Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Writer's Brain: A Rewired Way of Thinking

About a year and a half ago, as I finished up my dissertation, I thought of an idea for a novel. In the next day or so, I'd come up with much of the plot and made some notes on its structure and characters. However, I had other writing priorities right then, so I forced myself to set the idea aside and told myself I'd take time to write fiction when I finished my Ph.D.

It is strange, but I never thought of myself as a writer. Sure, I wrote poetry in high school. Two of my poems went into the literary magazine published by my school. I won a position in a citywide high school playwriting workshop my senior year. My first year of college, I started a fantasy novel (heavily influenced by quest novels, Tolkien, and some cultural anthropology classes) which I gave up on after 40 pages of plot and two notebooks of notes/cultural background and maps.

In other words, I did a lot of writing when I was younger. However, as I wrote more and more academic papers, I stopped writing fiction, and during that entire time I did not think of myself as a writer. I was a student, and eventually a teacher, a writing instructor, and sometimes I wrote academic papers (and eventually a dissertation of 340+ pages), but I did not see myself as a "writer." Any fiction I dealt with was by reading it. I have always LOVED reading. There is a reason why I became an English major in college; I am completely addicted to good narrative. However, I never saw myself as a writer.

The "Muse" Strikes, Again and Again

Then one day a good idea came to me--literally while I was in the shower. I couldn't leave this idea alone. I kept writing little notes about what I'd write "when I have time." Then another idea came, and then another. It is now a few months since I earned my degree, and I have four books planned in the series I've started writing, another four books in another series, three more books in yet another series, and another two which stand alone (so far), three children's books, and a vague beginning to a short story collection. Some of these ideas are more fleshed out than others, but I can't seem to stop coming up with ideas for the series I've already planned, and even more ideas keep coming.

What happened? When I set aside that one idea during my dissertation something changed. That thing that changed may seem rather simple, but it was profound. I told myself, "I'm a writer." That's right, I decided that when I got done with my dissertation, I would write fiction and that from that day, I was a writer, whether I was taking the time to write fiction right now or not.

I Am What I Am!

That change in self definition started an avalanche of ideas. I may only have a few chapters done in my first book (although it is fully outlined), but I have no shortage of ideas to follow up. I just need time to finish them. Everywhere I go I think "this could be a good idea for a story" and I write down a note. I see people and wonder what their story is and how it might relate to what I am writing. Everything around me is an inspiration.

I think there is an important lesson in this. If you want to write (fiction or nonfiction), don't just say "I want to write" or "I'm going to be a writer." No, YOU ARE A WRITER--right now.

That's right. Decide you are a writer. Writers write, and that's what you are doing. Then get to it. Take notes of ideas, plan your work, and set aside time to write, even if it is just a little time. For me it made all the difference. Even though I didn't have time to write my fiction during my dissertation, I still changed the way I saw myself, which opened up a flood of ideas--all of which I took notes on for later. Now that I am actually writing my first book, I feel confident I will finish it. After all, I am a writer.

I found that just defining myself as a writer was enough to open up a well of creativity which I had never know was there. Now I just have to work on becoming a published writer.


A Few Resources for Writers:
Nanowrimo (November is National Novel Writing Month, so get ready!)
Write to Done
Uncle Scott's Writing Class (I took Orson Scott Card's Fiction class a few months ago and had a great time, but here are some of his online resources) (one of many good writing blogs out there)

And perhaps your area has some groups for writers. San Diego certainly does and I have started joining some of them:
San Diego Writers Ink
San Diego chapter of Sisters in Crime (yes, my first book is a murder mystery)
San Diego Writer's Guild

1 comment:

jamiegrove said...

Thanks for the link love, Kim! :)

You've certainly got it right, "Writers Write!"