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Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Science of Easy Writing

Thanks to everyone who voted for me on the Critters 2011 poll. Much appreciated. I think we made it to Number One again! Woohoo, as Homer says - Simpson, not the famous Greek writer.

This week I'm going to do the one thing that modern physicists apparently hate most - to try and equate quantum mechanics with self help.

I say 'modern' because before Newton, scientists included lots of free thinking alchemists and philosophers who saw no conflict in mixing metaphysics with scientific practice and experimentation.

Ironically, Newton himself wrote more about astrology, numerology and alchemy than he ever did about gravity. You'd think that scientists everywhere would learn from his example.

Anyway, recently I've been reading a lot about the latest theories on quantum mechanics - you know, all that stuff that says that at the smallest point of existence, there seems to be nothing rational going on - nothing we can record 'properly' anyway.

It seems nowadays quantum physicists are a sullen lot. They want to keep all this mind-blowing good stuff to themselves.

They've not only discovered that reality is really just a collection of possible worlds - and that perhaps the Universe is just a huge hologram - but then they've gone ahead and proved it, with maths at least.

And then they wonder why the rest of us think this is a too important to leave them alone to sort out the answers why!

Don't they realize that the universe is waving a big flag at them and saying, "There is no rational, empirical explanation unless you include the metaphysical stuff!"

Scientists already know that the observer is part of reality - and that the act of creation somehow requires consciousness - but still they don't want us to know about it, let alone think about it!

Crazy. Because every self help guru, modern philosopher, mystic, psychic and new ager out there has been saying all this for years - and still the quantum physicists are surprised when we jump all over the proof we've been looking for!

Whatever, now, it's my turn.

In the great tradition of irritating the crap out of rational scientists with new age quantum flapdoodle (Michael Sherman, 2005), I have my own theory to present.

Namely, that the human brain is no less than a quantum computer - the mechanics of which I will explain to you later in this article. Plus, how this revelation can help your writing, inspiration and creativity in many and surprising ways.

To help reassure you, I'm not alone in this idea. The esteemed Dean Radin from the Institute of Noetic Sciences, California, is in full agreement with me on this one - although his ideas extend uncomfortably (for some) into the paranormal. But really, as he points out, paranormal is a relative term. When science proves telepathy and clairvoyance, for instance, these phenomena will then become 'normal'.

The Quantum Brain

Here's where it gets tricky to get your head around (no pun intended.)

Okay.

We know that thinking, reacting to the outside world and taking action triggers neurons to fire around the brain. Literally billions of electrical impulses flash simultaneously at super fast speeds to help us weigh up a myriad of possibilities in our conscious and subconscious minds.

It does this to help us make decisions, think thoughts and experience emotions.

We also know that there are synaptic gaps in our brains - that is there is literally a 'space' between neurotransmitter molecules. This space allows for 'new' neural pathways and connections to be made - otherwise, whenever we considered something, we'd never be able to escape from a loop of our 'old' thoughts.

We need these potential new pathways to come up with original thoughts, new reactions or new solutions to old stimuli.

Anyway, the synaptic gaps are tiny - quantum tiny. And the theory is that at this minute point of neurotransmitter exchange, potential thought patterns (actually calcium ions) lose the stability of normal matter - in other words they acquire the characteristics of quantum elements.

In these moments of quantum uncertainty, thought, intention and consciousness are in a state of limbo - where no time, distance and space actually exist. Only potential exists. Infinite potential.

And at these moments of 'potentiality' our quantum brains are literally in touch with all things, all people, all existence - because at the quantum level, all matter is 'entangled' - that is, it's one big 'computer' or 'cosmic machine' that can communicate with any part of itself, from the smallest atom to the rest of entire universe.

Then, as consciousness and intention coalesce into certainty, the state of potentiality solidifies back into matter and releases the calcium ions into the appropriate - and often new - neural pathways.

Now quite apart from this being pretty amazing in itself, it explains how humans are remarkably adaptive creatures. It also comes close to finally understanding inspiration and creativity - and even that feeling of elation when we experience a thought seemingly out of 'nowhere'.

How Does This Help My Creativity?

Well, first of all, just knowing how the brain's thinking process happens should help you.

Plus, now you'll never believe you can't be 'original' again - especially knowing an entire universe of possibilities and potential futures are already inside your head!

My belief is that regular meditation strengthens our brain's ability to sustain these quantum states of potential - thereby helping us to become more creative.

You know the idea that people get stuck in their ways?

I think this is a subconscious allusion to how our minds work. That unless we exercise the quantum aspects of our thinking, we literally do get stuck on our old neural pathways. And that allowing our minds the freedom to behave as they're supposed to, without the old limiting beliefs and closed rationality of our predecessors, we can finally free ourselves to fulfill our true potential.

Because, in this new paradigm of accepting the idea of the quantum brain, creativity, even ability, has nothing to do with age, experience or proficiency. There are now no limits to the skills we can master and the potential futures we can literally create from thought alone.

Simply by understanding the theory, meditating on it and believing it works.

