Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why thinking at your desk never works

Where do you do your best thinking?

Winston Churchill liked a walk around the garden with a weak whiskey.

Charles Darwin gave himself a lot of time to recharge the grey matter (figures). CD, too walked - to his greenhouse and around his sandwalk - either alone or with his dog. He also favoured resting while listening to his wife read aloud.

Mr Breakfast at Tiffany's himself, Truman Capote divulged, “I am a completely horizontal author. I can’t think unless I’m lying down, either in bed or stretched on a couch and with a cigarette and a coffee handy.”

Chaos is king in the world of queen singer-songwriter, Martha Wainwright, “Most of my songs are defined by a sense of loneliness, of isolation, that I probably get from spending a lot of time on my own. The little images that I get from sitting alone in my apartment – the way the light is falling through the window; the man I just saw walk by on the other side of the street – find their way into snatches of lyrics. I write in short spurts – for five, 10, 15 minutes – then I pace around the room, or go and get a snack.”

A key was key to the crazy arse concepts of Salvador Dali. He would power nap sitting in a chair with a metal key in his hand above a metal plate. The moment he would fall into sleep, the key would slip and clang onto the plate, waking him up from a brief moment away from consciousness. This is called hypnagogia and Dali would benefit from the transitional state between sleep and awake when ego boundaries are loosened and we are more receptive to a fluid association of ideas.

The South Park guys, Trey Parker and Matt Stone are true believers in the power of panic to inspire. They conduct the writing, animation, voice acting, sound and editing of each episode the week it is due to be aired. They believe the deadline panic is a significant part of their creative process – they can’t second guess themselves, resulting in more spontaneous brainstorming.

Don’t just sit there!

Big, audacious ideas never come to you at your desk. Neither does personal insight so profound you wonder how it wasn’t obvious to you before.

If you need to come up with something new, to create, or to appraise; don’t ever do it in one sitting. Sure, inspirational websites, your past work, background information and a red hot go at the foundation of what you want to do or say can be bashed out on the computer in a dedicated block of task and time. But once you’ve done that, step away from the keyboard.

Then what?

Go for a run or a walk, go to bed, pour a glass of wine, have a shower, think about something else (not all consequentially  … but ok if that works for you).

For me, the two most effective creation and clarity strategies are going for a run and going to bed. They both work in opposite ways. When I need mental resolve or reinvigoration and I run, every few minutes I make a concerted effort to think about the work or personal issue at hand and the rest of the time I enjoy the music on my headphones or focus on my running technique. During that time, something comes to me– sometimes it’s small, sometimes it’s insignificant but usually it’s an alternative way of thinking about the subject. And it's usually at least a litte bit valuable.

Conversely, the sleeping method means forgetting about the issue altogether. I don’t know why or how it works but so many professional and life challenges have been solved by me with crystal clear enlightenment simply by going to sleep and letting my subconscious figure out what has to be done and push it to the surface. You never know when this is going to work but when it actually does, it is undoubtedly one of life’s Awesome Little Moments.

And then there’s this.

This is my new go to.

My chiminea is my new obsession. At least once a week I go out there light and tend to a fire. No phone, no computer, no distractions (of course my family are around but they are usually intermittent presences – I’m in the fire for the long haul). …(Figuratively speaking). There’s just something about the minor, manual upkeep required to keep it going that keeps my brain a little bit engaged and the free form thought that just goes with the territory of staring at nuture’s TV to make it a nice Thinking Place

Shit's about to get creative

Science tells us that certain circumstances are more conducive to getting bright ideas than others: 

  • We think best when a lot of dopamine is released in our brains (during exercise, listening to music, enjoying warm water of a shower and other general feel-good scenarios)
  • When we are relaxed we’re more likely to turn our attention inwards and make insightful connections (hello third glass of wine in)
  • If we’re distracted, our subconscious gets a good crack at the problem

 The common thread here is they are times when we are physically or mentally active, but only mildly so. You need to be familiar or comfortable enough in your surroundings to keep you engaged, you are not bored and your stream of consciousness isn’t interrupted (much).
When ideas can flow unrestrained, the more likely you are to make useful connections between thoughts that you’ve never had before. Just make sure wherever you are when your Eureka moment is likely to strike, you’ve got a pen or a voice recording device handy.

