So you can read my books

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Alex Cavanaugh’sInsecure Writers Support Group

No, not mirror writing ... unless you're left handed.

Why did Leonardo Da Vinci write in backward or mirror image style?
I never believed that Leonardo's writing had anything to do with secrets or mystery writing.

He was such a creative, innovative person, he wrote the way he did because it was easier and possibly less "messy".

Leonardo was left handed.

If you have ever watched a left handed person write you will see that in order to be able to read what they have written,

as they write it, they "curl" their hand around what they have written. This allows them to see what they are writing.

 So, I believe Leonardo simply devised the backward writing because it worked for him.

Truly a practical and ingenious way to write his thoughts quickly and without mess. 

And obviously, he had no problem reading what he had written.

That's it. No big secret and deep dark mystery.

Just a good example of how Leonardo was someone who could "think outside the box". 

As you must think outside the box if you are to write something original.

You see, even if the original novel you write does not sell, you have not sold out the most valuable thing you have ... yourself.

What made this illegitimate son of a peasant girl and a notary become one of the most famous artists, inventors and scientists who ever lived?

His energy was limitless when it came to asking questions and searching for answers, and he was the master of observation which led to more questions and discoveries.

He had an insatiable desire to learn as much as he could about everything he observed, and he took meticulous notes.

He even described himself as a "disciple of experience" which meant he learned from experiencing, experimenting and observing everything he came in contact with.

So must you be a disciple of experience if you would write "true" fiction even if it is a tale of utter fantasy. 

If the reader believes your protagonist, then she/he will flow seamlessly into the adventure no matter how fantastic ... if the logic of the heart rings true.


1.) Curiosità.

Curiosità is an "insatiably curious approach to life and unrelenting quest for continuous learning". Great minds have one characteristic in common: they continuously ask questions throughout their lives.

Leonardo's endless quest for truth and beauty clearly demonstrates this.

What makes great minds different is the quality of their questions. You can increase your ability to solve problems by increasing your ability to ask good questions.

Like da Vinci, you should cultivate an open mind that allows you to broaden your universe and increase your ability to explore it.



Bring a journal wherever you go and use it often. Write your ideas and thoughts there. Try to write several statements a day that start with "I wonder why/how..."


Observe according to a theme. Choose a theme and observe things according to the theme for a day.

 For example, let's say you choose "communication". For the entire day, observe every type and instance of communication you come across. You can then record your observations in your journal.

Stream of consciousness exercise. Pick a question and write the thoughts and associations that occur to you as they are. Don't edit them. The important thing is to keep writing. This is also referred to as freewriting.
3.) Dimostrazione.
Dimostrazione is "a commitment to test knowledge through experience, persistence, and a willingness to learn from mistakes".
Wisdom comes from experience and the principle of Dimostrazione helps you get the most out of your experience. Here are some ways to apply Dimostrazione:
Next, take a distant view of your belief (for example, as if you live in a different culture) and review it.
Finally, find friends who can give you different perspectives.

Analyze the advertisements that affect you.

Look at the advertisements in your favorite magazine and analyze the strategy and tactics they use. Find the advertisements that affect you most and find out why.

 List the names of some people whose mistakes you want to avoid.
Learn from them so that you won't encounter the same pitfalls.
Leonardo da Vinci - Lady with an Ermine
4.) Sensazione.
Sensazione is "the continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to enliven experience".
According to da Vinci, we can best practice Dimostrazione through our senses, particularly sight.
 That's why one of Leonardo's mottoes is saper vedere (knowing how to see) upon which he built his work in arts and science.
Here are some ways to apply Sensazione:

  • Write detailed description of an experience. For instance, describe your experience of watching a sunrise in your journal.

  • Learn how to describe a smell.

  • Learn to draw.  Even if it is badly.

  • Listen to different sounds around you.

  • Learn to listen to different intensity of sounds from the softest (e.g. your breathing) to the loudest (e.g. traffic).

  • Live in the moment. Practice mindfulness.

  • 5.) Cryptic.

    Cryptic is "a willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty".

    An essential characteristic of da Vinci's genius is his ability to handle a sense of mystery. Here are two ways to apply Cryptic:

  • Befriend ambiguity.

  • Not knowing something does not make it ambiguous! It is when you DO know something but its meaning is indeterminate.

  • Ask yourself questions that relate two opposites.

