Tuesday, June 24, 2014

TED Talk Tuesday: Andrew Fitzgerald with Adventures in Twitter Fiction

Summer has hit full swing at our house, which means swimming in lakes, playing at playgrounds, and a fun dose of Mario Kart. It also means bee stings, burns, and a black eye from an unlucky collision with a trapeze swing. :) Hoping my kids get their summer legs underneath them soon!

This is a great TED talk, today. I love the idea of exploring what tech is available to enhance and help us tell our stories. If this talk doesn't inspire you to create using social platforms--I don't know what will. :)

Andrew Fitzgerald works at Twitter, so he's very knowledgeable about the medium.

He says:
I actually believe that we are in a wide open frontier for creative experimentation, if you will, that we've explored and begun to settle this wild land of the Internet and are now just getting ready to start to build structures on it, and those structures are the new formats of storytelling that the Internet will allow us to create.
And then he gives examples of storytelling through twitter.

Can't see the TED talk? Watch it through this link.

Having fictional characters that engage with the real world? What a cool way to use twitter. What would your characters want to say to the world? Have you considered using social media to explore creativity?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TED Talk Thursday with J.J. Abrams: The Mystery Box

So, I'm taking a writing class with the amazing Erica Orloff. A part of the first assignment is for us to think about why we write what we write.

J.J. Abrams starts out his TED talk the same way--talking through why he does what he does.

He starts painting a picture of his influences--a grandfather who opened up machines with him so he could explore what was inside, a love for magic, an assisting grandmother, and we start to see why he does what he does. We start to understand why he creates what he does. It's fascinating. But the talk doesn't end there.

J.J. explains that "mystery is more important than knowledge." And I see it--his perspective--in every show that he makes. The mystery is the ride.

And generally, mystery provides us with the hook to pull us forward in stories. Suspense is all about what you DON'T say.

The whole talk is marvelous, and he shows my favorite scene in Jaws (and the shark isn't in it).

Check it out:

Can't see the talk? Click here.

ROFL--"10 years ago, if we wanted to do that, we'd have to kill a stuntman." He's a funny dude. :)

Oh, and this:
I realize that that blank page is a magic box, you know? It needs to be filled with something fantastic....You know, I love Apple computers. I'm obsessed. So the Apple computer -- this computer, right, it challenges me. It basically says, "what are you going to write worthy of me?" I feel this -- I'm compelled. And I often am like, you know, dude, today I'm out. I got nothing. You know?
Of course, he's brilliant, and he breaks it all down in a way we can all can get to it.

Do you know why you do what you do? Why you write what you write? There is a great exercise for figuring this out in the beginning of John Truby's The Anatomy of Story.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TED Talk Tuesday: Patrick Carman on Blending Books with Technology

Happy summer vacation! My kids are out of school and so we're going to places like the zoo and enjoying unstructured time. I asked them to put together their summer reading book baskets, mostly because I wanted to see if we needed to head to the library today or not.
Superman's basket (He's 10)
Cowgirl's basket (She's 8)
One of these baskets is more eclectic than the other. :) Both of my boys are what I would call reluctant readers, simply because they would chose to do something else rather than read, every time. My daughter will choose books over other things. 

So, I make sure to carve out time for my boys to put away the other stuff and read. And they do. But I also seek out specific books that would compel them to chose reading over their electronics. And that is how I discovered Patrick Carman (@patrickcarman), years ago. I read the ARC of Floors as a read-aloud, and we tuned in to Trackers as an awesome adventure with movie content on-line. That got me hooked--the movies that accompany and enhance the books are spectacular. So, I went off to read some of his spookier stuff on my own.

I love Skeleton Creek.

When my older son (Euphonium Boy) saw that series lying around the house, I let him know that he was welcome to read them, but that the online movies are a little scary. They are spooky, blaire witchesque things. My son was twelve at the time, an age which is probably okay with Skeleton Creek, except that my son is a little sensitive--he has an elaborate imagination. So, he said okay, didn't pick them up, and time marched on. His next year English teacher handed him Skeleton Creek, and he read it in the classroom, without access to the extra movie content. When he finished, he came home and asked to watch the movie clips with me. 

I looked at my tender thirteen-year old, and told him I would, but that he might be scared by it. Did he want to wait? He did not. 

We watched the first clip, and at the end, something jumped out at us. (Spoiler alert.) My son screamed, jumped back, looked at me with sheer panic in his eyes, yelled, I HATE YOU, MOM! and ran to his room. 

And, fright aside, we both still love Patrick Carman. 

So, for your viewing pleasure, check out his TED talk about why he developed interactive books and his smart strategy of meeting kids where they are. I especially love the humor at 9:09. Kids are funny. :)

Can't see the TED talk? Watch through this link.

I love his point that no amount of technology will save a bad story, and his perspective that 75% of books should continue to be what they are--books. But that 25% or so should be trying to reach the kids who would prefer doing technology with that technology.

I also blogged about Patrick Carman's cliff hanger endings here, if you want more of my perspective on his other kid-hooking methods. :)

Would you consider supplying additional book stuff with your writing, like online content, or an accompanying app?

