She might be the world’s most famous romance writer, nay the highest selling living author bar none, but there’s little room for flowers and chocolates in Danielle Steel’s writing regime. In a recent interview she laughed at the idea of young people insisting on a work-life balance, and has claimed she regularly writes for 20 to 22 hours a day, and sometimes 24. The result: 179 books in under 50 years, selling about 800m copies.
Some aspiring novelists might just have cancelled their entire lives to get on the Steel plan, but many more are probably wondering if it’s time to try something less demanding. We asked four creative writing teachers for their perspective:
Liam Murray Bell, University of Stirling
Steel’s claim reminds me of the thriller writer Edgar Wallace, who was known to write a novel over the course of a long weekend. He’d retire to his study on a Friday evening and not emerge until the Monday morning, dictating his words to a secretary and stopping only for half-hourly cups of tea. Poor secretary.
The only thing I recognise from that brutal regime is the need for copious amounts of tea. For me, a productive day is four hours of writing. Four hours of focused, uninterrupted time at the keyboard. This morning, I wrote for two hours and managed just shy of 1,000 words. Even that is a decent day; a steady day. To wrestle those hours of writing time free, I’m postponing teaching preparation, leaving my marking until the evening, relying on childcare. Most of all, I’m doing my damnedest to ignore emails. When does Steel answer her emails, is what I want to know.
There have been times, on writing retreats or under threat of impending deadline, when I’ve been known to stretch to six or seven hours. No more, though, because then the words stop making sense and the delete key takes a hammering. I start explaining my plot to the mantelpiece and rehearsing lines of dialogue with the cat. Instead, I go and do something else. It’s amazing how often clarity about your writing comes while washing the dishes, trimming the hedge, taking the dog for a walk. The writers I know are full of anecdotes of story ideas scribbled on bus tickets, or pulling over the car to jot down a poem opening by the side of the road.
It’s often when I’m out for a lunchtime run that I find myself reflecting on what I wrote that morning or find the thread for a scene to write the next day. Haruki Murakami talks about the similar feats of concentration and endurance required for long-distance running and for writing a novel; each endeavour requiring the person to turn up day after day for months or even years. At the University of Stirling, we’ve actually formed a research group to look at the links between creative writing and physical activity because so many writers are also keen runners or cyclists or swimmers.
The appeal of Steel’s process, then, seems to be that every day is race day. But you can’t sustain that. Little and often is my mantra, with every day building momentum. If you manage 200 words today then those are 200 words you didn’t have yesterday. That might take you 15 minutes or it might take six hours; either way, it’s progress. The aim isn’t to get as many words on the page as quickly as possible; the aim is to get the right words on the page, however long it takes.
Sarah Corbett, University of Lancaster
I’m sorry to say there isn’t a formula for how to write a novel (so don’t buy those “how to” books) – only hard graft, staying power, blinding self belief (rescued every morning from the teeth of doubt), and the willingness to meet the devil at the crossroads and outwit him. And to write, rewrite, write, rewrite, write, rewrite …
Perhaps this isn’t very helpful to the beginner; and I have to admit that I’m just finishing my own first novel – after five years. But having taught creative writing for almost 20 years across all genres, here are some things I can say from experience:
1) Read other novels. There’s no getting round this: you have to do a lot of reading – passionate, engaged and risky – but also the kind where you start to notice, and then investigate how the writer does things. Read lots of different types of books too: be curious, endlessly;
2) Practice, practice, practice. Write regularly even if you can only spare an hour in the evening or an afternoon at the weekend. Most writers have other jobs, families, pets, households, and you’d be surprised how much writing gets done in the gaps between other things;
3) Work at your technique at every level of detail from sentencing and phrasing to word choice, creating believable characters, immersive settings, dynamic scenes and authentic dialogue;
4) Write what saddens/moves/frightens/turns you on; write with the whole of your self and the whole of your senses;
5) Join a course, start a group;
6) Write because you enjoy it, and you enjoy a challenge;
7) Be prepared to tear it up and start again;
8) Remember that writing is work, the best kind, that transports and enchants you;
9) Keep going…;
10) Write your own rules.
So how did I write my novel? Slowly – I published two poetry collections in the same period, did a lot of teaching and saw my son through his GCSEs and A-levels – and with a lot of gutting and rewriting; begging more experienced friends to read it and give me their toughest, most honest advice, and then acting on it, even when it meant radical cuts and changes.
Mine is a literary novel – about family, home and shame – but with a psychological twist. The character and her story came to me all in one go on the train home from Manchester after an unsettling encounter in Waterstones, and since then it’s been a process of excavation, as if the novel already existed somewhere in the world, and I just had to keep uncovering it, slowly, layer by layer. I’m still adding scenes, taking others away, fine tuning every line. I’m still working out the best way to tell the story, but I know I’m nearly ready to let it go because the next one has already arrived.
Edward Hogan, Open University
For his 2016 book Rest, the writer and Silicon Valley consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang collected the routines of creative people throughout history. From the habits of writers such as Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, and Alice Munro, he concluded that four hours a day is optimum, and you need to wake up early. Trollope rose at 5am each morning (a servant brought him coffee at half past), and wrote until 8.30am, before going to his job at the post office. On that schedule, he published over 40 novels.
