Monday, July 15, 2013

TED Talk Tuesday (On Monday): Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From

(So that it will appear that Papa J has a friend...)

I received an email this morning in that old chain letter fashion (c'mon, fess up, you know you've done/started one at some point) asking me to do a blog hop type thing by answering questions about my writing. And even though I hate those things (no offense!) and even though this is the place where chain letters come to die, I decided I might as well comply, mostly because I really want to see a blog post specifically from the other people on the chain. If I do it, then the other participants Papa J picked have to do it, too.

I had already loaded a TED Talk into the works. So, I decided to mash the two together.

First let me talk about how I have recently had a shift in thinking about my writing process. I've always said stuff like, "writing doesn't happen in a vacuum," meaning that we need a strong support system in order to write. I've also been intrigued by collaborative writing projects, and a couple of times a year, I entice a few writers to do something out-of-the-box with me.

But, I think that I was wrong about my writing process. I mean, I do need a support system, but that it is secondary (or a smaller part of) the need to create a Petri dish for the growth of my writing, which includes other writers getting into the Petri dish with me on a daily basis and weighing in on an idea or a part of a novel.

Listen to Steven Johnson, and think about how writing in a rich idea environment could spark that great idea:

"Chance favors the connected mind."--Steven Johnson

Every part of writing is about ideas--the Shiny New Idea which is the tag line for that new manuscript, or that idea of how to write the first page in order to launch it into a reader's heart. Writing a novel is one new idea after another.

In a world where we talk about tribes and twitter followings and virtual communities, what does it mean as a writer to create an environment conducive to getting that creative work done? To reaching out for and making connections which spark the necessary ideas? This is a question I am going to be exploring on the blog in the upcoming weeks. I hope you join in, and talk about your thoughts, ideas, and community.

As a direct result of other writers mixing things up in my Petri dish, I am now dusting off and revising a MG ms that I haven't looked at in two years. (This is to answer another question in the blog hop--what I'm writing...) It's a story about a boy who wishes a wish so powerfully that it ultimately pulls a star down to earth.

I've answered two out of three blog hop questions--the third I am going to answer is: Who are the authors you most admire?

As writers, we have a different view of authors--and sometimes an inside view of how authors handle their writing. The two authors I admire most are Anna Staniszewski and Erica Orloff. Because of so many reasons, but mainly because of who they are as people, because of how they help everyone and anyone they come across, and also because they write pragmatically. Not that their subject matter is pragmatic, but that they believe they can do it, they do it, then it gets published. There is no room for existential crisis. They get the work done. Every single time. (Not to say that they don't have moments of doubts or writer-related-heartache.) But they will accomplish their novels one word at a time. And those words are great ones. :)

Who do you admire? Who's in your Petri dish? Do you worry about talking your works over with other writers? What does your community look like?

Oh, yeah. The chain letter dies here. :)


  1. aww... i have a (reluctant) friend...

    personally, for me, my Petri dish is currently exploding with a foam-like substance created when approximately 15 critique partner/group members all jump in at the same time a couple of months ago. but for me, this has been amazing, as I have a few manuscripts in different stages and each person has been able to bring an excellent perspective on each item i've shared.

    and i've been lucky. every single person that's joined my dish has been helpful. and not just because they all think i'm awesome and will put harvey porter to shame, but because they are making my writing better and inspiring new and creative ideas.

    thanks for being a critically important one of 15.

    (and thanks for not killing me - yet - for sending this to you)

  2. Papa J--:) There is no reluctance here. And how were you to know that I shoot chain letters on sight? :) I'm glad that you are getting great feedback--and that you sift through and use what gets your work up to the next level. Glad I can hang with you in your Petri dish. :) Now go make Kyla and Jon write their posts.

  3. I like the sound of your MG! And this- But they will accomplish their novels one word at a time. A great thing to remember when I feel like I'm barely getting anywhere- every word counts!

  4. Kyla! Jon! Write your posts!

  5. I absolutely love talking my ideas through--often, the very process of doing that gets all the pieces falling into place for me. I have trusted critique partners that I can go through things with and use as sounding boards. It helps that they are interested in the same historical and mythological things that i am, so they "get" the weird ways my brain works.

    Loved the TED talk! Thanks so much for sharing it!

  6. Leandra--Thanks! Anna would tell me, "Bird by bird, Heather," whenever I get overwhelmed. :)

    PapaJ--Crack that whip!

    Martina--Crit partners with shared interests who "get" your writing? PRICELESS! :) Thanks for the tweet!!