The more deeply we are cast under a story’s spell, the more potent its influence. In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard. We are moved emotionally, and this seems to make us rubbery and easy to shape.
But perhaps the most impressive finding is just how fiction shapes us: mainly for the better, not for the worse. Fiction enhances our ability to understand other people; it promotes a deep morality that cuts across religious and political creeds. More peculiarly, fiction’s happy endings seem to warp our sense of reality. They make us believe in a lie: that the world is more just than it actually is. But believing that lie has important effects for society — and it may even help explain why humans tell stories in the first place.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates the strength of Resistance. Therefore, the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.”
Steven Pressfield in The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Much of the research confirms things we’ve always suspected. For example, in general people who are in good romantic relationships are happier than those who aren’t. Healthy people are happier than sick people. People who participate in their churches are happier than those who don’t. Rich people are happier than poor people. And so on.
That said, there have been some surprises. For example, while all these things do make people happier, it’s astonishing how little any one of them matters. Yes, a new house or a new spouse will make you happier, but not much and not for long. As it turns out, people are not very good at predicting what will make them happy and how long that happiness will last. They expect positive events to make them much happier than those events actually do, and they expect negative events to make them unhappier than they actually do.”
I’m trying to create a writing schedule that I can live with and is realistic. I’m starting small. Two hours of writing a day. I’m going to try to do it in one block of time. The rules: no Internet, no phone, and must sit at the table or desk (i.e., not on the couch).
Also, via http://kottke.org/, an interesting site of writers and others talking about their daily routines:
Another book on the creative process that interests me. I like the idea of the box and I definitely need to tolerate more ambiguity. But, ugh, I need to do less thinking about art and more creating!
A theme is appearing, but the part of the book that Kevin Kelly chose to excerpt is about to become my morning mantra. How I wish I didn’t over-think. But I’m thrilled I love investigations with proof. That ceramics class anecdote is exactly the kick in the ass I need.
Kevin Kelly called the book “astoundingly brilliant” and pulled this excellent excerpt from it.
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an “A”. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes — the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
Clearly, I don’t have the same reasons to be scared as Elizabeth Gilbert. But I am worried about what people will think if I say I’m writing. The judgment of wasting time and unpublished words is daunting. I know I’ve mentioned this before and overcoming it should be a top priority. It is what it is.
I liked her thoughts on where the creative process come from. I know the quiet in my head that makes the words come. It’s a distinct feeling I have and then they are there. I’ve been doing much thinking lately about how to find that mind space. Is it possible to manufacture it at will?
I’ve been reading a lot of blogs over the last year. I read on a ton of topics and the majority of the writers are great. I read them as much for their style as content. However that type of reading isn’t so helpful to my novel writing. I think story development is incredibly difficult and not reading as many novels of late has slowed my brain in that way of thinking. I know some people who are actively writing a novel are afraid to read fiction, because they’re afraid what they’re reading will creep into their own writing. I’m taking that chance and will be on the lookout. I just don’t feel the mood and place in my brain that novel reading opens can be accessed otherwise.
Well, I’ve said it out loud to the Internet. I’m trying to write a novel. It could be months before I say it to anyone other than the nearest and dearest. While I’m usually firmly in the Don’t Give A Shit What Other People Think camp, this is different. When asked what I do, there is no way I would respond Writer. Much of me thinks one must be paid for something to call it a profession. Plus, the follow-up questions would be too painful: what have you published and what are you writing about. The other issue-I don’t want to be another person who says s/he is writing a novel and never finishes.
Enter Tumblr. The first step was voicing my secret. The next is to start writing. This blog certainly won’t be a How To. It will be my frequent thoughts and questions on my process and progress. I’m hoping that forcing myself to deal with the meta will deepen my writing and make it a less solitary act.