As reported in The Atlantic, buying experiences rather than things leads to greater happiness, and the anticipation of those experiences can make you even happier than the experiences themselves.
If you're looking forward to a winter break in a villa in the Canary Islands, for example, you don't anticipate the appearance of some cockroaches, a mouse, and a homeless guy you find one morning sleeping snuggled up next to the glass door to the living room. (As you may have gathered, I'm not speaking hypothetically; I'm writing this from a villa in Fuerteventura.)
There's a related saying that has always stuck in my mind: "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive."
Experiences also bring more happiness after the fact, the studies show. That's because even if the experience turns out differently than you expected, at the very least it gives you something to talk (or write) about.
EXPERIENCES VS. POSSESSIONS
Looking forward to acquiring material things doesn't bring as much happiness, maybe because with those you pretty much know what you're going to get, and the odds are low that it will be better than you expect, while there's a good chance that it will not be as satisfying as you anticipated.
Furthermore, in thinking about an upcoming experience you can image lots of different positive outcomes, whereas with a material possession the expectations may be more predictable.
Of course this is why advertisers try to convince you that you're buying an experience when you're buying a product: "Use XYZ deodorant and women/men will flock to you, just imagine all the sexual adventures you'll have!" Actually, the only thing that will happen is that your armpits will smell better, but that doesn't get the merchandise flying off the shelves.
The studies also found that while people generally will be interested to hear about your experiences, they're not so keen to hear about the material things you have acquired. Since talking about ourselves and having people listen also brings us happiness, that's another plus.
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MORE FONDLY?
This rings true when you think about what people talk about fondly in relating their past.
It's relatively rare that somebody will say, "Boy, I remember that great computer I had...so much internal memory and a retina screen!"
They do say thing like, "I remember that time some friends and I drove across the country..."
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
The moral of the story is to embrace having new experiences. That will give you something to look forward to and something to look back on. And that will make you happy.
In researching my book, Your Creative Writing Masterclass, I found that one thing many great writers have in common is that they come up with ideas while walking. Charles Dickens was famous for this, apparently averaging 20 miles a day!
University lecturer Olle Balter started taking his class for walks in a wooded park instead of teaching in a classroom.
He reports, "Students feel freer to talk when they are outdoors than when they are in a classroom."
He also says 21 of 23 students preferred this method, saying they felt better after an outdoor session than one inside.
Obviously this is more suited to some subjects than to others (Balter teaches media technology), but it is consistent with a Stanford University study linking creativity with physical activity.
The next time you feel yourself stuck--or even when you're not--take a walk!
Here are some great tips, some serious, some silly (but no less useful) about how to free your imagination. They were published on The Painter's Keys, the site of the painters Robert Genn and his daughter Sara:
Books, magazines, media give the "mix and match" advantage.
If you are invited to tell lies, save them for paintings.
Work in places such as the gondolas of hot-air balloons.
Don't always try to get it right. Try to get it wrong.
Fall gently in love with the world of your imagination.
Listen to music. It's abstract. Anything can happen.
Practice "syntagma"--things that suggest other things.
Watch children at play: acting, watching, morphing.
Take off your clothes and roll around in the snow.
Pause often and fire up the "what could be" mode.
Consider doing one or two works with your foot.
Understand the terms "Metaphor" and "Simile."
Never underestimate the value of alcohol.
Use your funny bone--incongruity rules.
Try to learn something new every day.
Don't keep doing the same old stuff.
Don't take yourself too seriously.
Don't worry, be silly.
At fastcreate.com, Director Richard Linklater, recently feted for his film, Boyhood, shares his approach to coming up with the structure of his films:
"There are a lot of stories in the world, and I spend all my time thinking about how to tell them. That, to me, is the cinematic element. That's the hard part: the right narrative form on every movie is the thing I have to break. New forms have always been a part of my thinking. 'Could you ever tell a story this way?'"
"The idea for Boyhood was one of those 'aha' moments that at its core was problem-solving. The film's structure emerged out of trying to solve the problem of how to express that story over a long period of time. It's very straightforward, but in a way that hasn't been done before, because it's just completely impractical."
