.
3. "Can I send you some information?"
This is a classic sales technique that, as someone who gets lots of pitches, can drive me straight up the wall. If you're going to mail me a book, it makes sense to ask my permission first. For anything else, the investment on your end is exactly the same whether you send me an email asking to send information or just go ahead and email the information. The only purpose of asking first is to create some sort of commitment that I'll pay attention to that information. And to waste everyone's time with two emails instead of one.
4. "Any interest in ... ?"
Usually this is used to try to create what we in publishing call a "curiosity gap." It's followed by insufficient information--just enough to try to get a rise out of the recipient. As in, "Any interest in learning about a brilliant new innovation that will change the way you do business forever?" Say yes and you may feel obligated to buy. Say no and you may feel like you're missing the boat.
Why creative writing has a place in science.
Who says science and the arts can't go hand in hand?
Scientists may even beat creative writers at their own game due to a "killer work ethic" and the lack of a so-called publication angst, Irish writer and novelist Aifric Campbell wrote.
"It was the interdisciplinary challenge that intrigued me, but I’ll admit to being (skeptical) about the students’ writing potential. So I was delighted to be proved wrong: their writing is easily as good – and often better – than that of creative writing students I have taught elsewhere, including at the University of East Anglia. And my external assessors – also writers who teach and hold PhDs from UEA – agree," she said in an article posted on UK's The Guardian.
Campbell has been teaching creative writing to students in science, technology, engineering and medicine at Imperial who can take humanities options for credit.
I feel I am inhabit the border between these two groups; trained as a scientist but now teaching language and trying to be a writer.

Semi-related Rant time!
This picture can be found everywhere online but I copied it from whyevolutionistrue.  When I saw it on a friend's Facebook page, I wrote:
This poster has always seemed like damning with faint praise. Most, if not all, scientists could also tell you why it is a bad idea. Perhaps not in a 1000 word essay with symbolism and metaphor, but clearly enough.
I think there is value in humanities but if this poster were accurate, it would read 100% of Scientists and 2% of humanities majors can perform scientific work and 95% of scientists and 97% of humanities majors can tell you if it might be dangerous.
When we go further at look at more concrete specifics, I trust scientists better than non-scientists to tell me about vaccines, GMOs and the alleged dangers of radios-waves from phones.
Whyevolutionistrue had similar things to say on the subject:
1. The big problem: SCIENCE CAN’T TELL US HOW TO CLONE A T. REX! ... If humanities is going to proffer itself as superior in some ways to science, then it should at least get the science right!
2. Before we determine the ethicality of cloning a T. rex, it’s still up to science to first tell us what would be the likely consequences: how the beast might behave, how would we contain it and feed it, would it nom humans, and so on. Once we’ve determined that getting nommed by an enormous reptile is bad—and granted, that’s the somewhat subjective purview of ethics—then philosophical rumination combined with empirical observation will tell us either “don’t do it!” or “build a big place to isolate it.” (That, of course, didn’t work in Jurassic Park.)
3. Humanities has advantages that stand on their own: it, and not science, can teach us how to read and appreciate literature and other fine arts, and—if you see philosophy as part of “humanities”— how to think clearly about human problems. There’s no need to denigrate science to point out those advantages....
The thing is, science doesn’t need to advertise its virtues by denigrating the humanities. Why should humanities need to do that to us?
The power of music
9 ways to become more creative in the next 10 minutes
1. Doodle Something
2. Sign Up for a Class in Something You’ve Never Done Before
5. Start a Sketchbook
6. Keep Toys on Your Desk
8. Try the 30 Circles Test
9. Role-play Away

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Jenkins and the Very Bad Books

Fred Clark, at Slacktivist on the Patheos blog group, has been dissecting a series of twelve books in minute detail.  After around ten years, he is maybe halfway through the third book.  And boy, are they terrible!
And yet, also extremely successful.  Clark, and I right now, is writing about the Left Behind books, a series that begins with the Christian rapture and describes the seven years between that event and return of Jesus to Earth.  As Clark as admirably explained, they are combine bad theology, poor characterization, a plot with huge holes and etc.  They are not well written.

Still, seeing these books and perhaps To Kill a Mockingbird are a way to see what works and what doesn't.

