Creative Writing Tips #3

Get down and touch the ground techniques for creative writing is an introspective way to activate the imagination and elicit ideas to keep our pen flowing. Click on the orange button of the media player below to listen as you read.

“Withdraw into yourself and look, if you do not yet therein discover beauty, do as the artist, who cuts off, polishes and purifies, until he has adorned his statue with all the marks of beauty.” – Plotinus

(Click on the the media player to listen to the podcast as you read the transcript below. In the event that you are unable to access the audio please be courteous and let me know.)

Welcome back to the third episode of Creative Writing Tips. My name is Jason Youngman. It’s mid September, 2019, and all is well with the world. Today we are going to reach for the jugular vein of creative writing, so as to transform a supposed negative experience into a positive one.

Let’s get pumped in order to jump right into the swing of things! Could you rub your hands together to create some warmth? Rub your hands faster, faster, faster. Feel that burn? No burning sensation you say, keep rubbing until you feel it… Then run your hands gently over your face. Allow your facial skin to absorb the heat as your mind settles and becomes tranquil.

Now it’s time to make some magic for your creative pen. Think back to a time in your life when you reacted with embarrassment to someone. Perhaps that person said something in a public place that triggered intense emotional discomfort. Choose a memory that has surfaced in your mind from time to time over the years. A memory in particular that sometimes leaves you feeling distraught, powerless or ashamed.

Next, compare your negative memory with one of my embarrassing experiences: During my first year at University one of my Professors asked if we had any questions about the course. This was the last day of class for the semester and so he wanted us to dialogue about the course content. He spent around 10 minutes trying to get us to engage, but there were no takers, so the hell with it, I took the bait. Yes Jason, his eyes lit up with relief. Dr. Prickly, do you recall the first day of class when you spoke about the significance of coffee and how it relates to people on all levels of society? His face opened into a pool of frustration as he surveyed the room. Yes Jason, matter of fact I do, he spoke quietly, while slowly walking towards me, and based on the facial expressions of the students in this room, it’s consequentially certain that you are a burnout.

Let’s stop the story for a moment. Now try to feel the friction you felt in your hands while rubbing them at the beginning of this talk, and magnify that intensity tenfold. Very good, now transfer that sensation into your face in order to feel the blood redness of my embarrassment. To make the situation worse nobody wanted to change the subject, so the good Professor spent the rest of the class explaining every facet of how coffee impacts our lives, from the way we create laws right down to how people socialize at coffee shops. The funny thing about this ordeal was that it was his best lecture ever, probably in his whole career for that matter, but somehow he perceived me as some kind of instigator.

As much as a part of me wanted to have slapped his face into a red chilli-pepper, the man gave me an incredible gift, and now this gift is yours. As you rewrite your embarrassing memory, slowly implement absurd changes into the story. For example, we could depict Dr. Prickly with a pink dress. Go all out and explain in detail how his chest hair would protrude through the centre opening of his cotton filled d size bra. Don’t hold back on how his high pitched voice would make the students worm in their seats. Can you hear Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star being played in the back ground? Of course you can, just imagine it happening, and continue to overlap the scenario with all kinds of ridiculous features. As you rewrite your story just keep adding outrageous stuff. Continue to interrupt the memory until it becomes like a corrupted digital file that can no longer be played on your computer.

And that my friend is how we can use creativity to transform even the most appalling experiences. For creative writing is truly liberating, so write your own gospel everyday if that’s what it will take to purge your-self from mental slavery. Get down and touch the ground to transcribe your words in the sand if it pleases you, and watch the world open to you in ways that you can only imagine! The word is a living and breathing fire, use it wisely my friends. In the next episode we’ll take a look at how to kindle the fire of creativity. You’re listening to Creative Writing Tips. My name is Jason Youngman, until next time, happy writing.

 

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Creative Writing Tips #2

My objective for today’s podcast is to get your creative juices flowing. That is to introduce you to a way to turn an ordinary experience into an engaging one, by using creativity to shake up the mix and transform it into some kind of wonderful. Keep in mind that podcasting is new to me so please be patient as the wrinkles are ironed out. In the meantime your feedback on this series would be greatly appreciated. Click on the orange play button above to hear the audio recording.

