Making Leonardo’s Lion

An artistic acquaintance of mine has been making 3D printed models of vehicles and gadgets from my stories. Today I’ll introduce another one she made, the mechanical clockwork lion from my book “Leonardo’s Lion.”LeonardosLion5

It’s a modification of the one available on Thingiverse here, designed by YahooJapan. She added a cutout section showing gears inside. I painted the model myself.Lion 1

According to some accounts, Leonardo da Vinci made a working, mechanical lion. It was toward the end of his life when he was living in France. Records aren’t clear, but the newly crowned King of France, Francois I, met Pope Leo X in Bologna on December 19, 1515. Either the lion was presented at that event, or was commissioned then and given to the king at a party two years later.

Lion 2The lion could walk, move its head from side to side, and open and shut its jaws. It then sat on its haunches; its chest cavity opened, and a bouquet of lilies fell out. The lion was the symbol of Pope Leo X and lilies symbolized France, so this mechanism represented the strong bond between the two.

Lion 3

 

 

 

 

 

In our modern world of automated gadgets, it’s difficult to imagine the effect such a lion would have at a party in the early 16th Century.

Lion 4I got to wondering what might have happened to that lion afterward. My story, “Leonardo’s Lion,” takes place some fifty years later. The lion stands forgotten in a storeroom, hidden among numerous other gifts presented to previous kings.

A ten-year-old boy named Chev comes upon the lion after escaping an orphanage. He’s able to get the automaton working, and is small enough to ride on its back. Inside the lion, he finds a message Leonardo had meant for King Francois I to discover, and a clue to a world-changing secret. Thus begins Chev’s ride on the lion’s back, through a country torn apart by warring religions.

In potential future improvements to this model, I’d love to have movable legs, a swaying head, and a seam for the chest cavity.

I welcome your thoughts about my model. Leave a comment on this post for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Connessione

Together, you and I have arrived at the end of this seven-part series of posts. We’ve been working our way through the principles in Michael J. Gelb’s wonderful book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. For each principle, we’ve been exploring how it relates to fiction writing.

The last principle is Connessione: a recognition and appreciation for the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena—systems thinking.

ConnessioneLeonardo had a fascination with the connections between things. He’d study how a tossed stone caused expanding circular ripples in water. He wrote, “The earth is moved from its position by the weight of a tiny bird resting upon it.” His notebooks were a disorganized, chaotic stream of consciousness, as if his mind would flit from one thing to a seemingly unrelated thought. In a strange echoing of what we might consider Eastern philosophy, he wrote: Everything comes from everything, and everything is made out of everything, and everything returns into everything.”

In what ways should a writer of fiction embrace the principle of Connessione? Here are some that occur to me:

  • When you’re thinking of plot ideas for stories to write, look for separate ideas from the world around you and connect them. To pick just three examples of this, consider how Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series combines the ideas of TV reality shows and war; how Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein combines Tarzan, Jesus, and Mars; how Herman Melville’s Moby Dick combines whaling and obsession.
  • Think of the interconnections between characters within your stories. For characters A and B there are (at least) four connections: how A feels about B internally, how A behaves toward B externally, and the same internal feelings and external behavior of B toward A. Now imagine three, four, five, or more major characters and convey, in your story, the rich web of interconnectedness between them all. This alone will be the subject of a future blog post.
  • Your stories have an internal, systemic structure. They are a connection of related parts. The chapters (or sections) are themselves composed of scenes, and build on each other to form the integrated whole of the story.
  • The story element of theme is a connection between concrete things in a story to abstract ideas in real life. Similarly, the techniques of metaphor and simile are connections in the form of comparisons—relating something you’re describing in your story to something familiar or understandable to the reader.

See? If you write fiction, you must embrace the notion of Connessione to some extent. In fact, it helps to practice all seven principles— Curiosità, Dimonstrazione, Sensazione, Sfumato, Arte/Scienza, Corporalita, and Connessione. Perhaps you’ll not become as well remembered or universally admired as da Vinci, but you can think like him, and write fiction as he would have. That’s the aim of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

October 11, 2015Permalink

Corporalita

If you’ve made it through my series of posts this far, you know I’m blogging about the sixth of seven principles put forth in How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, by Michael J. Gelb. I’ve been relating each of the principles to the activity I love—writing fiction.

CorporalitaToday’s principle is Corporalita, the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise. These aren’t attributes we normally associate with Leonardo, but it turns out the maestro was quite the he-man, fitness buff, vegetarian, and dieter. Who knew?