On March 21 of 2016, Clark noted the following about the books (describing Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 315-318):
Throughout this series, Jerry Jenkins provides a graduate-level seminar in how not to write fiction. This scene displays his approach to characterization. For Jenkins, the best way to convey character is to assert it directly in the voice of the narrator: “Rayford is brave.” The next-best approach, for Jenkins, is to have the character state this assertion about themselves: “‘I am brave,’ said Rayford.” And Jenkins likes to supplement those by also having other characters restate this assertion: “‘Rayford is so very brave,’ thought Buck.” And since he has all of these voices asserting this attribute of the character’s character, Jenkins seems to think it would be overkill to add to that by ever showing the character behaving in a way that would match this description.
This is, of course, bass-ackwards and upside-down. It’s the opposite of what any writer should be doing. “Show; don’t tell” is a clichéd slogan from every introductory writing class because it is necessary and good and true. But the only thing Jenkins ever shows us in his storytelling is just why that hoary advice is true. By always telling and never showing, he inadvertently shows us the importance of that rule.
Jerry Jenkins may have no interest in developing his characters and no patience for it, but he’s constantly revealing character despite that — doing so accidentally, unconsciously, and unintentionally. Thus despite the relentless assertion of Buck and Rayford’s virtues in Jenkins’ all-tell, no-show approach, we readers have come to see quite a bit about the actual character of these characters — all of which contradicts Jenkins’ claims about them and their claims about themselves. And despite all the nasty assertions Jenkins tells us about characters he doesn’t want us to like — Hattie, Verna, women in general — what he shows us of their actions leads us to admire those characters in ways he never intended.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

How to paint a Pelagornis

The way the artist goes from a scientific rendering to a 3D model then to actually painting the giant extinct bird is fascinating.  The Scientific American website's version of the video was bigger than my screen - chiefly because of their oversize toolbar.  Still, I enjoyed the video full screen.

Writing sheds

Yann Martel has a nice shed. Below is kind of a screen shot: I like the picture to be taller than wide so I moved the text to the bottom.

I wonder what the Man Book Prize is.  The Man Booker Prize is quite prestigious and Martel also won that.

The Guardian has pictures of writing sheds famous British authors.

I mentioned Andy Rooney's writing shed on this blog a few months ago.  Twice in four months, this must be something I want for myself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Far too convoluted a story

Nanowrimo describes new ideas appearing late in the story as 'plot bunnies' and advises one to be cautious of them.
A plot bunny is a story idea that refuses to go away until it is written. The term's origin is unknown but is known to predate NaNoWriMo. Because plot bunnies tend to multiply quickly, the term is thought to be related to the oft-quoted John Steinbeck quote about ideas and rabbits.
The NaNoWriMo forums offer several resources for the care and handling of plot bunnies. Unwanted bunnies can be put up for adoption in theAdoption Society forum--prior to this forum's creation in 2010, they were offered in the Plot Doctoring forum. Plot bunnies that the writer wants to write later can be left in the Plot Bunny Day Care Center in the NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul forum, where they can breed with the plot bunnies of other Wrimos and be cared for in the finest fashion.
I would estimate my story to be two months out from completion (first draft) and I know there are vaque and confusing areas that will need to be disciplined.  Otherwise, the plot will be similar to that of the Malediction Prophecy (search LiarTown for part one, the link is for part 11 and part 111 is below).

Some serious trimming needed.
Not really related: I live in South Korea and try to give blood.  I've succeeded a few times but the staff are not thrilled by my presence.  Also in South Korea (and possibly Japan), bloodtypes are claimed to explain various personality quirks -there is a movie called Blood Type B Boyfriend about a woman and her loving but irresponsible boyfriend.  LiarTown looks at (fictional) the prejudice against blood type AB+.  And again.  And more if you want to search the site.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

TWIC: Chrome Music Lab, conferences, better living, Sanderson's lectures, legal issues for copying and much more

Music lab: Play with music and set up a simple drum kit and play some more.

creativity in language learning conference.  Aside from the date and location, I have few details:
Friday 23 September 2016
The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Ah. More here.
The aim of this one-day conference is to explore the nature and role of creativity in research in the field of language learning and teaching and to share ideas about approaches that go beyond those more commonly used. Through a series of plenary talks, presentations and workshops, the conference will examine the following in relation to language learning and teaching research:
  • definitions of creativity
  • the facilitation of collaboration and interdisciplinarity with a particular focus on bringing together researchers and practitioners in the field
  • creativity in the development of research design including creative methods and methodologies
  • creative ways of disseminating research findings
  • creativity in researchers' training, their practices and positioning
  • creative ways of using language in all aspects of the research process.
In going to such a conference, you might want to know the reasons Thompson's presentations are better than others. Having heard the man speak many times, i gotta say he knows how to present very well indeed.
Creativity can make us better at life.

