Fiction is an ancient virtual reality technology that specializes in simulating human problems.
“Like a flight simulator, fiction projects us into intense simulations of problems that run parallel to those we face in reality. And like a flight simulator, the main virtue of fiction is that we have a rich experience and don’t die at the end.”
That was Jonathan Gottschall. This is the stunningly brilliant Chris Torbay.
“My name is Michelle, and I work for Chapman Insurance. I work in the call center answering the phone. ‘What kind of job is that?’ you’re thinking. Well, when it’s your call, maybe I make a difference for you. Maybe you were dreading another one of those stupid corporate phone things with their ‘press one’ and ‘press two’ and ‘press six if a palm tree just fell on your doghouse,’… but you get to talk to a person, and you get to tell a real person how worried you are. And I get it because I’m a real person and I do this for a living! And I can see your policy and answer your questions because I know how confusing this can be, and when you hang up, you feel like someone with a heart and a soul, and a pretty awesome understanding of insurance has had the basic human decency to answer the phone and talk to you like a person instead of making you press six!!!!! My name is Michelle!!!! I work with Chapman, and your insurance call matters to me!!!!”
[MALE VOICE] Visit cigFlorida.com
© Chris Torbay 2023
Jonathan Gottschall goes on to say,
“Fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than nonfiction, which is designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Studies show that when we read nonfiction, we read with our shields up. We are critical and skeptical. But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard.”
“There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.”
– Doris Lessing, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize in Literature
“Escapist fantasies are laughably superficial. Attaining them isn’t what we really want. If we did, they’d no doubt bore or disappoint us. We don’t want the fantasy. We want to fantasize.”
– Evan Puschak, Escape into Meaning, p.109
“The one thing emphasized in any creative writing course is ‘write what you know,’ and that automatically drives a wooden stake through the heart of imagination. If they really understood the mysterious process of creating fiction, they would say, ‘You can write about anything you can imagine.'”
– Tom Robbins
“Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.”
– Francisco Goya
But how does a person become creative?
“When you notice a commonality between two or more things, you say, ‘Oh there’s something there.’ And now we make what’s called a charm bracelet: You take these things and you find a way to associate them. So that’s the process: I’m thinking about this [one] thing and then remember this [other] thing, and then you go, ‘Oh there’s something there — let me connect those 2 things.”
– Jerry Seinfeld
Brandon Sanderson agrees with Jerry Seinfeld:
“The way that human creativity works is by combination. That’s what we’re really good at. We don’t come up with a completely new creature. We put a horn on a horse and go, ‘Look at that, that’s cool.’ That’s how we create on a fundamental level.”
And Steve Jobs agreed with both Seinfeld and Sanderson:
“Creativity equals connecting previously unrelated experiences and insights that others don’t see.”
But where do you find all these bits and pieces to put together to make Seinfeld’s charm bracelet, or Sanderson’s unicorn, or Steve Jobs’ iPhone?
“I had a boss in radio when I was 18 years old, and my boss told me to write down every idea I get even if I can’t use it at the time… and have a system for filing it away—because a good idea is of no use to you unless you can find it… A lot of creativity is discovery. A lot of things are lying around waiting to be discovered, and our job is to just notice them and bring them to life.”
– George Carlin, explaining the origin of his “capture habit.”
Every innovation is the result of creativity, and every innovation has a purpose. But does this mean that fiction writing must also have a purpose?
“I maintain that fiction has no duty or obligation whatsoever except never to be boring—and even that is usually subjective. I’ve found that when a talented writer is operating with such wild poetic energy, such freedom from academic rules, social pressures, and normal expectations, that he or she is on the verge of losing control and crashing (like a daring downhill skier, for example), the resulting prose can be very nearly hallucinatory and absolutely exhilarating.”
– Tom Robbins, talking to François Happe (March, 2009)
But fiction can serve a purpose, can’t it?
“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.”
– Francis Bacon
Kurt Vonnegut was one of the major writers of the 20th Century. He wrote 14 novels, 3 short-story collections, 5 plays, and 5 works of nonfiction. He once joked that he never won a Nobel Prize because he had offended the Swedes by being a terrible salesman at a Saab dealership in the 1970s.
From Kurt Vonnegut
Nov. 5, 2006
Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Conglusta:
I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) In his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana. What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.
Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six-line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite It to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?
Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
God bless you all!
I think each of us should do – today – what Kurt Vonnegut told those kids to do.
You will learn about what’s inside you,
and you will make your soul grow.
Or do you not care about those things?
Roy H. Williams
NOTE: You really, really, really don’t want to miss the rabbit hole today. – Indy Beagle
Freedom Day, according to Jeff Kikel, is that juncture in our lives when work becomes optional, not a financial necessity. His formula begins with a shift in your mindset regarding your relationship to money: “It should work for you. You should not work for it.” If the idea of working for pleasure rather than necessity appeals to you, join roving reporter Rotbart for a rowdy and rollicking ride to Freedom Day at MondayMorningRadio.com.