Wednesday, April 20, 2016

TWIC: Sci-am, Quora, videos and a job with Feedly

Simon Makin at Scientific American suggests that there are some benefits to a troubled childhood.

The results show that when participants felt uncertain, those who had experienced unpredictable but not harsh childhoods performed worse at inhibition but better at shifting than those whose childhoods were not unpredictable. The finding makes sense: inhibition is important for pursuing long-term goals and is thus most useful in stable environments, whereas the ability to shift rapidly among different demands would presumably be most useful in changeable environments. The implication is that kids who grow up in adverse environments are not impaired so much as shaped.
Also from Sci-am, Scott Kaufman tells us that the 10,000 hour rule probably does not apply to creative pursuits. I think this is one of the meatiest articles I have read at Sci-Am and strongly recommend it.
[T]he techniques of deliberate practice are most applicable to "highly developed fields" such as chess, sports, and musical performance in which the rules of the domain are well established and passed on from generation to generation. The principles of deliberate practice do not work nearly as well for professions in which there is "little or no direct competition, such as gardening and other hobbies", and "many of the jobs in today's workplace-- business manager, teacher, electrician, engineer, consultant, and so on."
And may I also add: almost any creative domain!
While creativity often draws on a deep knowledge base, creative products, by definition, are much more than expert products. This is because creativity must be original, meaningful, and surprising. Original in the sense that the creator is rewarded for transcending expertise, and going beyond the standard repertoire. Meaningful in the sense that the creator must satisfy some utility function, or provide a new interpretation. This constantly raises the bar of what is considered useful, and puts immense pressure on creators to find new meanings. Finally, creative products must be surprising in that the original and meaningful creative product must be surprising not only to oneself, but to everyone.
Creative people often have messy processes. While expertise is characterized by consistency and reliability, creativity is characterized by many false starts and lots and lots of trial-and-error. There are many examples of a creative genius producing a masterpiece, only to be followed by a hugely unpopular product. For instance, Shakespeare's most popular plays were created when he was about 38 years old. Around this time, he produced Hamlet, which is surely a treasure. However, soon after Hamlet, he wrote Troilus and Cressida, which is not nearly as popular. If creativity was merely a function of deliberate practice, you would expect that with increasing deliberate practice would come increasing creativity. But that's not what you find when you look at the career trajectories of creators. Instead, you see a lot of trial-and-error, and peaks around mid-career, not towards the end of their careers when they presumably have acquired the most expertise.
There is no answer yet at Quora, but this is one of the scariest questions I've seen there. How does castration affect creativity? I always expect to see #askingforafriend after this type of question.
6 talks on writing. Kurt Vonnegut, JJ Abrams, Stephen King and JK Rowling and more.  Good stuff.
Feedly is hiring
Become a content creator for feedly!
We are looking to hire strong writers, illustrators, and videographers on a freelance basis to help create concise content that helps others get the most out of feedly.
Ideally, you are passionate about your craft and feedly.
I must admit I don't understand.  I use Feedly to collect the blog feeds so I can read them all in one place but I never thought of them as creating content.
Feedly linked to Belle Beth Cooper, who is apparently something of a legend in online content creation.  She describes her current process in: How I cut my writing time from two days to four hours.

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