How to discipline your creative brain

In short, rid yourself of the mindset that you have a Creative Brain and an Analytical Brain. Create a new mindset where you have 1 brain: A well-trained, well-practiced, and highly-disciplined Creative Brain.


In talking about Heinlein’s rules, Dean Wesley Smith says that writing is a creative activity, that we shouldn’t grind all personality out of our work by rewriting. He also says that we must read constantly; we must analyze the writing of others; we must study craft, prose, and, most importantly, storytelling techniques; we must actually write; and we must finish what we write.

Heinlein’s Rules:

  1. You must write
  2. Finish what you start
  3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order
  4. You must put your story on the market
  5. You must keep it on the market until it has sold
  6. You must study the craft (I added this, from comments Dean made)

In reading his book, a metaphor took form in my head. Currently, most people view their brains as being the creative brain and the critical brain.

The creative brain is like a hippy, wild and free, running around with no forethought, no discipline, making scattered notes on the piano or splattering paint all over the walls, all wild and random and instinctual expression.

The analytical brain is like a librarian, strict and stern, concerned with order and organization and cleaning up the messes of others, following behind the hippy and trying to find what it considers “good” music or an “artistic” paint job based off of what others have said before. Whatever fits the librarians prescribed beliefs survives, everything is muted or painted over.

This is a BAD mental model. It makes it so that the hippy bears no responsibility, and the librarian has all authority but is often following the trend so much that whatever “art” is left is drab, boring, and so much like everything else.

A new mental model is needed. Instead of two halves, there is one whole. An artist. A musician, a composer, a dancer. The artist has all the creativity of the the hippy but doesn’t lack foresight. The artist has all of the discipline of the librarian and none of the generalizing prescribed notions.

The artist finds the balance between expression and creation, discipline and focus. It is to take the hippy and offer focused practiced and study. Not to see what is commonly accepted by other professionals (like the librarian), but to learn how to create an experience for the consumer. A powerful emotional experience, tested and learned step by step, with focused practice. Not wanton splattering of random ideas nor the arbitrary slaughter of all but the most statistically accepted by values that seem to exist “just because.”

Dean Wesley Smith says:

“Rewriting is when you do a sloppy first draft with the intent of “letting it sit” (dumbest thing I have ever heard) and then “fix it” later.

This lazy attitude is the attitude of the hippy and the librarian (which actually ends up being a LOT MORE work). Have the attitude of the Artist. Dean says:

“If you tell your creative voice to do it right the first time, the story won’t be broken.”

Train your creative voice. Read a lot. Consume stories. Study how stories are written. Use that in your writing. Practice. Practice. Practice. Become the writer you were meant to be.

 

p.s. Read everything by Dean Wesley Smith. His words about the business of writing have transformed the way I approach the writing career.

Wait, after 25 drafts of a query, I have to write a synopsis too?

So, I’m here trying to write a synopsis for my novel to send with my submission packet. Yow my brain hurts! After writing 25 drafts of my query, I’m pretty sick of my story.

Not that it’s a bad story, but after trying to describe it so many times it just feels like it’s about nothing. Or it feels like when I glaze over the complexities, I just have a hard time.

I puked one version out, I think I’ll print it and tweak it.

I’ll just keep plugging along.

How do I find the right editor or agent?

So I’ve been searching for agents and editors, and sheesh this process is hard!

First, I bought “2016 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market” and “2016 Guide to Literary Agents.” Then I went through the publishers and agencies that represented fantasy and I highlighted which ones I thought might be good (because they didn’t explicitly say “No epic fantasy!” That’s about all I had to go off of.)

Then I made an excel spreadsheet and listed them all.

Then I went online and checked out their websites and removed some because they didn’t seem my style. And then I wanted to understand their style better. How do I know which agent works with which authors and which genre and which publisher and which agent and… and…

HOW DO I KNOW IF THEY LIKE MY “STYLE” OF FICTION?

I was listening to Writing Excuses to get feedback on how to learn what “style” of fiction agents and editors prefer. And they said:

  1. Check out their twitter for MS wishlists.
  2. Check out their publishing house to see what books they’ve published (p.s. those don’t list the editor).
  3. Check out publishers lunch to see recent deals (since there are many more genres than epic fantasy, there will be a lot of deals that aren’t even remotely my genre).
  4. Listen to individual agents and editors talk at conferences and chat with them (wait, with the likelihood that they DON’T publish my kind of fiction, how many agents and editors are there exactly?)
  5. Go to the bookstore and read the acknowledgements of books you like (which you probably haven’t read cause they’re new and there’s not a lot of old books at the bookstore so you’re not even sure if they are your particular “style”) and list the agents and editors named in books you like.

There are A LOT of problems with this system. Some of which I’ve already mentioned. With how many agents/editors out there, my potential sample size from the above suggestions makes it nigh impossible to find the “right” agent/editor. (Note: They all say, research me first!)

The answer is a database, that lists the agents and editors, what publishing houses they’ve worked with, which agents and editors they’ve worked with, which authors they’ve worked with, which novels they’ve worked on, and a complex/detailed genre classification system so that I can know what genre classifications my book has (Epic, heroic, feminist, religious, magic, hard science, whatever), and so that I can go from that angle. Instead of sampling random hard to find agents, searching by the traits/classifications of my novel, and finding the agents and editors that match that “style” of fiction.

If that were to exist, agents and editors (might) get less junk mail that doesn’t fit their style, authors will be less confused, and less time would be wasted all around.

Maybe instead of whining, I should build this thing. 🙂