On Endings

Lately I’ve been trying to wrap up a story—without success—and every time I take another run at it, I think of something I read recently about endings, that good ones “shine a point of light on the writer’s best attempt at truth.”

I love that, because it’s how I envision endings. You direct a shiny, narrow beam of  light, or aim a long, sturdy arrow, at a pinpoint of a target. Summations, surprise twists, sudden epiphanies—these are not arrows or beams of light. Their scopes are too wide.  Continue reading “On Endings”

Better Verbs

Let’s start with an exercise I stole from Alexander Chee, who stole it from Annie Dillard, who stole it from Samuel Johnson.

Take a section of what you’re working on now and circle (or underline) every verb you use.

Next, count the verbs on each page, and write the number in the margin. When you get to the end of the piece, average the number. Continue reading “Better Verbs”

On Creativity

When an artist or inventor creates something truly original, we tend to envision it as a thunderbolt, a flash of genius striking from above. Imagine Picasso painting La Demoiselles D’Avignon, the first Cubist work, with its startling multiple angles and unprecedented gorgeous weirdness. How did that happen?

That’s one of the questions that Time magazine’s special issue The Science of Creativity, edited by my friend (and Gotham student!) Richard Jerome, tries to answer.  It’s a fascinating read, full of insights into how and why humans make art, tell stories, and invent things. Continue reading “On Creativity”