You might also like to have a gander at this post:
Ted Take

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Expressions of Interest

This week I'm listening to:

Forces by Japanese Wallpaper

standout lyrics: 
'Cause I've been thinking bout it And I've been dreaming bout you Won't do a thing about this 'Cause I don't wanna ruin you 

Hallelujah by The Rubens

standout lyrics:
'Cause I'm a son of a gun
(It's not easy to pull that line off in this day 'n age).

... I'm reading ...

Rediscovering one of my long time loves: magazines. I'm finding particularly tasty morsels in Marie Claire and The Monthly. Also, InStyle to a degree; see, while I'm loving hard the gift Ginger/Smart tote, I am really not digging on the clumsy photoshopping of the limbs of already slim women into veritable toothpicks.

... I'm watching ....

Aca-massacring great songs

Pitch Perfect 2. Admittedly, while the off beat humour is enough to keep me on side, the singing really shits me at times. Also, why is so much of Rebel Wilson's career so mired in self deprecation and beating others to the punch line mean observations about her weight? I don't get it. Still, I took my children to see it and about halfway through (ie. the first minute) I began questioning the wisdom of taking a 7 and a 10 year old to see this slightly rudey M-rater. However, my son's grateful smirk every time a smutty piece of dialogue was spoken left me in no doubt of his take on the cinematic choice of the day.

... I'm thinking ....

Emojis in workplace communications: Just. No.

This revelation came to me while rereading an email with a smiley emoji in it that I had sent to a colleague, at least 15 years younger than me who I barely, actually do not, know.

And it struck me:
a) a bit desperate or beneath me or both
b) lazy
c) work email emojis are hereto forthwith now banished from my repertoire 

(That said, they're still on like Donkey Kong in personal texts ... if it didn't take me 20 minutes to find an appropriate little symbol to illustrate my SMS efforts I don't know what I'd do with all the extra time in my life). 

If you liked this, you might also cast your attention back to ancient history:
Things I Love Today (August 2009)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Video of the week: by Krafty Kuts

Diesel did well to get in on this

A-Z of Dance.. #NextLevelism
Posted by Krafty Kuts on Monday, April 14, 2014

If you like this, check out:
Eminem calls BS on no rhyme for orange 

The Best Book Dedications

I found a few of these when I was wasting time pouring through Pinterest. Too good not to share and a potentially fantastic ice breaker next time you spot any hot dudes reading and are plucking up the courage to approach.

An Introduction To Algebraic Topology by Joseph J. Rotman

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler

House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

My Shit Life So Far by Frankie Boyle

Ruins by Dan Wells

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

The Pirates! in an Adventure with the Romantics by Giden Defoe

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Not sure why, but I never wrote a dedication for my book (it was probably because I felt so lucky a publisher wanted to make my dream a reality, I didn't want to push it by asking for another thing ... typical girl). If I could write one for it now it would be dedicated: 

To all the mums who are trying to be wonderful and don't realise they already are (and to the beautiful souls sent to test my resolve and make my life all the better).

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

17 cool writing tricks anyone can use

At the risk of word nerding out on you guys, there are some fun and cheeky ways to giddy up whoever you’re writing for; stopping them from clicking the corner X or from going the way of this poor lass:

It’s been a number of years since I’ve mentioned this so a refresher is probably in order. Snuggies are NEVER ok unless you are aged 3 or under. I especially shouldn’t have to explain why Snuggies are a really fucked accoutrement for your face. K?

Whether you’re writing a product flyer or the next Game of Thrones book, every now and then, everyone needs some inspiration to help stop their paragraphs getting god damned boring.

As I have droned on about here and here and here mixing up word play is key to making copy more enjoyable. Even for those of us who love reading – but more so for those who don’t – on a day to day basis, there are so many words we need to sift through and who could be arsed with it if it isn’t engaging? Or surprising. Or inspiring. Or instructing us how to improve our lives with genius appliances that make our very existence before it seem hollow and meaningless and dentally unhygienic (don't even get me started).

