The relationship between well-being and creativity has been known for a long time. What has not been apparent though is how they work together as part of a biological and mental process. Do the endorphins we feel during happiness instigate a desire to create, or does creating release them? Perhaps they work in unison, each complimenting the other. This seems to be the case according to a recent study. New Zealand University of Otago researcher, Tamlin Connor, along with two American researchers conduced analysis on results taken from 450 adults. The subjects each completed an online diary for thirteen days while going through creative endeavours set by the scientists. The well-being and various factors associated with it were scored each day. It concluded that creativity helps to give life more meaning, and helps to establish a sense of social connection. These are really important things which provide psychological support to individuals who in turn affect the whole.
“Research often yields complex, murky, or weak findings,” she says. “But these patterns were strong and straightforward: Doing creative things today predicts improvements in well-being tomorrow. .” Tamlin Connor
It's been stated that creativity and well-being related research often produces complex and difficult to resolve results. Perhaps the nature of creative thinking people means that scientific precision is often lacking? We are more inclined to guess, I think! It's more fun. Fun didn't get a rocket to the moon, though. The good thing about this research project was that the results were clear and concise, giving thinking groups real data and tools for the problems they're aiming to solve. Well-being in society is of course a key factor in well-functioning society. Happy people are peaceful people, and that's what we all want.
Even when the tables turn and it's not appropriate to remain peaceful, creativity and art can be instrumental in the expression of right ideas to counter-act the wrong ones. We do have to judge which is which, do what you will but harm none is a good rule to follow. How about personality types? It turns out, during the course of the research that we are all capable of getting the benefits of creativity. It doesn't matter if you're left or right handed, a man or a woman, a mathematician or a holistic therapist, all brains work the same on this level.
Many of us have mental blocks to creativity that stop us from going ahead and doing something creative. It's quite common to believe that it's not worth trying. This is not true. According to Warren Berger, author of The Book of Beautiful Questions, there are five questions we often ask ourselves which actually stop creativity. His mission is of course to help it along, so it does make sense to identify the antithesis to his goal. This way we can be more focussed on how we project our ideas, and which ones to project. Writing in FastCoDesign, he states the five nasty questions. Learn them to avoid them.
Of course, the answers are yes, absolute originality is a myth, in between the times you have other things to do, no-one can truly predict a blockbuster from an idea, and anywhere you like.
That makes it easier to focus on the right sort of questions that keep us being creative. It's a good idea to visit creative communities and make time to indulge in some art. When we see creativity, it instantly feeds our ideas and desires to make and do certain things. It's a good thing when we see that an area has paid attention to its creative expression. They often make the news when they appear, or when the rest of the world slowly starts to notice that something good is taking place.
For example, Factory 798, a relic from industrial China when architecture was numbered according to function, is now an open community for the arts. The decrepit buildings have been made safe and converted to house all manner of creative exploits. It's now called the 798 arts district and contains ten years worth of artistic and creative growth. A gallery of fascinating photographs by Edward Caruso features in Design Boom. They're worth checking out. Along with the help of a Belgian philanthropist, and Chinese design firm Boston, the complex makes for an ideal and intriguing landscape for the arts.
Some of you may already know, before I became a full time blogger I wrote a few fiction titles. Because I didn't apply any marketing or after-thought to my products, and because my fan base was mostly imaginary at the time, of course they didn't make me wealthy. Since then, things have improved for me, as you know, with the digital media side of my writing. This doesn't mean that I have lost interest in writing fiction. Not at all, and when I find the time I intend to begin writing it again. As I hope any of you are doing as well, when we need to find our feet in a new world of work, we need to do training and education. For me, being thrown in at the deep-end, this meant taking courses while working. Long term readers of Alternative Fruit can probably remember the days before I had learned much about online media. Thankfully, these days, the blog is a great deal better.
I haven't only been looking into education for digital media. I've also been learning writing. Getting back to the basics and building up from solid foundations has been something I wanted to do. So maybe my spelling is passable and my grammar is adequate, however there is a lot more to writing than that. Some of you may know, the English language has various strains and styles, each one can be applied in various ways. Writing for blogs is not the same as writing for the boss, or for your MP. As well as doing the vital work on business and consumable digital content writing that had to be done, I've also been looking at how to write better stories. Rather than selling you the courses one by one, if you want to take one you will I am sure, I thought I'd give you a fairly wide reaching run-down of the key points that make a story worth reading.
