I've long been interested in polymathy and written about it here and for Aeon magazine. I found though that the subject is both engaging and elusive, it sort of slips through your fingers. People like the concept of polymathy but then think 'what next'. Today i realised the thing holding people back is a fear of learning something new. For whatever reason. Often they have ceased to give themselves permission to learn something new (reasons being - too old, too busy, not talented etc). My breakthrough is Micromastery- because it- ABOVE ALL ELSE- restores the permission to be interested in whatever you want. It restores the permission to learn. Anyway after that trumpet burst I just want to remind the loyal readers out there the book is coming out in May courtesy of penguin books...
I used to think a writer learned from other writers by reading a lot and thinking a bit about things after he had read them. I don't think so now. Most books just pass you by.You work out how they 'work'- and that is something, but this is no use to you as a writer, only as a critic. A writer is someone who can write books, not tell you what is wrong with other people's books. In fact several writers I know who are excellent at their trade and successful to boot haven't much of a CLUE what makes a good story or book- but that doesn't matter- they know how to make one.
Bak to learning - you learn instantly from something you admire and are open to. That works, you tell yourself, I'm going to copy that. Of course when you copy it no one can tell because every half decent writer learns early on how to cover their tracks pretty well. But that's the way- BANG- instant knowledge when you SEE something that is right for YOU. Not every book is, but when you find the ones that are, copy mercilessly.
Climbing a high mountain it's tempting to run on ahead, rest and run on. And if you are in the lead this seems to work. But when it gets very high the recovery time becomes inordinately long. You start getting overtaken by the tortoises who's rule of travel is 'never go faster than the pace you can keep up forever without stopping'. Climb a flight of stairs in bounds and you'll be exhausted fast. Climb it by making a single step, bringing the second foot to the same step and then making another, bringing the second foot to the same step and so on - and you'll be able to climb forever.
Habits that you can't maintain forever eventually require so much recovery time the more temperate folk begin to overtake you. If you plan on keeping going the right habit is the one you can keep going with every day of your life.
Andy Warhol said, probably flippantly, 'do everything either every day or once'. Lot of sense in that.
I am teaching with Jason Webster a course on the secrets of story writing and story making for novels, screenplays and short stories
20th- 25th NOVEMBER 2016 Wigtown Scotland
This is the real deal- we teach how to generate great new material not merely edit or critique existing stuff
We do not do lame read-throughs of Casablanca itemising plot points
We teach you how to connect to the ether to mainline the incredible wealth of story material waiting to be used!
We teach the importance of relationships over character
We teach the importance of submission and domination over 'conflict'
We'll show you how to plot effortlessly by stacking the initial idea in your favour
Join us for an incredible £250 course...
any questions email robtwigger (at) g.mail.com
It's a bit silly to try and divide the world into two kinds of people- but here goes.
Everyone has a bit of the engineer in them and a bit of the buzzard. Sometimes you get pure buzzard and pure engineer, but most people are a mix. The engineer part achieves a flow state (a psychological state where some kind of challenge is fully matched by ones skills to meet it, leaving one entranced and fully 'in the moment') by finding a problem, a real problem with a physical dimension, a demonstrable and obvious problem- and using all his skills- solving it. Solving the problem may require some, even a great deal of, imagination but imgaination is a tool, a means, not an end.
A buzzard achieves a flow state by getting a buzz from ideas and imagination. 'What if?' the buzzard thinks and he's away. Buzzards can leap over buildings and any obstacles. Buzzards can defy time and aging, they can imagine living for a 1000 years and being known by every person on the planet. Sometimes a crazy idea by a buzzard actually solves a problem that an engineer has framed. The buzzard gets sudden fame.
When an engineer gets a bit of buzzard in him he tries to solve every single thing that is framed as a 'problem' in the world using only the tools he knows. He comes a cropper.
When a buzzard gets a bit of engineer in them they let their minds soar and imagine problems and solutions that do not and could never exist.
Both buzzards and engineers suffer a common delusion- they believe all problems can be solved.
The secret is- don't let them mix. Use the buzzard to escape the earthbound trap and see things differently. Use the engineer to solve real and demonstrable problems. Asking whether something is really a problem, whether it makes sense to frame it thus as a problem, whether the real problem might lie elsewhere, whether, having framed the problem, it might be insoluble all these are things that you need to think about before you let the buzzard or the engineer loose.