Somebody has come up with the word "phubbing," meaning using or being distracted by your cellphone while in the company of their relationship partners.
It comes out of a study at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business which concluded, not too surprisingly, "...When someone perceived that their partner phubbed them, this created conflict and led to lower levels of reported relationship satisfaction. Those "in turn led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression."
The depressing behaviour:
* placing your phone where you can see it when you're with someone else
* keeping your phone in your hand when talking to someone else
* glancing at your phone while talking to someone else
* checking your phone when there is a lull in the conversation
In the study, 46% of respondents reported being phubbed by their partner.
Of course you don't do this, but do you know anybody who does? Why not forward this post to them as a gentle hint? Or maybe the cartoon that's in the next post.
My next session of the Script Coach Workshop at Raindance in central London takes place on Monday evening, October 5, and covers "guerrilla warfare for the writer"--ways for you to market yourself and your work. You can find out more and sign up here: http://www.raindance.org/london/course/the-script-coach-series/
Writers love hearing about all kinds of people and all kinds of things...you never know when something will lead to an idea for a character, a setting, a plot. While there's no substitute for actually getting out there and meeting and watching people, a good interview is a very useful tool. That brings me to a blog I highly recommend, called "Read an Interview."
Every Monday Johan Dahlberg releases an in-depth interview with somebody and you never know who it's going to be. Recent interviewees include a trainer of police dogs, a woman who lives in Iceland, and the man who became the sixth person to go into space as a tourist.
The interviews are organized by themes like "war and disasters," "inspirational people," and "casual reads." For instance, one in the "behind the scenes" category features Theodora Lee talking about being a YouTube celebrity. Her brother, Caspar Lee, is a YT superstar with 4.5 million subscribers, while Theodora has about 200,000. (My own observation is that it helps to be young and good-looking and both she and her brother are.)
The site also has a little quiz that directs you to interviews you might like.
Warning: reading these interviews is addictive! It could be a good idea to use reading them as a reward when you've done the most important tasks for the day. Otherwise you might find, as I did, that you start reading and suddenly it's an hour later...
Hi Folks, After 2,965 posts and 687,461 page views, I'm taking a little break from the blog while I'm finishing my novel, "The House That Wouldn't Die," teaching a screenwriting course at Raindance, London (see below) and creating an online course in how to profit from your creativity. I'll be back!
Psyblog reports on a study that showed positive memories can help overcome depression...at least if you're a mouse.
Yes, this study was conducted with mice. They gave male mice a positive experience--exposure to a female mouse. They were able to locate this experience in the brain so they could access it again later.
Next, the mice were given a stressful experience that put them into a depression-like state. The article doesn't say exactly what this was. Maybe a researcher read them the news headlines.
Then they used light to stimulate the part of the brain that held the positive memory of the female mouse. The male mice quickly recovered from their depression.
Knowing how the male brain works, this didn't surprise me all that much. I wonder whether it would work as well with female mice who are exposed to a handsome male mouse.
When I felt a bit down, I decided to give it a try. My first attempt failed because exposing myself to a female mouse didn't make me happy and it seemed to frighten the mouse. Then I realized I already had happy memories, none involving rodents, I could call upon.
I think this is a bit more complicated in humans than in mice. For instance, remembering a happy time with another person can come attached with all kinds of negative thoughts as well, particularly if you're already in a down mood.
Thoughts like, "Yes, that was a happy time, but she's not in my life anymore!" or "Yes, but stupid me, I should have appreciated him at the time," or "Yes, we had a great time on that vacation, but now I don't have enough money to do that kind of thing," etc.
The positive memory would have to be unencumbered by any of those kinds of additions. A depressed person is really good at finding the "yes, but" view.
My non-scientific conclusion is that this could work when you're feeling slightly down in the dumps, but could actually backfire if you're seriously depressed. (If you are, please get some help. You may think your view of reality is accurate but when you're depressed you're seeing things through a deceptive filter.)
I got an email the other day from an aspiring screenwriter who had an idea for an unusual structure for her screenplay. She asked whether I thought it would be safer to stick to the traditional three-act structure and "maybe just drop in a few more unusual elements."
Of course it's hard to give advice on a specific project when you don't know the story or the details of the alternative structure, but in general I agree with this advice from painter Courtney Jordan about mixed media artwork:
"Mixed media artists can't be faint of heart. You have to be brave to try mixed media techniques that you've never tried before, but I've discovered that you won't get anywhere--and you kind of feel let down--if you don't push it enough to show you are actually mixing media."
I think the same is true for screenwriters and novelists. If you have an unconventional way to tell your story--and you're using it because it's the best way, not just to be different for the sake of it--go for it.