From the list at the link, creativity teaches us the importance of persistence and sacrifice and patience and the value of delayed gratification
Brandon Sanderson's creative writing lectures online.
He taught several years at BYU and recorded his 2012, 2013, and 2014 course lectures from there. What this ends up being, when watched as a whole, is basically a FREE UNIVERSITY COURSE IN CREATIVE WRITING. That's exciting, so I put it in caps. If you're looking for creative writing tips, or creative writing lectures, and you want them for free...this a great place to start.
These bug suitcases are not illegally similar.
Copying and copyright are similar, so here is information on a class on fair use for kids.
There isn't much money in writing.
According to a survey of almost 2,500 working writers – the first comprehensive study of author earnings in the UK since 2005 – the median income of the professional author in 2013 was just £11,000, a drop of 29% since 2005 when the figure was £12,330 (£15,450 if adjusted for inflation), and well below the £16,850 figure the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says is needed to achieve a minimum standard of living.
Note really suitable for this blog, but still an interest of mine: cycling and triggering sensor-controlled traffic lights.  I guess the list of ways to try to trigger a green light is creative; it runs from physically pushing the 'walk' button for pedestrians to installing an electromagnet to the base of your bike.
Mr Shrockpocket and Henry Walton
In my recent review of The Journals of Thaddeaus Shockpocket – Victoria, I noted the family members are unique role models who refuse to be defined by anyone else’s rules. Shortly after publishing the review, Shockpocket author, Henry Walton, contacted me to say that he was thrilled that I had picked up on the personal idiosyncrasies of the Shockpockets and wondered if other readers understood the back stories and messages in the journals. We agreed to do an interview so that Henry could expand on the story behind the story.
Proselint, a style checker for cliches.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Paul Klee's notebooks archived online

Paul Klee's notebooks available online. 3900 pages can be seen. This image from here.
And another from here:
via boingboing.

From Wikipedia:
Paul Klee (German: [paʊ̯l ˈkleː]; 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940) was a Swiss-German painter. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. Klee was a natural draftsman who experimented with and eventually deeply explored color theory, writing about it extensively; his lectures Writings on Form and Design Theory (Schriften zur Form und Gestaltungslehre), published in English as the Paul Klee Notebooks, are held to be as important for modern art as Leonardo da Vinci's A Treatise on Painting for the Renaissance.[1][2][3] He and his colleague, Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, both taught at the Bauhaus school of art, design and architecture. His works reflect his dry humor and his sometimes childlike perspective, his personal moods and beliefs, and his musicality.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

secret societies and colours - the two themes are not connected

Let's say this is research for my book.  My current book has a number of secret societies helping members and oppressing others and I should know something about the artwork of such groups.  One example

A colour thesaurus.  I get caught up in the story in my head and (I hope) give an adequate description of the action but I know I leave out details.  Hopefully in the second pass, some ordered vocabulary lists like this will remind me of what to write rather than merely think.

Other colour groups available at the link.

Friday, March 4, 2016

TWIC: Games and the KKK, writing, art, transmedia, teamwork, Rome

Humble Bundle is a website that offers bundles of digital media.  I have purchased phone and computer games, ebooks, music and recently, a Pathfinder RPG set.  The deals are pretty good but you have to make your mind up in a hurry; each bundle is offered for only two weeks and the link goes to one that has only five days remaining on the deal.

I think playing RPGs, and playing many types of games, is a way to flex your creative muscles.  Fantasy role-playing naturally requires quite a bit of imagination and an ability to use abstract - or fanciful - features to win or even survive.  However, any game requires players to think about the edges of the rules and how close they can come to them while remaining in the game.   Ah, what I'm doing right now is trying to tie my interest in role-playing games to the theme of this blog.  How am I doing?  I guess, in this vein, I could also point out that making such a game requires great creativity.

Anyway, it stands out in my mind for two reasons.  First, I just bought the set.  Second, on the same day, I also read an interesting article about KKK titles and D&D monsters.
You've no doubt heard of the "Grand Wizards" and "Grand Dragons," but what about the Great Titan and his six Furies; the Grand Giant and his four Goblins; the Grand Cyclops; the Ghouls; the Grand Council of Centaurs; the Lictor; the Nighthawks; the Invisible Empire and its enemy, the Alien World; the Fifteen Genii (who serve the Imperial Wizard); the Exalted Cyclops and his Twelve Terrors?
Okay, time to share my (lack of) ability with Microsoft Paint.  Dragon from here, mask apparently from here:

An online Intro to  Transmedia course just finished.  It was given in Korean but the material had English subtitles.  I presume the material will remain available for at least a little while.  An excerpt from the first lecture:
3:02 The idea of different forms of media coexisting, transforming, and converging to create a new media environment has been around for some time, albeit in less complex and less common forms in the past: stories jotted down on paper and later being turned into a stage script, or a song recording at a concert becoming a track on a CD or LP and, later on, played over the air and heard by radio audiences at home. These are some common and conventional examples of transmedia phenomena.
4:42 In order to read, one might go to a library; to listen to music, one went to a music room. Life is much more convenient now with transmedia, to the extent that instead of sourcing differentmedia outlets, a single machine with multiple integrated functions has the ability to provide the user or consumer with all of the content that was once only available through “old” media. This is the key feature of transmedia. In addition, the user can actively participate in the creation of media content.

