Ariele University: A Whack On The Side of the Head


I know you haven’t heard from Ariele University in a while, but I’ve been working on it, slowly plugging away in the background. I’ve made progress on a few of the books I’m reading (about halfway through a couple), have done two more assignments, and figured out what I want to do for my thesis! More on that after I’ve gotten a bit more of my readings done, though.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to A Whack On The Side of the Head by Roger von Oech. This book was originally published in 1983 (though I have the 1990 edition), and is a bestselling classic on how you can become more creative. I’m not sure I need to become more creative, exactly, but I figured that it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few more tools in the toolbox. The book has “puzzles, anecdotes, exercises, metaphors, cartoons, questions, quotations, stories, and tips; this book systematically breaks through your mental blocks and unlocks your mind for creative thinking.” That’s what the back of the books says.

Anyway, the reason I added this to my list was because I owned it, and thought it might be a sort of unnecessary side concept—like a gen ed course in undergrad.

My assignment (you can see updates to my progress here) was to do three of the assignments listed in the book. I have them included below.

The Assignment

1. Metaphors.

This chapter talks about hard and soft thinking. Put each item from the list on page 34 into one of the two categories, either Hard or Soft, along with an explanation of why you put it there.


Logic— creates a set of rigid guidelines to help direct a thought process or idea

Reason—the process that creates the guidelines, which now that I think about it might actually be more soft because it involves exploring a variety of ideas, following bunny trails and tangents—but hard because it all has the goal of creating something very tangible and accessible

Precision—hard, as in difficult, but also in exact and solid; it means understanding all the details of the situation and medium

Work—difficult and not fun in most cases, also guided by a specific set of rules and guidelines

Exact—same as precision

Direct—focused, forward, and no-nonsense; it knows itself and its needs

Focused—attention is all on one thing (or a cameras) creates a set of restrictions & blocks out other stuff, strict set of guidelines

Reality—there are rules, social and physical, that govern the world we live in and can’t be broken, like walls

Paradox—difficult to understand, but with a very specific problem to be solved

Analysis—subject to a specific set of rules

Specifics—specific lol

Adult—we are governed by the rules of our world and society, and are expected to be able to bear the brunt of the pain the world brings


Metaphor—because it doesn’t translate exactly, there’s always wiggle room, room for interpretation and subjectivity

Dream—because its fuzzy, hard to grasp, hard to pin down exactly what’s happening and why

Ambiguity—because it’s flexible and leaves room for subjectivity and interpretation

Humor—room for subjectivity and interpretation

Play—because it’s fun, easy, and can take the form of anything; there are very few rules

Approximate—fuzzy, not sure, close enough but room for movement, wiggling change, not constant

Fantasy—not real, easy to change and manipulate

Diffuse—spreading outward, no central point, you can’t really tie it down or solidify its position

Hunch—it’s just an idea, not yet full formed, has no shape

Generalization—fuzzy, broad assessments based on loose patterns, and a ton of room for error

Child—they are small and while resilient, easily injured or affected, you can shape the way they think and feel and what they do, flexible


2. Be Practical.

Free write for 5 minutes about the picture of the chair on page 68. Include 3 impressions you have of its value.


The chair has a back and a front, with a sort of triangle going through the center, and empty space on the legs, like it would fall down if you actually tried to use it. It has cushioning, which is probably comfortable, but the triangle through the center would make it very difficult to sit on, that’s for sure. And since the legs don’t really work, you’d have to balance on the bottom part of the triangle, which also seems less than safe. The only kind of person that would really fit in this chair would be two skinny people, one on each side. And the chair wouldn’t stand up with the legs broken like that. I’m trying very hard to find something good to say about it, but… Okay, here’s what you could do with the chair. Flip it 90 degrees, so that its back is on the floor. Then you can have two kids sit on it, with a divider between them so they can’t talk to each other, like if they’re siblings fighting or they don’t like each other or something. That might be a use for the chair.

This chapter is encouraging us to be open minded, but know when to reel in our imagination. Just because you can think of something (like this ridiculous chair) doesn’t mean the idea has value, or will turn out the way you imagined it during implementation. Yes, someone thought of this chair and even drew a picture of it, but I doubt it would sell, and it certainly wouldn’t be something to invest a lot of money in developing. So then, I need to practice recognizing when I have good ideas or bad ideas, and figure out how to determine which is which in writing. And I need to be willing to back down when my idea is, shall we say, less than stellar.


3. Mapping Dissatisfaction.

Go through each of the steps starting on page 171. Write a paragraph.


What are you dissatisfied about?

I want to be a better writer. I want to be a better marketer. I want to make more money doing what I love (writing, reading, supporting authors, being a part of the literary community).

What are you going to do about it?

Well, I made up this fake master’s course to help with my skill. I started my Patreon plan to work on my marketing and BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals). I am making more money (not enough though) so I’m going to follow through on my Patreon plan, and work on refining my marketing plan so that more money goes into my bank account, and less goes out, and I’m going to write more books (strategy number 1).

Can you visualize yourself reaching your objective?

Yes! I have been trying to imagine what I will do with my time when not freelancing. I have imagined getting invited to do interviews and what I will do to engage my fans and followers. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that will ever be a reality, but I am going to stay focused on it as much as I can, and keep working.

What are three things you can do to reach your goal?

  1. Re-prioritize my education. I have sort of put it aside, but I want to refocus.

  2. Set time aside every week specifically for visualization (like Sundays when I listen to classical).

  3. Prioritize getting more books written. Sometimes I get distracted by marketing stuff. I need to focus on writing. More books = more money.

What three factors make it difficult to reach your objective? How can you get rid of these excuses?

  1. Stress. I am working on this—relaxation, regular exercise, better diet. It’s not perfect, but I’m way better off than I was before.

  2. Getting distracted. I could ditch FB again. [I did!]

  3. Thinking I’m a terrible writer. Practice positive self-talk!

What do you have at stake?

Everything. I quit my job to do this, and while I’m fortunate enough to have Josh to help with the bills, I need to press forward. The longer I go without having a job, “freelancing,” the less hireable I become (at least in my mind). I need to be successful, or pursue a different career track.

How can you create a support system around you?

What I already have: Josh, my parents and brothers, Zoe, Sarah, Deidre, neighbors, stability.

What I can work on: expanding my network, building a larger online community (and in-person community), not trying to reach out to everyone, but find people who are like me, growing fan base

How can you make your idea attractive to other people?

I think practicing blurb writing is going to be really important, and investing in high quality covers. I love the idea of drawing monsters, but I need to find a way to make my other series more appealing as well.

What gives you courage to act on your ideas?

A solid plan is nice. But I think most of my courage comes from Josh, who believes in me 100%, and my parents who give me solid, helpful feedback on my work.

What deadline can you give yourself?

End of the month, baby! I have to have 35k by the end of the month, and I’d like to put this Sagittan book out by next year. I also want to have the next LoS book drafted by the end of the year, so I can get started with the chapter releases not too long after Book 1 ends.

What resistance do you expect to your idea?

Not everyone will like it. I will get negative reviews, no matter how good I think it is or how much work I put into it. But I need to ignore all that stuff, and focus on being the best I can be, and producing the best quality product that I am capable of producing.

How persistent are you?

Very, and becoming more so every day.