Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

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What It Takes

What It Takes

The Pool Is 12 Feet Profound

By Callie Oettinger | Published: September 22, 2017

1+3+5+3+7+1+9+23+48+5 will always equal 105.

You can add the middle numbers last or add the second and fifth numbers first, and you’ll come up with the same answer.

However, it’s different with words.

Present the exact same words, in the exact same order, and the exact same format, to different individuals, and you’ll receive a different response every time.

That’s the beauty of words. As individuals, and when combined, words carry the experiences of their readers with them. Each individual will leave with a different interpretation.

Look to Lois Lowry’s introduction to the now-a-major-motion-picture edition of The Giver:

I had always received lots of letters from kids, frequently writing as a class assignment (one began, “This is a Friendly Letter”). Over the years, of course, they have more often become emails. But that didn’t compare to the mail about The Giver: first of all for the volume—the sheer number of them (even now, twenty years later, they still come, sometimes fifty to sixty in a day). But now the letter writers were different. Sure, many of them were still kids. But a startling number were much older. And the content was no longer the school assignment letter, the obligatory “I thought this was a pretty good book.” Instead the letters were passionate (“This book has changed my life”), occasionally angry (“Jesus would be ashamed of you,” one woman wrote), and sometimes startlingly personal.

One couple wrote to me about their autistic, selectively mute teenager, who had recently spoken to them for the first time—about The Giver, urging them to read it. A teacher from South Carolina wrote that the most disruptive, difficult student in her eighth grade class had called her at home on a no-school day and begged her to read him the next chapter over the phone. A night watchman in an oil refinery wrote that he had happened on the book—it was lying on someone’s desk—while making his rounds (“I’m not a reader,” he wrote me, “but man, I’m glad I came to work tonight”). A Trappist monk wrote to me and said he considered the book a sacred text. A man who had, as an adult, fled the cult in which he had been raised, told me that his psychiatrist had recommended The Giver to him. Countless new parents have written to explain why their babies have been named Gabriel. A teacher in rural China sent me a photograph of beaming students holding up their copies of the book. The FBI took an interest in the two-hundred-page vaguely threatening letter sent by a man who insisted he was actually The Giver, and advised me not to go near the city where he lived. A teenage girl wrote that she had been considering suicide until she read The Giver. One young man wrote a proposal of marriage to his girlfriend inside the book and gave it to her (she said yes). But a woman told me in a letter that I was clearly a disturbed person and she hoped I would get some help.

Diverse interpretations arrive with books and films and paintings, because we each take what the artists create and make their works our own.

For me, their works double as keys. (more…)

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What It Takes

What It Takes

The Six Word GPS

By Shawn Coyne | Published: September 15, 2017

This is the next post in my series about Big Idea Nonfiction…and it’s a good one for fiction writers too.  When we hit a wall in our work (and we will) we need to settle ourselves so that we can outflank Resistance’s insistence that we’re wasting our time…that we’ll never finish…that we’re idiots for trying…  This post from www.storygrid.com a while back is a tool to get you back in the fight to complete your creation.

What actually happens when we take on a project and work it until completion? Is there a universal experience of sorts that anyone who strikes out to solve a problem faces?

I think there is.

(more…)

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What It Takes

What It Takes

Hemingway Did Not Non-Summit

By Callie Oettinger | Published: September 8, 2017

This post returns today with high hopes of deep sixing the non-summit. However, it knows it can’t go it alone. Please help. Instead of pushing procrastination, let’s make sure that the only thing non-summits are pushing is daisies.

A summit is the highest of the high. It is the top of a mountain. The apex. The peak. The zenith.

If it is a summit meeting, it is a meeting of individuals at the peak. Think Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin during WWII.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know my feelings about the trending use of the word summit to describe events, workshops, interviews, get-togethers, and a long list of other things that are not summits of either the mountain or meeting variety.

Another piece to add:

These non-summits are a form of procrastination.

When you’re at the base of an actual summit, don’t hold a meeting. Climb to the top instead.

One more piece:

These non-summits have the potential to steal your work’s soul—and your soul’s work.

Stick with me a bit here, for a short ramble.

In her Scientific American article “On writing, memory, and forgetting: Socrates and Hemingway take on Zeigarnik,” Maria Konnikova opened with the story of psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik.

In 1927, Gestalt psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik noticed a funny thing: waiters in a Vienna restaurant could only remember orders that were in progress. As soon as the order was sent out and complete, they seemed to wipe it from memory.

Zeigarnik then did what any good psychologist would: she went back to the lab and designed a study. A group of adults and children was given anywhere between 18 and 22 tasks to perform (both physical ones, like making clay figures, and mental ones, like solving puzzles)—only, half of those tasks were interrupted so that they couldn’t be completed. At the end, the subjects remembered the interrupted tasks far better than the completed ones—over two times better, in fact.

Zeigarnik ascribed the finding to a state of tension, akin to a cliffhanger ending: your mind wants to know what comes next. It wants to finish. It wants to keep working – and it will keep working even if you tell it to stop. All through those other tasks, it will subconsciously be remembering the ones it never got to complete. Psychologist Arie Kruglanski calls this a Need for Closure, a desire of our minds to end states of uncertainty and resolve unfinished business.

I think this might be why the mornings are so magical for work. The mind just spent hours chewing over unfinished business. Yes, it brought up some family drama I wanted to avoid, but it did a ton of heavy lifting on unfinished work that is of importance. It made the connections between all the fragments clear, helped sew up the loose ends, fuse together the matching pieces. It made the struggle to understand—and view—the path ahead clearer. It’s why I try to wake before the kids and try to avoid talking, even of the e-mail chatter sort, in the early hours. There’s a magic there that’s gone by 9 AM, so I want to catch it within easy reach at 5 AM.

Maybe this is why counseling works, too. Once you talk it all through, you come closer to being able to let go, to find closure.

I just finished Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and there’s a scene when one of the characters requests that a fellow traveler of the same world burn her manuscript. It isn’t for publication or reading. It is her life. She had to put it all down. Remember everything. Get it out. Once she added that final period, her body died and her soul—or whatever you want to call that “it” thing about her, that essence—moved to a different world.

Once she completed her story, she was able to move onto the next place.

But what if you talk through all of your work—all of your dreams—without actually doing them? You risk moving on, though that’s the last thing you really want. (more…)

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