Now you’re wondering how I’m going to relate this to the story-scribbling art. Well, not to put too fat a point on it, writing is a sedentary activity. A sedentary inactivity, really. Unlike hobbies such as running, weightlifting, or sports, writing won’t leave you in better shape. Worse shape, more likely.

If you’re not careful, writing will make you fat. It’s easy to consume your favorite snack while writing. If you do that once, you’ll form a habit that’s hard to quit. The more you write, the more you’ll eat. The more you eat without exercising…let’s just say you might write a book as good as Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, or you might become a balloon in five weeks.

If we reexamine that definition of Corporalita, we see it’s more than just fitness. It’s an enhancement of your body in many ways, including grace, ambidexterity, and poise. You can boost grace and poise by dance, tai chi, or yoga. Become more ambidextrous by using that ‘other’ hand for more and more things in your daily life. You don’t have to go to da Vinci’s extreme of writing with the other hand.

I’ve been talking about how to embrace the Corporalita principle. Here are some writing-related reasons why:

  • Relate better to your characters. Most often, appealing characters are the young and fit ones. Even if not young, either the protagonist or sidekick should be able to engage in vigorous activity and to survive the hell you’re putting them through. The closer you relate to your characters, the better you’ll convey them to the reader.
  • Have more to write about. I’ve mentioned some activities to improve Corporalita, including dancing, exercise, tai chi, and yoga. Engaging in these activities will expose you to more people (giving you character ideas), problems and skills (giving you plot ideas), and places (giving you setting ideas).
  • Get a better attitude. Your self-image has a lot to do with your attitude. As you improve your fitness, lose weight, become more poised, and gain ambidexterity, you’ll feel better about yourself; those positive feelings of confidence will come through in your prose.
  • Write without tiring. You might think you’d be too tired to write after vigorous exercise. Strangely, it’s the opposite. As you improve your body’s health, you’re sharpening your brain as well. You’ll find yourself able to write longer without drowsiness.
  • Appeal to readers. If you go to conferences and book signings, potential readers will see you. Yes, they choose you primarily for your books, not your looks. But if your great physique happens to attract more readers and you make a few more sales, what’s wrong with that? Also, the more fit you are, the easier it is to endure a long conference.
  • Write more books. Here’s the best reason. If your body’s in good shape, you’ll live longer. If you live longer, you’ll have a lengthier writing career and will produce more output.

If you want to think like Leonardo, work on your grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise. Still working on my own Corporalita, I’m—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Arte/Scienza

Here is the fifth post in my series. I’ve been discussing how the seven principles put forth by Michael J. Gelb in his book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci relate to fiction writing. Today’s principle is Arte/Scienza, or “Development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination, ‘whole-brain’ thinking.”

ArteScienzaIn the book, Gelb demonstrates how Leonardo embodied the kind of balanced thinking intended by the term Arte/Scienza. His artistic paintings contain precise mathematical shapes and geological features. His scientific and engineering drawings are, themselves, works of art. Da Vinci didn’t distinguish between the two.

Sure, you’re saying, that’s all very well for ol’ Leo, born way back in 1452. But a lot has happened since then, particularly on the science side. There’s too much to learn to be an expert in both art and science. The two are way too different these days.

Artists are all about brushes and canvas, lighting and shadow, color and imagery. They’re out to discover beauty, or deliver a message, or say something significant about human nature.

On the other hand, scientists groove on equations and numbers, test tubes and Bunsen burners, experiments and technical papers. They’re out to discover truth, and to solve the mysteries of how the universe works.

In our modern world, we’re used to a high wall between Arte and Scienza. The two are so specialized, require such different talents, and their practitioners use such different jargon that it’s difficult to imagine one person combining the two in equal measure. Even books discussing Leonardo da Vinci separate the chapters for his artwork from those of his scientific endeavors.

Today we speak of being left-brained or right-brained, as if each of us is putting only half our brain to work and leaving the other half idle.

Michael Gelb discusses how you can use the philosophy of Arte/Scienza in your everyday life, and promotes the use of mind maps, which I also advocate.

My purpose is to discuss how Arte/Scienza applies to fiction writing. Most fiction writers identify more with artists than with scientists. They consider fiction writing a kind of art, and believe their creative temperament matches that of painters more than that of researchers. (The exception would be science fiction writers, who must use science in their writing.)