So, if you’ve a hankering to make your writing more interesting (for your audience and yourself), give these little beauties a burl:

1. Epizeuxis: Let’s kick this off nice and easily. Epizeuxis is the repetition of words or phrases in immediate succession. = Blah blah blah. Or hark back to a song by Aussie folk band of the early 90’s Things and Stone & Wood “You are my everything. You are my everything. You are my everything.” (Happy Birthday Helen)

2.  Sentential Adverbs: Words or brief phrases that emphasise the thought they lead into, interrupt, or follow. = however, of course, basically, naturally and no doubt.

Sentential adverbs are great if you're using them in a piece of personal expression (e.g blog post, opinion column, fiction). Try to avoid them in marketing collateral or white papers as they are largely unnecessary, make your message too waffly and can detract from your credibility. Also, only use 'however' to start a sentence. 

3. Sententia: The punctuation of a point with a common saying or a maxim. For example, “As we all know: a fool and his money are soon parted.”

4. Antanaclasis: The repeated use of a word in one sentence, each time to a different meaning. = Rap stars often get a bad rap, and a rap on the knuckles for everything except using this tool. (Eminem uses antanaclasis a lot).

5. Litotes: Understating a passionate opinion to stress its importance - a description by stating what it is not. = 
"Are you also aware, Mrs. Bueller, that Ferris does not have what we consider to be an exemplary attendance record?" - Ferris Bueller's Day Off

According to comedian Carl Barron, litotes are typical of the smart arse Australian style of language (see 1:33)

6. Cacophony: Deliberate use of harsh letter sounds - especially consonants that are perfect for dramatic delivery like p, b, d, g, k, ch, sh. = Double, double toil and trouble.

7. Hyperbaton: Changing around the logical order of words. Think Yoda: “Alone he walked.” “Consume it you will.” 

8. Amplification: Repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to it each time in order to emphasize. “I’m looking for love, real love, ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t live without each other love.” – Carrie Bradshaw 

9. Anaphora: Repetition of one or more words at the head of consecutive phrases, clauses, or sentences. = I came, I saw, I conquered. Go hard, go home.

10. Antistrophe: Repetition of a word or phrase at the close of successive clauses: = "But she caught me on the counter (It wasn't me). Saw me kissin' on the sofa (It wasn't me). I even had her in the shower (It wasn't me). She even caught me on camera (It wasn't me)" - It Wasn't Me, Shaggy

11. Meiosis: An intentional understatement or description to make a point or belittle. =  
"It isn't very serious. I have this tiny little tumor on the brain." - Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger 

12. Tapinosis: A form of meiosis where something is given a name attributing less credit than is deserved. = W. C. Fields enters a palatial home, glances up at the ceiling two stories above, and says "Nice tepee.”

13. Synecdoche: Referring to the whole of a thing by the name of any one of its parts. You could call a car your ‘wheels’ or a businessman a ‘suit’ or refer to knives and swords as ‘steel’. Writers use synecdoche to give more colour and meaning to their common ideas and objects.

Note: Not to be confused with Synecdoche, New York: a Philip Seymour Hoffman movie that is best defined as a cinematic mind fuck that ruthlessly robbed me of two good hours of my life.

14. Brachyology: An abbreviated expression not following conventional gramma or expression. Leaving the ‘good’ out of ‘good morning’ or saying ‘what the?’ instead of ‘what the let’s just say hell?’

15. Paronomasia*: Using puns (the use of a word in different senses or the use of words similar in sound to achieve a specific effect, as humour or dual meaning). Puns can be homophonic (sound the same but different spellings and meanings) 

or homographic (spelled the same but different meanings) 

16. Synathroesmus: A series of adjectives, also known as accumulatio, compiled often to criticise. = "
Hey, I'm gonna give you to the count of ten, to get your ugly, yella, no-good keister off my property, before I pump your guts full of lead! 1, 2, 10!" - Home Alone

17. Metanoia: A rhetorical term for the act of self-correction – can involve amplifying or retracting, strengthening or weakening a prior statement. Traditionally, 'nay' is used to set up the shift, but 'no' is its modern equivalent. = "Idleness and lack of occupation tend - nay are dragged - towards evil. - Hippocrates

Now go forth and write great. 

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