From Technology Review, a scientist/teacher writes the 10 basic rules for “how to think” in a “…world where problems are extremely complex, targets are continuously moving, and our brains often seem like nodes of enormous networks that constantly reconfigure”

I read them over and thought, wow, this could also apply to writing science fiction. (or life for that matter) My comments are in italics.

Here they are:

1. Synthesize new ideas constantly. Never read passively. Annotate, model, think, and synthesize while you read, even when you’re reading what you conceive to be introductory stuff. That way, you will always aim towards understanding things at a resolution fine enough for you to be creative.

2. Learn how to learn (rapidly). One of the most important talents for the 21st century is the ability to learn almost anything instantly, so cultivate this talent. Be able to rapidly prototype ideas. Know how your brain works.

3. Work backward from your goal. Or else you may never get there. If you work forward, you may invent something profound–or you might not. If you work backward, then you have at least directed your efforts at something important to you.

I would qualify this by saying for a writer, this may or may not work. However, at some point, after the first draft(s) are done, you do have to in a sense “work backward” because you have to make sure your whole story/novel works up to the ending it has.

4. Always have a long-term plan. Even if you change it every day. The act of making the plan alone is worth it. And even if you revise it often, you’re guaranteed to be learning something.

Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep writing, keep thinking about what your goals are. Finish a novel? Write another one.

5. Make contingency maps. Draw all the things you need to do on a big piece of paper, and find out which things depend on other things. Then, find the things that are not dependent on anything but have the most dependents, and finish them first.

I find this useful in terms of career-thinking. What should I do first, a short story that’s occupying my mind? Or finish that novel that’s been hanging around forever?

6. Collaborate.

7. Make your mistakes quickly. You may mess things up on the first try, but do it fast, and then move on. Document what led to the error so that you learn what to recognize, and then move on. Get the mistakes out of the way. As Shakespeare put it, “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

8. As you develop skills, write up best-practices protocols. That way, when you return to something you’ve done, you can make it routine. Instinctualize conscious control.

9. Document everything obsessively. If you don’t record it, it may never have an impact on the world. Much of creativity is learning how to see things properly. Most profound scientific discoveries are surprises. But if you don’t document and digest every observation and learn to trust your eyes, then you will not know when you have seen a surprise.

Back things up. Back things up. Don’t trash your drafts! Keep track of characters, seasons, scene layout in your novels, etc. etc. etc.

10. Keep it simple. If it looks like something hard to engineer, it probably is. If you can spend two days thinking of ways to make it 10 times simpler, do it. It will work better, be more reliable, and have a bigger impact on the world. And learn, if only to know what has failed before. Remember the old saying, “Six months in the lab can save an afternoon in the library.”

This one I am not sure about, but I thought of it as kind of like, don’t write three sentences for one piece of action. Or, don’t complicate a story with unnecessary baggage, or something like that.

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