Start With The Essentials
A skeleton story made up of key points is an excellent way of starting. We often have it in our minds somewhere as we write. Get it down and make it a go-to place for inspiration when we need it.
Why These People And Places?
You'll have some characters and a place where the story happens. Why have you chosen them? Remembering this helps to write believable and memorable situations. It's okay to be inventive and create oddballs, weirdos, and strange unreal worlds, but there has to be a reason for it. Make it work in the story, not just part of it.
Did something on TV frustrate you? Did a story in a film or maybe real life feel wrong and awkward? Those feelings are really useful in story telling. You know what you didn't like about your experience so use the idea to create something fictional that still makes use of those arousing sensations.
Be Careful With Magic
Readers can feel cheated when a character does something magical or extremely lucky in order to escape danger. Unforeseen circumstances work well in many situations, except the one that solves all the problems. This robs the reader of a valuable part of the story.
Don't Over Do It
You have to just accept what's done as done and get on with it. Re-arranging and adapting, fixing the not broken and playing with perfection doesn't get us anywhere. Try to accept that sometimes we are too harsh for our own good and just go for it. It'll be okay. If something really doesn't want to feel right, let go of it entirely and come back to it when you're inspired.
Why Should The Reader Care?
Give us a reason to give a damn about what happens next! No-one cares about boring people with boring lives, we read for excitement and entertainment. We want to bond with people who are out of the everyday, people who give us something to escape into. Let's have characters that we can attach to and enjoy spending time with, as well as people we can't abide of course. It's in the mix.
It's Not About You
Not many stories make the author a main character, we have to put ourselves in their shoes. Often we can use our personality in ways to design characters but they're always different people. That makes the dynamics of the story their most interesting. Having said this, the people have to be believable so when we write them, we do have to imagine how we would feel and react when given the situations ourselves. Then simply tweak it to accommodate for the character's own personality.
What's The Point?
You're not just writing this for fun, there's something underneath that makes you want to write. What is it? How does that benefit the reader? Don't put it down necessarily but keep it in mind while writing.
Diversify Your Beliefs
Different people think differently, so each character has to reflect this. Again, it's not about you but fictional people so give them opinions and ideas that make the story seem like it's set in a real society. It can be tricky to write confidently in something we don't personally believe in, however it gets easier.
Try Not To Be Too Obvious
Get over the first idea and move on to the next one. The first thing popping in your head is probably the same thing popping in the reader's head too. You're the author, show the reader why you get to write books by being more creative than they are. Do it every time, no excuses.
If in doubt, write. Once the text is there, it can be worked on and appraised. If you never put the idea down, you risk losing it forever.
Reflect On What Made You Like A Story
There is a reason why a given story resonated with you. It'll be because it feels like it identifies with a part of your life somehow. You can relate to it in a way that feels good. If you can make a note of the times when this happens, you'll be able to make use of that same feeling in your own work. This isn't copying, it's taking inspiration. Don't just copy stories to call your own. Also, try to mix your sources, a pinch of this and a dollop of that.
What Definitely Will Never Happen?
Be mindful of where you don't want to go, what you don't want to happen, and what you decide is not the issue of the story. When these things are down, finding their opposite and equal parts can be much easier.
How Does It All End?
You need to think about the end scene and have it operational before you finish the story. This way you can feed into the final chapters at intervals through-out the book and help the reader to piece together the parts as they go. It also helps when including things like irony and metaphor.
Less Filling, More Cake
Getting to know the characters is important but we can do that while they go on their adventures. We don't need to see them drinking a cup of tea with their mum for half an hour to get to know the lead. Have them doing what they're meant to be doing.
Make It Hard For The Character
What are their skills and attributes? What are they comfortable with? Readers want to see people having a hard time so through in some curve-balls and see how they react. Try to break the flow of your character and get them to respond.
It sounds counter-intuitive however all stories have a certain way of flowing that people expect. They begin with an everyday situation, and we meet the characters. Then something out of the ordinary happens. This causes the situation to change. Something happens again to bring in the rest of the story. A next change happens when we are well into the story, and finally and ending brings it all together.