Love & light,

JY

 

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Creative Writing Tips #1

“One is distracted by this notion that there is such a thing as inspiration, that it comes fast and easy. And some people are graced by that style. I’m not. So I have to work as hard as any stiff, to come up with my payload.” ―Leonard Cohen

Because most of you – at present – who frequent my site are also blogging, I thought it might be a good idea to share one of my inventions or techniques for keeping the pen flowing so to speak and naturally coming up with fresh ideas to share and write about.

Click on the media player above for an intro and spoken rendition of this week’s blog, or click here to download it in mp3. This is the first of a series of talks on creative writing, so how they come into form largely depends on the sort of feedback you provide. Continue reading

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What makes friendship good?

“Those who wish for good things for their friends for their own sake are friends most of all, since they are that way for themselves and not incidentally; so the friendship of these people lasts as long as they are good, and virtue is enduring.” – Aristotle

My idea of friendship is a bond that consists of mutual trust, constructive interaction, and moral support. Through friendship we encourage one another to be the best version of ourselves. We remind each other when we have gone off course, or are no longer living in accordance to our principles. That is we help each other to live with integrity and purpose.

Friendship is also a means to keep the heart warm and provide a sense of belonging and connection in a world that can sometimes appear chaotic and meaningless. Much more can be said here, however, it is my preference to hear your thoughts on the nature of friendship. What makes it good, meaningful or significant for you?

The following verse provides a somewhat lofty yet grounding rendition of this kind of unity. Being transcendent in tone – the centre stanza provides an orientation and middle ground by which friendship can turn. It is the language of the heart that somehow trumps our intellect in this context.

The Gift of Friendship

Let us traverse this earth together
So that our longings may never be in vain
That our souls may be as one forever
To shoulder each other’s burden and pain

Let us soar this endless night
So that our hearts might remember the way
Before the sun gave its light
And splendour was turned into day

Let us imagine this eternal rest
So that our love might be renewed
To perpetually strive to give our best
In accord to our natural aptitude

By Jason Youngman
Summer of 2019

 

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The Remover of Obstacles

“Patience is said to be the root and safeguard of all the virtues, not as though it caused and preserved them directly, but merely because it removes their obstacles.” – Aquinas

One of my most meaningful objectives in life is to embellish each of the virtues with poetry and song. This process can be likened unto training the ear to know when the strings of a guitar are in tune. That the soul might be in harmony with what is good and whole, with a heart bold yet steady under the reins of reason as my goal.

BE PATIENT…

Be patient in spite of uncertainty
To know the music of the gods

Be patient when danger surrounds
That you may respond appropriately

Be patient with those who beguile
Misguided intentions come to not

Be patient during pangs of distress
For all things shall pass away

Be patient while nature runs its course
Let the seasons be as they are

Be patient as things fall apart
Each end makes way for a new start

By Jason Youngman
Summer of 2019

 

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Dealing with Reactivity

For the scope of this article let’s define ‘reactivity’ in part as a failure to rationally respond to a situation; instead, the subject instinctively reacts or behaves inadequately. Regardless of his better judgement he is compelled to act in accordance to the way he feels. In this sense the reactive person does not exercise practical reason but impulsively acts, giving little or no thought at all to the consequences that may follow from his actions.

The subject can also react to impressions or things that appear real to the mind, such as a piece of rope on the ground mistaken for a deadly snake. Even though there may be no such animal in the area, the person irrationally perceives it all the same, thus stirs within himself a fearful state of having to fight with the creature, which in turn may give rise to all sorts of troubling or obsessive thoughts. So the impressions that provoke our reaction can also stem from within our own imaginings, rather than strictly from the objective environment.

Now in regards to dealing with reactivity, and working to lessen its overwhelming effect, consider adapting the following exercise:

The objective here is to realize that the conditioned processes of reactive behaviour have no absolute authority or hold over our capacity to think freely and rationally. Our ability to reason allows for personal autonomy and release from the disturbing emotions that have their bases in poor habitual modes of thinking.

1) When you find yourself reacting to a difficult situation, pause & notice how your body feels. Scan your entire body from head to toe for any tension in your muscles. Check to see if your breathing is irregular or if there is any dryness in your throat. Do you detect butterflies in your stomach or a burning sensation in your chest. In other words simply experience every part of your physical structure without judging it to be bad or good.

2) Then observe your emotions. Are you afraid, angry or inundated with mixed emotions. Perhaps you are not experiencing any emotion at all; a sort of numbness maybe. Whatever the case, just be aware of the way you feel, and then shift your attention to your mind.

