Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Rubik's Cube and The Great Gatsby

Practice makes perfect, but versatility spawns greatness.

I became a serious cuber when I finally accepted the truth of this statement.

No single method of solving the Rubik's Cube  no matter how perfect  will give you insight to truly master the cube.

Believe it or not, there are scores of methods for solving the Rubik's Cube.  Some are optimized for speed, others for ease of learning, and yet others to use the fewest possible moves.

It wasn't until I learned a method to solve the Rubik's Cube blindfolded, that I understood things on a more profound level.

Solving the cube sighted is rather reckless.  While you focus on one portion of the cube, you don't really care what happens to the majority of the other pieces.  And you have the freedom to 'wing it' and decide what to do next after each move.

But solving the Rubik's Cube blindfolded is a huge departure.  You are constrained in what you can do because you must keep track of the original position of every piece.  You must take great care to move each piece into its correct location.  This requires meticulous planning.

Many of the lessons I learned from my blindsolving method could be applied to my normal, sighted method.

What about writing lessons?

I'm willing to bet F. Scott Fitzgerald achieved his greatness because of similar lessons he learned along the way.

His first two novels were significantly character-driven and somewhat lengthy.  A stark contrast to his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.  But if you look at what was happening in his life prior to that you'll see some of his versatility coming through.

He had been struggling financially and began writing short stories to make ends meet.  He later wrote a play called The Vegetable.  Each of these experiences heavily influenced what would become The Great Gatsby.

He no doubt applied some of the lessons he learned writing short stories.  And this produced the concise novel we have come to love.  But also, you can see the influence of having written a structured play.  The Great Gatsby is a very plot-driven novel.

So, if you write novels, try writing short stories.  If you need help writing dialogue, try writing a play.  If you write romance, try writing an action thriller.

There are countless techniques and methods for writing.  Each one has something special to make you a more versatile writer.  And don't worry if any one particular piece doesn't work  just remember Fitzgerald's The Vegetable was a commercial failure.  But it led to his most recognized achievement.

What unexpected writing lessons have you discovered?


  1. I have discovered that it's vital to be flexible with our creative writing's a good thing to step outside our comfort zone. I may be a novel-writer, but I just might challenge myself to write short stories. Good stuff, Jason! :)

    1. Hi Mindi!
      Great to see you here again!
      One of the great things about writing short stories is you don't have to invest nearly as much time as you do with a novel. And it teaches you to make every word count. You should try it.
      I hope you're writing is going well.

  2. The most unexpected for me is that if I sit still long enough, I'll "hear" something. If I trust it, and write it (or type it), then I'll get a story. But I have to trust.

    I've nominated you for a Liebster Award for your blog, since you keep it up on such a regular basis and have such varied content.

    I hope you're well!

    1. Hello Amanda!
      Great to see you here. Thank you so much for the unexpected award. What a nice way to boost my blogging spirit. I'll have to put together my acceptance speech in my next blog post.

      Thanks for your comments too. Next time I hear voices in my head I'll have to listen to them instead of calling the could very well be a great story!