TUMBLR

A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about. Ask me anything you can't Google.



Posts tagged "storytelling"

Oct 17, 2014
Permalink

How to pitch a creative idea

Over at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson points out that people think they like creativity, but teachers, scientists, and experts usually reject things that are too new. One possible solution? Disguise your new idea as an old one:

Creative people often bristle at the suggestion that they have to stoop to marketing their ideas. It’s more pleasant to think that one’s brilliance is self-evident and doesn’t require the gloss of sales or the theater of marketing. But whether you’re an academic, screenwriter, or entrepreneur, the difference between a brilliant new idea with bad marketing a mediocre idea with excellent marketing can be the difference between success and bankruptcy.

American culture worships creativity, but mostly in the abstract. Most people really don’t like new ideas that sound entirely new, particularly the experts that often have to approve them. The trick is learning to frame new ideas as old ideas—to make your creativity seem, well, not quite so creative.

Filed under: show your work

Sep 01, 2014
Permalink
The Chairs Are Where The People Go

I like it when I can’t tell at a glance if it’s my book or my toddler’s book. (That’s thanks to the great art by Leanne Shapton on the cover.)

This was recommended to me by my friend Nicole Fenton. Here’s the story: Sheila Heti wanted to write a novel about her friend, Misha, but couldn’t really make it work, and besides, what she really liked was listening to him talk. So they made a list of topics together, Misha talked, and Sheila talked. This book is the result.

I wish more writers would go this route — just give us 170 pages of the stuff you’re really trying to say, you know? (I suddenly feel very David Shields-y.)

Some highlights, below.

Against virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake:


  The idea that the point of art is to be impressive is — to me — incredibly distressing. Skill should be a means to an end, or it becomes like watching acrobatics, or being very tall… At a certain level, virtuosity has only one thing to say, and that is: Look at how good I am.


On not-knowing:


  A lot of people are scared to be surprised, I find. And a lot of things I don’t like in prov come down to people’s attempts to avoid that surprise. But a real part of what it means to truly improvise is to really not know where you’re going, to really not know what you’re doing. There’s a feeling I associate with improvising which I think is a really thrilling feeling, which is the feeling of being at once very comfortable and yet having no idea what’s going to happen. That’s thrilling, and it’s a little mysterious, and there’s pleasure in feeling out of control. There’s a real joy in starting a sentence and not knowing how it’s going to finish.


On how experimental music eventually makes its way to pop:


  [Missy Elliott’s] “Work It” is like this insane collage of incredibly abstract electronic noises, some of which would be considered really abrasive in other contexts. At various different moments, the vocal track is played backwards. But a song like “Work It” or any of a gazillion really interesting things happening now in dance music couldn’t have happened without twentieth-century experimental music. It’s as though “Work It” is the useful application of all those useless experiments. “Work It” is like those unbreakable dinner plates that got developed because of the space program.


How to ask a good question during a Q&A session:


  The first thing I tell people that a good question has to be a question. I warn them that if they take a statement and try to raise the pitch of their voices at the end of their sentences, we won’t be tricked. I tell the audience that grammarians will agree that there’s no such thing as a two-part question. I tell people that if they think they have a two-part question, what they really have are two questions, and that they should just pick the better of the two.


On storytelling vs. conversation:


  Being a conversationalist and telling wonderful stories aren’t the same thing. I mean, a story isn’t a conversation. It’s a monologue, a one-way thing. When you’re telling a story, you need to not be interrupted—and the story has to end up where you want it to end up. […] The best conversationalists are people who are hoping to end up somewhere they didn’t expect… It seems to me that the most pleasing thing you can find yourself saying in a conversation is something you haven’t said before.


And a funny take on “impostor syndrome”:


  One possibility I think people often overlook is that there might be people who feel this way because they are impostors. There actually are people who hold impressive jobs or high positions who don’t merit them. […] It’s normal for us to feel insecure about our own real abilities or accomplishments, but it’s also the case that we’re kind of encouraged to lie about our abilities and successes. There is so much pressure on people to achieve, to become ever more accomplished and impressive, and that goes along with this encouragement to be a kind of salesman for yourself in a certain way. So what ends up happening is that a lot of people really are presenting a version of themselves that is false. In this case, the reason they have this unpleasant feeling of being an impostor is because they are one.


The book is front-loaded — I got a little sick of Misha towards the end, but, I have a feeling Misha probably gets a little sick of himself, too. (Don’t we all?) Most bad reviews call this book some form of “hipster navel-gazing,” but hell, that could describe Montaigne, too, you know? There’s some fun stuff in here.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

The Chairs Are Where The People Go

I like it when I can’t tell at a glance if it’s my book or my toddler’s book. (That’s thanks to the great art by Leanne Shapton on the cover.)

This was recommended to me by my friend Nicole Fenton. Here’s the story: Sheila Heti wanted to write a novel about her friend, Misha, but couldn’t really make it work, and besides, what she really liked was listening to him talk. So they made a list of topics together, Misha talked, and Sheila talked. This book is the result.

I wish more writers would go this route — just give us 170 pages of the stuff you’re really trying to say, you know? (I suddenly feel very David Shields-y.)

Some highlights, below.

Against virtuosity for virtuosity’s sake:

The idea that the point of art is to be impressive is — to me — incredibly distressing. Skill should be a means to an end, or it becomes like watching acrobatics, or being very tall… At a certain level, virtuosity has only one thing to say, and that is: Look at how good I am.