3) Can you tell if your concentration is weak or if your thoughts are fixated on something from your past or if you are concerned about something that might happen in the future. Are your thoughts racing or are they difficult to understand. Observe the state of your mind without trying to control your thinking.

4) Now that you have spent some time with your body, emotions, and your mind, next examine your personal will power. In other words what do you want to do more than anything. Perhaps you want to run away from your present situation or maybe you are craving for something to calm yourself. Whatever it is that you really want to do, just delay it for the time being, and give yourself permission to fully experience the intensity of your wanting, or lack thereof.

5) While you sit with this state, ask yourself if this is the sort of wanting that prompts you to remove something from your present reality, or if it’s the sort of wanting that provokes you to strongly grasp after something. Whatever the object of your personal will might be, allow yourself to be OK with it.

So now that you have created some space between you and the cause of your agitation, it is likely that you will find it much easier to let go of your impulse to react. By bringing some peace to your mind there is more clarity, thus possibilities to choose from, in turn allowing you to execute a course of action that is more constructive and effective, rather than harmful and unproductive.

Don’t just take my word for it, but deliberate upon this psychological exercise to determine if it should hold any merit for you. Perhaps with practice you will not only reduce the level of reactivity in your life but you might come to see that you have much more freedom to act responsibly and conscientiously. There is great joy in coming to know our full reach of command; to put in order and act upon first things first.

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Purpose – Mission – Vision

Let’s make a quick pit stop to fuel up the tank, tune the engine and seek feedback! As we move through the day it’s helpful to pause and reflect along the way. If not we may run the risk of getting bogged down in everyday tasks, and lose sight of the big picture.

One way to keep our motives in check is to frequently review our overarching purpose, mission and vision in life. This may be complicated or time consuming, so here’s a basic method to simplify these terms:

Purpose guides – Mission drives – Vision revives

So your purpose might be to act in accordance to your conscience or a set of ethical principles that provide good orderly direction; whereas your motives or reasons for engaging in some kind of role may determine your mission, such as being a brave soldier in order to protect your country or to practice medicine to bring healing and restoration to the sick. A vision on the other hand engages the imagination so as to recalculate the steps required to reach one’s ideal.

The objective here is to condense these three components into one sentence without any fear of oversimplification. On the contrary you will want this statement to act as your centre and core representative of what you truly stand for, a springboard into deliberation and reflection at any given moment of the day; namely, a mental retreat that will invigorate and ground you no matter the circumstances about you.

My personal statement below takes on the form of a precept. It happens to coincide with several schools of thought and may come across to you as common sense. To accidentally stumble upon these words might convey little meaning without context, but without such gems no kingdom on earth could stand, and neither would man.

Reason well, exercise virtue & contribute towards the common good.

Upon these three clauses the entire world turns for better or worse. For whatever course we set our minds upon, to neglect any of these is to hinder our success. In order to reason well we must exercise virtue to some end, and if that end is not for the good of the whole, then by consequence both our inner freedom & outer liberty will diminish.

JY

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Cognitive Bias – Weeds of Distortion

Your neighbour is growing veggies in her back garden. She takes great pains to make sure they have the ideal conditions to flourish. For example she may water them daily, use the best soil for the job, and build an elaborate barrier to prevent animals from entering. All this she does and more in order to nurture & protect her farm.

However, for some bizarre reason, she neglects to uproot the weeds, so they grow in and around her vegetables and gradually choke out the roots, which bring on disease and rot. By the end of the summer just about all her food has gone bad. So you ask yourself why in the world did she not remove the weeds!

The same kind of question can be asked of each and every one of you. Why don’t you uproot the weeds that grow in your mind? In other words why do you allow your personal biases to cloud your better judgement? Many of us are inclined to deny the fact that we harbor biases, or for those of us who are semi-conscious of their existence, we may render such notions as being harmless or culturally acceptable.

Cognitive bias can be defined as a mental factor that unconsciously affects the way we form beliefs. Basically they distort our thinking without us realizing the difference. There are a handful of different types of cognitive biases. For the sake of learning to think more clearly, we might want to at least familiarize ourselves with some of them. Let’s briefly explore one now to get a general idea for their subtle nature.

Confirmation bias is probably one the most common cognitive bias there is, and can be defined as the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs. This means that we are inclined to associate more importance to knowledge that affirms our own point of view.

