November 28, 2015

How to Be Creative Thanks to Your Emotions

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Impatience, impulsiveness and assertiveness are often seen as negative traits, but on the flip side of the coin, these are the very traits can also help writers need fulfill their creative potential. Here’s why.

Seeing the Silver Lining in All Things

A group of psychologists led by New York University’s Alexandra Wesnousky recently discovered that people who see a silver lining in their weaknesses are often more creative. Alexandra’s silver lining theory and its link with impulsiveness are simple. If you think of a weakness or negative trait as having a positive side, then the studies show you are more likely to be creative.

For example:

–           Impulsive may indicate a lack of discipline and planning

+          Impulsive may also mean no procrastinating, the ability to think on one’s feet, and a dynamic personality.

–           Impatience may indicate a childish nature, emotional immaturity and poor coping skills.

+          Impatience may also indicate a person strives for results, is highly motivated, and able to get a job done quicker than laid back individuals.

–           Assertiveness may mean pushing people around to get your own way, rolling over people for your own ends, and may indicate a sharp attitude and selfish nature.

+          Assertiveness may also mean a person who won’t be bullied, a person who puts higher goals above smaller trivialities, and a person who gets things done correctly.

Alexandra’s Silver Lining study was small and limited, but may indicate that people’s acceptance of their flaws, added to their belief they may be a positive side to their flaws and may help them become more creative.

How Can These Character Traits Make Us Better Writers?

Lack of inhibition allows us to talk to people outside our normal social sphere. A writer sees a person with an interesting story or professional background and strikes up a conversation that may form the basis of a future profile, novel, essay or short story. It helps us contact literary agents, publishers and anyone else we can think of without shame to progress towards our literary goals.

Impulsiveness sends us traveling to out-of-the-way places instead of clocking in at an office and sitting behind a desk. The urge to tell others about Patagonia’s natural beauty, Costa Rica’s amazing volcano hikes and canopy zip-lining adventures or Hawaii’s fantastic surfing spots can turn us into great travel writers and reporters.

Impatience helps a writer maintain a level of pressure on both himself/herself and the people working for him or her. An impatient writer will get on with the job and push himself or herself a little harder. The writer will also follow up with agents, publicists and social media influencers to get the results he or she wants.

Assertiveness helps us to secure a literary agent and publisher, submit work for awards and prizes, deal with long lines at book signing tours and take unfavorable critiques in stride. It also helps us to pursue unusual, perhaps difficult topics, such as writing about real life crime events, “inventing” a new type of poetry or addressing society’s taboos in our novels.

Napoleon Hill, one of the world’s greatest researchers and the world’s most best selling writer had similar theories about how a positive attitude may help a person succeed. If you view your weaknesses as some sort of strength, then you may resist changing, but a positive attitude about your weaknesses may help stop them holding you back.

There may also be a trace of Daniel Goleman’s suppression ala Freudian repression going on where a person buries their negative feelings about a weakness, cognitive dissonance turns it into a positive, and then expresses the emotion elsewhere. Your negative feelings about your weaknesses may be covered with a silver lining, so you may express your feelings about them via creativity.

Your turn! Have you ever noticed how hurt and damaged people are some of the most creative? If you were to list your weaknesses and turn them into positives, could you channel your mixed feelings about them into creative writing? Do you think a positive attitude alone make you more creative, or are you channeling your emotions from other areas of your life?

Linda Craig is a passionate blogger and editor at assignment writing service AssignmentMasters.

What HBO’s Girls Teaches Us About Freelancing

In a recent episode of HBO’s Girls, Hannah meets an editor at the fictitious website who offers her $200 to “step outside her comfort zone” and write about having a threesome or snorting coke. Eager to prove her writing chops, Hannah chooses the latter, procuring the goods from her downstairs neighbor and setting off an embarrassing bender with her roommate and gay ex-boyfriend Elijah. A friend mentioned the episode to me recently and commented that it was the “worst freelance assignment ever.”

I tend to agree.

That said, there are a few things we can glean from this train wreck of a TV character (who may or may not resemble 26-year-old Hollywood wunderkind Lena Dunham who created her and inked a book deal for more than $3.5 million last fall). Hannah is so caught up in her lofty writerly ambitions that it doesn’t occur to her that she could decline the assignment altogether or negotiate a higher fee (after all, her substance-fueled escapade couldn’t have been cheap – is $200 enough money to risk jail time and the loss of her dignity? I think not).