Here are some ways that even an author of magical fantasy, a writer who disdains all things scientific, can benefit from applying the Arte/Scienza principle:

  • Use mind-maps to aid in the writing process. These combine the logical orderliness of outlines with the free-form, colorful, image-laden right-brain preferences. Mind-maps can help you solve plotting problems, create characters, even plan book promotions.
  • Apply the experimental method to the development of your craft. The heart of science is the experimental method, used to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. You’re trying to become a better writer, so experiment!
  • Add a scientifically minded character to your story, even if he or she is the antagonist, a person of pure evil. Pour all your negative feelings about science into that character. You may just find, as you develop this antagonist, that he or she becomes one of your more engaging and interesting creations.
  • Embrace the overlap between art and science. If art searches for beauty, and science seeks truth, are those really that different? In the end, you’d like your book to say something new about the human condition, to expand reader’s knowledge about the theme you’re exploring. While working your art, haven’t you just committed an act of science?

Listen to your inner artist and your inner scientist. The more you do, the more you’ll find them getting along well together, and your writing might improve, too. So far, it’s working for—

Poseidon’s Scribe

September 27, 2015Permalink

Sfumato

Next in this series of blog posts is a strange one: Sfumato. I’m blogging about how each of the seven principles in How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, by Michael J. Gelb, relates to fiction writing. Today I grapple with the fourth principle, Sfumato, a word that means “going up in smoke.”

Gelb’s definition of Sfumato is “a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty.” Although most people prefer knowledge, predictability, and clarity, Gelb contends that Leonardo did not shy away from the gray areas, the question marks, the mysterious, and the absurd.

SfumatoDa Vinci painted beautiful things, but also made many drawings of ‘grotesques’ or ugly human faces. His most famous painting, the Mona Lisa, contains mystery after mystery, including the anonymity of its model. Gelb notes that we discern human mood from the corners of the eyes and mouth, but in the Mona Lisa, Leonardo obscured these areas in shadow, deliberately leaving them vague so we are left to wonder whether she smiles or not.

Is Sfumato important for a fiction writer? First, let’s define each of its three aspects:

  • Ambiguity: something that can be understood in more than one way, allowing for more than one interpretation.
  • Paradox: a statement or proposition that, despite apparently sound reasoning, leads to a conclusion that seems senseless, illogical, or self-contradictory.
  • Uncertainty: A state of having limited knowledge where it is difficult to choose between two or more alternatives.

Writers make use of ambiguity through symbolism, where one thing may represent something else. Metaphors and similes prove useful to ways to compare the unfamiliar to the familiar, but also leave the story open to interpretation. Often the greatest works of literature contain enough ambiguity to allow generations of critics to argue over meanings.

As for paradox, a writer may employ it for humorous effect, as in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance,” where a young man thinks he can end his apprenticeship with a band of pirates when he is twenty-one years old, but since he was born on February 29, he’s really only a bit over four. Even when a writer uses paradox in a serious way, it can heighten reader enjoyment by giving the reader something to puzzle over and think about.

Uncertainty is at the center of fiction writing, and comes into play in three levels—the character, the reader, and the writer. Fiction must have conflict, and often it can be an internal conflict for the main character. To heighten the drama of the conflict, it’s necessary to force the character to make a difficult decision. The protagonist’s uncertainty is what makes readers keep on reading.

You must create uncertainty in the mind of the reader as well. If the reader knows what’s coming next, there’s no point in continuing with the story.

How does uncertainty apply to the writer? I believe this has to do with the tone of the prose. A writer should have something to say, and have a level of confidence in the point she or he is trying to make. I didn’t say ‘certainty;’ I said ‘a level of confidence.’ If you believe you possess the ultimate truths of the universe, the universe will prove you wrong. No reader likes a know-it-all, so I urge authors to advance ideas for consideration, not in a manner that closes the door to criticism.

That’s Sfumato. Now, if you find yourself striding with confidence into areas of smoke, of fog, of murkiness and mystery; if you come to enjoy being ambiguously, paradoxically uncertain, you have no one to blame except Leonardo da Vinci, Michael J. Gelb, and—

Poseidon’s Scribe

September 20, 2015Permalink

Sensazione

We’ve come to the third principle in Michael J. Gelb’s remarkable book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. In recent blog posts, I’ve been relating each principle to fiction writers, encouraging you to think like Leonardo as you write.

SensazioneThe third principle is Sensazione, which Gelb defines as “the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience.” Leonardo knew that we experience life through our five senses; therefore, only the person who could enhance his or her senses in perception and accuracy could experience life fully.