As a writer with a family and a full-time job, I currently follow the 5am method, though I make my own coffee. In theory, this “little and often” approach seems straightforward: if you write 500 words a day, you’ll have a first draft in months. But it isn’t that simple. My first novel took eight years, but my third was pretty much done in 40 days. Writing requires two states of mind: you need the researcher’s brain, the clear-thinking editor’s, but you must be open to the dark mess of creation, too. My routine changes, because I haven’t figured out how to do it yet. When I do, I’ll probably quit.
I’m interested in Steel’s way of working. That sort of immersion, favoured by Kasuo Ishiguro, and Jesse Ball – who claims to write his novels in as little as six days – allows them to retain the vitality of the initial idea.
Paul Sheldon, the author and narrator of Stephen King’s Misery, describes “falling through a hole in the page” when writing. Maybe that’s the sort of compulsion that Steel experiences, and it’s refreshing to hear her address the physicality of the process. Writers are reluctant to talk about the (rare) sensation of extreme focus that results when they become possessed by their work. Rambling about raised heart-rates, losing track of time, and being “in the zone”, can make writing sound like a cross between yoga and golf.
The writer’s routine is where practical concerns meet the more ephemeral subject of inspiration. You have to decide what kind of writer you want to be. Jenny Colgan produces two books a year, and this involves hitting deadlines so that her novels appear around Mother’s Day and the Christmas season. Writing is work, the daily pursuit of a word count. For Hilary Mantel, that sort of regularity is alien. She talks about“flow days” when she has no idea what she’s written until she reads it back. But both writers are at their desks, daily.
The act of writing can be exhilarating, but it’s mostly quite difficult. Then again, it’s not like going down the pit. So if you want to write a novel, and find Steel’s method unappealing, let me refer you to the celebrated and prolific children’s author Jacqueline Wilson, who writes for about half-an-hour a day. In bed.
David Bishop, Edinburgh Napier University
Steel’s regime sounds extreme, but if that works for her – so be it. Every writer has their own unique sweet spot, a time and place where they can produce words that will be ready for reading one day. The trick is finding your personal approach, and also recognising it might not suit every project.
Some people say you must write every day to be a writer. Perhaps, but writing is not simply the act of typing words on paper or screen. There is so much more that goes into creating narratives from your imagination. Reading widely is often the sign of a voracious writer, though there is always the danger of a project being infected by the style or substance of whatever you happen to be reading at the time.
It’s also a myth that you need to write a certain number of words in a session. Some writers do benefit from a daily or weekly target, but others prefer to devote a fixed amount of time to writing, and trust that the words will come. Feeling guilty for not matching another writer’s productivity is certainly not good for your mental health. Besides, quantity is no measure of quality. I once had 600,000 words published in one calendar year, but they certainly weren’t my best work.
The act of not writing is just as important as writing. Never underestimate the importance of staring out of a window or going for a walk. All too often the knottiest story problems can only be untangled by getting away from the desk. If all else fails, try going to sleep and letting your subconscious do the heavy lifting. It’s amazing how often the resting mind can resolve a problem your active thoughts couldn’t fix.
For most writers, finding the best way to write a novel is trial and error: experimenting with different systems until they discover one that chimes. Some writers craft detailed plot outlines as a narrative safety net; others prefer a journey of discovery that could mean wholesale rewrites later. Some work in total silence; others needs background sounds such as music. An idea to spark your imagination is necessary, along with a trajectory to follow – but what happens next is up to you.
Steel has a sign in her office that reads: “There are no miracles. There is only discipline.” To be a writer does not require 22 hours at a desk each day, but Steel is right that there are no miracles, either. If you want to be a writer, you have to write – however you do it. That much is inescapable.
Last December, the world ushered in a new era of popular music: human and artificial intelligence (AI) collaboration.
Musical eras are often defined by their dominant modes of production — analog, electronic, digital — each bringing about new styles and ways of listening. This era is marked by the release of the first AI-human collaborated album, Hello World, by the music collaborative Skygge. Skygge, led by composer and producer Benoît Carré and musician and tech researcher François Pachet, translates to “shadow” in Danish and was inspired by the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name.
We now know that algorithms can learn human bias, but can they also create highly creative and emotionally engaging music?
Although AI algorithms lack back stories and a creative process — the very things that often draw us into a piece of pop music — they make up for it with their ability to generate the unfamiliar and novel.
Instead of finding inspiration in the social and musical experiences of one person’s life, AI draws on the outputs of thousands of lives. AI interprets these outputs as data, and can offer new melodies, instrumentations and other musical elements, based on statistical probabilities in a data-set.
Skygge was not the first to produce AI pop music. Dadabots (led by producer Zack Zukowski and technologist CJ Carr), released an album for the heavy metal band, Krallice, last year. The result, Coditany of Timeness, was the first neural-network-created heavy metal album.
AI music has existed in classical music styles for much longer. For example, researcher and musician David Cope explored algorithmic composition in the 1980s with the creation of his Experiments in Musical Intelligence (EMI) program. Others have been exploring using AI to “compose Bach” since 1958.
In 1993, Cope released the Bach-inspired Bach by Design album using EMI. EMI’s music has mostly been appreciated on technical instead of artistic merit. At that point, it seemed AI music functioned best with predictable parameters, like the predominantly rules-based music format of Bach’s fugues.
