Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Creativity and...Improv?

Missy Tippens

I’m fascinated by the brain and creativity. I read the most amazing article recently in the May 2017 issue of National Geographic Magazine. It was titled “What Makes a Genius?” by Claudia Kalb with photography by Paolo Woods. (Links to all articles will be included at the end). This article blew me away.

What sucked me in was how researchers have looked at slides of Albert Einstein’s brain tissue trying to figure out if it’s different from other brains. This led me to some really interesting ideas about creativity and writing.

A few things from Kalb’s article that stood out to me about genius:

--Geniuses are nurtured.
--Lone geniuses are rare (they’re usually seen in a network).
--Even with natural gifts and a nurturing environment, genius still requires motivation and tenacity (so personality plays a role).
--Angela Duckworth believes that a combination of passion and perseverance—what she calls “grit”—drives people to achieve. 
--Dean Keith Simonton says, “The number one predictor of impact is productivity.” (He uses the example of Thomas Edison having 2000+ patents.)
--Scott Barry Kaufman says, “Great ideas don’t tend to come when you’re narrowly focusing on them.” He talks about information coming in consciously but being processed unconsciously so that we sometimes get unexpected “aha” moments. (Yes! I love those!)
--Rex Jung says research shows that thought processes like daydreaming and imagining take place in the middle part of our prefrontal cortex across both hemispheres.
--Andrew Newberg’s research shows that the genius brain has an area that is twice the size of control brains (the corpus callosum, a centrally located bundle of more than 200 million nerve fibers that joins the two hemispheres of the brain and facilitates connectivity between them).

So, you and I may not be geniuses, but we can learn to nurture creativity, we can stimulate our brains, and we can hang around other people who are creative—those who challenge us, support us and inspire us. We can learn to increase productivity and to persevere.

The “What Makes a Genius?” article also sent me searching for more from Charles Limb. I watched a TED Talk called “Your Brain on Improv.” It’s based on Creativity and the Brain by Dr. Charles Limb and his collaborator Allen R. Braun.

Basically, they used a functional MRI (fMRI) to look at the brain activity of a jazz musician and a freestyle rapper in action (they developed a keyboard that they could put inside the machine). The experiment asked: What happens in the brain when doing something that is memorized and over-learned vs what happens in the brain when doing something that is spontaneously generated or improvised?

They found in the brain during improvisation:
--Lateral prefrontal deactivation (a decrease in self-monitoring)
--Medial prefrontal activation (an increase in self-expression)

With the jazz pianist, they also found that during improv, his language areas lit up, an area associated with expressive communication.

With the freestyle rapper, major visual areas lit up—even with his eyes closed. He also had major cerebellar activity (associated with motor activities). So, he had heightened activity in multiple areas of the brain.

In another article about Limb's research found in Peabody Magazine by Nick Zagorski and Keith Weller titled “The Science of Improv," they pointed out that during improvisation, the brain regions involved with all the senses lit up, showing a heightened state of awareness. The researchers said the people being tested “literally taste, smell, and feel the air around them.” They described a strange similarity to brain wave patterns that can be seen during REM sleep. So maybe there’s a connection between improv and dreaming.

What does this mean for us as writers?

The first thing that struck me (a plotter/planner), is that I’d like to try doing more “improv.” I’m sure I’ll still want to do my pre-planning. But I’d like to jump in on the first draft and write so that my brain’s self-monitoring turns off and self-expression turns on.

I’d like to try writing with my eyes closed (I do this sometimes already).

I’d like to let go of some of my writing methods that have become learned and practiced and let my brain go wild while creating.

I’d like to continue interacting with all of you who participate in the blog to inspire me and support me. To push me when I need it. You’re my genius network! :)

What about you? Who wants to try doing a little improv the next time you’re working on a new story? Have you had success trying this method already? I'd love to hear what you think!

If you’d like to be entered to win a fun improv mug, please let me know in the comments (U.S. addresses only this time).

Here are the links I promised. Enjoy the articles and video, but please come back to chat with us!

Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, has always been a bit of a science geek. Before staying home with her kids, she worked as a clinical microbiologist. Then the writing bug bit. After over ten years of pursuing her dream, she finally made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest and a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A House Full of Hope was a Romance Writers of America 2013 RITA® Nominee. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, https://twitter.com/MissyTippens and http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Seekerville is Closed Today

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Seekerville is closed today as we pause  on the American Memorial Day holiday to remember those who have passed on -- loved ones we miss, and those who have given their lives that we and others worldwide can enjoy precious freedoms.
Please stop in again tomorrow!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Weekend Edition

The Weekend Edition celebrates the tenth opening of Unpublished Island.
Leave a comment this weekend 

and we'll draw names for surprise beach reads!
Winners announced in the next Weekend Edition.

If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes. Send to Seekers@Seekerville.net

Winners of ecopies of Holt Medallion Award finaling books by Janet Dean (The Bounty Hunter's Redemption) and Tina Radcliffe (Rocky Mountain Reunion) are Cynthia Herron and Connie (cps).

Monday: Susanne Dietze was back in Seekerville. On the heels of a very busy year, she brought us "Whipping Writer’s Whiplash." Phyllis Wheeler is the winner of My Heart Belongs in Ruby City, Idaho: Rebecca's Plight.

