Friday, May 24, 2013

When, Ommwriter?

In Korea, I had an iMac and used Ommwriter.  It is ironic because Korea is such a Microsoft stronghold, while Canada, my current location and where I am typing this on a PC, is a far more Apple-friendly place.  Anyway, I enjoyed using Ommwriter as it is so simple and distraction-free.  With earlier versions of Windows, I found similar comfort with Wordpad.  More on that later but this is I found on the download site today, May 24:

The relevant portion is on the bottom reads, "...hoping it'll be ready in April."

That complaint over, I'll probably get the paid version whenever it does come out.
Okay, Wordpad:  I enjoyed the simple format with the limited options: pictures didn't embed well but I could change the font and such.  It adapted to whatever size I opened it to without me playing with the margins - I like this feature because I could choose how much of the screen to dedicate to other documents.  The new Wordpad has too much stuff!

This page offers "ten free minimalist word processors"-and in the comments you can learn the difference between "processor" and "editor".

If you want the other end, uh, maximalist word processors, Scrivener seems well-loved.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Muskoka Novel Marathon

I actually bought a book (well, an e-book) of Muskoka Novel Marathon material a few years ago.  Each story seemed fine but incomplete.  Now that I see how the work was written I better understand why.

The marathon takes place in July - and nowhere on their site could I find specific dates - and writers have from 8:00 PM Friday until 8:00 PM Monday to write.  They can bring in one page (double sided or in tiny font...) of their story preparation.  Each writer is expected to have $350 of sponsors for the YMCA Literacy Program.

On Twitter today, I saw that one beneficiary of the Marathon, a one-time student of the Literacy Program, will herself be writing this year.  Fantastic.

Her story is here on video.  The MNM Twitter page is here.

I have written a lot about writing but haven't done all that much of it.  This woman has shown amazing bravery and has likely moved far from her comfort zone.  A new hero for me and I wonder if I should follow her example.

Monday, May 13, 2013

This month in Creativity

I stopped writing "This Week In Creativity" because I was spending too much time relaying tips and advice and not enough time actually being creative.   The latter part is still true but I feel better about where I am right now and see that I still have the potential to be creative.  My personal big news is that I am again employed.  I am an guide and educator at a wilderness conservation centre and love the work although I am not so thrilled about the pay.  Still, it's keeping me busy and engaged and in a position to enjoy nature while looking for long term work.

With that out of the way, here are some links of interest.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton has advice that is still relevant.  Here are eight tips for discussing controversial topics.

Scott Adams looks at the connections between creativity and mental illness.  Instead of hiding your schizophrenia, promote it on your resume!

Usually parents remember the very first time their kid lies.  They're shocked....[Mom] thinks, "Why does he take after his dad?"... But you shouldn't worry.  The moment kids start to lie is the moment storytelling begins.  They're talking about things they didn't see....It calls for celebration.
... [big ellipses here]...That's right-- a novel, basically, is writing one sentence, then, without violating the scope of the first one, writing the next sentence.

Brain training at Sci Am.  I am not sure that these games work other than in that specific skill set; I don't think there is a lot of transfer.  Still, they have their uses. More from Sci Am.   And at Nature.

The breakthrough came when my producer said to me, “Why don’t we remove _____?” He named a very specific aspect of the novel, one of the very few things I felt I hadn’t already gutted. Without it, the story would sink, I was sure of it. “You’re insane,” I said, displaying the same genius I had when I passed on Fight Club. “The whole narrative hinges on that.” “The whole book does,” he responded. “The book isn’t the movie.”

Shaun Randol: This year, PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature highlights bravery in art, politics, and our everyday lives. What is the inspiration behind choosing bravery?
Salman Rushdie: The most obvious inspiration is that we all feel it: you can’t have free expression right now in a very wide range of countries. It takes a lot of guts for writers and journalists in those countries to stand up against repression and do what they do. Russia is a case in point where, as you know, journalists have an embarrassing habit of being killed for their reporting. PEN has done a lot of campaigning on behalf of Russian journalists both jailed and in some cases actually murdered.

A letter writer to Dear Cary on Salon asks why isn't he a TV sitcom writer yet?  He discusses some of what he has done to lay the groundwork and how much debt he has wracked up in the process.
 Is it possible to find success in my career while working a career program? I can’t shake the feeling of having to “graduate” before I can move on. And also, in your opinion, how many programs is too many programs to work?
Cary offers reasonable advice that I, not having any income or reputation riding on the answer, find too mild. It sure seems to me that he is too busy trying to possess accreditation or outside validation before actually doing the work.  The letter writer, in my opinion, is thinking too much like a university student and not enough like an apprentice who learns by doing.

