Good Reading : March 2017
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING MARCH 2017 20 1. Go into training Read for at least an hour a day. Read in the genre you want to wr ite in: if you want to wr ite short stor ies, read short stor ies, if novels, read novels. Rationale:This isn’t just because you’re like an architect needing to familiarise yourself with what’s going on in your field but because constant reading affects your very plastic brain. Without knowing it, you are absorbing the know-how of other writers. You’re training your brain. How long do you need to do this for? Think of yourself as an athlete. 2. Still the mind During the day while you’re training, practise ceasing the chatter in your mind. It’s not a wandering mind we’re after, it’s a stilled mind. Stilling is a skill. With practice, you can go for longer and longer. How do you start? Repetition helps – ironing, scrubbing, walking. I’ve heard of someone who folds socks. Aim to learn to stay in the stillness for 15 minutes. This is a good tip not only for wr iting; it also makes you happier! Rationale: Studies show that the brain activity of creative people lessens temporarily just before they create – that is, they temporarily still their minds. 3. Make the clay When you eventually sit down to write, choose a private place.Your aim is to lose your sense of self, your sense of purpose, and of place and time. The first wr iting is for you.You’re not wr iting to communicate – not at first – but to have a dialogue with yourself. There’s a lot down there, down deep, for you to discover. Rationale: Creativity is a vulnerable state. Respect it. 4. Wait Don’t start wr iting until you have nothing to say. Go into stillness. Wait until an odd thought comes out of ‘nowhere’ and flickers across your mind. Write it down, no matter how silly, how weird, how shocking, how unlike you it is. See where it takes you. Do this again and again. Proven creative people know such odd thoughts are treasures. Let the writing surprise you; let it talk back to you. Rationale:You’re seeking new neural pathways to your deepest mind, not your usual logical pathways connected to your highly trained, prediction-seeking prefrontal cortex. 5. Sculpt the clay When the wr iting stops talking to you – and only then – read a manual on the principles of making a story. Only then should you apply the rules, find your plot embedded in what you’ve wr itten, find themes in it, edit and show it to friends. Rationale: After you’ve made the clay, use your usual, clever, logical prefrontal cortex to sculpt it. I elaborate these methods and the science behind them in The Mystery of the Cleaning Lady: A writer looks at creativity and neuroscience. All my novels and the stories in Do You Love Me or What? were written using these tips. Do You Love Me or What? by Sue Woolfe is published by Simon & Schuster, rrp $29.99. WRITER’S LIFE Creativity is often thought of as a special gift bestowed on only a handful of lucky people. But as Australian novelist SUE WOOLFE points out, it’s a skill that you can cultivate. Here are five tips she used to create her latest collection of stories, Do You Love Me or What?