Tuesday: Debby Giusti's blog post featured "Cheap Gadgets for your Writing Toolbox!" Two winners were chosen and will receive a copy of a two-in-one from Love Inspired that features Patricia Davids' The Shepherd's Bride as well as Plain Danger, by Debby Giusti. Debby's also giving each winner a favorite item from her toolbox. Can you guess? A kitchen timer. In addition, each winner will receive a copy of Debby's Publishers Weekly Bestseller, Amish Refuge. Congrats to the winners: Connie (cps1950@gmail.com) and Kristin Dievendorf!

Wednesday: Ruthy Logan Herne spent the day talking about 7 Shots at Targeting Your Dream Publisher.... and the winner of her very first mystery "A Light in the Darkness" (coming soon from Guideposts Mysteries) is Dana McNeely! 

Thursday: Melanie Dickerson was our special guest with her post, "How to Take Your Career from Whine to Shine." Sharee S, Dana R. Lynn, and Terri W are winners of hard copies of The Noble Servant!

Monday: Seekerville is closed to celebrate the Memorial Day holiday!

Tuesday: Missy Tippens will be bringing "Creativity and...Improv?" Come join the fun of talking about brain science and creativity. And enter to win an I Love Improv mug!

Wednesday: Author and cover designer, Rogenna Brewer is in Seekerville with her post, "5 Things You Need for a Great Book Cover (And 5 Things You Don't)." Don't miss the fun!

Thursday: Preslaysa Williams returns to Seekerville with her post, "Method Acting for Writers." Stop by and get in character!

Friday: Today we bring you The Best of the Archives. Comments are closed to allow us all to catch up on our reading and writing.  

Join Debby Giusti at Books-A-Million in Peachtree City, GA, where she'll sign copies of her latest Love Inspired Suspense, AMISH REFUGE.

Proceeds benefit Pregnancy Aid Clinic that provides life-changing and life-saving services free of charge to women in the Atlanta area. 

Amish Refuge came out on the Publishers Weekly Bestsellers List! 

Congratulations to Debby Giusti!

Thanks for the link love!

Congratulations to the Wisconsin Fab Five Winners and finalists with a special shout out to Villagers & Friends of Seekerville: Sharee Stover (1st place Inspirational ) and Kate Barker (4th place inspirational), and Linda Truesdell (1st place Women's Fiction), Jeanine Englert (1st place Romantic Suspense).

More Congratulations go out to the Touched by Love Finalists with a special shout out to Villagers & Friends of Seekerville: Cindy Regnier (double finalist in the Historical category) and Amanda Wen (finalist in the Long Contemporary category).

Christian Fiction Keeps Its Allure (PW)

The Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence closes soon! Enter your 2016 copyright books! The Inspirational Category is low on entries. Enter today.

Ask the Agent: Indie Publishing, Ebooks, Movie Rights, et al. (MacGregor Literary)

Letting Go When the Book Isn't Working (Writer Unboxed)

New to Book Publicity? Go Local First! (The Book Designer)

How To Know Which Publishing Conferences are Worth Attending (BookBub Partners)

3 Strategies for Marketing a Book Series (DBW)

Amazon Sets Up Shop in the Heart of the Publishing Industry (NYT)

Trade Fiction Versus Category Fiction: What’s the Difference? (Steve Laube Blog)

Don't Miss These Chicken Soup for the Soul Deadlines (CSFS)

Have a great reading and writing weekend.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Best of the Archives: "Happy for No Reason"

By Missy Tippens
Posted Originally on August 13, 2008

I recently saw an interview with Marci Shimoff, author of “Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out.” And she said something really interesting. We all have a happiness set point. And it means that no matter what happens to us in life, we tend to settle around the same happiness level unless we do something consciously to change it.

She said that our set point is 50% genetic (we’re born with it), 10% circumstances, and the other 40% is due to our habits of thoughts and behavior. That 40% is the part we can change. She said we have 60,000 thoughts per day, and for the average person 80% of those are negative. Sooooo…

We’ve got to stop the negative thoughts! And we’ve got to replace them with positive thoughts.

The road to publication and the business of writing can be difficult. None of us is immune to rejection. And then there’s the negative feedback (those painful contests score sheets and tepid or even bad reviews). Even when things are going great, we worry about what’s ahead. We wonder if we can keep producing good manuscripts or if we'll ever sell again. But we have to plow ahead, to keep our chins up and tell ourselves that we’re strong, we’re good at what we do, and we’re going to be successful.

Okay, so maybe you’re thinking I’m a wannabe therapist. It seems with every post I’m trying to force you to do self-reflection. But actually, I think I'm more of a wannabe cheerleader. (Yeah, you guessed it. I was in band in high school.) So here I go once again with a self-help assignment. So sorry! But you have to do it anyway (yes, I can be as mean as Ruthy). :)

Come up with two or three affirmations you’re going to tell yourself this week (and maybe post them on sticky notes on your bathroom mirror). I’d love to hear if changing your self-talk worked for you! I'd also love for you to share what you've come up with.

Gosh, I guess I’ll go first… I’m organized. I’m competent…

I’m skinny.

What? That one doesn’t count? (Don’t you wish we could “self-talk” the pounds away?!) Okay, a third affirmation: I’m creative.

I will succeed! And so will you. Now your turn...

Rah Rah!
Missy :)

Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest and a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A House Full of Hope was a Romance Writers of America 2013 RITA® Nominee. Visit Missy at www.missytippens.com, https://twitter.com/MissyTippens and http://www.facebook.com/missy.tippens.readers.

Comments have been turned off today so you can focus on writing and practicing your positive self-talk. :)