WIP Sneak Peak: Location Sketch

I’ve been thinking a bit more carefully in the last few weeks about some of the settings and locations in my fantasy novel series (working title Feeding Jasmine Valentine). I’m in the middle of a new re-write at the moment and have a chance to go back and really think about what I may need to build on the first draft, and how some of the key locations can be more useful in the narrative if I do some more substantial world building around them.

I’m quite a visual person (which may be a Dyslexic thing) and having pictures and diagrams tends to help me, so I spent an hour one afternoon last week on some ‘first take’ sketches of a key location in the first book. There are bound to be problems with my initial ideas, and I’m going to work on these a bit more, but I thought it may be nice to share my first messy sketch here, if only to show I’m still working on it!

I’d be really interested to hear from other writers who use sketches in their world building. How do you do that? Do you think it’s really useful or a form of procrastination?

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Creativity, Dyslexia and Me: Part Two

In Part One of this little series I wrote a bit about my own experiences with dyslexia, and some of these things that I found interesting in the introductory sections of the paper ‘Not all those who wander are lost: Examining the character strengths of dyslexia’ by Chathurika Kannanga, Jerome Carson, Sowmya Puttaraju and Rosie Allen. I found that post quite helpful to write personally, and I think a few other people have found it interesting too.

However, I didn’t manage to get past the introduction of the paper to get into what the authors actually did, which is a bit of a shame, so I did want to write a bit about that here.

Dyslexia and character strengths

So the authors of the paper start with the question – what might the character strengths of people with dyslexia be when compared to a general population? I really like that this is a paper that takes a strengths based approach to this issue, but the approach they took left me with some doubts about the actual findings that I’ll come to a bit later.

To assess character strengths in people with dyslexia what they did was ask lots of people to take an online survey using the Values In Action Character Strengths Inventory (VIA).

This tool is a long survey (240 items) which asks people to answer questions about the extent to which a range of characteristics are ‘very much like me’ which scores a 5, across a range of responses down to ‘very much unlike me’ which scores a 1. The tool assesses 24 character strengths using ten questions to measure each one.

They managed to get 89 people with confirmed dyslexia to complete the survey, which for these kind of studies is not a particularly big number, but it’s not too small either. They then used the collective scores from these 89 people to rank character strengths in order from the strength that the group scored most highly in, down to the one that the scored least in.

So you end up with something that looks a bit like Top of the Pops, but instead of pop music it’s a chart of character strengths. They then took that list and compared it to the lists produced in other studies that had asked the same set of questions to groups of people from the general population in the US, and in the UK (note here that this is population data, not a sample of people who have been confirmed as not having dyslexia).

What they found was that the top six character strengths among people with dyslexia were (in this order):

•   curiosity
•   fairness
•   kindness
•   judgement
•   honesty
•   leadership

The extent to which people with dyslexia differ on these strengths from people who don’t have dyslexia was a bit confused to me. For example ‘curiosity’ came in at the top for the group of people with dyslexia, and while I personally strongly relate to this as a curious person, it’s important to note that it only came in third for the US and UK general population groups, which doesn’t feel like feel like a big difference when you take into account the fact that the list included twenty four character traits.

The second characteristic on the list for people with dyslexia was kindness, which was also second on the list for the group from the UK general population, and first on the list from the US general population. So there was really no meaningful difference at all there.

Creativity, which was the interest that led me to this paper in the first place, came in at number eight for the people with dyslexia. This made a full third of the way down the list, and was the same ranking for the UK general population, with rank from the US general population trailing behind only a little bit, at number eleven.

The biggest difference the authors point to is leadership, which comes in at number six for people with dyslexia, while it comes in at ten for the UK general population, and fourteen for the US general population. In the top group of traits this was the only one with a really noticeable difference across different groups, and perhaps this relates to the ‘big picture thinking’ that they cite people with dyslexia as being good at in the introduction.

For me the findings of this paper offer at best a muddled picture, meaning that maybe the key finding is that we just aren’t that different from everyone else. From a personal perspective, went into reading this paper with an idea that learning more about dyslexia would mean learning a bit more about myself, and there are problems with the methodology which mean that I don’t really feel much wiser after reading it.