STRUCTURE VS. PLOT
Linklater is not saying that a film can be made without a structure, but that we don't have to stick to the most common plot shapes:
'When I write a screenplay, I've diagrammed the architecture of the story. There's really got to be a structure; art demands it. I care more about structure, less about plots. Anything plot-driven feels a little more man-made, more manufactured. I'm always going toward something that's a little more true to life."
HOW TO LET THE STORY BE THE MASTER
Linklater's approach mirrors what I often say in the screenwriting classes I teach: Let the story be the master, not the servant. For instance, don't start by trying to squeeze the story into the steps of the hero's journey. Instead, explore the story long enough to discover what it's really about and then figure out a structure that serves it.
Asking a few questions can help you do that:
1. Who is the most interesting person in this story?
2. What happened before the part of the story I intend to tell, and what happens after it?
3. Who and what changes as a result of the incidents in the story?
4. What do I want an audience to feel while watching this story?
Often we are eager to start writing right away. Doing so can be another way of finding the answers to these questions, but it's tempting to regard what you've written as THE way to tell the story, rather than an exploration. That's why I recommend exploring these aspects of the story before you start to write. As a result, you may find yourself ending up with a different protagonist, or telling a different part of the story than you had in mind, or even switching it to a different genre. And you're likely to end up with a script that doesn't seem a carbon copy of existing scripts.
WARNING: RESISTANCE AHEAD
Linklater has a lot of freedom in the stories he chooses to tell and how he tells them. As a writer without his track record, you may well meet resistance if you pitch a story that has a structure not immediately recognizable as the three act structure or the hero's journey.
However, it's also the stories that are told in a fresh way that stand out, and I believe that in the long run you will be well served by emulating Linklater.
The study was published in the journal, Psychological Science and summarized in a New York Times article.
The researchers had one group brainstorm in a neat room and a similar group brainstorm in a messy room. The outcome:
"When we analyzed the responses, we found that the subjects in both types of rooms came up with about the same number of ideas, which meant they put about the same effort into the task. Nonetheless, the messy room subjects were more creative, as we expected. Not only were their ideas 28 percent more creative on average, but when we analyzed the ideas that judges scored as “highly creative,” we found a remarkable boost from being in the messy room — these subjects came up with almost five times the number of highly creative responses as did their tidy-room counterparts."
They say a similar study at Northwestern University showed that people in a messy environment drew more creative pictures.
On this basis, I should be one of the most creative people in the world. Now if I could only find my desk...
According to research by Jennifer Wiley, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the right level of blood alcohol for improving creativity is .075%, and a new beer (so far available only in Copenhagen) features a chart on the back of the bottle that tells you how much of it you need to drink to reach that level, based on your weight and gender.
The beer is called "the Problem Solver" and has an alcohol content of 7.1%, so it may not take too much of it to get you into the right creative state.
The beer was the brainstorm of creative agency CP+B Copenhagen and Rocket Brewing, also of Denmark.
They do warn that if you go too far over the ideal level, the beer might become the problem creator instead of the problem solver!
"When his apprentice wants to know which route he should choose, the Yaqui brujo answers, "Any path is only a path...All paths are the same: they all lead nowhere. The only important question you must ask is: 'Does this path have heart?'
If a path has heart for you, then dare to follow it. It is important to give up on irrelevant questioning, to take care not to waste yourself."
--Sheldon Kopp in "If You Meet the Buddha On the Road, Kill Him!"
Does what you are writing have heart for you? Then dare to follow it. It may or may not lead you to publication; for sure it will lead you to yourself.
December 07, 2014 in Feed Your Head, Getting Ideas to Flow, Screenwriting, Self-publishing, Time to Write, Writer's block, Writers to Admire, Writing a Novel, writing a play, Writing for Children, Writing for children, Writing for Young Adults (YA), Writing Motivation | Permalink | Comments (0)
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"When once a decision is reached and execution is the order of the day, dismiss absolutely all responsibility and care about the outcome. Unclamp, in a word, your intellectual and practical machinery, and let it run free; then the service it will do you is twice as good." -- William James
In other words, when you've decided to go for it, just go for it. Don't second-guess yourself and don't worry about your results from moment to moment. Your'e in it for the long haul.