Don't Hang Up On Key Points
Tell the story and bear the points in mind, don't force everything to make sense according to predetermined factors. Things will work out and factors will make themselves apparent as you go. Something will feel wrong if it doesn't fit your ideals, have faith and just write.
Remember It's Entertainment
People read for pleasure, they want to laugh, cry, and smile. You're giving them the experiences for that to happen. We have to want success for the character, we have to want to pick up the book and read the next bit. Trying to satisfy an inner need to be heard is not the same as pleasing readers. Remember it's not about you.
There you have it, a run down of extremely useful writing tips for creative writers everywhere. Why not bookmark this handy link for Free ISBN and Self Publishing.
Thanks for reading Alternative Fruit!
Since writing about how seeing art can help people with mental health problems last week, it's perhaps time to look at the path of healing through art in a more general scope. Before scientific explanations, holistic healing was said to appeal to the psyche, the soma, and the spirit. This triple headed approach to health enabled people to work through their illnesses on multiple levels. Of course, in modern medicine, a lot more care is taken to understand the dynamics of healing however the evidence for the effectiveness of holistic therapies is continual. The body does indeed carry the feelings, thoughts, and emotions as chemical signals. Sub-conscious feelings and thoughts are there too. Connecting to the sub-conscious allows us to express what is previously unknown to us about ourselves.
Art as a therapy does this job extremely well. By expressing ourselves in a creative way, we open up a channel to our subconscious to guide us in our actions. By then observing our actions, we can determine what the sub-conscious is presenting. Dance and Movement Psychotherapy for example is a specific type of therapy that uses our gestures and movements to express our inner and hidden thoughts. By loosening up and letting go, letting the body do the work and releasing the grip of conscious control, the body will begin to function as a tool of the sub-conscious.
The body is a store-room of feelings that we can keep inside. The more unprocessed and unexpressed feelings and thoughts we have, the more ill we potentially can get. By using expressive therapies we can actually help to clear out the backlog that perhaps is building up through life. Especially in a busy lifestyle, finding time to process everything might not be easy. Doing things like specific therapies designed for sub-conscious expression can help us significantly. The mental health benefits of exercise are also well documented, from a merely physical point of view.
How do we switch off the conscious mind when creating? Whether it's writing or dancing or something in between, we have to stop listening to the inner voices and thoughts which continually judge our potential actions. We have to learn to have faith in our natural ability to act without thinking, and if it's within a safe environment then there's nothing to stop us. The more we think and analyse, the less free our expression becomes. It might be that what first comes into our mind is not pleasant and perhaps we feel that we dare not express such things, but in a safe creative environment we can express anything we like and we ought to.
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Why not cheer yourself and look at some art? It's widely known that art therapy can help us however it usually means doing a bit of creativity ourselves, its a hands on therapy that requires willing effort. I don't know about you but when I feel depressed, I don't fancy getting out the pens and paper. I just like to watch youtube videos and listen to the radio. I do those things anyway but usually as part of a much more varied agenda. But going to see art? Sounds promising. Many museums are not free, so when we're offered an opportunity to go to a paid exhibit for nothing then that ought to be enough to cheer someone up straight away. If the condition truly is clinical and a bit of good news doesn't do the trick, then up to fifty prescriptions are on offer to compliment the more traditional therapies. I imagine this means antidepressants and talking therapy.
Exercise has been a prescription option for many doctors before, however now in Toronto Canada as of 1st November, museum visits are available to hand out as needed. Does looking at art make you feel better? Perhaps not initially however I think the benefit is in the settling in and the subconscious processing of it afterwards. Sometimes to get the brain working we have to warm it up, like a car on a cold day. When we're depressed, our brain is perhaps a little stiff in the places that keep us in high spirits. Perhaps they've been over-used or stressed out in the past which is why they have trouble now. We can relearn how to feel good as long as we do put in conscious effort daily.
Having somewhere to go and a whole plethora of new conversation starters can be really handy to improve our social life and confidence in groups. Have you ever felt that no-one would care if you mentioned your week, or day? That's why we do interesting things, not only for ourselves but to help us get on with those conversations and social occasions we all want to take part in. Perhaps a trip or two to the museum will help to get those cogs into motion?