Problems with the method

I think where the paper really falls down for me is the method they used, which the authors of the paper also recognise as a key problem. The VIA is tool is a 240 item questionnaire, and was not designed with dyslexia in mind in particular. 240 items is a lot of items, and I think using this tool in a study about character strengths really undermines the credibility of this paper.

People who struggle with reading may well have self-selected themselves out of this study. I have dyslexia, and I cope with it well enough to have a career in research and a side line in writing things, but I think I would probably have quit after about 20 items. Maybe after 50 if I was having a good day. I may have persisted to the end if I knew the researchers and wanted to help out, but that wouldn’t have made me the typical ‘person with dyslexia’ either.

I think the consequence of this may mean that only a particular type of person with dyslexia would have persisted until the end, which means that a lot of ‘average people with dyslexia’ may be missing from this data set. In a study about character strengths this could really skew the sample in favour of a particular set of those strengths, just by making to survey hard for people to fill in.

The authors themselves mention this as a significant limitation, and I appreciate them doing so. For me this casts doubt on the findings because it’ unlikely to be a sample of the average person with dyslexia, just the persistent ones.

I think in the next iteration of this research the team should recruit a group of people with dyslexia to redesign the survey with them so that it would be more appealing to the ‘average person with dyslexia’ if such a thing exists.

I hope that this has been interesting for dyslexics and non dyslexics alike. If you are a dyslexic writer like me, let me know in the comments – do any of these things match your experiences too?

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Creativity, Dyslexia and Me: Part One

When I started writing this post I had an idea that I would post it as part of my series about ideas from science that may be helpful to creative folks to know. However, as I was writing it I realised that my take on it was probably going to be a little more personal than I had in mind of that series, so I think it needs to stand a little away from that, although it will still be of interest to people who like those posts, I hope.

I came across the paper ‘Not all those who wander are lost: Examining the character strengths of dyslexia’ by Chathurika Kannanga, Jerome Carson, Sowmya Puttaraju and Rosie Allen when I was doing a general search for peer reviewed papers on creativity, and was immediately struck by the title. Most people will know that dyslexia is a form of learning disability, but the idea here is that alongside the problems that dyslexia can bring, there are also abilities or strengths.

Dyslexia and me

So here’s where it gets a bit personal. Up until the age of about 9 or 10, I couldn’t really read or write. I think I must have been pretty good at the performance of reading or writing because people (by which I mean teachers) didn’t seem to notice, but unfortunately for me, the products of these performances were not intelligible to anyone but myself.

Back in the 1980’s I don’t think dyslexia was a well understood thing in small country schools in the UK. My father has told me that it was at a parent’s evening, where a teacher had already told him that I was ‘doing fine’, where he encountered some of my writing that was so confusing that he determined that things definitely weren’t ‘fine’, at all.

I was lucky enough to have parents who understood that I was clever enough to be able to do these things, but some how I couldn’t, and I was luckier still that they could afford to employ a tutor to work with me on school evenings (apparently only acceptable to 9 year old me because he wore a leather coat and had an earring).

By the time I got to secondary school a year or two later, I could read and write well enough to keep up in most classes. In English however I was still considered to have a learning disability, and received the kind of ‘support’ that was effective in demonstrating to my peers there was something wrong with me, but not effective in actually helping with the problem as it focused on poor spelling.

Now we all have autocorrect in our word processing programmes, no one needs to be able to spell perfectly, but back then it was considered a big thing. So much so in fact, that any creative abilities in writing seemed to take a back seat to things like spelling, and I ended up feeling like science was a much better fit for me than the arts and humanities (our art department wasn’t exactly an embarrassment of riches either).

I wasn’t actually formally diagnosed with dyslexia until after I’d been in university for a year, and since then I’ve not done a huge amount of research into it, which is curious because it would probably have helped me understand myself better. Since that time I’ve been more and more drawn to creative projects, and have taken classes and taught myself all sorts of creative things while still keeping one foot in the sciences, and never quite settling to ‘specialise’ in anything, which probably hasn’t helped my career really. When I saw this paper I thought maybe the science on dyslexia can help me play to my strengths a bit better.

What we now know about dyslexia

According to the paper, dyslexia is a ‘visual processing defect’ with an impact on literacy skills, and there are issues in sustaining vital attention which fits quite well with my experience.