Trying to stick to the rules and be just a little unconventional probably will make your novel or script just as muddy and unconvincing as a mixed media artwork by an artist who lacked the confidence to go all the way.
In the world of screenwriting, scripts that stand out often are not the first ones to be bought, but they capture the attention of those who read them. Those readers know they're dealing with a writer who has the courage to venture out of the safe territory. Ironically, they may then hire you to write something more conventional, but at least you'll have your foot in the door.
(For tips on writing, from inspiration through to publication, get a copy of my book, Your Writing Coach, published by Nicholas Brealey and available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)
August 12, 2015 in Feed Your Head, Getting Ideas to Flow, Marketing Your Book or Other Writing, Pitching, Screenwriting, Self-publishing, Writing a Novel, writing a play, Writing for Children, Writing for Young Adults (YA), Writing methods, Writing Motivation, writing non-fiction, Writing your autobiography | Permalink | Comments (0)
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Science Daily reports: "Texting while walking and being cognitively distracted may significantly affect the way a person walks, resulting in a more cautious gait, according to a study published July 29, 2015, in the open-access Journal PLOS ONE led by Dr. Conrad Earnest of Texas A&M University and colleagues from the University of Bath, UK."
Uh, yep. You could have sent that research money to me or anybody else who has ever walked down a busy street. My problem is that people who walk and text don't make their gait cautious enough. I regularly have to dodge them, although it's tempting to stick out an elbow and wait.
That journal seems to be determined to report walking and texting around the world. Last year they reported: "Texting on your phone while walking alters posture and balance according to a study in PLOS ONE on January 22, 2014 by Siobhan Schabrun and colleagues from the University of Queensland."
Last but not least, a study at the University of Buffalo reports, "Texting and walking is a known danger, but an emergency doctor says distracted walking results in more injuries per mile than distracted driving. Consequences include bumping into walls, falling down stairs, tripping over clutter, and stepping into traffic. The issue is so common that in London bumpers were placed onto light posts along a frequented avenue to prevent people slamming into them."
There's the answer for us non-texting pedestrians: wear bumpers!
One of the best strategies for being more creative is reading things you normally wouldn't be exposed to. In that spirt, here is a random story you may not have run across:
from the website of a radio station in Ghana:
FETISH PRIEST PREVENTS TWO 'EVIL' STUDENTS FROM WRITING EXAMS
A 13-year-old and a 17-year-old Junior High School graduate have been camped by a fetish priest in his shrine at Nankese in the Suhum Municipality of the Eastern region.
The fetish priest, Togbe Dzebu, claims the minors possess evil spirits hence his decision to camp them and perform rituals to exorcise them.
The children, as part of the rituals were forced to march through the township and nearby towns by the fetish priest to show where their spiritual pot, locally known as "Bayie kukuo" had been kept.
One of the victims, Yaw, the 13-year-old pupil of Nankese M/A Primary School, has been prevented from writing the end of term examination by the fetish priest. School authorities are worried over the development but say they are helpless to seek for the release of the pupil to write his exams.
The victims have been given strange haircuts, concoctions and subjected to various forms of abuses as they have been confined to the shrine.
The fetish priest claims he has been able to cast the witchcraft in the 17-year-old girl but waiting for the family to buy some items for final rituals.
In case, like me, you're not familiar with fetish priests, here's what Wikipedia says:
In Ghana, Togo, Benin and other countries of West Africa, a fetish priest is a person who serves as a mediator between the spirit and the living. Fetish priests usually live and worship their gods in enclosed places, called a fetish shrine. The fetish shrine is a simple mud hut with some kind of enclosure or fence around it. The Priest or priestess (in the case of a female) performs rituals to consult and seek the favor from his gods in the shrine. The rituals are performed with money, liquor, animals, and in some places, human sex slaves called trokosi, fiashidi, or woryokwe."
Psyblog reports on a study that shows the best sleeping position for removing waste from the brain most efficiently. It's on your side rather than face up or face down.
No, they're talking about metabolic waste. Getting rid of it could help minimize your chances of developing Alzheimer's and other diseases.
So far they've tested this only on mice (makes you wonder how they get the mice to vary their sleep positions...on second thought, I don't want to know that, I'm guessing it involves tieing the little beggars up).
They're planning to test it on humans next, but it could be worth training yourself to sleep in that position now if you don't already.
Would you like to learn more about filmmaking or digital storytelling? Check out the free courses at Future Learn.
A course underway at the moment is "Explore Filmmaking: from Script to Screen" from the NFTS and BFI Film Academy. Here's part of the description:
"Over six weeks, our team of award-winning filmmakers will take you through their approach to telling stories, as well as demystifying their own filmmaking specialisms - from writing and directing to cinematography, editing and composing."
