Archive for March, 2011

Don’t be afraid to borrow an idea!!!

March 24, 2011

Many people think of creativity as highly individual.  They don’t think you can be very creative if you borrow ideas, or take what someone else has done and turn it into so much more.  I’m not talking about plagiarism, or idea theft.  I am talking about using other things as a base idea, then stretching it, bending it, and molding it into something new that you can call your own.

It would be good to think of an idea as a tree.  We didn’t create the tree; it was already there.  We cut the tree down; start cutting chunks off until we see the basic shape we’re looking for.  After we get the main look, we use finer tools, sandpaper, and eventually stain and polyurethane until you have a well-made canoe. 

Being on Youtube, I like to read comments that deal with another person’s creativity.  In one particular instance there was a comment regarding Amy MacDonald’s song “This is the Life”.  According to the comment, she had stolen the music portion of the song from Los Ketchup, and their song “Asereje”.  After hearing both songs together, there are definitely similarities.  Of course the question here is if she stole the music; the answer is no.  Amy used the same music style, with the same basic beat, but the entire song is uniquely hers.

Does this mean anything is fair game?  Of course not; there are billions of people in the world, and each person has a creative mode of communication.  The chances of similarities are almost guaranteed, but when entire pieces are copied, word for word, this is when you run into problems of plagiarism. 

In Germany, a young girl entered a novel writing contest with a novel she “Wrote”.  Later, it turned out she had copied the entire novel from various sources.  She lost the publishing contract, but the contest judges had ruled that her novel was still eligible to win the 20,000 dollar grand prize.  While the contest judges didn’t take the situation seriously, everyone else did.  Copy write violations are very serious, and they rob other writers of the reputation the earned by hard work and originality. 

The point of this is, don’t be afraid to borrow an idea or two to fuel your own creativity; but don’t stoop to idea theft to skip a few steps in the quest for popularity.  Give others their creative due, they earned it.

The Importance of Communication!!!

March 13, 2011

Out of the tools we have as humans, the two most important are math, and communication.  Math is definitely important in the physical world.  Without it we wouldn’t have buildings, science, technology, or even industry.  Even with everything math does for our lives, I still feel communication is infinitely more important.  Whether at work, at home, or somewhere in between, communication makes it possible for people to work together and play together.  Without proper communication, any interpersonal relationship we have would be doomed.

There are many forms of communication humans use to convey ideas; there’s written communication, verbal, body language, any of the visual arts, music, and the list continues on.  The point is, when we learn the arts we are actually learning communication.  Is it any wonder when a school system threatens to reduce the arts programs that I get upset?  The arts are, at its core, communication in all its forms.   I just want to go over the more obvious forms of communication; written, verbal, and body language, because they are more universal to all people than visual and musical arts.

“When you read a book, as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading does.”  This quote from the movie “You’ve got Mail” Is one of the best quotes on reading I’ve ever seen.  The written word has a lot of power; even more than verbal communication.  I say this because it has more permanence.  We certainly can’t go back to ancient Greece, and hear the words of philosophers like Plato, but we can read what he said.  If you would like a more recent example, we can bring it up to 19th century England.  Charles Dickens wrote the story of “Oliver Twist”, which changed the way orphans are treated in society.

As writers, we have a responsibility to communicate thoughts and ideas that will help others, and bring them a greater understanding of the world around them.  Regardless of what we write; humor, drama, mainstream, or genre, how we write what we want to convey, is imperative in making our thoughts heard.

It’s only recently that verbal communication has made a lasting impression; with the invention of radio, and television, we have been able to hear what someone says long after their death.  The written word is designed with permanence in mind, but verbal communication is meant for that moment, and it is a lot more personal.

The biggest advantage to verbal communication is that not everyone can comprehend everything they read.  A perfect example is people with dyslexia.  As far as conveying thoughts, they are both important,  and need to be used correctly, or people will get the wrong impression.

We’ve all heard that actions speak louder than words, and with body language, that is very evident; from the way you stand, to the way you look at someone when they make you mad, to those lovely finger gestures on the highway when someone cuts you off.  Your body can convey emotions better than your words, at times.  There is no permanence to them, and it’s only conveyed in the moment, but it can tell others a lot about you and your personality.

Proper communication skills are essential in starting, and maintaining solid relationships.  Not being clear in your communication can lead to misunderstanding, heated tempers, and the destruction of any relationship.  So be careful how you communicate,  and save your relationships.

