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?