Hmm, is "specialisms" a word?
Starting on Sept. 28 and running for four weeks is one for which I've signed up: "Digital Storytelling: Filmmaking for the Web," from the University of Birmingham.
"We will cover all aspects of production - from how to research your story to adding the finishing touches in the edit. The course will address many issues along the way, including critical thinking; story structure; style; genre; ethics; legalities; practical techniques for camera, sound and lighting; and more."
They suggest you set aside three hours per week. These are just two of the courses in the Creative Arts and Media category; they also offer courses in business, literature, health & psychology and more.
It's a great resource--please share this information it with others who might be interested.
No matter how dark things may appear at the moment, it's very likely you still have some things to be grateful for. They may be large or small. They could include:
* the support of a friend
* being appreciated by someone you've helped
* a delicious snack
* a job you like
* earning enough to pay your bills
* a park near your home
* good health
* a music track that makes you feel good
* a favorite shirt or dress
* a smile from a stranger
* a brilliant idea
Even if your general circumstances are not so good, focus on what is good at this moment. For instance, maybe you worry about debts, but at this moment what can you enjoy anyway? A chat with a friend, listening to a favorite music track, watching a favorite TV show, writing a poem or a short story, watering your lovely plants?
The idea isn't to avoid the negative, but often we forget the good things even in the moments we can't do anything about the not so good ones.
YOUR ACTION PLAN:
Rate your happiness on a scale from one to ten, one being absolutely miserable, ten being overjoyed most of the time. Yes, this is subjective, but you'll be comparing yourself only to yourself.
Every day take one minute to jot down at least five things you are grateful for right then. If you do it at breakfast and are enjoying your muffin, that can go on the list. Some items may appear on the list every day, that's fine. Do this for two weeks at whatever time of day works best, ideally roughly the same time every day, and written by hand. You don't need to keep the lists, although you may want to.
At the end of two weeks, rate your happiness again. If you feel you'd continue to get benefit from making your gratitude lists daily, do so. Otherwise, put it in your calendar to do it at least once a week.
Note for writers: Rejections getting you down? Use this tool to remind yourself what aspects of being a writer you are grateful for: your ideas, the time to write, the support of your writing group, etc.
(If you are having a hard time getting over a traumatic or stressful event, check out the method recommended here.)
If you're unhappy because you can't seem to get over a traumatic or stressful event, you may have trouble sleeping, working, and relating to others as well as you'd like to. If that's the case, try expressive writing.
As recounted in Richard Wiseman's excellent book, :59 Seconds, a number of studies have shown that people who spent a few minutes each day writing about their thoughts and deep feelings about the traumatic event experienced a "remarkable boost in their psychological and physical well-being." They had fewer health issues than a similar control group and increased their happiness and self-esteem.
Typically, the participants wrote about things like losing their job, the end of a relationship, or a major mistake they made that had negative consequences, but you can write about anything that is causing you distress and keeping you from moving on.
YOUR ACTION PLAN:
At the start, rate your happiness from 1 to 10, one being totally unhappy, 10 being joyful most of the time. This is a totally subjective scale, but that doesn't matter; you'll only be comparing yourself with yourself.
Every day for a week, spend a few minutes writing, ideally by hand, about whatever you want to get over. This is not for anybody' else's eyes, so don't worry about making neatness or mistakes. If you like, you can throw it away as soon as you've written it or at the end of the week.
At the end of the week, rate your happiness again. If your score has improved but you feel you might get additional value by repeating the exercise for another week, do so.
If you feel this method has taken you as far as it can, move on to the exercise in the next post. Of course, you can do more than one type of exercise per day if you have the time.
Note for writers: If you're suffering from a writing block or want to get over rejections, this is an ideal tool.
If you missed the post on what doesn't work, you'll find it here.
Want to increase your happiness? Are there any strategies that have been shown to work--not just anecdotally, but scientifically?
Yes, and I'm finding them in an excellent book, :59 seconds, written by Richard Wiseman. It's named that because at the end of each chapter he gives you tips for things you can accomplish in about a minute.
First, what doesn't work:
I think the answer is no, but sometimes it helps.
What brought this on was reading two books by Shirley Jackson, who is best known for her short novel, The Lottery. I read The Haunting of Hill House, which is a horror tale but the source of the horror is as much the people who decide to stay in the house as it is in the house itself, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The latter is a first-person narrative by a young woman who is delusional and quite evil, yet Jackson skillfully gets us to like her anyway.