Even in the UK, the arts are being recognised for their massive contribution to mental and social wellness. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry states that:
“We are calling for an informed and open minded willingness to accept that the arts can make a significant contribution to addressing a number of the pressing issues faced by our health and social care systems. ” Rt. Hon. Lord Howarth of Newport Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing.
Sometimes art can be a little out of reach to the everyday person, the prices and the language used plus the cultural differences between traditional art lovers and the interested others can all mount up to a wall of division. Breaking this down is a way of making sure that we all have an equal ability to go and experience art from a variety of perspectives. This whole concept echoes the idea that began Alternative Fruit. I saw a world with a lot of sickness, young people committing violent crimes, finding a sense of belonging in gangs, taking out their frustrations in destructive ways, and I thought that the best thing I can do is to begin opening the art world up just a little more and putting in front of people. Five years later, Alternative Fruit is still here and with more regular readers than ever.
If you live in Toronto then ask about prescriptions to the museum, and everyone else keep reading this site and share the links with your friends. It's good for you. Via BBC USA and Canada.
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Society is always changing, even before the digital revolution there was progress every year. It may have started slowly, with thousands of years separating significantly different lifestyles in prehistory, however now things are moving much faster. We can all remember a time before some kind of technology that we know about, and today will be a past moment too in the near future. We will remember back in 2018 when we did things a certain way with a particular style of device. Perhaps it will be disposable plastic that will become outdated, a seemingly mad idea from Neanderthal remnant biped apes who had no concern for tomorrow. Time after time, humans demonstrate the ability to do the wrong thing in large numbers. I'd be hypocritical if I said that dear readers, you must use less plastic. I use it myself, and I should should less. I hope this sets an example.
But what about tomorrow? What do we know about today that can point us in a direction that can help us understand the world at large? There are three virtues that seem to be becoming apparent in this modern age which we will see more and more of as the years roll past. Thinking about life and directions to walk in through this lens may help people who are looking to find useful paths to take. It also helps us, I think, to make sense of what's truly important today, and what will remain so tomorrow. Which is the most valuable of the three? You can decide for yourself.
Firstly, the most important thing about our evolving society is the technology we use. This is everything from the vehicles to the computers, the programs that they work with, and the way we interact with them. It's clear that technology is playing a larger part in our lives all the time, and we discover ways of making life easier, simpler, and more enjoyable with the use of various technologies. Although it remains dynamic and a specialism in one thing doesn't guarantee a life-time role, it's possible to find many roads that can last for life in this area.
As we have changed as society, history has shown that people have pressured those who lead or rule to become more benevolent. We don't know how it was thousands of years ago when we were living in tribes, but when a person rules a large number of people, we've seen that they become tyrannical in many cases. We therefore make rules for leaders to follow that prevent them from acting in ways we don't abide. It's taken a huge length of time to get to where we are now and in quite a few cases, it's not over yet. There are many tyrants who when they die, will be replaced by those who have learned from different peers. This is why it's important to do our best to continue to enrich our society with care, and empathy.
As we grow older, there will be a greater need for care roles. Technology links this with solutions, and possibly AI could help organise a workable care routine for large numbers of people. As resources from the public sector seem stretched, we as human beings have to look hard at what our priorities are. The virtue of tomorrow that will become vital is empathy and care. The environment is a mess, and the number of animals that live on Earth are in huge decline. Something has to change before we end up with a complete disaster. Every new generation seems to be more determined to make a change to lifestyles as a whole, bring in new technology, new methods, and new ideas to help break the deadly cycle of waste.
Jobs have become much more varied in the modern day, trades are blurring their boundaries and the employment market is always shifting. The various types of education for work are becoming more widespread too, from blogs like this one spreading knowledge to charities funding schools in third world countries. As technology improves at an ever increasing rate, and the need to care and consideration becomes even more imperative, this makes the next virtue that of creativity. We need solutions and inventions that help us to move past this grimy and careless chapter of our history. Where there are fishes choking on plastic bags and ducks wading in oily residue, where there are men and women sitting in their houses with nothing but bills and a bag of dried rice, where we'd rather a person slept on the pavement in the city centre than pay public money to give them a home and something to eat regardless of their ability to work, we need to make some real changes. Many people really care about these things and feel so strongly about doing the right thing. It's this passion that drives people to create, and to use the tools available to do something today that makes a difference tomorrow.
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