Block busters: A guide for beginning writers!!!

March 9, 2011

 If you are trying to spend your writing time writing, and you are stuck looking at a blank page; it’s seems the easiest thing to do is turn off the computer, or put down the pen, and walk away.  Before you do anything that dramatic, here are just a few things to try first before you just give up.

Writer’s block is the number one killer of writers’ careers around the world, and it destroys a writer’s confidence.  A writer is supposed to draw inspiration from everything around them, but there is no guarantee that what you see in life will ever see a page.  There are numerous books written on how to overcome writer’s block, and yet people still struggle through the writing process.

Before I give you these methods, I just want to make a couple of things clear.  First, I did not make these methods up; they are just the ones I’ve had the greatest success with.  The methods mentioned here have been around for centuries, and will continue long after I’m gone.  I just feel it’s good to have an occasional reminder. Second, this list contains only a couple of tricks.  I am, by no means, an expert, and can only say what I’ve experienced.  There is no limit to the ways to break writer’s block, and you should take advantage of every method possible.

Start every writing session with a warm up exercise.  I’m not talking about physical exercise, but that will help as well.  What I am talking about though is writing warm ups.  Give yourself a set amount of time to write something that has nothing to do with a current project.  If you’re having trouble coming up with a subject, there are a number of books with writing prompts, and if that doesn’t help, there are more prompts  on www.writersdigest.com that have proven to be helpful, and fun.

The second method I like is starting with one word, and building from that.  It doesn’t matter what the word is, you just start with that word.  This method has worked with my writing time 99 percent of the time. If you don’t think it works; this blog was written with this method.  

Of course the last method is the “what if” game.  Not only does it work, but almost every writer uses it on a regular basis.  For those who have never heard of this, the “what if” game is simple.  You take a subject and ask “what if”.  The movie “Tremors” started with the creator asking “What if people were killed by something they couldn’t see?”  From there the story developed into the movie series it is.

Regardless which writer’s block buster you choose, the most important thing you can do is be there.  Half the battle to writing is showing up in the first place.  Give yourself the time to write and don’t do anything during that time, but write.  You may surprise yourself with what you come up with.

Finding the right exercise routine!!!

March 7, 2011

As I mentioned in the last blog, exercise is one of the two best creativity boosters, so that makes it imperative that you get yourself into a routine as soon as possible.  Of course, if you already have an exercise routine, you’re all set; if not, you may wonder which one is right for you.  The simple answer is, there is not a simple answer.

Any exercise program, as long as you are exercising, is good.  There are thousands of exercise videos, and machines out there, as well as gyms, paths for jogging; no wonder it’s hard for someone just starting to find one.  If the multitude of choices leaves you pulling out your hair, and muttering endlessly, here are three questions that may help you make an informed decision.

“What is my price range?”  This question, especially with the current economic situation, is something you need to consider carefully.  Prices go anywhere from free (and depends on the weather) into the thousands.  A good program should help you lose fat, not your paycheck.  The exerciser I chose was only 200, in easy installments.  It was what I could afford at the time, and it’s done great ever since.  If you are still overwhelmed, there are still two questions to consider.

“How much space do I have?”  This will help to narrow the field quite a bit.  If you live in a mansion, with 20 rooms, you can fit a lot more equipment than someone in a small apartment.  Your only concern in this case is how much room you have to spare.  A bowflex, for example, would never fit in my apartment; well it’ll fit, but we would barely have the room to move around it.  You could always go for a fitness DVD (like “Walk Fit”, or “Sweatin to the Oldies”) or go for a small machine.  Both are usually easy to use, and cheap enough to fit in most peoples’ budgets.  There is still one more question that may just bring you to the right program.

“What area of my body needs the most work?”  This question is very important since it will narrow the decision considerably.  Many of the DVDs, jogging and walking focus on the lower part of the body, than any other part.  Bowflex, while it’s great for the legs, focuses more on the upper body.  The exerciser I have, (The Red max Fitness Professional) focuses more on the mid-section, even though it’s great on other parts of the body. 

When you answer all three of these questions, you can find the best exercise program to meet your specific needs, don’t be afraid to ask for help from a fitness store, They have always been helpful to me.  Don’t worry about getting the wrong one; if it works with the three answers you came up with, it’s the right one.

Enjoy,

Allen