Apropos of a Twitter speech


Writer/Director Kevin Smith left a long… rant? Let’s call it a speech–on Twitter about being what you want to be, rather than wanting to be it. He talked about spending time–years in many cases–believing in yourself and pushing until you reach your goals.

He makes a good point. There was a study in creativity not too long ago (Google won’t turn up the actual study) that asked people to exercise their creativity. Many folks who had boring jobs and didn’t think much of their own creativity scored quite low. Not a surprise, right?

But then the people giving the study asked them to answer the questions as though they were someone else. Someone creative, like a sculptor or other artist.

Once instructed to respond the way a creative person would, they began to give very creative answers. It wasn’t a lack of creativity, it was that they didn’t think of themselves as creative people, and so didn’t try hard to think creatively.

And this is true of many aspects of writing. One of the tricks I use all the time when I’m stuck is to ask myself “How would a professional writer fix this sentence?” (I know, don’t tell me, I know). Or “What would a best-selling/award-winning author have these characters do?”

You can substitute the name of an author you already admire, it can be some sort of platonic ideal, or you can picture yourself in some advanced, evolved state. I usually choose option 3. The fact is, this trick really helps. It opens me up to solutions that weren’t accessible before, because I was all wrapped up in who I think I am and what I think I’m capable of.

So, go Kevin Smith.

2 thoughts on “Apropos of a Twitter speech

  1. Greg

    When it comes to solving problems that require creativity (for example when writing fiction), I’ve found that finding a good framework to use is very helpful, even if it’s just listing stuff out on paper or drawing stuff on a page. I’m more inclined to look at what an artist/writer/whatever actually did in their creative process and try it out rather than visualize myself as that person, though I admit I haven’t tried doing so.

    That said, when I run into an actual technical challenge, such as “this scene sucks and I have no idea how to fix it,” I generally turn to an author I really like, open one of his/her books and try to find a scene that I remember being good. From there, I read how they wrote the scene, try to figure out what they did and then apply the technique they used to my work.

    Also, I have found that although some writers don’t believe in outlines or planning, a lot of authors do plan out what they write, and reading up on the approach they take to planning is often helpful. The same goes for how writers approach story structure, dialogue, characterization, etc.

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