Of Sherlock, Larsson & Terry Pratchett.

I read this article from ‘The Verge’ today, and it made me think about the legacies that creatives leave behind them.

I’m sure you’ll have heard of Terry Pratchett – one of the most celebrated authors of our generation. Sadly, he died in 2015, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s – over the years he sold 85 million books worldwide, and they were translated into 37 different languages.

Quite the legacy.

The other legacy that Pratchett left behind was ten unpublished/unfinished novels that were stored on his hard drive.

So, what did he want done with these books? Did he want them published? Did he want someone to ghost-write them and finish them for him?

Nope. He asked for the hard drive to be destroyed by Lord Jericho.

Lord Jericho being a vintage steam roller.

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And so away went Pratchett’s unfinished legacy, never to grace his worldwide readership. Meaning that no editors or ghostwriters would be able to change his work after his death.

Which, for him, was the perfect outcome.

However, not every creative is so lucky. Take for example, Steig Larsson.

Larsson burst onto the scene in the early noughties. His ‘Millenium’ trilogy became a worldwide sensation – and, if you haven’t read the three books, I firmly implore you to give them a go.

Sadly, Larsson died of a sudden heart attack in 2004. At that time his three novels were sat on his computer – unpublished. In 2005 the first one was released.

But, Larsson would never know that. Which I find realy sad. He was an activist and a journalist by trade, and had often hinted to colleagues and friends that he was writing some novels that would be his ‘retirement fund’.

What’s worse is that Larsson’s sudden death caused problems with his estate  and where the royalties and copyright should go. Whether it should go to his reportedly ‘estranged’ family  or to his partner, Eva – the debate still rages on now – over ten years later.

Since then a couple of other books have been released in the series, written by a completely different writer – and done so without the blessings of Larsson’s partner.

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And, you have to wonder, how would he feel about this? Should a writer’s work go with the writer, or should it stay?

I wonder what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would think of the ‘Sherlock’ TV series, and who knows what HP Lovecraft would think of the many films and novels that his stories spawned.

It’s nice to be beside the seaside…

Today I didn’t write because I went to the seaside.

There’s something in the saying “oh I do like to be beside the seaside”.

There’s something about the air and the sun as it twinkles off the water. 

A cleansing, blow-out-the-cobwebs experience.

It made me feel creative.
 I know us artists and writers can often be indoor types but crisp, clean and fresh air should never be discounted as a remedy for the creative block.

3 creativity hacks that will help you.

You create things every day without thinking.

Whether it be a thoughtful ‘happy birthday’ post on a friend’s Facebook wall, a nagging email to the colleague who keeps using your instant coffee or a doodle on the side of your notepad.

So, how come when you set down to write that bestseller, or to draw that masterpiece we’ve been imagining, it can be so hard to get going?

I’m sorry to say that there’s no easy fix.

No magic tablet that, once you swallow it, makes you more of a creative juggernaut. If only that film Limitless was real, ey?

Here are 3 creativity hacks that might just make things a little easier…


Here are a few things that can be done to get the creative juices flowing.

FUEL


Your mind is a vehicle. If you don’t put the right fuel in, you’re not gonna get the right results out.

And, if you put nothing into it at all…well, you’re not going to get anywhere.

If you want to create, you need to read. 

A wide breadth of things. In my current ‘to-read’ list I’ve got everything from a book on spin doctors to an account of Voodoo activity in Haiti. Neither of those are topics I’m looking to pursue – but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements there that won’t inspire me.

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Let’s say you’re writing a fantasy book.

You’ve read all the classics and some contemporary pieces, and you’re still out of ideas. Why don’t you read about politics?

I mean after all, most fantasy worlds have some sort of government…in fact they’re often run by extreme dictatorships – maybe you could draw inspiration?

“Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. You can help this process by going for a long walk, or taking a hot bath, or drinking half a pint of claret. Suddenly, if the telephone line from your unconscious is open, a big idea wells up within you.” – (Ogilvy, David – Ogilvy on Advertising.)

33.3


I’ve already covered this tip on another post – but it’s such an important one that I think it belongs in any list.

Often we force ourselves to be creative, and it doesn’t really work.

In my final year at University, I’d schedule days and days to be in the library to work on my final project. But yet, words didn’t come at times – everything around me was distracting. The more I tried to stop myself from being distracted, the more distracted I was.