What's in your summer reading basket? Right now, I'm reading the 6th book of the Mortal Instruments series.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

TED Talk Tuesday: The Puzzle of Motivation with Dan Pink

I had a whole blog post written for today, then I read it and deleted the whole thing. I'm blaming my rash deletism on this morning's school rush. On trying to get the kids out of the house. (Well, the problem this morning was that they were already out of the house--playing with neighborhood kids. Not getting ready for school. Or the problem was that I was writing a blog post while my kids weren't getting ready for school....)

Anywho. The first post was boring, so I deleted. Welcome to post two. :)

I'm always looking at and trying to learn from successful authors (you can decide for yourself what kind of success you want to study). For me, success looks like authors who get to keep writing books for their audience.

Successful authors all seem to have at least one thing in common--they treat their writing like a business. Revising without their ego in play. Writing without their ego in play. Well, doing everything without their ego in play. :)

Their business is to write books, so they do so. But writing is still a creative business. We often hear about the muse and writer's block and things that keep us from reaching the end goal.

So, we talk about creative confidence. And now we talk about motivation.

And, in this TED talk, we discover what the business world has missed in their pursuit of motivation. What makes someone do a great job at work? What makes you keep your pen to the page day after day?

What works as motivation might just surprise you.

Can't see the TED talk? Watch it HERE.

Crazy, that rewards dull thinking and block creativity. Did you see that coming?

And, if you didn't have time to watch the whole talk, I'll quote the most important part of Dan's talk here:
And to my mind, that new operating system for our businesses revolves around three elements: autonomy, mastery and purpose. Autonomy: the urge to direct our own lives. Mastery: the desire to get better and better at something that matters. Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves. These are the building blocks of an entirely new operating system for our businesses.
And, that's really great news, I think, for writers. Because we are largely autonomous. We don't clock in and out. We might have a support system, in the form of agents, editors, critique partners, but we get to say how, when and what we work on.

For most writers, mastery is built in to the system. We are constantly seeking feedback (critiques) and trying to figure out how to make the writing stronger. Nobody stops after a first draft. We revise. We edit. These are all built into the writing model.

And we have a purpose. Often as writers, we have a brand, and are trying to get across our world view to our audience. And each book has it's own purpose, as an extension of us, of our brand.

So, how can we enhance our motivation? If these things are built in, how do we continue to motivate ourselves?

Well, we make sure that we are giving ourselves time to do the writing. That we are being effective as autonomous bosses of ourselves. That our way toward mastery is always moving forward. Learn another way to fix that flaw in our writing. Seek writing partners who "get" us and our books. Have writing partners whose strengths are our weaknesses. Read books on writing. Use the internet. Take classes. Always be learning. And, remember to keep our purposes fresh. Know who we are writing for. Know why we want this book to be out in the world some day.

And, maybe, as I am on the rote path of finishing up a draft of a novel, I will spend 20% of my time just fooling around on something fresh and new. Because that will feed my next project. Or that will become my next project. Something zany and unlike anything I've ever written.

Do you give yourself 20% time? How do you motivate yourself when you are stuck? Are you surprised that rewards won't help the creative process?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

TED Talk Thursday: Building Creative Confidence with David Kelley

Recently, at the Loft, we've been talking about organization and productivity and about the personal practices that delay us in achieving our Epic Win in writing. (We planned a panel to talk about just that on July 23rd.)

But there is this other thing that keeps writers from writing, and that is an emotional, fear response, stemming from a lack of creative confidence.

Anyone who was lucky enough to hear Peter Reynolds (@peterhreynolds) read The Dot at #NESCBWI14 experienced how creative confidence could be inspired, rather than crushed--that moment when the little girl, sure that she is no artist, pokes her paper with her marker and shows her teacher who, in turn, tells her to sign it.

Just that. Sign it.

You are an artist. Take yourself seriously. Own wherever you might be on your writing journey and make no excuses for it. Everyone is somewhere, and you are here. You have every right to be where you are and love it. Just imagine where you can go from here!

Our job as writers is to grow our creative confidence, but I believe it is also to nurture the creative confidence in others. I've heard the horror stories. A writer who put their writing away for a year because a peer gave them a scathing, demeaning critique. Another writer who stalled out for just as long because their critique group's rules stated that they could only receive positive feedback, nothing that would promote growth and change.

But how do we do this? How do we cultivate creative confidence? David Kelley looked to a behavioral psychologist studying fears for the answer--guided mastery. Check it out:

Can't see the TED talk? Yeah, me neither. Blogger is finicky. Watch it HERE:

(We'll wait here for you!)

I love Dug Dietz's solution for fear of MRIs--I love the pirate ship adventure for kids!

So, how do we perform guided mastery for our writing process? It's about small successes. We need to acknowledge our small successes when they happen. Not berate ourselves because we are falling short of a polished, published novel.

I've been known to recommend treating our goals as a game (hence the Epic Win comment above).

And it's about getting that successful feedback from others. But I don't think that you can just ask any writer for that kind of feedback (I think it would be wonderful if you can!) you have to be selective. If you join a writing group, make sure they have clear critique guidelines.

Or take a writing class from someone who excels at creating successes in others. (Keep an eye on the Loft calendar--we are scheduling a revision class like this for the fall.)

And, make sure that when you give feedback, you are nurturing another writer's creative confidence, not destroying it.

If you enjoyed this TED talk, check out the other talks I've highlighted down in the sidebar of this blog->

Are you suffering a creative confidence crisis? What is the worst critique situation you've been involved in? Have you told anyone to sign their dot today? Why the hell not? :)