Where it is spoken about publicly, it is typically discussed or written about as a disability or a problem, and in the mind of the public probably equates to ‘people who can’t read or write well.’ The central idea of the research paper, ‘Not all those who wander are lost’ is that dyslexia is not only a problem, it is also a strength, and not just a single strength, but many.

While I had been aware of the links between creativity and dyslexia for a while, I was surprised by the raft of things cited just in the introduction of this paper that people with dyslexia are good at (by which I mean better than the average person without dyslexia). This list of things both filled in some blanks for me about my personal experience, and pointed in the direction of what I may want to read next.

Here some of the things that the paper mentioned that people with dyslexia are better at, which resonated with my own experiences (and does not at all cover everything said there):

  • Better accuracy in processing three dimensional information – this includes being able to complete tasks that involve visual spatial skills such as drawing, mechanical puzzles and building models more easily. One of the things that really stuck out for me was the suggestion that we can be alert to lots of information at once, including detecting anomalies and being sensitive to changes in the environment. I’ve noticed that I tend to be very distractible, and don’t exactly flourish in open plan offices, and tend to be pulled in quite easily to ‘things’ that are going on, so this tracks for me. I also began to think that maybe there is a story there about an agency of dyslexic spies!
  • Interconnected reasoning – we can bring together many sources of information, some of which may be unexpected and make connections between things that may not occur to people with more typical brains
  • Narrative reasoning – apparently we have better abilities to remember information that is embedded in story, and it is common for people with dyslexia to enjoy creative writing despite difficulties they may have with writing.
  • Problem solvers – people with dyslexia can be good at problem solving as they are more likely to draw on ideas from different, sometimes unconnected, places. There is a high incidence of dyslexia in entrepreneurs, which I found kind of interesting.
  • Big picture thinkers – this may also relate to the way people with dyslexia connect different sources of information in ways that people without it may not, leading them to think ‘out of the box’. As I hinted at above, in my own day job career I’ve found myself roaming around research areas (including psychology, ethics, epilepsy, learning disability, mental health and more general social sciency stuff), rather than ever truly settling on one thing, and never quite fit into the academic mold that rewards people who dive deeply into one thing. My magpie brain is constantly picking up on new things it perceives as shiny.
  • Creativity – this wasn’t a surprise for me as I’m seem unable to comfortably stick to one medium, and am constantly picking up new creative projects

Unexpected (for me) skills:

  • Empathy – in my day job I have ended up in an area that really requires good interpersonal skills. It didn’t really occur to me that these softer skills may be a dyslexic thing, and that may relate to the way that the public story of dyslexia has been about difficulties with reading and writing!
  • Networking and team building – This is also something I found surprising. In person I am quite good at working in a team and do like to talk to people and network, but I’m actually finding these things quite difficult to do in the world of remote working and zoom calls, and wonder if this relates to the whole ‘good at processing information in 3D space’ thing, because the flattening of the world through a zoom screen has had the effect of flattening me too.
  • Memory and memory recognition tasks – I’ve always felt I had a terrible memory – and I do for names and dates, but actually not really for other things. It’s more that I doubt my memory and find myself checking even when I’ve remembers correctly – my narrative recall is good, as would be predicted by this work.

I realise at this point that I’ve not really talked about what this group of researchers actually did in their own research – I think I will leave that for a part two of this post as it’s already rather long.

I hope that this has been interesting for dyslexics and non dyslexics alike. If you are a dyslexic writer like me, let me know in the comments – do any of these things match your experiences too?

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Ideas from science to boost your art: The restorative impact of nature

Before I started writing this blog post I took a walk in a nature park that is close to my home. I had spent the morning trying to upload my film to a website in order to submit it to some festivals (more news on that to come), and was in need of a creative reset before I started working on a different project. I frequently find that a walk in a wild place will help me think through what I want to say or do next on any number of my creative works in progress, and it has significant positive impact on my mental and physical health too. I’m not the only one who finds this, and the positive impact of being in green or blue spaces on humans has been established for some time.

This is why I wanted to discuss some of the ideas of Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in this next ‘ideas from science to boost your art’ post. I came across their book, The experience of nature: a Psychological perspective while working up a proposal for a project at work. It’s an old book, published in 1989 and doesn’t appear to be in print any more, but I was able to access it for free here.

