Friday, December 31, 2010

Creation and Writing

I want to write about the process of creation.  I am a creator.  I am moving from the adjective creative to the title creator, much the same way someone becomes a sailor when they get on a boat and actually sail (which reminds me of the classic children’s book Finally a Sailor, read it if you haven’t yet).  Yes, I am a creator because I make things.

One question that I am often asked when people see my creative output is, “How did you think of this?”  That is a hard question to answer because the cognitive process is fast and elusive, as if it is what happens behind the scenes.  One moment there is not an idea in the mind and the next second there it is, as if appearing out of nowhere. 

 Actually there is a halfway answer that I have been coming to for the last long while.  I am going to sum it up in an analogy that just came to me.  Picture, if you will, a slot machine.   Not the fancy video ones with monitors with so much color and action that it gives a headache just to look at them (let alone try to understand them [I tried to play one once while on a writing-road-trip-pilgrimage, it was interesting—for further reading on that get a copy of Finding Ray Bradbury]). No, imagine an old-time slot machine with a long silver lever on the side and a three-compartment window.   Pull that arm and the wheels start spinning in a whiz of color.  Slowly, one by one, each wheel stops.  Most of the time the combination is nothing special; not a winner.  But every so often the match up is right, and out come s the money, the prize.

The mind is full of ideas, thoughts and pieces of knowledge.  Creative minds are the ones that are constantly, ceaselessly putting together new combinations of the old.  They are the addicts who cannot quit playing, pushing on until coming upon a winning combination even though victory doesn’t satisfy the need but rather feeds it.  My mind is in constant motion, always putting things together and occasionally getting something that fits just right.   When that happens it’s time to run with it.  Turn it into action.

As a writer I am constantly coming up with ideas for stories.  Are they new?  No, I suppose not.  They are made with other ideas and thoughts that are common, what makes them good is that they are combined in just the right way.  For every good idea I have there are scores that didn’t measure up.

Lately I have been weak on the action part.  One story in particular seems beyond finishing.  It has taken me months to get to where I am, which is in the still-not-finished-yet-but-getting-there phase.  The idea is great but laziness is holding me back.  Its time to buckle down and finish it.  Wish me luck…and keep your eyes open for the forthcoming story.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Long Past Due

I haven't been posting recently.  I have been busy.  I seem to be able to put my energy into only so many projects at a time and for the past few weeks the project has been a board game.  It is finished and available for purchase.  There are limited quantities and the price is $15.  Take a look and tell me what you think.  The brief explanation is that players try to make the longest snakes possible by playing the tiles.

This was an idea that came to me while I was writing.  I put together a quick mock up and then with prompting from my wind-in-the-sails friend I took this one to completion.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Alchemists' Folly

Prescript- I wrote this some years ago.  I didn't reread it before posting (oooh, dangerous, I know).  It's kind of longish.  I hope you get through it.

In recent study of poisons I have come across numerous references to the alchemist.  Throughout history there have been individuals who have made it their study to find out certain secrets that would fulfill their dreams.  These were to obtain the knowledge whereby they could turn various metals into gold and to find the elixir of life that would grant perpetual youth.  These two goals went hand in hand.  Alchemists sought the secret of the philosopher’s stone, which would aid in the transmutation process.  Gold was a highly valued and praised metal for its characteristics; these being its luster and resistance to rust (long life).  These pseudo-scientists believed that if they could understand the process that changed a less valuable metal into one that was superior that they could then apply the same principles to themselves and attain a never-ending life, or perpetual youth (such as gold has). 

The contributions that alchemist have made to the field of chemistry as a side effect of their studies have been invaluable.  However, the only real contribution that they made to their own field was to prove that the secret they sought did not exist.

When we were younger I am sure we all heard of the alchemists and were fascinated.  More vivid in our minds were probably the stories of pirates.  Pirates were adventurers who looked for buried treasure with old parchment maps, x marking the spot.  They sailed the seven seas and had eye patches.  My question is why we were fascinated by them. Why did we dress up like them for Halloween and wish to be them in real life?  Why did we make pretend?  More importantly, do we still believe the same philosophy that made us love them?

One lure (the biggest and perhaps the only one) that made us like the pirate and admire the alchemist was the idea of getting something for free.  Pirates “found” treasure and alchemists “made” it.  These people didn’t have to work like everybody else in the same way as the common man to get what everybody else had.  These had the easy way.

The problem is that these were those that tried to cheat the pattern of value for value.  For any and all transactions to be universally justified there must be an exchange of value that occurs.  This can be a good for a good a service for a service or monetary exchange or any combination because these all represent value.

There are two questions I wish to address in regard to the short cutters. What were the results of their choice to use flawed means?  And what were their other choices? 

So what did the alchemist get for his search for wealth and youth?  He got exactly what he deserved and the exact opposite of what he wanted.  Because of the all consuming nature of the alchemist’s quest the alchemist was unable to maintain any activity that would create a means of providing for his support.  When compared to the monumental task of making gold all other labor seemed to be wasteful and below the level of one so entrenched in so grand an endeavor.  Secondly, all resources that were gained were poured into the labor that was second to nothing.  The alchemist never became wealthy and was dependent on others for his support and would gain such through promises of wealth that were never fulfilled.

As for youth, the Alchemist wasted his life away in a laboratory never really being able to experience and enjoy the world that was his to have and to use because he was too enthralled in his own little closed sphere.  His quest didn’t bring youth but sucked it from him and gave nothing in return.

As for pirates they were feared, hated and hunted.  Their capture meant death.  But the problems of pirates were not only the fear of being captured by those who ruled by law, but there was the fear of those on the inside.  Because the pirate’s philosophy was to rob and plunder there was the possibility of shipmates turning and making prey on those who were once their comrades in similar endeavors.  How could one whose means is stealing be expected to maintain the standards of honesty in one facet of life and not in all?  The contradiction cannot long stand and either the honesty wins out and the pirate life must be abandoned, or dishonesty will win and there can be no trust on a ship of wholly treacherous men.  The possibility of back stabbing and being the recipient of plunder were real.  Pirates also did not find the wealth that they sought.

But what were the alternatives?  Only one and that is adherence to the law of value.  The alchemist should have spent his time in the pursuit of making wealth (through enterprise) and not of making gold.  He should also have spent his youth in activity that would have been of value to himself and others.  The pirate also should have put his efforts towards industry or worked to earn money as opposed to stealing the fruits of other’s labor.

The truth is this; there are universal laws and one of these is the law of value exchange.  When any one tries to circumvent or cheat this law they receive the opposite of what they aim to get by doing so.  Do we try to cheat these laws?  Is it in our hearts to get for free what we can only have by work?  And if the answer to these is yes, do we understand the consequences?