In another Dear Cary letter, a woman (maybe I'm being too hetero-normative, the writer writes about a man and is in a marriage, so I think it's a she) finds a man work turns her on creatively and romantically.  She worries about herself-control and her marriage. Cary responds in part:
Well, pour it into art. That’s one way. Pour it all, all your soul’s craziness, all your excesses, all your incomprehensible and frightening passions, pour it all into art. Use therapy and exercise and swimming and writing to keep yourself together. You are not these things; you are the container. You are the vessel, the host, for the world’s movement through you. Read Jung. He will remind you. Read his “Psychology and Religion.” And meditate. And find a window in your house where you can sit and be this other person that you become in this man’s presence.

Be that person. Also, and most important: bring that person — that other person that is also you! — into your marriage. Be that person in your marriage.
I may have to read more Cary letters.  A brief read of the advice doesn't encourage me to value its content.  Now, creativity is not recipe-following and none of the research I have done suggests it ever will be, so advice will always include, "meditate and carefully consider your problem" rather than, "Do this, then that."  I'm finding more and more that I am a logical person who likes following guides or flowcharts and doesn't like "meditate and read Jung" as advice.  I hope the letter writer finds the advice more fulfilling than I do.  In my defence, I am willing to read more Cary to see if I accept his point of view rather than shut it out.

 Recently, on the front page of the Times, there was an article about how David Mamet is publishing his next book by himself. David Mamet, who doesn’t need the attention, gets the front page. The rest of us cannot even get replies to our email.

If there is one positive thing about this self-publishing business it is this: You separate the wheat from the chaff among your friends and acquaintances. Who is willing to lend a hand and who cannot wait to abandon you? Who will nudge someone they know and get your book to them and who just won’t even acknowledge your desperation or is laughing at you behind your back? Some people have been remarkable, others’ names are now forever etched onto my Eternal Personal Shit List. I have a Facebook friend — I’ve never met her — who works at a not-the-Times newspaper who’s been amazingly supportive; there’s someone I know via Goodreads who told me that Amazon has some sort of print-on-demand capability and has guided me through the process; ... And so on. But for every one of those, there’s a cold stare, a frigid shoulder and a turned-up snout and probably a fair amount of feigned — or real — gagging.
I cannot wait for those people to ask me for help one day. Because you know what I’m going to do?
I will help them as best I can..

Newton worked on creating a universal language with a rational set of rules.  There may be ideas here for the next Tolkien wannabe creating the next Elvish language.

We need a new metaphor for 'using different approaches'.  Nat Geo "Thinks outside the box on exo-planets"
The article discusses how current thinking, that planets containing life have to be rocky ones within a limited zone around a sun, may be too limited.  I think the writer is going where Arthur C Clarke went decades ago in his sequel to 2001, a Space Odyssey. The book, I think  it was 2010, described a moon of Jupiter as having the necessary conditions for life.  The Nat Geo article discusses greenhouse gases and posits the sweet zone around the sun as extending ten times Earth's orbit out.

Sci Am asks if Science Fiction writers can inspire the world to save itself.  They seem to be discussing Neal Stephenson's plea for Science Fiction writers to Go Big, Be Positive, that I wrote about a year ago.  Hey, I scooped Sci Am!

Finally, How to be a better friend.  I can't say it relates to creativity but it about friendship so it can't ever be wrong to discuss.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The statistical approach to choosing winning movies.

I don't know if Canada's greatest musician, Doug Bennett, had it exactly right, but he was close when he lamented, "Nobody wants better, they only want more." (Here, number 17)

The New York times has an article about a man who statistically analyzes hit films to help producers make the next hit.  It seems the method would both work and suck.  Yes, a sweet spot of enough sex and violence and with some slight semblance to a plot would be profitable  but  only in regards to university-aged boys who haven't seen the same things in a dozen other movies yet.

A chain-smoking former statistics professor named Vinny Bruzzese — “the reigning mad scientist of Hollywood,” in the words of one studio customer — has started to aggressively pitch a service he calls script evaluation. For as much as $20,000 per script, Mr. Bruzzese and a team of analysts compare the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success. His company, Worldwide Motion Picture Group, also digs into an extensive database of focus group results for similar films and surveys 1,500 potential moviegoers. What do you like? What should be changed?