The book outlines a theoretical perspective on how natural environments are beneficial to us, and then brings together a lot of evidence to support different parts of the theory from psychological studies that the authors and their students conducted around that time. I really liked how they described an inclusive understanding of natural environments on page 2 as “places near and far, common and unusual, managed and unkempt, big, small and in-between, where plants grow by design, or even despite it.”

I’m not actually going to write about the evidence here. This is partly because the evidence is likely to have been built upon in the thirty years since it’s publication, and should I try to update that here this would turn into a very long blog post. It’s also partly because I think the basic ideas are something that may be helpful and thought provoking to creatives and non creatives alike. Given the book is 368 pages it’s unlikely that I’ll fit everything into a thousand words or so of a blog post, and I have also simplified things because of this. If you like what you see, try giving it a read.

Humans and information

They begin by describing how human beings are highly dependent on information to function, which they hoover up from their environments through all the senses available to them. The brain is in a constant state of sorting through which information is important and requires some sort of action, and which is not. In order to do this hoovering and sorting the brain can engage in two different types of attentional processes:

  1. ‘Involuntary attention’ – the kind of focus you may have when engaging with something you already find interesting. This kind of attention is relatively low effort, and enjoyable
  2. ‘Directed attention’ – the kind of attention you have to work at. If we think about this as writers, it’s the kind of attention you may need to sustain your concentration through a difficult scene or a series of picky revisions or edits. Sustaining this kind of attention for extended periods of time can result in mental fatigue, even if this has been in the pursuit of a project that is enjoyable.

They then make the argument, which feels intuitively right to me, that in modern society we have constructed urban environments and social structures that constantly provide us with lots of interesting and distracting information, and thus there is lots of ‘sorting’ to do between the information that is just interesting, and the information that requires action. As a result we frequently engage in directed attention, which can result in mental fatigue.

Mental fatigue

For most writers and creatives, especially ones like myself who are trying to fit creative stuff in around other bits of life, I think that mental fatigue may be a familiar feeling. It is the state where someone may feel ‘worn out’ without necessarily having engaged in any physical activity. They even note that people who experience this may complain that they have not engaged in enough activity.

The consequences of mental fatigue may be familiar too. People who are mentally fatigued are more likely to commit human errors and to be aggressive, less tolerant, and less sensitive to socially important cues. So here is the explanation for that gaping plot hole that you didn’t notice first time round in that bit of the book you wrote while really tired and highly caffeinated.

Restorative environments

The bulk of the book is dedicated to building a case around why natural environments may be ‘restorative environments’, by which they mean environments that facilitate rest and recovery from mental fatigue. They cite four different characteristics that environments they consider to be ‘restorative’ have:

  1. The sense of ‘being away’ both from one’s every day concerns and responsibilities, and from noise and cluttered urban spaces
  2. The sense of being in ‘a whole other world’ in which things may look and feel quite different
  3. They are inherently fascinating, and easily engage those processes of ‘involuntary attention’ we met earlier
  4. They are compatible with the things that people like to do

The descriptions of these four types of characteristics are quite long and detailed. I’m not going to paraphrase them here as this blog will never end, and I feel like these characteristics will intuitively make sense to a lot of people. If you do want to read about the detail, the relevant sections start from page 184.

I think many of us can see how being in a natural space may fit the bill for all of the above. Being out in a green or blue space means we are away from our desks, our work places, perhaps even our caring responsibilities, and things feel quite different there. Allowing ourselves the time to pay attention to the plants and insect and other animals can feel like being in a whole other world, and is, for many people, inherently fascinating. Being in calm green places allows many of us to do things that we enjoy, like hiking, cycling or sitting near bodies of water.

Recovery from mental fatigue

The final aspect of this theory that I think is really helpful for creatives is their discussion of how being in a natural environment can help us recover from mental fatigue. They suggest this can happen at four levels:

  1. Clearing the head and allowing your mind to pack away the ‘cognitive leftovers’ from a recent task or project
  2. Recovering our abilities to engage in the processes of directed attention, i.e. our ability to concentrate
  3. The ‘soft fascination’ that is induced by exploring the plants and creatures of a place allows for a kind of cognitive quiet which may give space to think about things that are ignored, or not felt to be important on a day to day level
  4. The space for deeper reflections on one’s life , priorities, actions and goals

For me I think the most important take away from these ideas is that as a creative, the key to being productive and having good ideas is not to work on this or that project in every spare moment as western culture may sometimes suggest. Rather, those moments when we step away from our desks and out, into the garden, or away to the park are really important for our brains to be able to function when we do next sit down to work on something. Personally I found this insight really helpful as I often feel a bit guilty when I take an hour out of my ‘art day’ to walk in the park, and perhapse I don’t need to feel like that at all.