Da Vinci’s sight and hearing were superb, and he worked to improve all his senses. He regarded sight as the most important, following by hearing.

The exercises in the Sensazione chapter of Think Like Leonardo da Vinci are among the most fun in the book. For example, Gelb suggests you smell and taste things while blindfolded until you can identify each odor and taste, even those with only slight differences.

How does this relate to writing? The Point of View character in your story also experiences life through her or his senses, just as real people do. However, the only way you can convey these sensations to your reader is through words.

I’ve blogged about the senses before, and encouraged you to incorporate all five of them in your stories. To apply Sensazione in your writing, you must choose words that precisely convey the sensations experienced by your POV character.

I don’t necessarily mean you should pile on adjectives like beautiful, pungent, sonorous, delicious, and velvety—or adverb forms. Adjectives (and to a lesser extent, adverbs) can be useful if you’re selective and choose just the most apt one. Some adjectives, like “beautiful” and “delicious” are not distinct; they tell rather than show.

Another method is with metaphors and similes. If you can compare the sensation your character is experiencing with something to which the reader can relate, and make the comparison distinct and descriptive, that’s Sensazione.

As Leonardo knew, sight is the primary sense for humans, and so it will be for your characters most of the time. But if you appeal to the other senses, too, it can only enhance the reader’s enjoyment. Also, there are times when a character’s first sensation is through one of the other senses, such as when a sight line is blocked and the character hears or smells something before seeing it. Your character might be blind, or in darkness, and will have to rely on the other four senses.

If you work to cultivate your senses in your own life, by going through Gelb’s recommended exercises, you should also strive to become more adept at describing each feeling and sensation in words. As your skill improves, readers will be drawn into your stories and connect with your characters’ experiences.

Ah! I see, hear, and smell breakfast being prepared. I’ll have to end this post now, for soon I shall feel the fork in my hand, and a succulent repast will be tasted by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

September 13, 2015Permalink

Dimonstrazione

We’re continuing today with my series of blog posts discussing the principles of How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci, by Michael J. Gelb, and how they relate to writing fiction. Today’s principle is Dimonstrazione, a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

DimonstrazioneIt’s not enough just to be curious about people and the world, as the first principle of Curiosità advocated. You must add to your knowledge and seek truth by testing and experimentation.

In our current Age of Information, it’s so easy to accept the word of experts, to trust Wikipedia, etc. But Leonardo da Vinci didn’t put his faith in the word of others. He put things to the test. He experimented and tried things for himself.

How does this apply to your fiction writing efforts? The world, the web, and even my own website are all full of advice for beginning writers. But no one knows what novels will catch on next year. Your ideas about what might become a bestseller may conflict with every bit of common knowledge out there, but you might be right.

You have to be willing to try things, different things, bizarre things. If they work, ride that wave and keep doing them, even if the professionals advise against it. If they don’t work, stop doing them, even if it means disregarding every expert in the world.

Here are several ways you can employ Dimonstrazione in your writing life:

  • If you’re trying to find out writing habits that work the best for you, try writing at different hours of the day, in different locations, for different lengths of time, using different word processors (or even pen and paper), etc. Find what works best and stick with that.
  • Realizing that some people accept the principle of Dimonstrazione and others don’t, make that a contrasting trait between two characters in a story—one who won’t accept authority and puts established knowledge to the test, and the other who accepts the word of authority as fact.
  • To determine what your ‘voice’ is, try different voices. See which one your readers respond to best.
  • If money or fame are not important to you and you only write for enjoyment, find those genres, plot types, themes, settings, and character types that give you the greatest pleasure to write about.
  • If you’re trying to increase your readership, experiment with the various elements of fiction (plot, character, setting, theme, and style) and see which stories sell the most copies.
  • What are the best conferences for you to speak at? Try several, and see which one causes the biggest uptick in sales.
  • If you don’t know what type of free book giveaway will result in the largest e-mail list, try different types of giveaways—different rules, etc.
  • Study the market and see what’s working for other authors. Don’t copy everything they do, but consider changing your methods to get a little closer to their way of doing things.

The important thing about Dimonstrazione is its philosophy, its approach to understanding knowledge. When you read or hear the advice of an authority, be skeptical and apply some critical thinking. If you believe the truth is different than what the authority says, test it for yourself. If the experiment proves you wrong, admit your error and adjust your beliefs.