5:21 In the past, we had to embrace media content as it was in the form laid down by the artist or creator, but now, media proliferation and dissemination allow any individual to have more opportunities to be involved in the creative process to shape the media output. As a result of this possibility, the concepts of art and creative process have also taken on different definitions. Through this course, we will seek to understand the concept of transmedia storytelling, after which point we will apply this understanding to explore the concept’s role in the media industry of today.
A handful of writing links listed together here:
Side 1: Knowledge, or Know What You're Writing Before You Write It
... Unfortunately, this meant I wasted a lot of time rewriting and backtracking when the scene veered off course.
As soon as I realized this, I stopped. I closed my laptop and got out my pad of paper. Then, instead of trying to write the scene in the novel as I had been, I started scribbling a very short hand, truncated version the scene on the paper. I didn't describe anything, I didn't do transitions. I wasn't writing, I was simply noting down what I would write when the time came. It took me about five minutes and three pages of notebook paper to untangle my seemingly unfixable scene, the one that had just eaten three days of my life before I tried this new approach. Better still, after I'd worked everything out in shorthand I was able to dive back into the scene and finish it in record time. The words flew onto the screen, and at the end of that session I'd written 3000 words rather than 2000, most of them in that last hour and a half.
Side 2: Time
Several things were immediately clear. First, my productivity was at its highest when I was in a place other than my home. That is to say, a place without internet. The afternoons I wrote at the coffee shop with no wireless were twice as productive as the mornings I wrote at home. I also saw that, while butt in chair time is the root of all writing, not all butt in chair time is equal. For example, those days where I only got one hour to write I never managed more than five hundred words in that hour. By contrast, those days I got five hours of solid writing I was clearing close to 1500 words an hour. The numbers were clear: the longer I wrote, the faster I wrote (and I believe the better I wrote, certainly the writing got easier the longer I went). This corresponding rise of wordcount and writing hours only worked up to a point, though. There was a definite words per hour drop off around hour 7 when I was simply too brain fried to go on.

Side 3: Enthusiasm
.... I did know that I wanted those days to become the norm rather than the exception, so I went back to my records (which I now kept meticulously) to find out what made the 10k days different.

The answer was head-slappingly obvious. Those days I broke 10k were the days I was writing scenes I'd been dying to write since I planned the book. They were the candy bar scenes, the scenes I wrote all that other stuff to get to. By contrast, my slow days (days where I was struggling to break 5k) corresponded to the scenes I wasn't that crazy about.
But the more I struggle to make this work, the more I think there’s one key thing that makes writing more excellent: Finding your own blind spots as an author, and trying to see into them.
This is something I found out while I was rewriting and editing and tenderizing my new novel, All the Birds in the Sky, which had massive huge blind spots in the middle of it, even in what I thought was the “final” draft. (And it probably still does, because you never really win the fight against your own blind spots.) But it’s also something I’ve found with every other creative writing project I’ve ever taken on. Just the same way you don’t know what you don’t know, it’s hard to see what you’re not seeing in a story—but it’s essential to try.
The Art of Writing.  Talulah Lucy describes her work style when painting vs writing.  I've previously discussed on this blog how resistant to errors writing is- you can just delete a paragraph and rewrite it.  This isn't so easy in carving.  But you can plan ahead.  From Talulah Lucy:
For art I had this intense process:
1. Have idea
2. Work out the composition
3. Find some reference material
4. Sketch
5. Refine sketch
6. Begin building up the lights and the darks
7. Add layers of colour (known as scumbling in oil painting)
8. Add the final shadows and highlights
For writing my process was:
1. Write as well as possible
--- 2012, the company embarked on an initiative - code-named Project Aristotle - to study hundreds of Google's teams and figure out why some stumbled while others soared.
After looking at over a hundred groups for more than a year, Project Aristotle researchers concluded that understanding and influencing group norms [unwritten rules, for example encouraging small talk about family or whether interruptions were acceptable] were the keys to improving Google's teams.
The researchers finally a saw a link between two behaviors and good performance.  First, "equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking" - everyone talks nearly the same about in a day.
"But if only one person or a small group spoke all the time, the collective intelligence declined."
Second, Social sensitivity. "One of the easiest ways to gauge social sensitivity is to show someone photos of people's eyes and ask him or her to describe what the people are thinking or feeling."  People on good teams do better on this kind of test.
"There were other behaviors taht seemed important as well - like making sure teams had clear goals and creating a culture of dependability. But Google's data indicated that psychological safety, more than anything else, was critical to making a team work."
I don't know if this really fits into the blog's theme, either.  But it is cool.  Giga Photo is a company that takes thousands of pictures and stitches them together creating deeply zoomable images. Their Rome image is wonderful. The photos were taken from the Tower of Milizie.  I do plan to write some of my story in this location and the image shows a lot of ancient buildings, so maybe it is research.