Because of Cope’s pioneering experiments, AI has had success producing fugues that can pass as human-created, but that could partly be explained by a lack of familiarity with Bach’s music by those who are tasked with identifying the human vs. computer creator.
But Skygge is the first pop music collaboration between human and AI producers.
Challenges exist when using AI technologies to create both classical and pop music styles. The mainstream familiarity of pop music, however, means that it is more difficult to “fool” listeners. The success of most pop artists relies not only on their musical talents but also their ability to craft stories and make connections with their listeners on a personal level.
Listeners become invested in the storytelling, and the extra musical elements that make pop music “pop.” Statistical models generally lack these features, even though the music itself is created from preexisting, human-created works.
For Hello World, each contributing Skygge artist and producer interpreted the Hans Christian Andersen fable within a chosen genre and worked in conjunction with the AI technology. Skygge was funded by a European Research Council grant to explore AI in pop music production. To do so, they used Sony’s Flow-Machines tools.
Instead of using neural networks, as done in Google DeepMind’s Deep Dream Generator, Flow Machines uses a probability equation, known as Markov chains to create catchy tracks. Neural networks require a substantial amount of information to produce an outcome, while Markov chains have the advantage of being able to produce statistical models from much smaller databases.
Based on the information imputed and based on previously recorded music, Flow-Machines suggests melodies, accompaniments and instrumentation. Producers can accept, reject and alter these suggestions to create their AI-human collaboration.
Using AI as a pop music collaborator has the potential to push the boundaries of familiarity into new territories. Novelty is often what shifts a song from being merely popular to genre-defining.
The unfamiliar is easy to find on Skygge. Pop-singer Kiesza, one of the contributors to Hello World, created the melody for her track “Hello Shadow” using Flow-Machines. Kiesza said: “This melody sounded different from anything that I’d actually ever heard…I loved it from the beginning….Even though it’s still really haunting…it’s still really catchy.”
Similarly, the eeriness of “In the House of Poetry” is undeniable, and enhanced by the ethereal voice of Kyrie Kristmanson. Flow-Machines took the familiar and translated it into something on the edges of the uncanny. Yet, at the same time, it is catchy. Skygge says they specialize in earworms —songs that stick in your head, becoming undeniably familiar, in spite of their initial unfamiliarity.
As AI-collaborated pop music becomes more commonplace, it will challenge us as producers and listeners. The question will become much less about whether AI will take the jobs of musicians but more about how, or if, our tastes will evolve as quickly as the production technologies develop.
Technologies such as Auto-Tune challenged many people’s definitions of authenticity and humanity in music. Debates surrounding computational creativity, including AI music, take this a step further to challenge the assumption that creativity and music are something inherently “human.”
AI will create a new era of music production, or at the very least, new musical styles. Skygge co-producer Carré said: “At the beginning, a lot of people were afraid that the pianist and the drummers will be replaced, but it never happens this way…It’s humans that find the ways to use [tech] to make interesting things.”
We live in a culture of storytelling, not just in the lyrics and music, but also through the artists themselves. The production of these stories may change, but our engagement with them will not.
Totally cool, there is hope for the species.
May 11, 2018
A restaurant in China is offering patrons free food, but there’s a catch. They have to be able to fit through the smallest opening of the gate.
This will probably upset and offend those who meltdown over the most inane issues, so if you’re easily offended, perhaps stop reading now. But the owner of an eatery in East China obviously doesn’t care who is offended. Zhao Long is asking patrons to try to squeeze through different sizes of gaps between bars and offering discounts for those who get through the narrowest spaces.
His restaurant in Jinan City offers customers free food and free beer, as long as they can fit through a 15cm (almost 6 inches) gap. Now, 15cm wide isn’t all that wide, and some say it’s too “skinny.” However, most people would have a go at it if they thought it meant free food and beer for everyone, and it does.
Zhao means well, reported the LAD Bible. He wants to present a new way of making people mindful of the amount they eat and drink. He said: “So many people have told me that they’ve failed losing weight – just because they can’t quit drinking beer. Maybe this could serve as a reminder to them to keep an eye on their diet.”
Here’s the nitty-gritty of how his system works. If you get through the smallest gap, you get free food and your entire table gets free beer. The next step up is an 18 cm (just over 7 inches) gap. If you get through that you win 5 beers – which is nothing to thumb one’s nose at, unless you dislike beer. The third increment is 25 cm (9.84 inches) and you get a free beer, which is still a good deal if you get through there. After that, it goes up to 30 cm. At 30cm (11.8 inches, almost a foot) you get no discount but are told: “your figure is just average – you shouldn’t ask for more.”
Zhao also says that at least one person gets through the smallest gap each day earning them the largest reward. He was also rather quick to add that all of them are female. He also said many still get through the second smallest gap, which still gets them 5 free beers.
He’s not the only one with an odd marketing tool for his business in the city, either. One restaurant nearby had the idea of offering discounts to women in short skirts. They get 90% off their bill if the skirt was 33 cm (13 inches) above the knee.
