About Me

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I've had two short stories and one essay published. I'm currently working on a "coming of age" novel set in the 1960's. I started this blog with the hope that I could share what I've learned/am learning about writing with other people and would get some of the same in return. If you know of anyone who might be interested in such a blog, please let that person or persons know about "The Writing Process." 7-8-12 I haven't worked on the novel for quite some time and doubt that I will take it up again. I'm currently working on a short story that I have high hopes for--or, if you prefer, for which I have high hopes. There is the possibility that I'll try another novel with some of the characters in this short story. Current and probable title: Not a Blind Date

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Einstellung Effect


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Chess Pictures - Pictures

In his novel class, Jim Sallis often says not to settle for "first thought" ideas. They're usually not original, nor especially creative. He also says a danger for writers is to think you "know how to write." The idea there being that you should always be open, indeed searching for new ways to achieve the effect you want in your fiction. I assume this would apply to writing non-fiction as well.

In Andy Soltis column "Chess to Enjoy" in Chess Life Magazine (November 2010) he notes that even top-level chessplayers often fail to force checkmate in the most efficient manner, i.e. the fewest moves. This happens both when they solve chess problems and when they are playing chess games. He writes: "This phenomenon is striking to psychologists, who gave it an impressive name: the Einstellung effect."

The basic idea is that you tend to solve a problem with ways you know and are comfortable with even though there may be a better way or ways to solve it. It seems to me that Sallis is warning against the Einstellung Effect in your writing.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 4, 2010 Pioneer Park, Prescott Arizona

It's Been Awhile

I've been thinking I need to broaden the scope of this blog especially since I haven't writen anything for it for a long time. One thing I can add is reviews of books on writing. The following is a review I've just posted on LibraryThing. It is an ARC (advanced reading copy) so it's not yet published as of this date.

If you're a serious reader, I highly recommend LibraryThing. Look under "Links" to get to it.


This book delivers more than I expected. As the title suggests, it isn't a “how-to-write” book. McNally warns the reader right up front in the first section: “If you're looking for a book so that you can learn how to write a short story, a novel, or a poem, you definitely need to look somewhere else.” Rather, it is “a highly subjective and idiosyncratic take on the writing life. ...using my own life as well as the lives of other writers I've known as anecdotal support for my opinions on a wide range of subjects.”

McNally built an instant trust with me with such honesty. And he keeps that trust throughout. There are six main sections in the book, each with its own series of 1-3 page essays. The sections are, 1)The Decision to Become a Writer 2)Education and the Writer 3) Getting Published 4Publicity 5)Employment for Writers 6)The Writer's Life.

In each section, McNally's strong desire to give an honest view of the writing life and to help aspiring writers succeed shines through. I also believe I detected a reluctance on his part to suffer fools gladly, that is, beginning writers who think they know everything already, stuffed shirts, and the like. This isn't done in a hateful way, but more in a cranky, headshakingly, amused and baffled way. Funny stuff.

Many of the topics he writes about could be dry and downright boring, especially since few writers will be at the stage of a writing career where every section would be pertinent to them. McNally finds a way to make each section interesting. Most of his anecdotes are fascinating and often funny, including an accidental, surreal, near feud with Ursula K Le Guin, who had been one of his “childhood heroes.”

Besides the unexpected humor, he delivers unexpected moments of poignancy when telling tales from his own life. In Part One, “This Writer's Beginnings,” is both hilarious and touching. It's a gem, alone worth the price of the book. If I could talk to McNally, I'd say, with affection, “Write a memoir, you big dummy!”

If you don't have a successful writer whose brain you can pick, “The Creative Writer's Survival Guide”, is probably the next best thing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010