Welcome to the second installment of Well Put: stuff I’ve read online that’s worth sharing.
I’ve got some good reading material for you guys. Get ready.
First of all: are you feeling stuck? Trying to solve a dilemma you can’t figure out? Go to sleep!
“The hypnagogic is the ultimate paradigm-busting tool. As your brain slips into an associative, impressionistic state, it is no longer bound by conventional wisdom. Saucy ideas – impossible within a certain rational framework – clamour for attention. Images become metaphors for concepts, and suddenly everyone is a poet.
Finally: an excuse to nap!
I think the temptation when one is creative is to go off and live in Bohemia in an underground, flea-infested world and to live on the crumbs. And I think actually you’ll make more progress as an artist if you’re also a functioning human being who has to work like a normal person, whether that’s waiting tables, working in an office, or making and selling your work.
If you want to write about normal people, after all, you kind of have to be one.
And! Maria Bamford is my favorite. Here she talks about comedy and mental illness, but also the courage to take creative risks and make yourself vulnerable.
“Hey, coward, if you sing out your Batman poetry to a largely hostile Barnes & Noble crowd; or if you crank out a raw, unedited skull of a granny smith apple, pop that on a Bratz doll torso, upload that to Etsy; if you think of doing a nude clown opera, and then f**king do it? That doesn’t show you’re insane. It shows the symptoms of being hard-working—and a huge, American success.”
If you aren’t familiar with Maria Bamford, you need to change that about yourself.
Finally: good news! Fiction is good for humanity!
For a long time literary critics and philosophers have argued, along with the novelist George Eliot, that one of fiction’s main jobs is to “enlarge men’s sympathies.” Recent lab work suggests they are right. The psychologists Mar and Keith Oatley tested the idea that entering fiction’s simulated social worlds enhances our ability to connect with actual human beings. They found that heavy fiction readers outperformed heavy nonfiction readers on tests of empathy, even after they controlled for the possibility that people who already had high empathy might naturally gravitate to fiction. As Oatley puts it, fiction serves the function of “making the world a better place by improving interpersonal understanding.”
You see? Stories make the world a better place. No wonder we feel so compelled to tell them.