Through persistent application of Dimonstrazione, you’ll start to think more like Leonardo da Vinci, or at least more like—

Poseidon’s Scribe

September 6, 2015Permalink

Curiosità

Some time ago, I promised to write seven separate blog posts, one for each of the principles espoused in How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci, by Michael J. Gelb. I said I’d relate them to writing fiction. This is the first post in that series.

how-to-think-like-leonardo-da-vinci-160x197The first principle is Curiosità, which Gelb defines as “an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning.” He discusses Leonardo’s curiosity and provides worthwhile exercises for developing your own inquisitiveness. (I encourage you to buy his book and to work through the exercises.)

Fiction writers must have boatloads of curiosity. They must ponder things like:

  • CuriositaWhat is the meaning of life?
  • Why do people behave as they do?
  • What do readers want from books?
  • What is the meaning and origin of this or that interesting word?
  • How do I improve my writing?
  • What would happen I twisted this real-world situation around differently?
  • What would that setting be like?
  • How would my protagonist act in this situation?
  • etc…

On and on forever. Moreover, each answer sparks five more questions.

Curiosity is something you once had, then lost, and now must strive to regain. When you were four or five years old, you were intensely, ravenously curious. You barely had the language skills to form questions, but you asked hundreds of them. We all did, at that age. We especially liked questions starting with “why.”

Then older people and life experiences supplied answers. Some adults told you religion had your answers; some said science did; some said both. They gave you books to read, hoping to satisfy you.

Some answers discouraged further inquiry. Few answers satisfied you at first, but later you came to accept, to believe. You learned societal taboos and sensitive areas. You tamped down your curiosity and asked fewer questions.

Lately, you’ve grown accustomed to the Internet and search engines. If you have a question about something, you type it in. Out pops (what you believe is) the correct answer, courtesy of your magical answer machine.

Things have changed since Leonardo’s time, you say. These days we have instant answers to every question; we don’t really need to be curious. There’s no point in it.

When I hear that, my curious mind can only ask: Really? Why? How do you know?

I advise you, as a writer, to reclaim some of your childhood curiosity, for two reasons.

First, we do not yet live in an age with all questions answered. Every day, someone uncovers facts that overturn a thing that “everybody knows.” Take any single thing you can name, anything, and decide to become an expert in it. Explore it, study it, read source material, visit the sites. You’ll soon explode a myth or two about your chosen subject; you’ll shift a paradigm; you’ll find out that what everybody knows just ain’t so. Despite what it says on the Internet.

Far from having all questions answered, we still live in humanity’s infancy. We are ignorant—monumentally, staggeringly ignorant. Worse, we don’t know how much we don’t know, and we truly know a lot less than we think we know.

The other reason I advise you to reinvigorate your curiosity is that it is precisely the questions that authors are really exploring in fiction—the deeper, thematic ones—for which the answers remain most elusive. How do I live a good and worthwhile life? Why am I here? What does it mean to be human? What is the nature of love?

If you aspire to write great fiction, think like Leonardo da Vinci. Embrace Curiosità. Ask questions. Many, many questions.

But there is no need to question the wisdom of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Don’t Refuse Your Muse

Is your brain in a rut? If so, you’re not alone. Today I’ll examine this tendency and suggest what you can do about it.

For all its desirable features, the human brain suffers from a love of the familiar and a fear of the unknown. This served as a good survival trait for our ancestors in their world, but it’s no advantage for a writer today.

Dont refuse museThis hard-wired preference probably prevents many people from becoming writers in the first place, since that can be a scary unknown. Even for those of you who’ve chosen to writers, this unfortunate brain feature keeps you using the same vocabulary words, writing about the same topics in the same genres, writing stories with the same themes and using very similar characters. It thwarts your creative urge, putting you at war with your muse.

As I’ve said before, your muse gets bored with the familiar and seeks the new and fresh. She grabs your arm and pulls you away from the safe and the known, beckoning you to explore the untrodden path. Her brain is wired in a different way.

Perhaps you disagree, thinking you don’t suffer from the malady I’ve described. You deny being a creature of habit who rushes to the familiar and avoids the unknown. Fine. Here’s your test. Tonight, before going to bed, hide your toothbrush. Let’s see how Mr. or Ms. Creativity handles things the next morning. Good luck!

For a great illustration of the problem, I encourage you to read “The Calf Path” by Sam Walter Foss. This poem paints an amusing metaphor of how our brains work.

Advertising Director Gina Sclafani wrote about dealing with the phenomenon. I find it interesting how she thought at first the task would be easy, since she prided herself on being open-minded. Then she well describes the difficulty, the inner resistance, to any steps outside the mind’s comfort zone. In the end, she’s glad she did, because the rewards are great, but she warns it is a journey pitting one part of your mind against a powerful counteracting part.