After all, the rest of us already know, at least on some level, that faith has always been part of the answer to everything - success, spirituality, creativity, whatever - it's only modern 'scientists' that are resisting the obvious answer.

Keep writing!

Rob at Home
rob@easywaytowrite.com
Your Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write

THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Walt Disney

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Writing a Report the Easy Way

How are things? Good I hope!

I need a favor. I need you to vote for me on Critters. Last year the Easy Way to Write was voted Number One Writer's Information Source - and I'd really like us to get there again. Will you help?

You just need to go here, scroll down till you find "Rob Parnell's Easy Way to Write" and vote.

Pretty please - I'd really appreciate it!

Thank in advance.

Have you noticed that if you work in an office and have the temerity to criticize a system or a set of procedures, your boss will often counter with the suggestion that you write a report.

I know. This used to happen to me a lot - when I worked nine to five. My own fault of course. I shouldn't have opened my mouth in the first place!

Actually I used to like writing reports. One, they gave me an excuse to write. Two, I could analyze the system, the problem or the sets of procedures and then come up with improvements or solutions to offer to management.

Reports are often the only way a lowly employee can influence management, even director level decisions. I was surprised at how many senior staff members actually ended up reading my reports - especially when speaking to them personally would most likely have been out of the question!

Writing reports has that advantage. You circumvent personal prejudices and unlikely inter-personal relationships by appealing on a more intellectual level.

I would often add wit and a certain degree of the 'entertainment' factor to keep people reading - rather than relate a dry set of facts or, heaven forbid, lapse into a scathing attack on policy or certain frustrating individuals.

Because this is what you should do in a report:

1. Introduce the reader to the world you're going to report on.

Even if your guess is that everyone likely to read the report is familiar with the office, campus, retail outlet or department, assume that they don't.

Give an overview of the company, situation or location as you see it. This not only gives your reader the terms of reference, it shows you have a grasp of the facts - hopefully too, establishing that you have an objective viewpoint - and will have recommendations later in the report that are at least practical and realistic.

The opening of your report therefore is an exercise in establishing trust. This is important because unless the readers trusts you from the start, they're unlikely to want to read on - and will be extremely wary about your conclusions.

2. Show that you care.

You do this by first of all highlighting the positives of the current system. You explain each part of the process as though you watch over it and nurture it.

For instance, if you are reporting on, say, a manufacturing process, describe the intricacies with high regard for the quality of the finished product. It's important to remember that though your report may seek to highlight inefficiencies, there's always someone out there with a vested interest in the status quo.

You'll have noticed that political reports have a circumspect tone - usually careful not to apportion specific blame or come across in any way emotional or partisan. This is the tone you need to adopt, especially as you:

3. List the pros and cons of the subject matter.

This is the meat of your report and will most likely make up around 60% of the wordage.

Here you highlight the processes that work, how and why they work - and then how and why they might be improved.

Give a title to each section - and subtitles if necessary. Always be conscious that the average reader has little time and less patience when reading something that is not particularly fun or entertaining.

Make sure that your argument is coherent - and approaches the subject matter logically. A list of random criticisms won't cut it - and will most likely offend. When you go back over your work, edit for consistency of argument - and ease of reading.

Don't use big words just because you know them. It's an odd fact that inexperienced writers try hide their ignorance and lack of power with fake pomposity. It's easy for a more experienced writer - and a director level boss - to spot.

Good writers use short, effective, specific and meaningful words to get their point across. Cultivate this as a habit - in whatever writing you do.

Give examples in your report of the specific issues you want the reader to think about. Vague rhetoric only bores and confuses.

If you have ideas that are based on systems from other companies then by all means mention them and explain why they work better. Do this without breaching any confidentiality of course - and be careful not to mention names the reader may want to call to verify the information. This might backfire on you.

4. Always write a conclusion.

Use the last part of your report to summarize what you have written. Busy managers will often read just the opening of your report and its conclusion.

Curiously this is the same way movie producers read screenplays. The first few pages to establish you can write (the trust factor) and the last couple of pages to see if you have a good ending.

Rather than fume at the idea your report may not be read in totality, use this knowledge to your advantage.

State your conclusions and recommendations clearly and succinctly - in bullet form if you wish.

Stay rational and objective to the end. Be positive and if possible, use figures to prove that your ideas will reap tangible benefits.

Personally I found this last piece of advice the most effective way to get a manager to change a system for the better. If you can say that your improvement will lead to a 10% increase in profits, or a 25% increase in productivity for your department - and your report proves it - you give the reader something solid to hold on to. Something he can sell to his work colleagues - and his own manager.

I read a self help book once (can't remember the author) that suggested writing good reports for employers was a surefire way to put your career into the fast lane. Employers love to see people who understand and care enough about a business to write a report on it.

Whatever your position - college professor, middle manager, file clerk or doctor's receptionist - consider how writing a report on your job might help your long term situation.

Especially if you're frustrated and unhappy in your job.

