There’s a good scientific reason you’re neurotic

Posted on October 22nd, 2015

Have you caught the science news? Psychologists have advanced a new theory linking neurotic unhappiness and creativity in the brain, giving over-worrying an evolutionary purpose. Bingo!

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Normal worry, of course, has always had an evolutionary purpose. In the face of danger, freaking out helps us fight or flight. But neuroticism – freaking out when there is no perceived threat – has made no sense. And this no-sense-ness has left those of us in the over-worriers camp feeling even more freaked.

To be clear, I’ve previously been upfront about my neuroses. Feel free to gratuitously revel in them.

This new theory argues neurotic people are more prone to think about what might happen. This “mind wandering” can lead to high levels of creativity. We over worriers have highly active imaginations, and tend to be more creative problem-solvers. Fretting about stuff that hasn’t happened tends to Read more

A trick for writers and artists: create with low expectations

Posted on October 14th, 2015

I did an interview with ABC radio host Mary-Lou Stephens the other day, chatting about food sustainability. Before I went on air she shared she’s just finished writing her latest book (she’s written several) and actually loved the process this time, churning it out in just three months. What was different this time, I asked (as most creatives do when they come across someone who’s found a smooth oeuvre in what is a painful process).

Image via

Image via

“I reminded myself daily that no one cares,” she said. “I swear, it gave me the freedom to just get the bugger done.”

Or as Seth Godin says, “real artists ship”. They. Just. Get. It. Out.

That same day I came across an Elizabeth Gilbert interview done in the wake of her latest book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.

“Every time I hear someone talk about discipline all I see is the scratch marks on the walls they left with their fingernails. All that anxiety. You’ve got to take it easy on yourself. You’re doing an inherently weird thing. You’re investing time and money into making something that nobody asked you to do. It’s inherently a wacky Read more

What to leave out: The key to creativity

Posted on September 24th, 2015

I highly recommend long reading. Not least because of the lovely knowledge that unfurls from it. I also think that committing to a long read narrows, focuses, hones and gets you still. It’s the antidote to the frazzle of short-form toggling.

Image by Steve McCurry

Image by Steve McCurry

It’s a Sunday afternoon thing for me, to read all the lengthy prose I’ve collated during the week from the The New Yorker, Atlantic, The New York Times, The Monthly and The Quarterly Essay. I “flag for follow up” or email links and tweets to myself during the week. And then open them all at once and dive in. (Out of interest, how do you go about it, if indeed you do?)

All of which is a funny preamble to today’s good quote share that I pulled from The New Yorker long writer John McPhee’s essay on omission which, ironically goes on…and on (worth a long read!). It’s an Ernest Hemingway quote:

“If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.

The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.”

If you’re a writer, take note of this trick – cutting out stuff that you can gamble your reader will get, or will Read more