Delivered by The Daily Sheeple
This week, during an event at SXSW in Austin, a startup called ICON unveiled an amazing project, a house that could be 3-D printed for just $4,000. With the new method that the company has developed, they are able to print a 650-square-foot house out of cement in less than 24 hours. In contrast, it could take a human roughly 20 days to complete the same project.
ICON’s first project is to build 100 homes for a community in El Salvador next year. To complete this goal, ICON is teaming up with New Story, a nonprofit that focuses on finding homes for people across the world who have inadequate shelter.
“We have been building homes for communities in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia,” Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story, told The Verge.
New story CEO Brett Hagler said that their main goal is to help provide housing for the poorest billion people on the earth.
“We thought, okay, what if the bottom billion weren’t the last ones to get this, but the first ones to get this? It made sense for us to try to leapfrog what’s happening domestically because our homes are so simple,” Hagler said.
“Ideally we can move from thousands of people to millions of people around the world by allowing other nonprofits and governments to use this technology. That’s the big goal because our goal is impacting the most families possible,” he added.
ICON will be producing the materials with a Vulcan 3D printer and the team said that they could make houses as large as 800 square feet, which is about the size of the average apartment in New York City.
“The big difference, between a developed world and developing world context is you have a much more limited set of materials to work with. Number one, just because of access, you want to restrict your material mix to things that you could find very ubiquitously around the globe. And you also want to avoid expensive materials,” Jason Ballard of ICON said.
“There are fundamental problems with conventional stick-building that 3D printing solves, besides affordability. You get a high thermal mass, thermal envelope, which makes it far more energy-efficient. It’s far more resilient. There are a few other companies that have printed homes and structures, but they are printed in a warehouse, or they look like Yoda huts. For this venture to succeed, they have to be the best houses,” he added.
Ballard said that eventually these technologies can even be used to build housing in space.
“One of the big challenges is how are we going to create habitats in space. You’re not going to open a two by four and open screws. It’s one of the more promising potential habitat technologies,” Ballard said.
In 2015, a Chinese construction company named WinSun 3D printed a huge five-story apartment building and an 11,840 square foot mansion. Both of the new projects are located side by side in Suzhou Industrial Park. Each project was constructed with a unique type of pre-mixed concrete which is made from “construction waste” according to Cnet.
Motorist buzzes through a quiet lovely small German town at 300km/h
Art aficionados like to pretend that there’s a very specific and complex science behind interpreting paintings. But as these humorous tweets reveal, the hidden messages are often pretty obvious, not to mention pretty funny!
These modern interpretations of centuries-old paintings come courtesy of Medieval Reactions, a wryly funny Twitter account that’s making people smile with its contemporary take on traditional artwork. And as you can see, it appears that the observations and dilemmas faced by our ancestors aren’t that much different to those of today! Don’t forget to vote for your favorite!
Yup, that’s how we do it in Canada. French, Natives, English, Portuguese, Pekingese, and all the other late comers.
To my poor nephew who is stuck in Saskatchewan after being born in paradise (Victoria, BC). Oh well, must be his karma and what he did before this lifetime. Justin Turtle is a great dude tho.
Doing more than three days a week once you reach 40 years old can damage your ability to think.
Source: New Study Reveals Why Employees Over 40 Should Only Work Three Days A Week
(Truth Theory) A study has revealed that better employee productivity would occur if people over 40 years old were able to work three days (25 hours) a week. According to the paper which is in the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, doing more than three days a week once you reach 40 years old can damage your ability to think.
The research was conducted using the data of more than 3,000 men and 3,500 women (aged over 40) who completed the national Household Income Labour Dynamics in Australia survey. The research took people’s economic and subjective well-being, family structures and employment into account.
The participants were asked to read words aloud, match letters and numbers under pressure and to recite lists of numbers backwards. The results indicated that participants who worked 25 hours a week tended to achieve the highest scores.
Colin Mckenzie is a Professor of Economics at Keio University. He took part in the research and said that working long hours was more damaging to brain function than not working at all. Given the fact that the retirement age has gone up in many countries, Mckenzie suggests that these new findings should be taken into consideration. He stated that “many countries are going to raise their retirement ages by delaying the age at which people are eligible to start receiving pension benefits.
This means that more people continue to work in the later stages of their life. He added, “the degree of intellectual stimulation may depend on working hours. Work can be a double-edged sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time long working hours can cause fatigue and stress, which potentially damage cognitive functions.”
Critics of the research include Geraint Johnes, Professor of Economics at Lancaster University Management School. He said: “The research looks only at over-40s, and so cannot make the claim that over-40s are different from any other workers.
It is also important to note that results may vary between countries, depending on how much holiday people can take each year. Therefore, it is hard to control for factors such as the type of work and hours worked (which could bias a study such as this).
Researchers examine sign language iconicity to gain insight into how we are able to detect meaning from music.
Source: What Does Music Mean? Sign Language May Offer an Answer – Neuroscience News
Summary: Researchers examine sign language iconicity to gain insight into how we are able to detect meaning from music.
How do we detect the meaning of music? We may gain some insights by looking at an unlikely source, sign language, a newly released linguistic analysis concludes.
“Musicians and music lovers intuitively know that music can convey information about an extra-musical reality,” explains author Philippe Schlenker, a senior researcher at Institut Jean-Nicod within France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and a Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. “Music does so by way of abstract musical animations that are reminiscent of iconic, or pictorial-like, components of meaning that are common in sign language, but rare in spoken language.”