Even if you work in a take away outlet or sweep floors at a department store, you should ask your employer if he would mind if you wrote a report to suggest improvements. You'll be amazed at the often positive reaction.

Then just see how far your eagerness and enthusiasm will take you. I've found that writing a simple seven or ten page report on my job - no matter how lowly - has often catapulted me into promotions - to the bewilderment of work colleagues who'd never even thought of suggesting the idea to the boss.

Try it.

It's all good writing practice anyway.

Keep writing!

Rob at Home
rob@easywaytowrite.com
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:

"Until the day of his death, no man can be sure of his courage." Jean Anouilh

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Teach Yourself to Write

Many people email me and ask if they need a college degree or a set of special qualifications to be a professional writer.

The answer is a resounding NO!

Writing is not like other ways of making a living, especially if you want to be freelance - that is, independent. Your education, while potentially a useful advantage, is not a prerequisite to success.

In fact, I 've noticed that the more writing qualifications a person has - or aspires to get - the more difficult it seems for them to keep inspired enough to pursue a professional writing career.

Which seems odd but not really...

Writing is about creating, and loving the act of creation. Yes, it's about being a type of mini-god. It's about being continually inspired. And most times an inspired writer is a thousand times more compelling to read than any kind of formally educated writer.

Have you ever noticed how dull a scientific or philosophical thesis can be? Have you thrown away a non-fiction book by a professor or a doctor or a scientist who failed to keep you captivated?

Writing compelling text is not always a skill you can learn but, with enough enthusiasm and dedication, you can often learn how to use words much more effectively than the person with a long list of degrees and writing qualifications.

Of course there are rules and conventions to writing - especially when it comes to writing genre fiction or any other kind of commercial prose.

Paperback novels, screenplays for TV and film, even poetry sometimes, has to conform to expected standards - what we call accepted conventions. Otherwise it will be rejected - usually without comment or encouragement.

Of course you need to be able to spell and deliver good grammar. You need to understand the difference between showing and telling. You need to instinctively grasp structure and symmetry. Most of all you need to have something entertaining and / or informative to say.

But you can teach yourself all of these things.

You really don't need or want a college professor to drum these issues into you - if they ever do nowadays - because that's not the best way to learn effective writing anyway.

The best and most long-lasting and potentially profitable way for you to educate yourself to write well is by simply writing. That's it. Nothing more mysterious.

Because the more you write, the better you get - especially if you're in the habit of submitting your work for publication.

Rejection is the best education you can get as a writer.

A mindset and philosophy of continual self improvement is what ultimately helps you become a professional writer.

Yes, you may need to study other writers - read objectively in other words. Don't just read for pleasure. Analyze how other writers string together words. Menatlly pull apart their paragraphs and chapters. See what's going on underneath the words.

Ask yourself: how does this writer's mind work? How does he/she use words to explain his/her ideas, get across concepts or simply describe the things he/she sees?

Then review your own writing. Are you succeeding in what you set out to do? Is your writing as effective as you'd like it to be? Are there better ways of relating information, detail and emotion?

Constantly strive to improve - and learn new techniques.

Take courses on areas of writing that interest you - especially if they're written by authors you admire or have a level of success you might covet.

Studying and learning from other, more successful, writers is often the best way to teach yourself to write well.

Public education is not always well suited to creating great writers.

Often great writers start with nothing and basically educate themselves, through reading and writing as though their lives depended on it - which of course, to many great writers, it does!

Stephen King once said that he thought good fiction writing technique could be taught. That anyone with a half decent imagination could learn how to present good, effective and most importantly, commercial, saleable manuscripts.

I agree.

But curiously, King later said that he'd changed his mind. Because, he said, what you can't teach is the urge to stay at a desk for hours on end, wanting and needing to write - and being fulfilled by only that activity.

Talent is not necessarily the ability to write good stories, good copy or good articles and non-fiction. There is also talent in dogged perseverance. Either talent or a special kind of madness...

Many would-be writers I know spend much of their time, years even, planning on being a writer, wishing away their lives sometimes, waiting until the time is ready for seriously committing to writing. Often, I speak with people who say: I just need to take this TAFE course, or complete that Creative Writing degree - and then - only then - I'll be able to write. Only then will I be good enough...

Tosh!

Get a grip! And understand the only thing a writer really needs to fulfill their destiny is to indulge in the activity of writing!

Truly, it's not about being good enough or educated well enough to write. Writing - the urge to write - comes from within your soul. And in order to become a professional writer, or even a competent amateur, you need to nurture that desire, that compulsion. Not only that, you need to respond to it. And just do it!

Write - and write every day. Do it a lot. And get it out there.

That's the best education for any writer.

No amount of yearning or learning will cut it.

Writers write.

And the more you write, the better you get.

Make no mistake, my friend, it's as basic as that.

Keep writing!

Rob at Home
rob@easywaytowrite.com
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write

THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:

"Appearance blinds, whereas words reveal."
Oscar Wilde

The Easy Way to Write

Welcome to the official blog of the Easy Way to Write from Rob Parnell, updated weekly - sometimes more often!