25 Apr

BITS – The Curse and Bane of Creatives

Banner - Fountain PenHave you ever had a case of BITS? That’s “Big Important Thing Syndrome.”

That’s when we attach a lot of importance to something, which then brings with it all manner of strange and destructive critters, from plain fear to insidious perfectionism and delusions of grandeur. Which completely destroys our creative ability.

The solution? Do something that moves you forward that is completely NOT important. Read More

30 Mar

Book Rec: Border Crosser by Tom Doyle (SF-spy thriller)

Border Crosser by Tom Doyle coverTLDR: a psychopathic, psychotic spy/killer/extreme artist/harbinger of Armageddon wants to save/kill/fuck/all of the above humanity. Strange, cold, bloody, and strangely sympathetic.

Warning: Triggers galore!

I have no idea how to classify Border Crosser. By rights, it should be horrible, a 2020’s psychological equivalent of the 1970’s blaxploitation movies. A psycsploitation. Or weirdsploitation.

Even so, it works because… I have no idea why, but it does. Read More

10 May

Never Live Like You’d Die Tomorrow

Pop psychology is full of pithy seize the day quotes. The purpose of life is to live it, to taste each experience to the utmost. Memento mori. Live like you would die tomorrow.

If I knew I’d die tomorrow, I’d spend the day playing video games, bingeing on chocolates, and wailing that life wasn’t fair.

If I lived this way every day, I’d get obese, depressed, and likely would die tomorrow. Read More

15 Mar

Being Five Times Positive with Your Writing

Banner - Fountain PenIn relationship psychology, there is this thing called the “five times positive”-rule. It says that for any relationship to remain positive over time, you need to have at least five times as many positive interactions as negative ones.

This is most commonly applied to parenting. If you yell at your kid once you have to make sure to have five positive play-dates with them before you yell at them again.

Otherwise, you’re going to get into recurring battles with your kids and your life will turn into a living hell.

Trust me on that one. Read More

15 Feb

Your Brain as a Group of Warring Tribes

Banner - rowersOnce upon a time in the dark ages of economic history, the human being was a rational agent.

We evaluated what we want, and found the cheapest way to get it. This, of course, had nothing to do with how humans act in reality. Instead, there came the much simplified theory of behavioral rewards.

It said that the brain creates neural pathways, using dopamine to reinforce or suppress them based on the rewards it’s received. This, too, proved wrong. Read More

03 Oct

Create Powerful Emotions with Repetition and Motifs

Repetitions and Motifs

Repetitions and MotifsWhy do some scenes feel powerful and others do not? Why do some stories make us cry and others, just as skillfully told, leave us indifferent? Why do some books and games draw us in so strongly?

David Farland, in his Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing has the answer: because some events or experiences in the story are alike to what we ourselves have experienced and been moved by. Of course, different readers will react differently. If you ate a cheese-and-baloney sandwich when you found out that your beloved kitten had been run over by a bulldozer, you might cry at the thought of baloney, while I may not[note]I always cry at the though of baloney, especially in politics.[/note]. Different people have different experiences.

But what if there was a way to create these sorts of emotions within the story itself, regardless of who the reader is? Read More

20 Jun

Worldbuilding 101: Writing Unequal Societies

Worldbuilding: Writing Unequal Societies

Worldbuilding: Writing Unequal SocietiesWhere are the chamberpot-technician? The dragon-brushers? The stepping stools-carriers? Nowhere, that’s why.

Fact is, that most works of fiction, whether SF, Fantasy, Horror, you name it, operate from the basic assumptions of an equal society. And that means that we’re missing whole segments of world building, encounters and stories that are never told because they can’t be conceived of.

But way, you say, here’s the poor pig herder who became prince. There’s the general that grew up in the slums. Aladdin – the diamond in the rough.

Nope, still operating from basic assumptions of equality. Let’s take a look. Read More

16 May

Why Do you Do what you Do Do?

Why do you do what you do?

Why do you do what you do?Ours is not to reason why, Ours is but to do or die[note]Contrary to popular belief, this has nothing to do with the US Marines, Iwo Jima or the Battle of Ypres. The original quote, “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die”, comes from the poem “Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson, and translates to: “damn, what idiots”.[/note].

What a load of bullshit.

The ability to reason why is central to human experience. It is what drives us to purposeful action and what separates us from the animals – experiments have shown animals to be able to reason (horses, for example, can do arithmetic on the level of a 4-year-old), be optimistic or pessimistic (shown in both birds and mammals using colored coded learning/unlearning models), and learn to read and write (dolphins can learn a symbolic language and use it to communicate with humans, as do chimps). However, no experiment has managed to show that animals have the ability to self-analysis.

Humans do. And it’s one of the most powerful tools we have when it comes to productivity. Read More

09 May

You Have to Begin

You have to begin

You have to beginYou have to begin.

You have to begin, over, and over, and over again. A new story, a new chapter, a new sentence.

You have to begin. That’s all there is to it.

For me, beginning is always hard. I know of people who look at the page and don’t know what to write. I don’t. If I look at the page, I start to write. It’s the moment before, right as I start the computer, think about what I need to do, that’s the hardest.

I know I should begin. I know that as soon as I begin I’ll be able to write, I’ll be getting somewhere, anywhere. But the moment before I start, that’s pure fear.

I’ve been writing professionally for over fifteen years now, and I still have trouble beginning. I still feel the fear. Read More