I didn't know anything about Jackson, but it turns out she died at the age of 48 of heart failure probably brought on by a combination of alcoholism, obesity, and addiction to speed. The Wikipedia entry for her says she suffered from various neuroses throughout her life. Toward the end, she was agoraphobic and wouldn't leave her bedroom. At least she was able to turn her experience with misery into books that live on.
She joins a number of other outstanding writers who were unhappy, depressed, or ill, and certainly it seems that alcoholics are over-represented in the world of authors. However, there are also plenty who had less traumatic lives and wrote well...although it's harder to think of as many examples.
Maybe the secret is being able to mine such unhappiness as we have had, whether it was dished out to us in quantities large or small (as well as mining the happy times as well, of course). Probably you have had enough unhappiness to work with already, now you can be happy. If you're not sure how, starting tomorrow I'm starting a series of posts on just that topic.
Should you write that novel or screenplay that's burning a hole in your head but probably isn't commercial, or should you opt for a safer story that doesn't ignite your passion as much?
In an interview on the Get Into the Story blog, screenwriter Gary Whitta had this to say:
"I think in the end, it’s a lesson that in trying to find that balance between creative and commercial appeal, you always err on the side of what excites you creatively. That’s the only way to write honestly. A lot of people like to chase trends. They see a hit movie, and then they want to try to emulate that movie. That does not feel creatively satisfying to me at all."
The lesson he refers to was that he wrote "The Book of Eli" as a spec script without discussing it with his agent or manager, thinking they'd talk him out of it since the idea didn't have obvious commercial appeal. Going with his passion paid off, since the movie was made, with Denzel Washington in the lead role.
He mentions a couple of other scripts that were much more obviously commercial and sold, but haven't been made.
Would it interest you to have a soundtrack accompany the book you are reading?
A company called Booktrack raised $5 million recently, added to another $5 million raised previously, to fulfill their mission: "to connect readers with an exciting and modern way to experience an e-book with a soundtrack."
On their site they give you a few free samples. I tried the Poe poem, "The Raven." As you read, you hear the wind and when you get to the line about someone rapping on his door, you hear someone rapping on a door. Distinctly underwhelming.
I wonder who thought this idea is worth $10 million? Sorry, Booktrack, but I prefer to make up my own soundtrack in my head.
In a New York Times article about how emails are getting shorter, Teddy Wayne quotes John Freeman (author of "The Tyranny of E-Mail"). Freeman says that even people who don't work in film "know what the 'L.A. no' is: that silence is a reply."
In other words, no reply is the new "no."
That's been the case for a while with publishers and agents. Their websites usually say if you don't hear back, assume they're not interested. The more considerate ones give you a time frame: if you haven't heard back from us within six weeks," for instance.
I suppose in some ways this is no worse than getting the stock rejections they used to send out: "Thank you for thinking of us but your material doesn't meet our present needs. We wish you success placing it elsewhere." It feels worse, though. No matter how insincere that wish that may have been, there was something very civilized about it.
It's one of the many niceties that have been sacrificed in the interests of speed and convenience and cost-cutting. It goes along with another thing Freeman points out: "People are becoming more reactive, and within that context, the concentration required to write a longer, thoughtful email isn't around."
Wayne writes, "Now, hunger to hear from others can often be sated by bite- and byte-size portions of a thousand different petit fours from acquaintances' status updates, rather than an email's intimate candlelit dinner for two."
Not that long ago (although eons in internet time), people were lamenting that emails had replaced the thoughtful, sometimes handwritten, letters we used to receive.
Now the nostalgia is for long emails.
I hear that emails in general are in decline, replaced more and more by texts.
It's only a matter of time before all messages will just be emojis, to which my response is :(
If I don't hear from you, I'll assume you agree. I call that The London Yes.
If you're writing a novel or screenplay and are looking for inspiration for your characters, check out a website called Hopes and Fears. It features a series of anonymous first-person accounts of a variety of jobs. Here are a few examples:
"I worked as a carnie, and possibly for the mob."
"I monitor missile activity with satellites for Lockheed Martin."
"I dig up dirt on wolves of Wall Street."
"I loved working at a legal brothel in Australia."
"I do magic tricks and hammer nails up my nose."
Obviously, if your protagonist has any of these occupations you'd have to do a lot more research than just these accounts, but they could get you started. They also could be excellent for helping you create interesting minor characters.
Warning: It's easy to find yourself spending a lot of time reading these rather than doing what you're supposed to be doing!
When metal shows its mettle...
From a news story about the effect of Greece's vote on the Euro: "However, in typical fashion the shared currency showed its metal and in morning trade in London..."
What the author had in mind is mettle: "vigor and strength of spirit or temperament, staying quality" (Merriam-Webster).