How to identify and “put down” a well-done bad idea, how to identify who to tap for reliable advice, and a fascinating study that champions the power of our imagination are this week’s gleanings from the creative blog-o-sphere.
1. MaryAn Batchellor over at Fencing with the Fog has written a fascinating post about the necessity of finding, and excising, well-executed bad ideas in one’s work (in her case, motion picture screenplays).
She starts the post by talking about reading the screenplays of others and how it can be easy (at times) to see the mistakes others make. But it is much harder to tell when it is your own work whether a scene you have written that is not central to the plot (what MaryAn calls a “sidestreet”) is a diversion worth retaining, or a harmful distraction. In many instances, she asserts, this may be even harder to recognize if the sidestreet scene is well-composed.
“Anything that takes away from the story is a bad idea, even if it’s well done. Among its many crimes against the screenplay, a bad idea may slow momentum, contradict character, weaken the story or simply confuse the reader or viewer to a point of no return….
“Taking sidestreets is not a bad idea in the writing process. It allows the creative mind to go out and play…. But writing a scene doesn’t mean it has a place in the story. Some sidestreets bring something fresh to the story. Others are a wrong turn and will make the story wander, stall, or die a slow and painful death. It’s the writer’s job to sort out which sidestreet is which.”
The question to you…
Have you ever encountered an example in your own work of a well-done bad idea—one that is brilliant in and of itself, but detrimental to the overall flow of the story? How did you resolve the issue?
2. Career maven Penelope Trunk has a cogent post on how to identify someone who is giving you bad advice, or, more accurately, the hallmarks of what constitutes someone who can give good advice.
She begins by noting that long ago she gave notoriously bad advice to actor Robert Buckley (her brother’s college roommate), who asked her if he should pursue acting or continue working as a health care consultant. Buckley ignored her advice to stay in consulting, and is now starring in the NBC series “Lipstick Jungle.”
Trunk notes, upon reflecting on Buckley’s success, “I figured out that the hallmark of a bad advisor is to not understand where she is coming from, what preconceived notions she brings to the table.” She pairs that insight with three qualities of a good advisor that she gleaned from an entrepreneur’s roundtable: good mentors ask good questions, listen carefully, and do not dispense fly-by-night advice.
Since artists spend so much of their time wondering about the quality of their work and seeking input from those who they suppose may be able to further their careers, it’s nice to see how Trunk ends her piece—with a bit of hope about finding a good advisor.
“Wondering how you are going to attract this kind of advisor? Be one yourself. Giving good advice is the same thing as giving a good kiss. You attract what you deserve ….You usually get in life what you expect to get. So expect good advice. And good kisses. And they will come.”
3. Finally, the eScience News blog has a summary of a new study about how our “mind’s eye” influences visual perception.
Joel Pearson, research associate in the Vanderbilt Department of Psychology. and lead author of the study, published June 26 in the journal Current Biology, had subjects imagine simple patterns of vertical or horizontal stripes, which are strongly represented in the primary visual areas of the brain. They then presented a green horizontal grated pattern to one eye and a red vertical grated pattern to the other to induce what is called binocular rivalry. The subjects generally reported they had seen the image they had been imagining, proving the researcher’s hypothesis that imagery would influence the binocular rivalry battle.
The research team also discovered that changing the orientation of the image from what had been imagined greatly reduced the impact of imagery on perception. Because orientation is processed in early visual areas, this suggests that imagery’s interaction with perception may occur in the first stages of visual processing.
The study sheds more light on how imagery affects our perception and sends a powerful message about how imagination interacts with, and effects, so-called objective reality. As Pearson said, “[T] here’s more and more evidence suggesting that there is a huge overlap between mental imagery and seeing the same thing. Our work shows that not only are imagery and vision related, but imagery directly influences what we see.”