Schlenker acknowledges that spoken language also deploys iconic meanings–for example, saying that a lecture was ‘loooong’ gives a very different impression from just saying that it was ‘long.’ However, these meanings are relatively marginal in the spoken word; by contrast, he observes, they are pervasive in sign languages, which have the same general grammatical and logical rules as do spoken languages, but also far richer iconic rules.
Drawing inspiration from sign language iconicity, Schlenker proposes that the diverse inferences drawn on musical sources are combined by way of abstract iconic rules. Here, music can mimic a reality, creating a “fictional source” for what is perceived to be real. As an example, he points to composer Camille Saint Saëns’s “The Carnival of the Animals” (1886), which aims to capture the physical movement of tortoises.
“When Saint Saëns wanted to evoke tortoises in ‘The Carnival of Animals,’ he not only used a radically slowed-down version of a high-energy dance, the Can-Can,” Schlenker notes. “He also introduced a dissonance to suggest that the hapless animals were tripping, an effect obtained due to the sheer instability of the jarring chord.”
In his work, Schlenker broadly considers how we understand music–and, in doing so, how we derive meaning through the fictional sources that it creates.
“We draw all sorts of inferences about fictional sources of the music when we are listening,” he explains. “Lower pitch is, for instance, associated with larger sound sources, a standard biological code in nature. So, a double bass will more easily evoke an elephant than a flute would. Or, if the music slows down or becomes softer, we naturally infer that a piece’s fictional source is losing energy, just as we would in our daily, real-world experiences. Similarly, a higher pitch may signify greater energy–a physical code–or greater arousal, which is a biological code.”
Fictional sources may be animate or inanimate, Schlenker adds, and their behavior may be indicative of emotions, which play a prominent role in musical meaning.
“More generally, it is no accident that one often signals the end of a classical piece by simultaneously playing more slowly, more softly, and with a musical movement toward more consonant chords,” he says. “These are natural ways to indicate that the fictional source is gradually losing energy and reaching greater repose.”
In his research, Schlenker worked with composer Arthur Bonetto to create minimal modifications of well-known music snippets to understand the source of the meaning effects they produce. This analytical method of ‘minimal pairs,’ borrowed from linguistics and experimental psychology, Schlenker posits, could be applied to larger musical excerpts in the future.
Funding: Yuanyuan Liu, Xuhua Wang, Wenlei Li contributed equally to this work. Supporters of the study include grants from Craig Neilsen Foundation, NINDS, Wings for Life, Hong Kong Spinal Cord Injury Fund and Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Medical Research Foundation. IDDRC and viral cores used for this study were supported by NIH grants P30 HD018655 and P30EY012196.
Source: James Devitt – NYU
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Neuroscience News.
Original Research: The analysis, “Outline of Music Semantics,” appears in the journal Music Perception and is available, with sound examples.
Source: 8 Reasons Why Writing Is A Great Life-Hack & Can Make You Healthier ( Backed By Science) – Collective Evolution
Did you know that writing about pain can actually have a positive effect on your immune system?
A series of studies have shown that people who take the time to write down traumatic events in their life not only feel better, but actually physically become better, too.
Studies show that writing down your pain actually has a positive effect on your immune system. Not only that, it can help with the healing process.
In the following article, we will look at the science behind how the cathartic properties of writing work, as well as some ways to help you get motivated to write.
The positive physical effects of writing on the body were first noticed by James Pennebaker in 1986, who was then the chair of the psychology department at Southern Methodist University.
Pennebaker made this startling discovery while performing a rather simple experiment involving “expressive writing.”
Pennebaker asked a number of test subjects write for fifteen minutes about the worst thing that had ever happened to them in their life.
The subjects were told to open up completely, letting out their innermost thoughts and details regarding this traumatic event. The process was difficult for many students, many of whom broke down crying.
However, students also found the process comforting, and when they were asked if they wanted to stop, always asked to be allowed to continue.
Pennebaker contrasted these students to a control group who wrote about normal things, describing their bedroom, a tree outside, or something equally bland.
He observed these students for six months. After this period of time, he observed that the students writing about something traumatic went to the doctor significantly less.
You can listen to an interview with Pennebaker here.
Pennebroker’s groundbreaking experiment opened up a new field of research called “psychoneuroimmunology,” an area of study that explores how expressive writing actually improves the functioning of our immune systems.
How can you use writing to improve your immune system? It’s as easy as buying a journal. Write in your journal every day, and you will start feeling much stronger and better.
Many people, however, find it difficult to get motivated to start writing, so here are some tips.
Start by simply trying to describe the events that happened, and then write down your thoughts as they happen, in a stream of consciousness method. Write how you talk; don’t try to force it.
Most great writers worked at the same time every day, usually the wee hours of the morning, so that they didn’t have to feel motivated to write.
Just like if you eat at the same time every day, you will no longer experience hunger, writing at the same time every day means you won’t need to feel motivated before writing.
We all get it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing down your thoughts or you’re a natural Shakespeare; we all get writer’s block from time to time.
Most novice writers simply walk away from pen and paper, or try to wait it out. But if we look at the creative processes of famous artists and writers, we see that may of them blasted through writer’s block in various unique ways, such as reaching for a simple cup of coffee.
