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Posts tagged ‘Judy Nunn’

First Monday Mentoring for May – 5 ways to know you’re a writer

Happy first Monday in May, the day when I open this blog to your questions about writing. They can be on creative, craft or business matters. No question is stupid except, as the saying goes, the one you didn’t ask. So ask away using the comment box below. You can also share your experiences as a writer with others.

I’m sorry that comments need to be moderated before they appear.
I’m often tempted to turn that off, but friends who’ve done so report an avalanche of spam and rudeness we can all do without.

To kick things off, here’s a question I was asked while attending Conflux National Science Fiction Convention in Canberra. The event was wonderful, attended by writers, editors, publishers and fans of fantasy and SF. During a coffee session, I was asked, “How do you know if you’re a writer?” A good question.Time is precious.No-one wants to slave away on stories that are going nowhere. Here are some clues that might help.

1. You look at stories differently
You read a book, watch a movie or TV show and mentally write a better ending. You get impatient because you know who the villain is before anyone around you. A pen on a desk is never just a pen. It’s a potential weapon and you’ve already thought of a dozen ways it could be used. You’re either a psychopath or a writer, possibly both.

2. You feel things more acutely
You lose someone and while grieving, store away the feelings in case a character can use them later. You attribute motives to actions, even if the person doing them was merely acting on impulse. As a writer, you know that actions must be motivated, even if not in real life.

To a writer, everyone & everything is a story

To a writer, everyone & everything is a story

3. You observe everything
Yes, even your own suffering. As writer, Anne Lamott says in her wonderful Bird by Bird, if you’re held up, you don’t actually think, “So this is what it’s like staring down the barrel of a gun” but you come close.

4. You turn everything into a story
You wonder if you’re heartless because you channel your tragedies and suffering into story ideas. Judy Nunn calls this meta-observing “the third eye.” All writers have it, and we can’t turn it off.

5. You set the bar high
I’m convinced we write to prove to ourselves that we can do it…again and again. After quitting my day job, I wrote the same number of words full-time as part-time, because I expected more of myself. Make the New York Times bestseller list? Next time aim for #1 spot. Sell half a million copies? Next time it better be a million.

Far from being a cruisy, wrist-to-forehead profession, writing is one of the toughest gigs I know. How did you find out you were a writer? What’s good and bad about it for you? Love to share your comments.



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Do you watch yourself living? What does that say about you as a writer?

Many times I’ve been in the middle of some life drama or tragedy, and suddenly had the sense of stepping outside myself to take mental notes. Once it happened at the funeral of a dear friend where I’d given the eulogy. I started to wonder if I was a terrible person who couldn’t properly feel anything, not even true sorrow at losing such a special person. Unable to find an answer, I went on with my life at the time. Then I began to write romance novels and the sensation got stronger until it was almost always there. I would be doing some everyday thing while being aware that I was also watching myself do it. One of the oddest occasions was when I decided to undergo hypnosis as a way to deal with a phobia. The hypnotist was clinically qualified and professional. I was more than ready to try to beat the phobia. Off we went. Toward the end, he told me I wouldn’t recall anything from the session but I would awake feeling refreshed and really good. Naturally I went home and wrote down everything I wasn’t supposed to remember. Yet he assured me I had been hypnotised and the session had gone well. So what was the part of me taking notes?

Novelist Judy Nunn calls it “the third eye” which is as good a label as any for a phenomenon. I don’t think this quality is unique to writers, although we may be more aware of it than most. We can be fast asleep but that third eye is always watching, feeding details of our experience to our mental filing cabinet for later use. It might be years before we need that precise detail, but it will be there when we need it. Sometimes we won’t even recall where we heard or saw the snippet. Like me, you’ve probably had the experience of hearing a trivia question on TV and snapping out the right answer, only to then asking yourself how on earth you knew that. Your third eye noticed and stored the information away, ready for when it was needed.

Who is doing the thinking?

In an interview with Veronica Hay Dr.  Deepak Chopra says there is a part of yourself that is not subject to change, calling it the silent witness behind the scenes. He recommends paying attention to what is in every moment, “observing the observer in the midst of the observation” and accepting whatever is going on as what should be happening. This. he says, leads to joyfulness and a falling away of anxiety .  So as well as providing fuel for our stories, we can also be improving our own wellbeing, truly a win-win situation.

Next time you’re in the middle of some troubling or even uplifting experience, catch yourself thinking, and observe what’s going on, what you’re feeling and how it’s expressed in your body. Make notes. They can be on paper, or imprinted on your mind because you’re observing so keenly. Either way, the details will be available to you when they’re needed.

Have you ever had the sense of watching yourself have an experience? Now you know it doesn’t make you unfeeling, it simply makes you a writer.  Share your experiences by posting a comment here.


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