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You’re watching TV, when suddenly, in a commercial, you see a smartly dressed guy with a slick haircut driving a cool car and you think, there’s my antagonist.  He’s suave, good-looking, and acts like a charming guy on the surface, but deep down, he’s truly evil.  That’s the creative seed.  An external idea that gives rise to your fully developed creation.

Sprout in a Lightbulb by TakingITGlobal

The alternative is to sit and think.  To pore over mental lists of potential character traits and physical characteristics until you’ve built the basis for that ingratiating character out of complete nothingness.

Creating is something that I think everyone enjoys in one form or another, and people go about it in many different ways.  One person might like to sit in the dark and close themselves off from the world until a thought speaks to them, while another person goes out to get inspired by strolling through a museum and experiencing work that others have done.  “Inspired?” you say.  “But inspiration is a seed in its own right.”  Well, it is and it isn’t.  Inspiration can sometimes be directly related to your subject matter, but I think it’s often a more general concept.  Searching for inspiration doesn’t necessarily mean mining for ideas.  It just means you’re getting a motivational boost from some sort of significant experience.  I think the late Mitch Hedberg summed it up well in one of his jokes:

I like when they say a movie’s inspired by a true story, ’cause that’s weird.  It means the movie’s not a true story—it was just inspired by a true story.  Like, ‘Hey Mitch, did you hear the story about that lady who drove her children into the river and they all drowned?’

     ‘Yes I did, and that inspired me to write a movie about a gorilla!’

One technique is not better than the other.  In fact, I bet most people regularly use a combination of both seed and thought, whether consciously or not.  We often hear of writers who have moulded plots around historical events, artists who draw their characters to resemble people they’ve known, and actors who include well-known peoples’ mannerisms in their roles.  Contrarily, we have books containing completely original worlds and stories, and paintings depicting landscapes that never existed.  And in most cases, the basis is not even the most important part.  As long as the imaginative development is there, the end result will be a good one.

Image: TakingITGlobal via Wikimedia Commons

Wordsmith Wednesdays: Timbre

From Dictionary.com:

—noun

1. Acoustics, Phonetics . the characteristic quality of a sound, independent of pitch and loudness, from which its source or manner of production can be inferred. Timbre depends on the relative strengths of the components of different frequencies, which are determined by resonance.

2. Music . the characteristic quality of sound produced by a particular instrument or voice; tone color.

Wordsmith Wednesdays made-up example sentence:

A conductor must have a refined ear in order to pay attention to a multitude of timbres at one time.

 
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From Dictionary.com:

—noun

1. a person who takes up an art, activity, or subject merely for amusement, especially in a desultory or superficial way; dabbler.

2. a lover of an art or science, especially of a fine art.

Wordsmith Wednesdays made-up example sentence:

They didn’t want dilettantes contributing to the project, insisting that it be left to trained professionals.

 
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Wordsmith Wednesdays: Empirical

From Dictionary.com:

—adjective

1. derived from or guided by experience or experiment.

2. depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, especially as in medicine.

3. provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.

Wordsmith Wednesdays made-up example sentence:

The gathering of empirical data is an important step in the validation of hypotheses.

 
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Escapist Desktop Backgrounds

If you spend a fair amount of time at the computer and have a window with a boring view, or no window at all, then a monotone or tiled pattern desktop background can seem like just another piece of blank wall, reinforcing your confinement.  But change your background to The Embarkation of Ulysses, and suddenly you’re no longer staring at a monitor, but looking out onto the sun-crested Aegean, through a port teeming with ships and surrounded by stone towers and marble columns.

The Embarkation of Ulysses - Claude Lorrain, 1646 (1680 x 1050)

Famous works of art make for fantastic backgrounds.  They typically require some resizing and cropping, but the minimal editing is well worth it.  A scene with depth can really open up the workspace.

I like seascapes, myself, so lately I’ve been gravitating towards Claude Lorrain, an artist whose work I stumbled upon, of all places, in an English textbook years ago.

The version above has been modified for WSXGA resolutions (1680 x 1050).

Image: Claude Lorrain via WikiPaintings

Wordsmith Wednesdays: Inexorable

From Dictionary.com:

—adjective

1. unyielding; unalterable: inexorable truth; inexorable justice.

2. not to be persuaded, moved, or affected by prayers or entreaties: an inexorable creditor.

Wordsmith Wednesdays made-up example sentence:

The Marquis’s inexorable, albeit lewd, practice of freedom of expression earned him a lengthy visit to the asylum.

 
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Wordsmith Wednesdays: Anathema

From Dictionary.com:

—noun

1. a person or thing detested or loathed: That subject is anathema to him.

2. a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction.

3. a formal ecclesiastical curse involving excommunication.

4. any imprecation of divine punishment.

5. a curse; execration.

Wordsmith Wednesdays example rant:

Imagine if your cable or satellite provider constantly changed the channel numbers, or someone kept moving all the cutlery in your kitchen to a different drawer. Would it bother you?

Frequent change to a heavily used part of a user interface is anathema. Change is to be expected once in a while—even a complete overhaul is acceptable—but it must be timely and well executed. In fact, I recently praised Google’s interface updates. That was because they were planned, designed, and launched properly.

But WordPress.com’s week-to-week tweaking of their toolbar? No, no, no. I’ve said it before, I’m saying it now, and I’m sure I’ll say it many, many more times in the future. How many times are they going to change their minds on the location of the dashboard link? My goodness!

 
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