One of the best options? Take a walk in nature to recharge your brain and stimulate your creativity.
“Our study has provided evidence that your career may well change the way you think. There’s already extensive research into how culture changes cognition, but here we’ve found that even within the same culture, people of different professions differ in how they appreciate the world,” said Dr Spiers.
Source: Why Artists Think Differently Compared To Other People
With permission from
Jne 29, 2017
When asked to talk about images of places, painters are more likely to describe the depicted space as a two-dimensional image, while architects are more likely to focus on paths and the boundaries of the space.
“We found that painters, sculptors and architects consistently showed signs of their profession when talking about the spaces we showed them, and all three groups had more elaborate, detailed descriptions than people in unrelated professions,” said senior author Dr Hugo Spiers (UCL Psychology & Language Sciences).
Artists’ portraits predominantly present subjects’ in a specific profile which aligns with their expectations and profession.
F or the study, published in Cognitive Science, the researchers brought in 16 people from each of the three professions — they all had at least eight years of experience and included Sir Anthony Gormley — alongside 16 participants without any relevant background, who acted as controls. The participants were presented with a Google Street View image, a painting of St. Peter’s Basilica, and a computer-generated surreal scene. They had to describe the environment, explain how they would explore the space, and suggest changes to the environment in the image.
The researchers categorised elements of the responses for both qualitative and quantitative analyses using a novel technique called Cognitive Discourse Analysis, developed by one of the co-authors, Dr Thora Tenbrink (Bangor University), designed to highlight aspects of thought that underlie linguistic choices, beyond what speakers are consciously aware of.
“By looking at language systematically we found some consistent patterns, which turned out to be quite revealing,” Dr Tenbrink said.
The painters tended to shift between describing the scene as a 3D space or as a 2D image. Architects were more likely to describe barriers and boundaries of the space, and used more dynamic terms, while sculptors’ responses were between the two. Painters and architects also differed in how they described the furthest point of the space, as painters called it the ‘back’ and architects called it the ‘end.’ The control participants gave less elaborate responses, which the authors say went beyond just a lack of expert terminology.
“Our study has provided evidence that your career may well change the way you think. There’s already extensive research into how culture changes cognition, but here we’ve found that even within the same culture, people of different professions differ in how they appreciate the world,” said Dr Spiers.
“Our findings also raise the possibility that people who are already inclined to see the world as a 2D image, or who focus on the borders of a space, may be more inclined to pursue painting or architecture,” he said.
“In their day-to-day work, artists and architects have a heightened awareness of their surroundings, which seems to have a deep influence on the way they conceive of space,” said the study’s first author, Claudia Cialone (now based at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, Australian National University). “We hope our research will lead to further studies into the spatial cognition of other professionals, which could help devise new ways of understanding, representing and communicating space for ourselves.”
June 10, 2017
A few days before she turned 61, writer Anne Lamott decided to write down everything she knew for sure. She dives into the nuances of being a human who lives in a confusing, beautiful, emotional world, offering her characteristic life-affirming wisdom and humor on family, writing, the meaning of God, death and more.
Once again the brain-gut connection is talked about.
Source: What’s Happening In The Brains of Autistic Children, According To The “Edgar Cayce of our Time” – Collective Evolution
With partial permission from
Anthony William, commonly known as the “Medical Medium,” has helped thousands of people of all ages heal from various ailments, including those who have been misdiagnosed or ineffectively treated by their doctors.
He’s done this by “listening to a divine voice that literally speaks into his ear, telling him what lies at the root of people’s pain or illness and what they need to do to restore their health.”
This may seem a little out there to some readers, but substantial research into parapsychology exists to support claims like these, and I encourage you to remain open-minded while reading this article. If this topic interests you and you’d like to learn more, a great place to start is with the Institute of Noetic Sciences, where you’ll find plenty of peer-reviewed research.
Anthony has been doing this for more than two decades, and the people he’s helped claim that what he does is several decades ahead of current medical science. His abilities have earned him the trust and love of thousands worldwide, among them celebrities, professional athletes, successful entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, and many more.
For example, Ann Louise Gittleman, a New York Times best-selling author of 30 books on health and healing, has called him the Edgar Cayce of our time, describing how Anthony can read the body “with outstanding precision and insight.” She says he “identifies the underlying causes of diseases that often baffle the most astute conventional and alternative health-care practitioners.”
Numerous doctors have written glowing reviews of his book as well, including Dr. Alejandro Junger, another best selling author. He says, “within the first three minutes of speaking with me, Anthony precisely identified my medical issue. This healer really knows what he’s talking about. Anthony’s abilities as the Medical Medium are unique and fascinating, and his book makes complex diseases that confuse even many doctors easy to understand and address. Highly recommended.”
In America alone, the CDC estimates that 1 in 50 kids will receive an ASD diagnosis. Scientific publications have been raising countless questions every single year regarding this spike and its relation to things like vaccine ingredients, aluminum in the environment, glyphosate and other pesticides, iPad and cell phone usage by/near babies, and much more.