I wish I’d heard of the 33.3 method then. Basically a mega-productive author and copywriter, Eugene Schwartz, worked out that the maximum time he could be creative for was 33 minutes and 3 seconds. During that time he’d ban himself from leaving the chair, and once the timer went off he go be distracted for ten minutes and then return for another 33.3 spell.

It really works. I know a lot of writers who have employed this, and it’s a good ‘un. I reckon it could work for making music or designing something too.

SIX THINKING HATS


This technique works best if you’re working on a group project, but I reckon you can also do it when working solo – it just requires a bit of role-play. No the Dungeons ‘n’ Dragons type, mind you.

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(http://johnkapeleris.com)

It was originally thought up by Dr. Edward De Bono. It works well once you’ve got the basic concept of what you want to do. If you put on each hat and analyse what it is you’re going to be creating you should have a better idea by the end of it.

More a preparation technique…but I don’t believe that preparation inhibits creativity.

So, there you have it…


Those are just a few things that I’ve found that help me. They’re also good for productivity in general.

If you’re passionate about being creative, you should also be passionate about being productive.

Particularly if you don’t get much time to be creative in your daily life.

“Productivity is being able to do things that you were never able to do before.”
~ Franz Kafka

What took you off the sofa today?

The writing that connects with you emotionally is the best. You must have had it before where you’ve read a few sentences, and had to look up from the page and take a moment to reflect on how much you can relate to it.

Not only that but great writing can also change your perspective on so many things, or at the very least give you an insight  into why others’ perspectives differ from yours.

Sorry if I’m stating the obvious, but sometimes in life I feel we need to be ‘Captain Obvious’ occasionally and remind ourselves of the things that we take for granted.

But where do you get the ammo? I mean sure, some of us are born with a natural affinity for words – some people can construct a sentence with enough flare and gusto to match a West End show. But, without having the right topic to talk about – flowery writing is just flowery writing. Almost like a piece of average art – hung up in a corner of your house that you never really look at, pleasing to the eye but otherwise useless.

To me, it comes from experience – I love reading stories about faraway lands and cities I’ve never seen. But the ones that get to me the most, with the devil in their detail, are those that are written by people who have actually gotten out of their sofas and been there.

So this is one of the things I’m going to do to make sure that I write more, and better. I’m going to push my boundaries, get out of my sofa more and take in more of what life has to offer.

As we all know very well, it’s so easy to get involved in solving life’s day-to-day problems that you can sometimes lose sight of the great stuff happening around you.

A dinner party for strangers…

You’ve been asked to help your friend host a dinner party. You’re a decent cook and you know your way around a wine-food pairing scale, so you should have no problems.

The catch is…you don’t know any of the guests – they’re all your friend’s friends. Of course that’ll create a few general social hurdles for you to scale when the night comes, such as initiating conversation with strangers (!!) – but, the main obstacle is having to cook and prepare a night of entertainment for some people you know nothing about.

So what do you do? I mean, yeah you can create an all-rounder menu that you hope everyone will like – but then, particularly in this day & age, diets are so widespread that you could majorly miss the mark. And hell hath no embarrassment as embarrassingly embarrassing as mild social embarrassment, right?

Imagine the social ramifications – a collection of eyeballs bulging out as you dare to serve brie to a vegan! Or, on a somewhat darker note, the chance that the cake you prepared might trigger off a nut allergy – meaning a change of location from your living room to A & E.

And, believe me, the options in A & E vending machines aren’t gourmet. Even if you put a cocktail stick through them.

How would you resolve this predicament? It’s simple really. You’d investigate. You’d ask your friend and perhaps use social media to check their friends’ Instagrams – as, let’s face it, if a meal is munched without being uploaded to Instagram, was it even consumed at all?

But the point I’m driving at is that you’d research. You’d get an idea of who you were cooking for, and you’d make up your night accordingly. Creating a menu to accommodate everyone – a peppering of personal flair here and there.

My question is – why wouldn’t you do that for your writing?

Whether it be a blog post, a sales letter, social content, a novel, etc – you need to have an idea of who you’re writing for and what they’d like.

Next time you sit down to write something, take a little time to do some research about the kind of person you’ll be writing for.

Those reading a ‘young adult’ novel aren’t going to want to read a breakaway chapter about Thatcher’s Britain, while senior citizens aren’t going to respond very well to a meme about how annoying it is when your mum disturbs your FIFA game by calling you to dinner.

Personalisation is the key to connecting with your audience, and if you’re not interested in finding out about them you’ll struggle to engage them.