  • For example, ask yourself how your happiest and saddest moments are related.  You will be surprised at your findings.

  • Practice the Socratic method.

  • The goal with the Socratic method is to examine possibilities, and that is done by asking questions, not by giving answers.

    Socrates was known (and criticized) for asking questions to which he didn't have answers.

    The key to using the Socratic method is to be humble.

    Don't assume that you or anyone knows anything for sure. Question every premise.


    How will this improve your writing?

    Imagine your heroine can't remember when she hasn't been able to ...

    A.) Taste colors
    B.) Not laugh when exposed to lies.

    Harmless right?

    No, she begins to have indigestion and hysterical laughter in front of forgeries in the art museum.

    She begins to earn a living until ...

    the intelligence agencies the world over hunt her for her skill at detecting lies and

    the terrorist organizations the world over want her dead.

    Then, an old crone said she once traded the heroine those deadly gifts in return for her earliest memory.

    Does the heroine want to un-do the trade?


    1. Now days behaviorists would call Da Vinci's style an "accommodation" for a learning disability :)


    2. Great thoughts! I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go and jot down ideas as they come to me. I've had people make fun of it, but it allows me to write down things and even create quick doodles of ideas to use later. You must always be thinking and innovating as well as noting things down.

    3. I also carry paper and pen most times. I'll observe, write a couple of notes if I think I can work it into something later.

      I ask too many questions, so I've been told. I've always had a lot of curiosity.

    4. this was a great post and wrapped around such an inspiration. i have so many notebooks of written gibberish and quick art... i will never catch up to it. in my defense i started in 1986, i will die before the world will actually ever see it.

      i am thinking huge fire, then i won't have to worry about it.

    5. Fascinating post, Roland, and apropos given that Leonardo was such a fascinating man. I think most writers—people in general, really—avoid the cryptic and are unwilling to see that dwelling in certainties is akin to stagnation. Obviously, we can't all achieve Leonardo's genius, but we all have untapped potential within us. Most writers have no problem observing and questioning others, but when they try to question and draw from within, they hit a brick wall. But how can we understand others if we're afraid to examine/question ourselves?

      VR Barkowski

    6. Donna:
      Sadly, yes. The ghost of Da Vinci just cuffed the ghost of B. F. Skinner aside the head!

      Like you, I always carry a journal around. Let others snipe. You don't belittle their dreams so they should leave yours alone, right? :-)

      There are no too many questions - just not the right ones. :-)

      To stay curious is to keep the best part of childhood.

      My own notepads get curled and dirty from constant carrying. But they are old friends.

      Don't joke about house fires! I lost nearly everything from one. Ouch!!

      Why not go back and read some of your old notes? They may inspire you in ways that will help right now.

      Each of us carry a germ of genius within us -- we need to tap into it to grow into all we can be.

      Certainties of the last century have been proven to be pipe-dreams. To grow we must let go of the shore and sail into thoughts of "What IF?"

      If we avoid looking within, we can only come up with surface questions to ask of others and of our environment, right?

      Great reply as always, VR.

    7. bon-fire... that would be good, maybe when i turn 50...

    8. This is beautiful and inspiring. We learn so much from the great artists!

    9. I basically do the same thing as Steven, I have a small notepad and when a thought strikes I write it down. I absolutely love many of DaVinci's drawings and paintings.

    10. Jerremy:
      Bon Fires are fun ... if contained and controlled! :-)

      I'm very happy you found this post beautiful -- so is the ghost of Leonardo! Yes, the great artists are a fund of how to approach the creative endeavor.

      I think your sales say otherwise!

      I have always been fascinated with Da Vinci since I was a small child. I wanted to be a Renaissance Man like him! Glad that you, Steven, and I tote about our journals! :-)

    11. Oh, this was wonderful Roland! I miss your posts the most...

      My life is spiraling and has left me in a daze... Not to worry, like you, I am a surviver and never give up!

    12. Michael:
      I know some days you must want to just wave the white flag and surrender -- however, life doesn't accept surrenders. You will make it because you have a valiant heart. :-)

    13. As I was reading, I started the thought 'I absolutely stink at journaling' till I read further. What great exercises! Copying and pasting for future use, thanks :)

      Weirdness-I'm EXTREMELY allergic to bees. In 3rd grade, I had to write left handed because my right one looked like a balloon. -and the writing came out backward :) Still does!