Anthony’s take on this issue is unique. He begins by mentioning that ASD kids (and other co-morbid labels that come with it like ADHD and Aspergers) are gifted, and that their conditions come with both upsides and downsides:
Children with these conditions often have a high level of intuition, are exceptionally creative, possess an extraordinary ability to see beneath the surface, and—though this goes against traditional thinking—actually have the ability to “read” people easily. Kids with ADHD and autism often think faster, feel more deeply, and are more intuitive and artistic than the norm, in part because of their limited patience for doing things in the “standard way.”
He then goes on to suggest that children with ADHD and autism are producing new generations of children who will grow up better equipped to solve our problems and chart the best course for humanity. He mentions Indigo Children here, brilliant children with exceptional gifts of intuition and, in some cases, paranormal skills like telepathy.
Too often are conditions like these discussed in a negative light, as though they are something people must suffer through rather than are gifted with. There are many examples of autistic savants who can do extraordinary things that are beyond our understanding. As far as ADHD goes, there are several studies showing that people who show characteristics of ADHD are more likely to reach higher levels of creative thought and achievement compared to those who don’t show these characteristics. (source)(source)(source)(source)(source)
“Our brightest, most creative children and adults are often being misdiagnosed with behavioral and emotional disorders such as ADHD, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder, Bipolar, OCD, or Asperger?s. Many receive unneeded medication and inappropriate counseling as a result. Physicians, psychologists, and counselors are unaware of characteristics of gifted children and adults that mimic pathological diagnoses.” (source)
These authors believe we need to stop wasting the lives of misdiagnosed gifted children, and start creating more awareness on the inappropriate treatment that often follows misdiagnosis.
Recent work in cognitive neuroscience has revealed that both creative thinkers and those with an ADHD diagnosis show difficulty in suppressing brain activity that comes from the “Imagination Network.” (source)(source) There are no school assessments that provide evaluation on creativity and imagination, as these are hard to draw up and measure and accordingly receive little attention in our education systems. And the sad reality is that most children with these labels are shut out of gifted school programs. You can look at some more studies and see some statistics in this CE article.
In his book, Anthony says that, “While being different makes life harder for indigo children—as well as for their families—it also increases their chances of living extraordinary lives.”
And he asserts that“autism is essentially a more advanced and complicated form of ADHD.”
Anthony also offers his theory on what causes autism, saying it’s partly the result of a poor intestinal environment, a topic gaining increasing attention in science today. But, he says, the true underlying cause is heavy metal exposure: “Specifically, ADHD and autism are born from (primarily) mercury, plus aluminum, that settles in the brain’s midline cerebral canal, which divides the left cerebral hemisphere from the right.”
Anthony argues that the medical community is due for a massive wakeup call when it comes to mercury contamination. A recent joint press conference presented by activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who recently launched the World Mercury Project, and actor Robert De Niro, sought to bring this issue to the forefront. At that conference, they presented approximately 100 studies showing serious cause for concern with regards to injecting mercury into young children via multiple vaccinations within a short period of time. On the other hand, they offered $100,000 to any doctor, scientist, or journalist who could provide one study that shows it’s safe to inject one of the world’s most toxic substances into babies.
You can read that article and watch the full press conference here.
Here is a quote from Dr. Jose G. Dores, a professor at the University of Brasilia’s Department of Nutritional Sciences who recently published a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. In the study, he offers the following observation: “Despite their long use as active agents of medicines and fungicides, the safety levels of these substances have never been determined, either for animals or for adult humans—much less for fetuses, newborns, infants, and children.” (source)
It’s the same thing with aluminum. Numerous studies have linked aluminum to several neurodegenerative disorders, but there are no studies showing it’s safe to inject into babies. In fact, many people remain unaware that appropriate safety assessments (toxicity studies) have not been conducted for the administration of vaccines containing aluminum as an adjuvant. Government health authorities have been putting aluminum in vaccines based solely on the assumption that they are safe. Because vaccines have been perceived as non-toxic substances for decades, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not attempted to prove the safety of this particular vaccine ingredient. Considering billions of dollars have been paid to families of vaccine injured children, I think it’s fair to say this is an alarming state of affairs. (source)
Anthony mentions that these substances eventually make their way into the brain, and science has already shown this to be true.
Injected aluminum does not enter the body or leave the body in the same way as environmental aluminum. It doesn’t come into the same mechanism of excretion, and that’s the whole point of adjuvants; they are meant to stick around and allow that antigen to be presented over and over again. It can’t be excreted because it must provide that prolonged exposure of the antigen to your immune system.
Can writing about pain and secret feelings really help boost your body’s immune system? Claudia Hammond investigates.
Source: BBC – Future – The puzzling way that writing heals the body
By Claudia Hammond
In 1986 the psychology professor James Pennebaker discovered something extraordinary, something which would inspire a generation of researchers to conduct several hundred studies. He asked students to spend 15 minutes writing about the biggest trauma of their lives or, if they hadn’t experienced a trauma, their most difficult time.
They were told to let go and to include their deepest thoughts, even if they had never shared these thoughts before. Four days running they did the same thing. It wasn’t easy. Pennebaker told me that roughly one in 20 students would end up crying, but when asked whether they wanted to continue they always did. Meanwhile a control group spent the same number of sessions writing a description of something neutral such a tree or their dorm room.