I hope you have found this blog interesting or thought provoking. If you have thoughts or comments, I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Creative Prompt: The Doll

I frequently see ‘lost’ toys and children’s clothes or shoes when I am out and about. I’ve got quite a collection of photographs as there is often something a little forlorn about them, like they are waiting to be reunited with the small being they belong to. Some of those photos feel like they belong on the cover of a mystery novel. But I don’t frequently post them here as most of the time they provoke the same set of thoughts or feelings for me.

However, I took the photo of this particular little doll because it felt different to those other lost toys. The way it is dressed to resemble a someone ready for work or school caught my attention, like it could have been constructed to resemble a specific person. Last night as I was getting ready for bed I began thinking that it looked a little like the kind of artefact someone might produce in order to cast a spell. I’d like to think that the little smile on the face of this doll was placed there to convey a positive intention, perhapse it is a charm to bring luck or fortune in a new job or studies. Or perhapse not.

Who do you think the little doll was made to represent? What may fate or fortune bring them?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these so please do link to blog posts or comment below.

If you like the photos featured in these creative prompt posts you may be interested in my latest collection of prints and other things on Redbubble which feature a small selection of my best shots.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt: A Fridge on the Street

I saw this fridge the other morning on a street near where I live. It was pretty gloomy when I took the photograph and I didn’t think that the light was that great so it was a bit of a hurried snap. We get a lot of fridges and things like that dumped in our area by fly tippers, and I don’t normally both to take photos because a big white box isn’t normally that interesting to me. This one was a bit different, because of the magnetic jigsaw puzzel that is still attached to the front door. The fridge was a new arrival that morning – it hadn’t been there the evening before.

The way that one of the puzzels looks almost complete, while the second one is a fractured smattering of pieces spread across the surface makes it looks as if up until very recently, this fridge was being used by a family. There is something about the dumping of this fridge that speaks to me of dislocation, or of a rapid change in circumstances.

What happened to result in someone needing to get rid of it in the middle of the night?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these so please do link to blog posts or comment below.

If you like the photos featured in these creative prompt posts you may be interested in my latest collection of prints and other things on Redbubble which feature a small selection of my best shots.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Ideas from science to boost your art: The psychology of curiosity

This is the first post in a series of blogs I’m tentatively calling ‘Ideas from science to help your art’. I’ve been increasingly interested in the science of creativity and storytelling for a while as my own adventures in creativity have developed over time. When I completed a PhD in the psychology of storytelling back in 2009 I was very interested in related work, but I haven’t really had the opportunity to return to that area in my professional life since then as my research career took a number of turns away from it.

Since I completed my film a couple of weeks ago I’ve found I have a bit more head space now, and am planning to write a series of longer blog posts about ideas in science that are related to the creative process and to storytelling. I imagine these posts will be a bit intermittent to begin with, as each post will require more research than I currently indulge in, and it’ll take a bit of time to work out how to fit everything in. But I am looking forward to the challenge or re-engaging with this area.

I came across the first idea I wanted to pick up while listening to ‘The Science of Storytelling’ by Will Storr on Audible (affiliate links – if you use these links to make a purchase I’ll get a tiny commission). I’m a bit of the way through chapter one at the moment and am finding it interesting. He has covered quite a bit of ground that I’m partially familiar with from my own psychology studies, and I think his way of communicating the science is clear and engaging. He has spent some time explaining how none of us truly know what reality is, rather we all live in a virtual simulation constructed in the brain from the information we gain through our five senses. Story is effective in tapping into the process through which we do this to create imaginative simulations.

I was particularly interested in a section he has written about curiosity, in which he draws on the work of George Loewenstien. I’ve not been able to access the papers that Storr references (they don’t appear to be available as open access sources and are expensive to purchase) so what I say here is based on how Storr presents this work, rather than my direct reading of the original science.

