Fyodor Dostoyevsky and the importance of perspective

Perspective is the key to telling stories and understanding the best ways to communicate with people.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky is one of the most famous authors of all time. He grew up in Russia during the 1800s and his books – such as Crime & Punishment, The Idiot and Demons are still widely read today.

One of Dostoyevsky’s biggest skills in his writing, asides from his storytelling, was his ability to talk so deeply and truly when it came to mortality.

Mortality is, of course, one of most prevalent human issues and something that we all have in the corner of our minds. So, if an author can talk about this well, they’ll often get our attention right away.

Why was Dostoyevsky so talented when it came to talking about mortality?


Because he had a perspective very few of us will ever be around to share.

He knew what those last few seconds before death felt like.

In 1849 the ruler of Russia at the time, Nicolas I, had banned a lot of famous literature because he was worried that it might stir up revolution.

Being classically non-conformist creatives, Dostoyevsky and his friends had decided to try and read those books. But, unfortunately for them, Nicolas I caught and arrested them.

They faced the death penalty…

So, on a cold day in Saint Petersburg, Dostoyevsky and his friends were blindfolded and lined up in front of a firing squad.

A few moments ticked by.

The Commander motioned for his men to take aim.

Dostoyevsky and co winced as they heard the soldiers preparing to fire.

Seconds before a plethora of triggers were pulled there came another sound…at first it sounded like heavy rain…but soon they realised that it was a horse & cart – approaching them at an electrifying pace.

Aboard the cart was a message from Nicolas I.

What was the message?

Simple. After some consideration Nicolas I had decided to imprison them rather than have them executed.

And, so they survived – and Dostoyevsky lived to write again.

But, this time he was armed with the knowledge of how those few hopeless moments before death felt. A perspective that few others had, and one that he could exploit in his writings.

As a writer, what perspectives do you have that no one else does?


by Ashley Brown 2018

 

Inspired by this great Quora article

Eighty percent of success is…

“Eighty percent of success is showing up”
– Woody Allen.

I think this is a very apt quote for a site called ‘whyididntwritetoday’.

Because if you don’t start writing or trying to write success won’t come anywhere near you.

Woody Allen started out writing jokes for people, and then decided that he’d be good at delivering the jokes himself.

So he started by getting bit-parts in TV shows that he wrote the jokes for.

But, because he wasn’t a big name, they used to give his funniest jokes to the stars of the show.

Woody didn’t like this.

So he decided to only go for parts where he could play the lead.

Which meant that he had his pick of the best lines, monologues and jokes.

Look at him now. It paid off.

Should you be more ‘War and Peace’ or more Ernest Hemingway?

‘War and Peace was first published as a book in 1869.

It has around 1,225 pages.

It’s philosophical, emotional, realistic and very involving.

If you can read it that is. That’s a hell of a lot of pages.

Most people can’t and won’t find the time to read all that.

Particularly with modern day leisure distractions such as computer games and on demand streaming

On the other hand, Ernest Hemingway is known for writing one of the shortest stories of all time.

It goes:

For Sale: baby shoes, never worn”.

It has impact doesn’t it? It makes you think and leaves you with many questions.

So, when it comes to your own writing, it’s a worthy reminder that you don’t need to write the next ‘War and Peace’ to connect with an audience and drive a point.

Not to say that longform content doesn’t always work…its just a case of understanding your reader.

What would work for those who read The Guardian wouldn’t work for those who read The Sun.

Beware! The Termites of Productivity!

Beware! The termites of productivity!

Sometimes they pop up when you least expect them, other times you can see them coming from a mile off – yet, no matter how hard you try to fight them, they can end up getting the better of you.

Usually it happens when you’re working remotely or freelancing, but it can happen when you’re in the office too.

By termites, I mean those little problems that pop up and plague you to the point that they break into your productivity or, even worse, your creativity.

Earlier today I’d just set sails into a sea of creativity when I fell victim to a termite of productivity.

In the shape of this USB mouse:

20170907_153217.jpg

The track pad on my laptop has seen better days (along with the laptop itself) and, to try and delay buying a new one as much as possible, I decided to invest in a USB mouse.

I connected it and all was running smoothly for about thirty seconds.

Then it, quite randomly, decided to disconnect itself.

Was it the batteries? No.
Was it a potential hacker? No.
Was the mouse faulty? Unknown.
Was it conspiracy? *puts tinfoil hat on*
Did plugging it in and out again work? Yes.

But…the problem persisted.

Every few minutes it would decide to disconnected itself, so I’d have to stop my flow and reconnect it.

Doesn’t sound too bad…yet, when you’re working to deadlines, those minutes add up and, because you’re so intent on fixing the problem, you can lose track of just how much time you’ve lost.

Thus, the termites of productivity – little problems that slowly creep up and take away your time.

I’m sure you all know what I mean.

Don’t let them ole termites break you.

Keep your focus and keep the end goal in mind.

…now, let me email the company I bought it from…(oh wait, that’ll eat up even more of my time)

Making it past the first round…

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story”

– Terry Pratchett.

I’m currently writing the first draft of a novel, right now I’m 25k words in. Some days it’s a struggle, but other days my words flow like the rocky rapids.

On the slower days it’s easy to get disheartened and to lose interest.

So, this is a quote that I keep coming back to whenever I find my foot slipping off of the metaphorical gas pedal.

Because, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, we all have our own graveyards full of our abandoned projects.

I don’t want this one to be buried there too.

Striving for progress is important.

You just need to make sure that you reach the destination, sometimes that can be the hardest part.