Psychology of writing: word accessibility

You can pick out a skilled painter or draftsman because they keep their eyes on the canvas or paper without having to constantly check every line they draw by comparing it to the model or original image, or having to look up, again and again, pictures of what they have to draw on google images. They trust their instincts and skill, and their lines are precise, and they have developed the necessary muscle memory that allows them to be skillful artists.

All the arts have that, a combination of skill, knowledge, and automatism that baffles the uninitiated. It’s mostly years of experience and practice. Well, I said all the arts, except writing apparently. There doesn’t seem to be a writing equivalent for that process of learning the fundamentals that other arts have, like painting has color, tone, and values, while draftsmanship is mostly line, shadow, and perspective.

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November 30 post: To sum up…

this has been a productive blogging month. And I didn’t have to put in that much extra effort, which is interesting. I haven’t made a post every day, and certainly not a flash/short story each day (and I already knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that anyway) but this will be the 24th post this month, which is quite good. I have written a few short stories, I have started something that may become a larger work, and I wrote a few posts on writing that have become quite popular, at least compared with my usual numbers.

Thanks to all of you who found some of the posts interesting and shared them. I may despise Twitter, but I can’t deny a good chunk of this month’s visitors came from there.

And what’s in store for December? Well, I’ll continue writing small chapters for Project Contact, but perhaps at a slower pace because, honestly, I don’t even have the general layout of the story — I was pretty much improvising as I wrote them. I have a few ideas for other posts about writing too, and I’m going to start a gaming project but that’s something I’m not going to publish here though (not in its entirety anyway.)

I’ll keep myself busy. And if you want to do the same, remember that you don’t have to wait for any magical month, ruleset, or gamified online community to start pounding that keyboard. You can start tomorrow, or right now, if you want.

 

 

Project Contact, Chapter 3

Hysterical complains and calls for extra protection coming from any other person would have been ignored, but if Jonah Wickerman asked for something, the local government obliged. WYPL, his laboratory twenty kilometers south of Paramaribo, had cost close to 30% of the small South-American nation’s GDP, and most of its 138 highly-paid scientists, contractors, and workers lived on the capital. So if the old man didn’t like how the streets were arranged, what timezone the country was in, or felt that he was being shadowed by Chinese clone secret agents, the government would nod and provide whatever he needed.

Wickerman’s occasional lording over Suriname and his own lab also meant that he had grown used to an autocratic style of leadership. He rarely consulted anything with anybody, even when the things being decided clearly fell outside the scope of his expertise.

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Project Contact, chapter 2

Quote chapter.


 

“It is a dangerous mistake to search for analogies to the current extraterrestrial event in the usual platitudes of pre-industrial colonization and exploration. We are not savage natives nor the extraterrestrial (slightly less savage) colonizers. For all their differences, they were essentially the same, humans, and to a non-human observer, they would look like differently-dressed human primitives doing primitive human things. What’s more, many of those colonized territories eventually became powerful (superpowerful in one case) nations.

No, the correct comparison cannot be found by looking back at the history of human-to-human interactions. Perhaps a more accurate comparison would be the encroaching, displacement, and eventual extinction of the Pleistocene Megafauna by the widely more intelligent, tool-making humans. Of course, in this analogy, we are the animals.”

From the anonymous text that precipitated the Henosis Schim in 2132, a few months after First Contact.

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November 19 post: some notes on possible sci-fi stories.

For some time I have been playing with the idea of writing my own futuristic fantasy stories. This grew from my disappointment in how the stories from a popular sci-fi franchise are written and, in fact, how space operas in general are written. I’d like them to be a bit harderNot necessarily in the sense of rocket science hard, which is what you may be thinking, but with other plot elements, from warfare, exploration, pacing, economy, the spatial and time span of these stories, the fact that in most you don’t even feel like the vastness of space matters, etc.

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November 18 post: Increase your writing output through meticulous timekeeping, precise reinforcements, and pure HATE

I mentioned in the previous post that writing is a very peculiar behavior, with a great chasm between its execution and hypothetical reward. That makes it hard to reinforce, to keep it consistent, comparable to similar activities with equally deferred rewards, like strength sports.

I thought I was being original when I wrote that but reading the papers I had ready for today’s post I noticed I was probably just paraphrasing one of them. It’s from a 1977 paper [1], which includes an introduction and discussion by a psychologist, but the core of the paper is the novelist Irving Wallace explaining his charts and timekeeping methods he used to become a professional writer.

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November 17 post: The psychology of writer’s block (¿and bodybuilding?)

“The treatment of writing problems offers a special challenge for clinical psychologists. In few other domains do patients pressure themselves to be so spontaneous, original and perfect.”

Those are the first two sentences from a psychology paper on writer’s block and the generation of creative ideas, by Robert Boice, published in 1983 [1] If I were to write a paper on those subjects, I’d probably start like Harry Frankfurt in his book On Bullshit, with something like:

One of the most salient features of the writer’s subculture is that there is so much bullshit.

This is uniquely relevant to the problem of writer’s block too, of course.

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