In this section Storr explains that curiosity works through the brain’s reward system, so the same bits that respond to cake and wine, creating a desire for answers to questions. He then goes on to describe how good stories incorporate curiosity into their structures. A story poses questions, and then allows answers to unfold slowly over time. He quoted Loewenstien’s paper ‘The Psychology of Curiosity’ to list four ways in which it is possible to induce curiosity:

  1. The posing of questions or the presentation of puzzles
  2. Exposing someone to a sequence of events that have an anticipated, but unknown resolution
  3. Violating a person’s expectations of something, causing them to search for an explanation
  4. Knowing that someone else of possesses information that you don’t have

He then goes on to describe how this is also the basic structure of any good crime drama. The harnessing of natural human curiosity is essential to making this genre of stories, and many others, work.

I found this section of the book very helpful. I don’t think I am always that good at posing questions in my own fiction writing, which may be why I have struggled to progress with my new draft of Feeding Jasmine Valentine, my WIP. As a mechanism for hooking readers in, this use of curiosity is effective.

But I also think that understanding how curiosity works is helpful for the creative process, for writing or making art. An unanswered question can drive a writer or an artist as much as it can a reader. Many of my own scenes or mini projects start with “why is that like that?” Or “why did X do Y?” questions, and from there the process of writing is also a process of discovery.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. You can read my short fantasy stories here on Simily. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here

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Creative Prompts: A Mystery Box

I’ve been listening to The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr on Audible recently (affiliate links – if you use these links to make a purchase I’ll get a tiny commission). I’m not very far in and wouldn’t want to say at this point whether I reccomend it or not, but I’m finding it interesting. My attention was caught in particular by a section about curiosity and storytelling, and I am planning a longer post on that for later this month. Towards the end of this section he wrote about how the film maker JJ Abrams has described his “controling theory of storytelling’ as the opening a series of mystery boxes. This thought in particular was in my mind when I stumbled across this week’s creative prompt.

I saw this little package sitting on a wall in the sunlight a few mornings ago. Inside the bag you could see a collection of cans of Fosters Larger. I didn’t touch the bag, so I don’t know if they were full or empty, but the way the bag is tied neatly, with the ‘thank you’ massage emblazoned on the side gave me the impression that someone had left a thank you gift for someone else. The little package was left on a side street next to a play ground, not on someone’s doorstep or front fence, so it peaked my curiosity a little.

Who would leave such a thing? Who was it for?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these so please do link to blog posts or comment below.

If you like the photos featured in these creative prompt posts you may be interested in my latest collection of prints and other things on Redbubble which feature a small selection of my best shots.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Street Photography: New collection out this week

Over that last year and a bit I’ve been running a regular creative prompt blog post once a week where possible. During that time I’ve been taking photos of odd things and objects that I see out and about. It didn’t occur to me until recently that this is probably a form of street photography. I’ve certainly not really been calling it that until quite recently. This is probably because I haven’t really considered myself to be a photographer before, although I’m beginning to learn a lot more about photgraphy now as a creative practice through these regular posts.

I recently too a look back through some of the photographs for a round up of the last year’s prompts, and was kind of struck by how much I liked a small subsection of those photographs. I feel like a handful of them have a kind of gritty commersial appeal, and wanted to make more use of them than to leave them languish here on the blog.

I’ve not really done a photography collection on Redbubble before, but I felt like this may be a nice place to start, so I have curated a small selection of them and uploaded them onto Redbubble to see what the response may be. There are six at the moment. My aim is to get 15-20 into the collection. I have a few more in mind already from my existing portfolio, and will be keeping my eye out for more interesting finds.

So here it is – The Lost and Found Collection. As I said, it’s bit of an experiment for me, so any comments, feedback or suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Creative Prompt: Holding Court

I saw this chair sitting under a street light the other night while I was on my way home from a dinner out with Mr Magpie. There was something about the way it was placed that made me stop and take a photo while he marched off, oblivious that I had paused for a moment.

Sometimes I see things like this and get the eerie feeling that I have glimpsed something of an unseen world. There is the added mystery of things that happen after dark. Secret meetings in the soupy glow of a street lamp.

When I saw this I felt like perhaps minutes before, and unknown someone had been sitting, holding court with their unknown followers. Who do you think that little group were? What were they talking about?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these so please do link to blog posts or comment below.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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