The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

On to part two of the advice I got from the Lehrer lecture, the lesson was daydreaming.

Lehrer suggested taking twenty minutes a day and just zoning out. Of course, he also included the important detail of not daydreaming while a) a work or b) in class.

Daydreaming recharges creativity. Simple as it sounds, I really needed to be told to daydream. The first few weeks of the semester had me stressed, so being reminded that just zoning out and letting my mind wander is good for me. Nay, great.

I’m sure the Swiffer people daydreamed a bit.

Wandering away (physically or mentally) is a good way for me to recharge, slip away, and come back with ideas for plots, characters, and just feeling more relaxed. The state of “chill” works wonders. When I daydream, sometimes good stuff pops into my head. Its when I’m most relaxed (except for when right before falling asleep…and that’s when I do most of my writing), and that’s when my best ideas show up.

I just need to remember to actually set time aside and daydream.

Thinking Like an Outsider

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

This week, I attended a speech given by Jonah Lehrer, an author and scientist. I didn’t expect to be entertained much, nor did I expect to start taking notes! Lehrer had some really interesting things to say, but he also gave three pieces of advice. As I listened to him, I realized that these three suggestions could be applied in terms of creation, writing specifically. Given the length of things, I’m splitting up his advice into three posts. One today, one tomorrow, and one the next.

Think Like an Outsider

Lehrer began by telling the story of the invention of the Swiffer. Procter & Gamble attempted to create a better soap to use with a mop. Nothing worked. They then shipped out the task to another company (whose name escapes me). This company spent nine months watching videos of people cleaning and realized that mopping a) took too long and b) spread dirty water everywhere. They thought a disposable cleaning sheet would be just the thing. A stronger soap wasn’t need; the mop was the problem. And so the Swiffer was born.

Lehrer also mentioned a website where the world’s top companies post their problems for other people to solve (you are apparently rewarded handsomely). This is for when the biochemists can’t figure something out because they’re going about it in a biochemistry way. Maybe a physicist, an outsider on the problem, can see the best solution.

And where does creating come in?

While I was working on a brief comic prologue for my Electronic Media class (and that old faithful, The Continent), I discussed parts of it with my roommate, particularly in terms of my characters’ costumes. I was pretty confused. I had all this backstory and a scene I wanted to illustrate. As I was so embedded in my story, I kept hitting a wall when it came to actually drawing the pictures.

My roommate, completely removed from the situation (only having to deal with my griping), had me describe my characters’ personalities and lives to her.  Through all this, she came up with costume ideas (which I ended up using, to an extent) and one wonderful suggestion to my story:

Why don’t you just tell the backstory?

In that immediate instant, I didn’t. But I worked on The Continent for a good portion of the summer and found myself doing just that: telling part of the backstory as the first act.

What’s on the Bookshelf? Vol. 6

What's On the Bookshelf?

Proust was a Neuroscientist by Jonah Lehrer

CC/sea turtle

CC/sea turtle

I like reading science books on occasion. Not text books, but books on a subject, like Dava Sobel’s Longitude.

Proust… wasn’t of my chosing–it was assigned reading. But I’m glad that it was.

Lehrer examines eight different artists from turn of the century Paris and how their works preexamined (not the right word) ideas that neuroscientists are working on, such as how we taste (Escoffier), and how we process grammar (Gertrude Stein).

My favorite chapter was the one on Escoffier, the creator of the cookbook and (for all intents and purposes) what we think of as French cooking. Of course, I was also watching a Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations marathon before and after finishing this section!

If you want a good, entertaining and educating read, this is the book for you.