Change of Perspective

Musings on Writing, Reading, and Life Narratives

Fiction writers and literary critics speak of point of view. Social scientists are more likely to discuss perspective. But both of these terms refer to essentially the same construct: the consciousness behind the perception and narration of experience. Each individual’s point of view is unique, and point of view shapes the stories people tell to themselves and to others about themselves and their relationships with their environment. The same event narrated from two different perspectives will produce two different stories.

A change of perspective can expand our perception and reframe our thinking about our experiences. We can all benefit from an occasional change of perspective.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Book Review: A Writer's Space

Maisel, Eric. A Writer's Space.

Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2008
ISBN 1-59869-460-X


In this little (5.5 in. wide by 6.25 in. tall) book Maisel, a therapist and creativity coach, uses the metaphor of space “to communicate how you can get a grip on your writing life and transform yourself from an occasional writer to a regular writer” (p. 3). All your writing space needs, he says, is “a chair, a table, silence, and a little awe” (p. 5).

Maisel divides his discussion into nine sections:

  1. physical space
  2. home space
  3. mind space
  4. emotional space
  5. reflective space
  6. imagined space
  7. public space
  8. existential space
  9. epilogue: creative space: a writing fable

This book is not about the craft or the mechanics of writing (e.g., punctuation, sentence structure). In fact, the weakest section is “imagined space,” where Maisel touches briefly on such issues of composition (probably in an effort to fill out the book’s contents a bit). No, this book is about the mind-set necessary to become a committed, productive writer.

One of the most useful parts of this book is chapter 14, “creative mindfulness,” in which Maisel distinguishes between traditional mindfulness--”the nonjudgmental observation and acknowledgment of our thoughts” (p. 81)--and creative mindfulness, the purpose of which is “to master mindfulness . . . and to employ that mastery in the service of deep thought, rich action, and wide-awake living” (p. 83). He identifies six principles of creative mindfulness:

  1. Fearlessly observe your own thoughts.
  2. Detach from the thoughts you are thinking.
  3. Appraise your thoughts.
  4. Restate your intentions based on your appraisal.
  5. Free your neurons, empty your mind, and ready yourself for creating.
  6. Explode into your work.

These six steps can help you bring creative mindful intention to your work, which will, in turn, make you a better and more productive writer.

Another particularly useful section of the book is chapter 16, “the weight of individuality,” in which Maisel briefly--perhaps a bit TOO briefly--addresses the common theme of the association between artistic creativity and mental instability:
Nature is not stupid. Nature makes the calculation that, for an individual to truly be individual, it had better invest him with enough power, passion, energy, and appetite to manifest that individuality. . . . It should also be clear how this extra energy and fuller appetite lead to conditions such as addiction, mania, and insatiability. (p. 99)

Fortunately, Maisel follows this chapter with another on “quick centering,” a method you can use “to center and quiet your mind and your emotions by taking ten-second pauses” (p. 103).

You’ll have to get your grammar help elsewhere. But for information on how to be in the world as a writer, check out this little book.

©2008 by Mary Daniels Brown

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