Friday, May 29, 2009

Are people who live abroad more creative?

Noticing patterns in your life also makes you notice differences as well as similarities. In a life lived away from your native shores, the differences probably outweigh the things that are the same.

Living your life a mile from where you grew up probably doesn’t present the same opportunity to observe – you might notice how things have changed, but, like the face of a loved one, you probably won’t notice that change.

If things are different, mistakes are more common – and although making mistakes is not being creative, what is known is that if you aren’t prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with something original – if you’re not prepared to be wrong!

Like ex- Pats, children live in a world continually in a state of flux. Consequently, children often make mistakes: “Sorry, Caroline can’t resist a moustache!” “Jonathan can never remember to be quiet in company!” – that type of thing. The thing with children though is that if they don’t know, they will still have a go.

I heard of a child appearing in a Nativity play as one of the three wise men, and when it came to his turn to say what he had brought, he said, “Frank sent this!”

Picasso once said that all children are born artists, the difficulty lies in remaining one into adulthood. Like children, ex Pats find themselves in situations in which they are not always sure how to proceed. They go ahead anyway and rely on the largesse of locals to forgive them – they learn – continually – every day.

Creativity not only requires imagination and inspiration, which anyone who has taken the plunge to change their life has in spades, it also requires emotional depth. Expats have this depth, for they carry with them the memories of their lives in their home country, and the gruelling farewells as they left it behind. But of course, it isn’t left behind. The past is there, informing the hidden creativity which is bursting to find an outlet as new challenges are met.
Margaret Graham.
Bestselling author and creative writing tutor.
Writer in Residence Yeovil, UK.

The creative world is full of people who lived in foreign climes – Earnest Hemingway spent much of his time out of the US, Paul Gaugin, Pablo Picasso, Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell and many more lived abroad for much of their lives.

Removed from their native communities, it may be that ex-pats either have more time to pursue their creative urges, or more opportunity, or both. Being creative requires confidence, and living with strangers can increase one’s confidence. Conversely, living close to lifelong peers sort of sets you out to conform.

I once worked in a small engineering company in which my liking poetry set me apart from the majority. It didn’t put me off reading poetry, it just put me off becoming like them!

If we can define being creative as finding other worlds in this one, then half of the job is already done for someone living away from home. ‘Nothing stays the same except change’ is one way of looking at life – here or at home these days, and so really, creativity should come equally easily to all of us – we just have to give ourselves a chance to become who we want to be.
Robert L. Fielding

Have we got a sixth sense - awareness?

Traditionally, we are said to have five senses: hearing, touch, taste, sight, and smell. However, no firm agreement has been reached on this number; since definitions of what constitutes a sense differ; some holding that we have five additional senses: a sense of pain (nociception), balance (equilibrioception), joint motion and acceleration (proprioception & kinesthesia), a sense of time, and a sense of temperature (thermoception).
To these five major senses, couldn’t our sense of awareness be added. Sense, after all, doesn’t necessarily include having to be in physical contact with what is stimulating the senses. Sight and hearing clearly do not involve touching, whilst our sense of smell depends only upon molecules making contact with our olfactory systems.

Being aware can take a number of forms: we can be aware that we have met someone before, that the word ‘Tiddles’ will most likely be the name given to a pet – a cat – and that we have dialed the right telephone number, even when we cannot clearly or fully mentally remember the actual number.

How many times have you relied on the relative positions of the numbered buttons and the order in which they appear in the dialing code as and when you are dialing the number, rather than beforehand?

What is that? If it is memory, why do we have to remind ourselves by the act of actually dialing the number? It cannot be touch, because all the buttons feel the same. Direction seems to fit, but in this case, it is the direction and distance of the buttons relative to each other and in that particular order and no other – it seems to be a sense of direction coordinated by our consciousness.

It clearly has something to do with our memory, but we rarely think of it working through our sense of touch – in just that way. In a sense, all senses connect with our memory, even to inform us that we have never sensed something before.

Our awareness that the Earth revolves around the sun, for instance, may have something to do with our learned knowledge of the movement of planets in the solar system, and may be connected to our perceiving that the Earth’s position relative to the sun is continually changing.

It is this perception that I believe is linked to something like an ‘archaeology of our knowledge’ – a vestige of primordial awareness – but now quantified by the sciences and placed in more or less absolute terms in reference books.

What would stone-age men and women have ‘known’ of this movement? They would certainly have noticed it, but not having a concept, ‘sun’ or ‘Earth’, they would not know or be aware of what was happening – in the way we talk of knowing or being aware these days.

Our knowledge of the way we move in orbit around the sun has been handed down to us from Galileo and others. But our sense that one or both is moving goes back to those days of stone and flint. Without prior knowledge from our schooling, our senses would tell us little more than our predecessors knew about a lot of things. Could we, for example, say what the Moon is, or where it is, or how far away it is? Could we understand its phases, or that it affects our tides. The sciences have given us a lot, but has our awareness moved on? Just as the ruins of Ephesus mark the city and its borders, our sense of awareness marks the limits of our own knowledge of our world, and although it is probably growing continually with experience coupled to memory, some parts of it will not be so radically different from what they were at our beginnings.
Robert L. Fielding

Chunks of language

Chunks of language and the familiarity of expressions

Robert L. Fielding
The units of language have traditionally been viewed as letters, words, and sentences. With the advent of corpus linguistics supported by technological progress, the unit of language that now appears to be the most salient is the chunk.

Chunks are groups of words – ‘Have a nice day.’ is a chunk, and so are ‘ID card’, ‘of vital importance’, ‘no problem’ – in fact any string of words that are regularly and often found together – either written or spoken. Words collocate – they flock together – rather like birds of a feather.

So, we take a vacation, completely forget, keep in touch, see what we can do, burst into laughter, catch someone’s eye and carry things too far! We pay attention, pay someone a visit or a complement - we speak in chunks, most probably without realizing it.

Chunks aid memory – it works with names most readily and easily. Americans give the state right after their town or city – Chicago, Illinois, Columbus, Ohio, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – and they trip of the tongue – even off the tongues of non – Americans like me.

Now, let’s try it with common nouns – what comes before:
________ rain
________ downpour
________ witness
________ thief
________ policeman
________ weather
And what comes after:-
a ________ ear
a ________ eye
________ demand
________ science
a ________ habit

What do you do with these:
________ your words
________ tricks on someone
________ the question
________ your time
What do you make, give, do, pay, come to, bring, take, meet, and raise? Just take a few minutes to think of the answers – they’ll come easily when you put your mind to it.

You see, that’s the other thing about language – particularly English - it’s idiomatic. That means it’s picturesque and colourful. We eat our own words, eat our liver, we play tricks as well as football, and we pay attention as well as visits to someone sick in hospital.

One way learners begin to sound native- like is by using chunks of language – if students do their homework on this, it will pay dividends – it will pay off!

The trouble is that even native speakers aren’t always aware the language works this way – although they will quickly point out your mistake if you get a chunk wrong. If you say ‘weighty rain’ instead of ‘heavy rain’ people will smile. If you say ‘heavy arguments’, rather than, ‘weighty arguments’, their lips will curl again.

Knowing chunks of language makes them easier to bring to mind as and when you need them too. If you can’t think of the word ‘anesthetic’, try thinking of a word that often precedes it – ‘local’. If you can’t think of the name of that famous footballer, say his first name – David, and out will come Beckham!
Get help online here:-
Collocations -
Verb collocations – examples and quizzes -
Do your best!
Robert L. Fielding