Then he waited for six months while monitoring how often the students visited the health centre. The day he saw the results, he left the lab, walked to his friend who was waiting for him in a car and told him he’d found something big. Remarkably, the students who had written about their secret feelings had made significantly fewer trips to the doctor in the subsequent months.
Ever since, the field psychoneuroimmunology has been exploring the link between what’s now known as expressive writing, and the functioning of the immune system. The studies that followed examined the effect of expressive writing on everything from asthma and arthritis to breast cancer and migraines. In a small study conducted in Kansas, for example, it was found that women with breast cancer experienced fewer troublesome symptoms and went for fewer cancer-related appointments in the months after doing expressive writing.
There is one area where the findings are more consistent and that is in the healing of wounds
The aim of the study wasn’t to look at long-term cancer prognosis, and the authors are not suggesting the cancer would be affected. But in the short-term other aspects of the women’s health did seem better than for those in the control group who wrote about the facts surrounding their cancer rather than their feelings about it.
But it doesn’t always work. A meta-analysis by Joanne Fratarolli from the University of California Riverside does demonstrate an effect overall, but a small one. Nevertheless, for an intervention that is free and beneficial, that’s a benefit worth having. Some studies have had disappointing results, but there is one area where the findings are more consistent and that is in the healing of wounds.
In these studies brave volunteers typically do some expressive writing, then some days later they are given a local anaesthetic and then a punch biopsy at the top of their inner arm. The wound is typically 4mm across and heals within a couple of weeks. This healing is monitored and again and again, and it happens faster if people have spent time beforehand writing down their secret thoughts.
What does the act of committing words to paper do? Initially it was assumed this simply happened through catharsis, that people felt better because they’d let out their pent-up feelings. But then Pennebaker began looking in detail at the language people used in their writing.
All hail our robot overlords!
Source: Experts think this is how long we have before AI takes all of our jobs – ScienceAlert
According to a survey of artificial intelligence experts, AI will probably be good enough to take on pretty much most of our jobs within half a century.
While there’s plenty of room for debate on the details, the predicted applications of AI could serve as an alarm bell for us to consider how our economy and job market will adapt to ever smarter technology.
A team of researchers from the University of Oxford and Yale University received 352 responses to a survey they’d sent out to over 1,600 academics who had presented at conferences on machine learning and neural information processing in 2015.
The survey asked the experts to assign probabilities to dates in the future that AI might be capable of performing specific tasks, from folding laundry to translating languages.
They also asked for predictions on when machines would be superior to humans in fulfilling certain occupations, such as surgery or truck-driving; when they thought AI would be better than us at all tasks; and what they thought the social impacts could be.
The researchers then combined the results to determine a range of time stretching from a low 25 percent confidence to 75 percent certain, calculating a median point when most experts were hedging their bets.
You can check out the results in the table below.
Source: 40 Hilarious Pictures That Show What Bookstore Employees Do When They’re Bored
May 23, 2017
More info: Instagram & So Bad So Good
Creative People Physically See and Process The World Differently
Source: Creative People Physically See and Process The World Differently
With permission from
April 27, 2017
If you’re the kind of person who relishes adventure, you may literally see the world differently. People who are open to new experiences can take in more visual information than other people and combine it in unique ways. This may explain why they tend to be particularly creative.
Openness to experience is one of the “big five” traits often used to describe personality. It is characterised by curiosity, creativity and an interest in exploring new things. Open people tend to do well at tasks that test our ability to come up with creative ideas, such as imagining new uses for everyday objects like bricks, mugs or table tennis balls.
There’s some evidence that people with a greater degree of openness also have better visual awareness. For example, when focusing on letters moving on a screen, they are more likely to notice a grey square appearing elsewhere on the display.
Patchwork PicturesAntinori and her colleagues asked 123 university students to complete a binocular rivalry test, in which they simultaneously saw a red image with one eye and a green image with the other eye for 2 minutes.
Usually, the brain can only perceive one image at a time, and most participants reported seeing the image flip between red and green. But some subjects saw the two images fused into a patchwork of red and green — a phenomenon known as “mixed percept”.
The higher the participants scored for openness on a personality questionnaire, the more they experienced this mixed perception.
In contrast, the other four major personality traits — extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness and conscientiousness — weren’t significantly linked to experiencing this mixed perception.
Mind ExpandingThe results could explain why people with a high degree of openness tend to be more creative and innovative, Antinori says. “When they come up with all these crazy new uses for bricks, it might be because they really perceive the world differently,” she says.
The findings also hint at why extremely open people are more prone to paranoia and delusions, says Niko Tiliopoulos at the University of Sydney, Australia. “At those levels of openness, people may actually see reality differently,” he says. “For example, they may ‘see’ spirits, or misinterpret interpersonal or other signals.”
According to Antinori, there are similarities between high levels of openness and the experience of taking magic mushrooms. Previous work by her team has found that psilocybin — a hallucinogenic compound in magic mushrooms — increases a person’s openness scores in a personality questionnaire, and their experience of mixed percept in binocular rivalry tests.
The team has also found that some forms of meditation can increase mixed image perception in binocular rivalry tests.
Antinori next wants to see if similar neural processes are involved in mixed perception, creative thinking and the shifts in visual perception caused by psilocybin and meditation. “It seems that openness alters the filter of consciousness, and we’d like to know how,” she says.