On not-knowing:

A lot of people are scared to be surprised, I find. And a lot of things I don’t like in prov come down to people’s attempts to avoid that surprise. But a real part of what it means to truly improvise is to really not know where you’re going, to really not know what you’re doing. There’s a feeling I associate with improvising which I think is a really thrilling feeling, which is the feeling of being at once very comfortable and yet having no idea what’s going to happen. That’s thrilling, and it’s a little mysterious, and there’s pleasure in feeling out of control. There’s a real joy in starting a sentence and not knowing how it’s going to finish.

On how experimental music eventually makes its way to pop:

[Missy Elliott’s] “Work It” is like this insane collage of incredibly abstract electronic noises, some of which would be considered really abrasive in other contexts. At various different moments, the vocal track is played backwards. But a song like “Work It” or any of a gazillion really interesting things happening now in dance music couldn’t have happened without twentieth-century experimental music. It’s as though “Work It” is the useful application of all those useless experiments. “Work It” is like those unbreakable dinner plates that got developed because of the space program.

How to ask a good question during a Q&A session:

The first thing I tell people that a good question has to be a question. I warn them that if they take a statement and try to raise the pitch of their voices at the end of their sentences, we won’t be tricked. I tell the audience that grammarians will agree that there’s no such thing as a two-part question. I tell people that if they think they have a two-part question, what they really have are two questions, and that they should just pick the better of the two.

On storytelling vs. conversation:

Being a conversationalist and telling wonderful stories aren’t the same thing. I mean, a story isn’t a conversation. It’s a monologue, a one-way thing. When you’re telling a story, you need to not be interrupted—and the story has to end up where you want it to end up. […] The best conversationalists are people who are hoping to end up somewhere they didn’t expect… It seems to me that the most pleasing thing you can find yourself saying in a conversation is something you haven’t said before.

And a funny take on “impostor syndrome”:

One possibility I think people often overlook is that there might be people who feel this way because they are impostors. There actually are people who hold impressive jobs or high positions who don’t merit them. […] It’s normal for us to feel insecure about our own real abilities or accomplishments, but it’s also the case that we’re kind of encouraged to lie about our abilities and successes. There is so much pressure on people to achieve, to become ever more accomplished and impressive, and that goes along with this encouragement to be a kind of salesman for yourself in a certain way. So what ends up happening is that a lot of people really are presenting a version of themselves that is false. In this case, the reason they have this unpleasant feeling of being an impostor is because they are one.

The book is front-loaded — I got a little sick of Misha towards the end, but, I have a feeling Misha probably gets a little sick of himself, too. (Don’t we all?) Most bad reviews call this book some form of “hipster navel-gazing,” but hell, that could describe Montaigne, too, you know? There’s some fun stuff in here.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Aug 14, 2014
Permalink
Get someone else to read your story to you. Many say read your work out loud and this does help but I believe you still hear in your head what you wanted to write. When someone else reads it you stop hearing what you wanted to say and hear exactly what you’ve written.

Aug 05, 2014
Permalink
Opera styles of great composers (via ‏@grahamfarmelo)

Opera styles of great composers (via ‏@grahamfarmelo)

Oct 05, 2013
Permalink

Stories We Tell a film by Sarah Polley

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”
—Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

This movie looks fantastic.

This movie is fantastic. Highly recommended.

Filed under: my watching year 2013

(Source: youtube.com, via austinkleon)

Permalink
The story before ‘The end’ — a conversation with Anders Nilsen

Death doesn’t really make sense. You can try and force it into having a reasonable shape and meaning that fits the human mind, but it will always resist. So if you can’t make sense of it the next best thing is to simply tell the story. Even non-sensical things begin to feel like they make sense when you repeat them over and over. If I had any advice to someone with a friend who just lost a loved one, it might be just to let them tell the story. Be available.

Nice to hear Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow is back in print — it, like The End, is a beautiful, but devastating, comic.

FIled under: death, Anders Nilsen

The story before ‘The end’ — a conversation with Anders Nilsen

Death doesn’t really make sense. You can try and force it into having a reasonable shape and meaning that fits the human mind, but it will always resist. So if you can’t make sense of it the next best thing is to simply tell the story. Even non-sensical things begin to feel like they make sense when you repeat them over and over. If I had any advice to someone with a friend who just lost a loved one, it might be just to let them tell the story. Be available.

Nice to hear Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow is back in print — it, like The End, is a beautiful, but devastating, comic.

FIled under: death, Anders Nilsen

Aug 04, 2013
Permalink
Every story now has to involve a threat to the entire globe. This is meant to raise the stakes, but it actually lowers them.
— Heather Havrilesky, “Stop Blaming ‘Jaws’!”

May 26, 2013
Permalink
Harvey Weinstein tells Errol Morris how to sell the work. Brilliant.

Harvey Weinstein tells Errol Morris how to sell the work. Brilliant.

(Source: filmzu, via gwendabond)

May 11, 2013
Permalink

Stories We Tell a film by Sarah Polley

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”
—Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

This movie looks fantastic.

(Source: youtube.com)

Apr 14, 2013
Permalink
Subscribe to my newsletter and get new art, writing, and interesting links delivered to your inbox every week.