Here’s a three-step method you could try as a writer to push yourself out of your comfort zone. I’ll illustrate it with story genres, but it could also work with characters, themes, settings, style, or any aspect of story-writing in which you’re stuck.

1. Make a list of story genres you’d never consider writing about. Include the ones you find stupid, abhorrent, unseemly, etc. It’s no big deal, right? After all, you’re never going to write in any of these genres.

2. Spend five to ten minutes thinking through each genre on your list. Think about each one as follows: “I’ll never write in this genre, of course, but if I were to do so, here’s the story I’d write…”   You needn’t write down any of these ideas, just think through them.

3. Now let some time pass. A few days, weeks, or even months. This allows your muse to do her thing. You might well find she’s yanking on your arm and leading you down an unfamiliar path toward writing in one of those unwanted genres.

A similar thing happened to me. I knew I’d never write in the horror genre. Then I noticed a publisher seeking stories for an anthology to be called Dead Bait. I dismissed it, but my muse didn’t. She worked on the idea for a story she made me write called “Blood in the River.” I’m still not a horror story writer, but it felt good to get out of the comfort zone.

One final thought. At one point in their lives, each of history’s greatest contributors (think of da Vinci, Shakespeare, Bach, Edison, Einstein, etc.) had to leave a comfort zone in order to develop his or her eventual talents. Imagine the loss to mankind if one of them hadn’t taken that step? What if you could become a popular, successful, or timeless writer if only you stretch your mind in a direction it doesn’t want to go?

You’ll have to excuse me. This calf-path I’m walking along is nice, but some woman wearing a chiton is tugging at my sleeve. “What’s that? Where? But that’s off the path and looks terrifying to—

                                                                   Poseidon’s Scribe”

Write like Leonardo da Vinci?

Leonardo da VinciTrue, Leonardo da Vinci was an anatomist, architect, botanist, cartographer, engineer, geologist, inventor, mathematician, musician, painter, scientist, and sculptor.  Arguably he was the greatest genius of all time.  But…he never wrote fiction.

Still, it may be possible to adapt da Vinci’s methods to the task of writing great fiction.  “But wait, Mr. Poseidon’s Scribe,” (I hear you objecting), “Leonardo was a genius.  I wasn’t born a genius.”

It’s been argued before that genius is some combination of luck and time spent at an activity.  You can’t do much about the luck, but you can spend time learning, practicing, honing your skills.  If you’re going to spend that time, why not ask how Leonardo spent his time?

how-to-think-like-leonardo-da-vinci-160x197In his book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael J. Gelb has already researched the methods Leonardo used and distilled them into principles.  You need to get this book and read it to understand the seven principles.  As you read the book, you’ll be able to extrapolate how each one applies to writing fiction.  Here are those seven principles:

  • Curiosità:  An insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continuous learning
  • Dimonstrazione:  A commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes
  • Sensazione: The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience
  • Sfumato:  A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty
  • Arte/Scienza:  The development of the balance between science and art, logic and imagination; “whole-brain” thinking.
  • Corporalita:  The cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness, and poise.
  • Connessione:  A recognition of, and appreciation for, the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena; systems thinking

Just reading through the list should remind you of what you know about da Vinci. Leonardo never wrote down these principles himself; he was far too disorganized for that, though he intended to get around to it someday.  Michael Gelb developed the principles from what is known of da Vinci’s life.

Even the bare descriptions of each principle should suggest to you how each one applies to writing fiction.  Maybe you’re scratching your head at the Corporalita principle, wondering how that one relates to a sedentary activity like writing.  It does, trust me.  I will devote seven future blog posts to a discussion of each principle, and how you can use each one to improve your fiction writing.

LeonardosLion5At this point, I can’t resist a personal plug.  Leonardo da Vinci is such a fascinating historical figure, I wrote a story about the mechanical automata lion he constructed for the King of France.  Had that been all da Vinci did, it would have been achievement enough, far beyond the norm of the day, but it’s barely a footnote in any list of his accomplishments.  My story, “Leonardo’s Lion,” deals with the question of what eventually happened to that clockwork marvel.

Right after you buy my book, buy How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, and get started writing with the skill of your inner genius.  When you become famous and people ask how you learned to write so well, be sure to tell them it was all due to a blog post written by—

                                                 Poseidon’s Scribe