“Demons in horror movies can target people or be summoned,” Mr. Bruzzese said in a gravelly voice, by way of example. “If it’s a targeting demon, you are likely to have much higher opening-weekend sales than if it’s summoned. So get rid of that Ouija Board scene.”

Bowling scenes tend to pop up in films that fizzle, Mr. Bruzzese, 39, continued. Therefore it is statistically unwise to include one in your script. “A cursed superhero never sells as well as a guardian superhero,” one like Superman who acts as a protector, he added.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sci Am on student science and creativity

As a child, I loved Farley Mowat's books on his childhood ( Owls in the Family, The Dog who Wouldn't Be) and loved the way he lived the way I wanted to.*  I have grown up being interested in science but not actually doing any science.

Kiera Wilmot attempted to learn by doing and was arrested for it.  Yes, the experiment she did was dangerous, but a felony?  I don't think so.  In other locations, I have written about 'Libel Chill'.  Here is Science Chill.

The exact details are unknown but the incident led to a minor explosion, hurt nobody and damaged no property. This relatively harmless bit of curiosity led to Ms. Wilmot being handcuffed, arrested and expelled from the school. Irrational State Overreach: 1, The Much Touted American Edge in Science: 0. Whatever else the school was trying to achieve, it definitely succeeded in squelching independent scientific curiosity in its students.

Now let’s get one thing straight. The student was playing with a potentially hazardous mix and she was not using proper protective equipment. She definitely deserved to be reprimanded and perhaps even punished in some way, maybe by putting her on probation. But when you arrest and expel students for slaking their scientific curiosity, whatever the other consequences of that action, be advised that you are almost certainly sacrificing a valuable scientist at the altar of arbitrarily wielded state and school power....And to Kiera Wilmot I say, please don’t give up on yourself because the system failed. Remember the deeds of George Washington Carver and Percy Julian who came before you; both of them rose to prominence in spite of the system and not because of it.

I have all discussed the finding that schools do not encourage creativity but, at best, can only work to reduce discouragement.

Completely as a tangent, the surviving Boston Marathon Bomber was charged with using a WMD.  I hope Wilmot is spared that fate.

Back to schools attempting to encourage creativity:

In a recent survey conducted by Mary-Catherine McClain and Steven I. Pfeiffer, while 90% of the state definitions of giftedness in the United States include “intelligence” as an area or category of giftedness, only 54% include creativity. Even worse, only 9 states actually require displays of creativity for inclusion into gifted education programs.
Part of the problem may be our identification methods for creativity. One prominent method is the use of portfolios. Typically, students who demonstrate exceptional talent in music and art receive the opportunity to produce a portfolio. Unfortunately, this leaves out many highly creative students whose area of passion (e.g., social entrepreneurship, video game design, contemporary dance, sushi chef, etc.) isn’t so easily identified.

This article links to another which offers a description of especially creative students:
Creatively gifted students may be spontaneous, expressive, intuitive, and perceptive, with evidence of intellectual sophistication and childlike playfulness. They are very likely to be curious, open to new experiences, and innovative in many areas of their lives. They may express originality in thoughts, and are probably unafraid of what others might think of their ideas. Most likely, these students have a wide range of interests and abilities, and may be comfortable with ambiguity and disorder. Likely to be unconventional, creatively gifted students are imaginative, and may challenge the status quo. By late adolescence, truly creative individuals usually have significant creative accomplishments that have earned them recognition by experts in their domain.

* I am aware that he has faced many questions about what exactly was fact and what was fiction.  As a child I believed it all and was not harmed by such beliefs.

Writing on Mobile Devices (mostly for education)

Edudemic has an article defending the use of mobile devices to write full, coherent essays.

My first or second generation Kindle (with the small domed-keys below the screen) is not great for long writing, but that is partially because it is hard to access numbers or special characters, including the comma and question mark.  I have not used Google Docs with it (I am not sure you can as Docs requires multiple windows open)  but another problem is transferring the completed work.  There is no Wordpad or the like that is easily copy-and-pastable into other devices.  Still, the Kindle is great for holding nearly complete documents and proofreading and annotating them.

The Kindle was never intended for content creation.  How about the iPad?  The Edudemic article discusses one concern I had (I have touched an iPad, but little more); keeping your fingers floating above the keyboard.  Apparently practice makes that problem less intrusive.