For Writers, Writing Tips

10 TEDx Talks for Writers

Need inspiration/motivation? Can’t face writing another word?

Then don’t.

Instead take a few minutes to check out some of the below – short TEDx talks from experienced writers with fascinating things to say about the creative process.

1. The Danger of a Single Story

Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shares how she became a writer and talks about the danger of stereotypes, the power of telling nuanced stories and the importance of embracing cultural variety.

Standout quote:

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

2. Beautiful New Words to Describe Obscure Emotions

Suffering from writer’s block? Get your imagination fired up with John Keonig’s affectionate homage to language and all its eccentricites.

Standout quote:

“A word is essentially a key that gets us into certain people’s heads. And if it gets us into one brain, it’s not really worth it, not really worth knowing. Two brains, eh, it depends on who it is. A million brains, OK, now we’re talking. And so a real word is one that gets you access to as many brains as you can. That’s what makes it worth knowing.”

3. Know Your Worth, and Then Ask for it

Writers are notoriously bad at setting their own rates and valuing their work. As a creative type it can be hard to get to grips with words as a business commodity.

Pricing consultant Casey Brown shares tips on how to honestly assess your own worth and communicate that value to employers.

Standout quote:

“It’s so important to find your own voice, a voice that’s authentic and true to you. Give up this notion that it’s tooting your own horn. Make it about the other party. Focus on serving and adding value, and it won’t feel like bragging. What do you love about what you do? What excites you about the work that you do? If you connect with that, communicating your value will come naturally.”

4. What I Learned From 100 Days of Rejection

For a writer, rejection comes with the territory.

In this talk Jia Jiang shares his experiences as he set out to get rejected every day for 100 days. It’s brutally honest, very funny and ultimately uplifting.

Standout quote:

“People who really change the world, who change the way we live and the way we think, are the people who were met with initial and often violent rejections. People like Martin Luther King, Jr., like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, or even Jesus Christ. These people did not let rejection define them. They let their own reaction after rejection define themselves. And they embraced rejection.”

5. How to get Better at the Things you Care About

According to Eduardo Briceno, effective people go through life in either a ‘learning zone’ or a ‘performance zone’.

He gives his tips on how to access those zones and hone your skills in any area — whether cooking, parenting or writing.

Standout quote:

“First, we must believe and understand that we can improve, what we call a growth mindset. Second, we must want to improve at that particular skill. There has to be a purpose we care about, because it takes time and effort. Third, we must have an idea about how to improve, what we can do to improve. And fourth, we must be in a low-stakes situation, because if mistakes are to be expected, then the consequence of making them must not be catastrophic, or even very significant.”

6. Can a Computer Write Poetry?

The answer, disturbingly, is yes.

Oscar Schwartz looks at how we react to computer-engineered poetry and what it means to be human.

Standout quote:

“We associate poetry with being human. So that when we ask, “Can a computer write poetry?” We’re also asking, “What does it mean to be human and how do we put boundaries around this category? How do we say who or what can be part of this category?”

7. How to Build your Creative Confidence

Creativity is a mindset, according to David Kelley who examines the idea of the ‘creative type’ and how to boost your own creative confidence.

Standout quote:

“When people gain this confidence they actually start working on the things that are really important in their lives. We see people quit what they’re doing and go in new directions. We see them come up with more interesting ideas, so they can choose from better ideas. And they just make better decisions.”

8. 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing

Anne Lamott talks with warmth, wit and honesty about lessons learned in her 61 years (although I strongly disagree with her on #5).

This is an inspiring meditation on writing, aging and how to decide what’s important in life.

Standout quote:

“You’re going to feel like hell if you wake up someday and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions and songs — your truth, your version of things — in your own voice. That’s really all you have to offer us, and that’s also why you were born.”

9. Your Elusive, Creative Genius

Author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, Elizabeth Gilbert looks at the myth of the unstable creative genius and urges fellow writers not to be scared of their successes.

Standout quote:

“I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun. It just completely warps and distorts egos, and it creates all these unmanageable expectations about performance. And I think the pressure of that has been killing off our artists for the last 500 years.”

10. The Politics of Fiction

Fiction can transcend cultural ghettos, according to Elif Shafak who talks about story-telling in the face of identity politics and her experiences as a female writer from a Muslim background.

Standout quote:

“If you’re a woman writer from the Muslim world, like me, then you are expected to write the stories of Muslim women and, preferably, the unhappy stories of unhappy Muslim women. You’re expected to write informative, poignant and characteristic stories and leave the experimental and avant-garde to your Western colleagues.”

 

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