Tag: skills

Why #Writing is Still Art

Today’s video is a short excerpt from a longer talk given by Malcolm Gladwell on “Why People Succeed.” Gladwell is a journalist, author, and speaker. He has written 5 books: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009), and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (2013). The first four all made the New York Times Bestseller list.  If you haven’t read his stuff, I will say that the Tipping Point was fascinating and awesome.  His books often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences. Granted, I know there is some controversy as to his interpretation of research but that doesn’t make it any less interesting.

This video doesn’t quite match the title.  Gladwell is talking about “learning from experts” and how explanations of how one achieves a specific success may not be accurate.  He is doing it in the context of tennis and applications of his theory to market research.  I would expand his explanation to the ideas of writing.  We talk to successful writers and ask how they write.  How they work out problems, build beautiful worlds, craft empathetic characters, etc.

Some people write brilliantly and well, but their explanations of how they do it may not be accurate; they may be doing things instinctively.  We, as those seeking answers, are operating on an assumption.  That writers can explain the magic. Yes, there is skill and technique attached to writing. But at the same time…perhaps there is still a bit of mystery.  The thing that makes it art.  How a bunch of disjointed words can come together and give us visions of a whole new world or philosophy, how stories can move us to laugh or cry, or just think more deeply.

Just some thoughts.  Take a look at the video and let us know what YOU think.


Video Saturday – Brandon Sanderson – Pantsers vs. Plotters

Or discovery writers versus outliners, or gardeners versus architects…Really, it doesn’t matter what you call it we all have heard of the two different ways that writers, well, write.

I really like the way Sanderson puts forward these ideas…they are tools and they’re tools available to every writer.  We have a our preferences but we can (and do) use each in different situations.  What REALLY caught my attention and what I think was REALLY helpful and wish that he’d had a chance to expand was the pros and cons of leaning heavily on each of these tools.

We tend to say, “I’m a “pantser”” or “I’ always outline,” but never really think about what that means to our writing.  It’s become sort of a short-hand to – This is how I do things.  And I’m not sure that is truly accurate.  I’m also not sure that we should be as accepting of that.   These are tools and having the right tool for the right chapter or character or story can make all the difference.

A can of soup will pound in a nail just as well as a hammer.  But having more tools and knowing how to use them and being consciously aware of the pluses and minuses of each rather than simply falling back in to our own habits makes us better writers.  Knowing that discovery writers TEND to not quite have as strong endings and then have to go back and direct the story towards the end after the fact is important and having that knowledge in your back pocket (especially if you’re a “pantser”) or planning that part of the story – even if it is just a single line., should be critical.

But in this area of discovery writing verus outlining, I find people seem rather intractable.  We wear this description with pride.  I’m not sure I fully understand why we hang on so tightly to these appelations and the resultant (whether intended or not) dismissiveness of the alternate system.  What do people see as the specific advantages and disadvantages of each of these systems pertient to THEIR writing?

And just to be upfront, I don’t quite fall into either category.  I’ve caught myself outlining, and I’ve also ripped straight through stories as a discovery writer.  Still examining my writing to see if there are trendsas  to what I use when and also learning when it is more effective to use one versus the other.


Level Me Up – Gamification of your Life (and your Writing)

Image by Sezzles via Flickr Creative CommonsA short while ago author DL Thurston posted a video about gamfication.  In its simplest form, gamification as the use of game design techniques, game psychology/theory and game mechanics to solve problems (including real world issues) and engage audiences. I am fascinated with the idea.  It wasn’t something new to me as  part of my current work involves exploring games as tools for better preparing youth to enter the workforce.  And I am familiar with some of the presentations and work done by Jane McGonigal.

So exploring further, I came across Jon Guerrera’s site where he basically experimented on himself. :) He mapped out areas of his life and skills he wanted to improve and then sought out ways to “gamify” his life and see how effective it was in helping in achieve his goals.  Below are links to how he went about it and what were his results.  I urge you to take a quick read. 

 How to Gamify your Life Part 1 - http://www.livingforimprovement.com/how-to-gamify-your-life-an-experiment-part-1/

Part 2http://www.livingforimprovement.com/how-to-gamify-your-life-an-experiment-%e2%80%93-part-2/

Part 3http://www.livingforimprovement.com/how-to-gamify-your-life-an-experiment-part-3/

But what really caught my attention was some of the technology he was using – an App to track your personal skills…how cool is that?  It is called “Level Me Up” and is loosely based on Malcom Gladwell’s book “Outliers” with the point of reference being that it takes 10,000 hours to acquire expertise in a skill.

Basically, it turns your life into an RPG. 

I’m a n00b Athlete, a Beginner Guitar Player and an Amateur Writer with corresponding “levels” – Level 8, Level 12 and Level 77.  Author NRBrown was rather creeped out about it – treating your own life as a game - and I’m not sure if it will work for my specific motivational needs, but it is at the very least an entertaining way to track skills progress.


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