Tag Archives: Writer’s Psychology

Funding the MFA: A New Approach

25 year-old Denis wants to attend the MFA program at Hollins in the fall, but can’t afford to go. Sound familiar? Denis’s solution, though, is new. He decided to do some internet fundraising. He writes on his blog:

Instead of asking people to loan me money for school, I’m now asking them to simply give me money. To that extent, I’ve created a fundraising page on fundable, and if you can spare $10, please pledge towards my goal. Since I can’t get a loan and there is no way my parents can pay my tuition, I’ll have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

You can check out his fundraising site directly here. At time of writing, Denis only had $10 in contributions. Is this because his campaign is brand new (launched 7/13/09) or because there’s a recession on, or because this idea simply isn’t going to work?

There’s also this article, over at Publisher’s Weekly, about writer and blogger Dianna Zandt, who, after signing a deal for her first book that provided no advance, decided to “crowdfund” the money she needed to write over the summer. It helps that her topic is “…writing about the power of social media to shift perceptions and cultural values.” She’s been pretty successful so far, it seems – you can read her thoughts and feedback on the process (plus tips for others who are considering going the the same route) here.

What do you think? Are Denis and Deanna smart to try this approach? Is their initiative laudable? Do their requests for funds seem justified to you? And is this a sign of things to come?

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Something Naturally and Abruptly Crawls In

Or: Why Daydreaming is Good for Your Writing Life.

This interesting article from the Wall Street Journal should make anyone (like me, for example) who seems to spend hours in unfocused thought feel a little better. A couple of quotes:

…our brain may be most actively engaged when our mind is wandering and we’ve actually lost track of our thoughts, a new brain-scanning study suggests.

And:

By most measures, we spend about a third of our time daydreaming, yet our brain is unusually active during these seemingly idle moments. Left to its own devices, our brain activates several areas associated with complex problem solving, which researchers had previously assumed were dormant during daydreams. Moreover, it appears to be the only time these areas work in unison.

A third? If all is going well, I’ll spend longer daydreaming than that, mate. There’s nothing like a good daydreaming session to make me feel productive. The brain mechanisms that this article talks about might also be the reason that I get great writing ideas when I run. As I’m plodding round the park, sometimes, admittedly, I’m listening to 1980s rave tunes and reliving my clubbing days. But other times, my mind enters a fugue state and, well, I just realize something. That scene I have been stuck on, about my grandmother? It’s really about my father. Aha. Of course.

Haruki Murakami, a novelist I admire, is also a runner, and his book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, contains his own treatise on why running is good for the writer’s life. In this quote from an interview on the Runner’s World website, he seems to describe the same experience that I have had, and that the researchers in the Wall Street Journal article are talking about. Murakami says:

I try not to think about anything special while running. As a matter of fact, I usually run with my mind empty. However, when I run empty-minded, something naturally and abruptly crawls in sometimes. That might become an idea that can help me with my writing.

Our next challenge is to pay attention to that thing that has crawled in. Write it down. Follow where it leads.

Get Your Freedom On

freedom1

I am here today to tell you about two pieces of software that, combined, might just be saving my life right now. Hyperbole? Not even. I’m deadly serious.

The first is called Freedom and I’m afraid it’s for Mac users only, though there may be a PC equivalent. What Freedom does is block your access to the internet for the amount of time that you specify. It’s that simple. Free yourself from your internet addiction! Ditch the distractions! Write without checking your email every five minutes! Get your Freedom on! Download it here!

Wouldn’t it be great if we had the self-control to limit our own internet use, without the need for a technological intervention? Sure — but when every coffee shop in the metro area seems to have free wireless, to do that you’d need the will power of a superman. I don’t know about you, but that just ain’t me. I’ll take the help, thanks.

Freedom is also, um, free. But please consider making a donation if you use it and like it. In the immortal words of George Michael: You’ve got to give for what you take.

The second piece of software that is rocking my world right now… Continue reading

False Memories

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine “…are closing in on the exact procedures for creating false memories in individuals in a wide variety of circumstances”

Scary! But fascinating! Read more here.

Update: Of course this idea is already at play in popular culture — hello, Dollhouse! Check out this excellent blog post about why this series is and yet isn’t and yet is worth watching.

I Love Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s true, I do. Check this talk out — she has some great wisdom to share.

I tried to embed the video and once again, failed. It’s not me, it’s WordPress…honest. Anyhoo, follow the link. It’s worth it.

Do Modern Memoirists Dream of Electric Memories?

Back in December ’08 I visited an exhibition staged by the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. This is when all the ITP students showcase their work. My NYS (New York Sister), Amanda Bernsohn, is a student in the program. Just for background, the ITP website describes the course as “a living community of technologists, theorists, engineers, designers, and artists uniquely dedicated to pushing the boundaries of interactivity in the real and digital worlds.”

To which I can only say: Yay! Looking at all the exhibits was like walking around inside a bunch of intelligent, creative minds. Now, I’m not an overly technical person, so much of the programming part of what these people were doing was totally beyond me, but what I found so fascinating was that they were all making interesting connections. Taking a concept from one area of thought and applying it somewhere else. Twisting ideas around to get new, more interesting ideas. And, along the way, quite possibly coming up with products that will be part of our daily lives in the near future.

Take Amanda’s project for example: Urban Windchimes. It’s so awesome. Check out the website for more info, but the basic concept is that, in our urban environments, people don’t always want to listen to other people’s windchimes. With this invention, you can place a wind sensor on your window ledge or fire escape and pay the chimes through your computer. There’s the possibility of placing sensors all over the world — ever wanted to listen to the wind on Mount Fiji? Or in the Bahamas? How cool would that be?

Then there were a few projects that were dealing, in one way or another, with memory. And this got me thinking about the connection between memory and technology, and how the digital revolution means we might well remember things differently in the future. This, in turn, has some pretty interesting consequences for future memoirists.

Continue reading

Author Sells Royalties, Fights Troll

A few weeks ago, Tao Lin, poet, novelist, short story writer, and editor at 3:AM Magazine, moved into the futures business – offering to sell, for two thousand dollars each, six ten percent stakes in the royalties of his as yet unfinished second novel, due to be published next year by independent Brooklyn press Melville House. A full article about the venture can be found here, care of Publishers Weekly.

Interesting, I thought, and kind of smart. After all, if David Bowie can do it, why not Tao Lin? Make some money, get some publicity, and build an audience. A few days after I found out about the offer I went to check out Lin’s blog, Reader of Depressing Books, but I was too late. The offer had been closed. No matter — I probably wouldn’t have shelled out the cash anyway. Instead, I found myself drawn into some of the other posts, in particular one about how Lin had been flamed on the internet (by what he calls “a shit talking entity”) and so he was inviting his blog readers to chime in about what a good and honest person he is.

I’m intrigued. What is it that people are saying that could be so bad that he feels he has to mount such a public defense? Then I remember that I have heard about Lin before – on Gawker, no less – when I was directed, by a link, to this article from the Seattle based alt weekly The Stranger, in which Lin charts the various levels of writing greatness. I remember reading that piece and thinking — hmm, there are not many people I know who could compare Anne Tyler to a $9.98 Petco Gerbil and get away with it. I remember also thinking, there’s someone who is very clear-eyed about how this whole publishing world works.

So I hang out at Lin’s blog a little more and read more posts, and the comments left in response to those posts, and I deduce a few things. The first is that Lin has quite the following, and many of his acolytes leave comments that seem to be written in his own style. Ergo, Lin is already influencing people. Ergo, he must be original to some degree, and have things to say that others respond to. So what exactly is his style? Continue reading