Some long hauls are longer than others. My "Writer's Block" screenplay took 13 years to get made (as "The Real Howard Spitz") Another one, "At Sea," got ripped off and still hasn't been produced (at least not my version); when it is made it'll overshadow that 13-year wait.
"Freedom is cumulative. One choice made with an element of freedom makes even greater freedom possible for the next choice. Each exercise of freedom enlarges the circle of oneself." - Rollo May
I think this applies to what we write as well as to the rest of our lives. When you refuse to self-censor based on what others might think or whether something is more or less likely to sell (do we ever predict that correctly?) you make your circle of freedom smaller.
It's possible that nobody will want to publish what you write.
You can publish it yourself.
It's possible that nobody will want to buy your self-published book.
You can give it away.
It's possible nobody will want to read the book you give away.
In that case, it was an experiment.
This link is to an article in which Michael Morpurgo talks about how he combined elements of several true stories for his book, "An Elephant in the Garden":
The book has been adapted as a one-woman play, which premiered recently in Exeter.
The article includes this advice:
“It is important that you are passionate about the story. You have to really care. If you are doing it to get rich and famous – forget it. Writing will come to you, but the more research you do the better. There comes a moment when you must sit down and write. It’s in the writing that you find your voice. Once you start, your confidence and self-esteem build with it.”
Bradbury never did stop writing, not until he stopped breathing. He gave you the feeling they were pretty much the same thing.
After the 99th rejection or a few particularly frustrating incidents it can be tempting to stop, but one thing I've found helpful is to switch to a different genre or even a totally different type of writing for a while.
I've spent a lot of my career writing scripts but when I got fed up with some of the more aggravating aspects of that, I switched to writing non-fiction books.
Since then I've tried something totally new for me, a young adult novel and a book for kids.
Yes, it's good to focus your efforts because breaking in to any type of writing is a challenge and you don't want to spread yourself too thin. However, as the saying goes, sometimes a change is as good as a rest.
(You'll find great writing advice from Ray Bradbury and many other classic and modern authors in my book, Your Creative Writing Masterclass. It's published by Nicholas Brealey and available from your favorite bookseller.)
"I read and I walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me." -- Anna Quindlen
That one hits home for me; I used to wander around the Stanford campus late at night when I was a student there, sometimes feeling like I was in a movie but not knowing whether it was a comedy or a tragedy.
Those are the years when it's easy to imagine yourself as some kind of doomed hero because you don't yet have a job or mortgage to think about and you doubt you'll ever make it to old age (40) anyway.
If you're writing, are you meeting yourself? If not, might there be a different type of writing you could be doing?
If you've put off starting to write or making it a regular part of your life, might this be a good time to do so?
(You'll find friendly guidance for your writing in my book, Your Writing Coach. It's published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing and available from your favorite bookseller.)
We're coming off Daylight Savings Time, it's getting dark earlier, and there are more grey days ahead. Do you find your motivation flagging as winter sets in? I do--I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (a bright SAD light helps).
Even without that, a lot of people have a bit more trouble staying motivated during this time of year.
One thing that can help is to make sure we're you're not focusing on the wrong things:
* What you haven't achieved yet
* What went wrong recently
* What mistakes you've made
* What people owe you (favors, gratitude, etc.)
* What's worse than it used to be
* The things you can't do as well as you used to
* What people could be doing for you
If you want to feel good and stay motivated, shift your focus to:
* What you have achieved
* What went well recently
* What you got right
* What others have given you
* What's better than it used to be
* The things you can do better than you used to (keep your temper, appreciate life, etc.)
* What you could be doing for other people
I'm not suggesting you ignore the negatives, but putting your attention on the positives will make you happier (and more popular). If you're having a dark day, try seeing the day's events through the filter of the second list. It can be useful to print out this list and keep it where you can see it, to remind you to maintain a positive mindset.