For instance a school boy may dogmatically believe that males are smarter than females in math, and can recite the names of all the boys who won first place in his school’s annual math contest over the last 5 years, none of which were girls. His older brother, who is doing graduate studies in advanced calculus, says there is only one female in his class. The little girl from down the road is unable to multiply numbers when her primary school teacher asks her to do so aloud in front of the other children. So in this case the school boy confirms his bias based on the above account without considering any contrary evidence.

From our perspective, as mature adults, it is easy to see how such a bias can shape assumptions and lead to further erroneous conclusions and complications. Perhaps the writer has persuaded you to learn or refresh your memory as to the various cognitive biases that continue to plague the minds of the populace. He would certainly be pleased to receive your opinion on the matter. Either way it is my intent to elaborate on these psychological weeds in the future.

JY

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Logic – Laws of Comprehension

Logic is a vital component to the way we reason, solve problems and attain end goals. Little of our perception of reality would make sense if it were not for our capacity to be logical. To put content together into a coherent whole, as well as foresee the unfolding effects of our actions, is largely possible because of the principles of logic. Allow me to demonstrate in part:

Can you recall a past event when you undertook a major project in a completely random and erratic manner? You may have had a vague idea in mind but you didn’t take the time to map out a direct and efficient way of attaining the desired outcome. In hindsight you can now recognize the time you wasted and the unnecessary costs, not to mention the negative consequences that followed from such irrational behaviour.

By putting the cart before the horse we not only end up going in circles, but we forfeit the freedom to direct our course of action; that is we neglect to take responsibility for our lives, and subject our will to circumstances outside of our control. If we act without any care for the specific steps needed to reach an end, then it’s unlikely that we’ll end up there, or if we do, it will not be without redundancy.

On the other hand, being logical in the way we approach a situation makes thinking coherent, constructive and orderly. Similar to grammar, which allows language to make sense, logic enables thinking to act in a sequential manner, permitting the mind to make appropriate connections. If we are to follow an action from its conception to its conclusion, we naturally do so in a logical fashion.

Whether expository or narrative, most things we read have an order to them, as in a beginning, middle and conclusion. Carpenters don’t build the roof of a house first, but they begin with the foundation. The natural growth of a plant begins with the seed, rather than with the leaf or the stem. Mind you there are exceptions to the rule, such as poetry and other artistic endeavours, but for the most part things come together in a logical manner.

Logic is intrinsic to the way we think and can help us to detect the validity of another’s claim or judgement. It is a standard for good thinking and an indispensable means for achieving worthy end goals. Even though this feature of the mind is as natural as breathing, we nevertheless need to cultivate it over time, just as shallow breathing can come about without the ongoing practice of good form and posture, we are apt to fall into poor habits of thinking.

JY

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Clarifying Thought

You find yourself in an old library at night with only a candle to keep the place lit. Any sudden movement will cause the flame to flicker, dimming the overall intensity of light, and making the books difficult to read. Therefore you remain still as possible, breathing calmly in order to keep the text clear and vivid.

This analogy may provide additional insight into the nature of clarity. The intellect represents the light by which we reason or piece info together. With concentrated focus the intellect is able to illuminate and make sense of content, but should it falter due to distraction, we can end up with a distorted view. Just as a candle flame quivers in the passing wind, causing the text on the page to appear jumbled, our ability to reason can also be impaired or scattered.

Besides adopting good posture in body and mind, what else can we do to be clear about the things we observe or think about? How about questions? Are they useful in helping us to focus, draw out additional meaning, and locate significant patterns or relationships? Can they assist us in arranging data in a logical manner and bring distinction to vague ideas, in turn making it easier to understand something? They certainly can.

Ideally, that is what questions are for, to attain clarity. In fact, clarification has to be the first primary step of reasoning well, because without it there is no way to reach an authentic view. Whether we are reading a textbook or listening to a lecture, the content has to be grasped if we are to make an appropriate judgement about it.

Here are some questions we can ask to help clarify what is being said. Feel free to change them into your own manner of speaking.

1. Could you say the same thing in another way?
2. Please expand on the implications of such a decision or potential action?
3. What are you trying to say exactly, or what is your main point?
4. Allow me to summarize what you are saying and correct me if I am off?

You can also ask questions while reading: What, how & why, who, when & where are classic touchstones to elucidate and process information. Taking quick notes along the way can also help the mind to remain attentive and focused. There are lots of techniques for clarifying thought, so seek out other methods if something doesn’t work for you. The main thing is to get clear about whatever it is that you are bringing into your mind; seek first to understand.

JY

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