Monday, September 19, 2016

Learning from failure

The deadline for entries in the Behind the Mask Superhero Anthology has passed. In good time, I started planning.I made this:

... and I thought about what stories might fit.  In the past, the few stories I have written that I like jumped out at me after I thought about them seriously for a while.

No idea jumped out at me and I did not hand in an entry.

There is one more thing I did in the stories that I have completed.  I started writing. Even without a good goal or plot in mind, I began writing about the setting, the character.  It was after doing so that the plot idea or twist or hook came to mind.  Most or all of the ideas in that mind map are about plot and they went nowhere.

Seven years ago, when I started this blog, I did so in part to see how creative ideas appear.  The idea that you should just write and see what happens is the key to NANOWRIMO and I have completed three Nanos.  I should know this.  Perhaps I know it, but I don't live it.
This reminds me of one of my favorite high school teachers, Mr Steep. He taught chemistry.  He spent an appropriate amount of time explaining serial dilution, pH and indicators.  He told us that grape juice would change colour at a specific pH but he didn't tell us what that pH was. Then he told us to find that number.

I failed to find the number. Once he explained what he needed to do, it was obvious and he had given us all the background.  I understood serial dilutions and the logarithmic feature of pH and could do well on any paper test. It did not cross my mind to take 10 ml of strong acid and add 90 ml of water, take 10ml of that solution and add 90ml of water...until I had a range of solutions from pH 1 to 6  and then add some grape juice. Man it is so easy when I read what I should have done! I understood it the theory but not that I should put it into practice.

I hope I do now. I cannot wait for inspiration.  All those things I did to find inspiration are still valuable and I will do them. The mind-map, walking my dog while thinking about it, doing other activities and coming back to it... I do need to do that, but I also need to write. To move sideways in the story, to explore the person's life, his home, his job, his street, until some of those elements click and I have a story.
In possibly related news, Sci Am looks at where creativity comes from.

In animals, opportunity, not necessity is the mother of invention.  when animals are under high stress - facing starvation, for example - they retreat into conserving behaviors. They are less active and take fewer risks.  Animals that do not fear starvation or the like are more willing to take risks.

The article also looks at tool using crows and compares them to human children.  The children were not as creative - at least in the tests given.

The conclusion:
that innovation should benefit from diminishing, rather than increasing, costs of failure. Says Muthukrishna: “By reducing the risk, a social safety net may stimulate innovation.”

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