In all seriousness, though, you don’t have to accept every assignment that crosses your desk. Hannah desperately wants to pen an edgy memoir that resonates with her generation and this assignment may seem like a steppingstone where she can get in touch with her crazy poet persona. But if she were willing to step outside not just her comfort zone but her genre, she could find plenty of writing opportunities that are more commercially viable and don’t require illegal substances.

In fact, few writers aside from Lena Dunham herself actually pay the bills solely through the kind of confessional, zeitgeisty prose Hannah aspires to write. Ernest Hemingway covered WWI for The Toronto Star, an experience that clearly informs his later fiction. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote streetcar slogans by day and fiction by night. Before publishing Little Women, Louisa May Alcott did whatever paying work she could find, working as a seamstress, governess, and servant. There is no shame in doing commercial writing or taking on odd jobs while you pen a novel or memoir on the side.

Yes, the world can be a tough place for young aspiring writers like Hannah (and yes, I had some missteps of my own in my early twenties), but if she’s serious about being a writer, she needs to lose the “crazy poet”/”starving artist” mindset, put on her “big girl pants” as her friend Shoshanna would say, and find better avenues for her talents.

Do you watch Girls? And do you agree with this assessment? Do tell!

PSA: Vote for The Writer’s Inner Journey

Ed. Note: Meredith Resnick is a wonderfully prolific and generous colleague so when Alexandra asked about writing a guest post in support of Meredith and her blog, I just had to share. Enjoy! 

By Alexandra Grabbe

Psst. I’ve got a secret to share. It’s called The Writer’s Inner Journey, a blog by a terrific writer/friend who has just been nominated in the Best-Kept-Secret category at the Bloggies, the annual competition for bloggers, celebrated this month in Austin TX. Her name is Meredith Resnick. Please click over before February 19th and vote. What should I care, you say? Writers need to support other writers, stand shoulder to shoulder, carry the torch for one another. Here’s an opportunity to let the world know writing does matter and make a statement about our – choose one, two at most –

1.) profession

2.) hobby

3.) passion

4.) bad habit

5.) secret vice.

That’s why I’m turning to all you wordsmiths out there, in cyberspace. You see, if you are not familiar with Meredith’s blog, you should be. It allows you to discover useful information on craft, The Journey, working part-time, and lots of other fun topics that rock a writer’s world. A visit to Writer’s Inner Journey feels like stepping into an old-fashioned salon and taking part. Yes, you will enjoy the chitchat but also come away totally energized.

Meredith summarizes what she offers as, “Bestselling authors, professional creatives and emerging voices in quirky dialogue about how they write and why it works” – WHY IT WORKS. Now, who can resist that?

[Read more…]

Is It Writer’s Block? Or Over-Thinking?

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” ~James Thurber, The New Yorker

Awhile back, a guest blogger proclaimed writer’s block a lie. And many of you weighed in for or against this notion. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I have another theory: often what we think is writer’s block is actually our brains over-thinking the project.
I don’t always agree 100% with my guest posters, and in this case, I respect Daryl, but I disagree with his idea that you should love every single project you tackle and if you don’t, that might be why you’re feeling blocked.
Look: if you write for a living, you’re probably going to have to do some projects that don’t excite your inner muse. Unless you’re independently wealthy (or incredibly lucky), there will be times you accept projects because you need the paycheck.
The fabulous Lori Widmer recently published a post about getting through projects she describes as spaghetti squash (they don’t taste good, but you need to do them anyway). I suggested that you think about the paycheck as dessert and let that motivate you. And I’m going to give you the same advice you’ll hear from some nutritionists: don’t settle for crappy dessert. Go for the good stuff. If you’re writing for the paycheck, then make sure it’s really worth your while and you won’t need to swallow so much spaghetti squash in the future because you’ll have that heavenly dessert to sustain you.
But back to my original point: over-thinking. Many times we have ideas and phrases floating around our heads, but our inner editor dismisses them. (I observed this in a writer friend recently, and I’m certainly guilty of it myself sometimes.) We spend two hours laboring over the first three sentences, staring at an empty computer screen, because we think none of our ideas are good enough. This isn’t writer’s block at all! This is us obsessing about finding the absolute perfect word when it would come if we let it.
Don’t over-think it. Let the words flow. Remember Anne Lamott’s theory about shitty first drafts (all good writers have them, she says, and they are necessary for the writer to move forward). If you don’t have a deadline looming and you need to step away from your keyboard and go outside or shift gears and work on another project, do it. If you’re up against a deadline, then it’s usually better to have a mediocre something than nothing at all. You can always polish, nip, and tuck later.
What do you think? Have you ever found yourself obsessing over a writing project? Or do you find that you’re still plagued by writer’s block?
Flickr photo courtesy of – reuben –