Scientific Proof of an ‘Inner Editor’

I learnt something new today. There is an area of our brains called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This is responsible for planning and self-censorship, and could quite easily be called the ‘inner editor’.

It is so important when writing to turn off the inner editor and give your creativity free reign, and a Dr Charles Limb has undertaken a study which shows this is exactly what happens when we get into the ‘zone’. By using an MRI, Dr Limb has found that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (aka the inner editor) actually shuts off during periods of improvisation and creativity, and others parts of the brain such as those connected to the senses , and those linked with autobiographical story-telling become especially lively.

Having completed Nanowrimo several times over, I know the feeling of getting into the zone – your fingers are flying across the laptop, a story emerging on the screen – one that with every word is diverging from what you had so clearly and cleverly planned out in your mind (or even on paper). Characters go off on tangents completely unexpected, once one even argued with me about how he was being portrayed! When you reach that zone, the story comes through you – almost from somewhere else (and hey – maybe it IS from somewhere else). When you give your creativity full reign amazing things happen.

I’ve known that for a while – but Dr Limb has found something equally amazing! Creativity engages the whole brain – far more than most other activities and beyond what is required for normal functioning. Creativity exercises the brain in a way little else can. What a great way to keep it sharp, clever, alert! I could not think of a better way to exercise your brain!

For more information on this – Dr Limb was interviewed by the Office of Letters and Light (Nanowrimo’s parent company), here: http://blog.lettersandlight.org/post/23737084352, which links through to a video of Dr Limb on TED.

And for anyone interested… A snippet of story has found its way into my brain, so I have signed up for CampNano in June!! Maybe I’ll see you there! 🙂

 

 

 

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Procrastination… or not

I found this on Facebook. A quick Google search suggests it can be found in this book: ‘The Fire Starter Session: A Soulful and Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms’ by Danielle LaPorte.

I like the idea. It sounds good – makes my moments of procrastination less something to feel guilty about and more something that is okay – sensible even.

And I can agree with the author. There have definitely been times when my procrastination has paid off – when things have become clearer, or fallen into place because I have hesitated before completing something.

An interesting view anyway.

 

My Inspiration…

Several years ago I entered a competition by Australian Book Publishers Allen and Unwin, in which they asked “what inspires you to write?” The answer had to fit in 25 words, and while I can’t remember my answer word for word, it was something along the lines of: ‘I am inspired to write when I hear stories of other people achieving their goals’. The answer won me the competition – the prize: a  signed book of Jodi Picoult’s – Vanishing Acts I think, though i could be wrong.

But what inspired me to want to write in the first place? To be completely honest I don’t remember. I guess it was all the books I read as a child; I’m told I was reading novels in grade 1, and I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember. I vaguely remember meeting children’s author Sally Farrell Odgers in primary school. I don’t remember any specifics, I guess I was in grade 2 or 3, but I was excited to meet a real live author. Several years later, in grade 6, I was lucky enough to attend a writing workshop (again through my school) by Isobel Carmody. She was a great inspiration, talking of her journey to publication, and her stories and where she came up with names. Sadly I’ve forgotten what she said about names though – I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that names are something I really struggle with.

Since then I’ve been inspired, motivated, encouraged etc by many different people but looking back I would say meeting those two authors set the foundation for my goal of being an author myself one day.

Another step forward

Yesterday I posted my manuscript off. Final word count, after a month (or there abouts) of editing: 59,479 words. 216 pages of double spaced sized 12 font. I have printed it out before, at around 62,000 words – but I try to save paper, so I usually print two pages to one, single spaced (or maybe 1.5). So while this story has made an impressive stack before, it was nothing compared to the impressive stack of paper I ever so carefully slid into an envelope and handed in at the post office.

How do I feel? On one hand I am relieved to have it finished. I spent a day yesterday of not writing, not editing – in fact I did not much at all, having a leisurely afternoon nap before picking up my son from school. Today I have submitted a couple of short stories, after a quick skim, to some competitions. I have been working on them a little over the last few weeks too – but while there might be room for improvement at the moment I really do not want to edit another thing. Time to do a bit of writing for a while, let my creative self out again and lock the editor away!

I also feel satisfied – I’ve finally achieved something I’ve dreamt of doing forever – I have properly completed a novel and sent it out into the world.

This morning I also received what I see as another step, albeit small, towards becoming a successful author. My first real ‘rejection’ letter. In the past I have mostly sent work to competitions, or to magazines which for one reason or another to do not reply and instead give you a time frame, after which if you have not heard you can assume your piece was not accepted.

But this morning I received a letter, stating that due to the quantity of submissions, and the direction of the journal, my pieces would not be published at this stage. However, they wrote: “Please do keep creating though, and definitely send more work for the next edition.” I almost hate to call it a ‘rejection’ letter, maybe ‘encouragement’ letter is better, because it helped to boost my already high spirits!

And I just realised I forgot to mention, I have been shortlisted in a short story competition this week too! It has been a brilliant week for writing! 😀

Pondering Neil’s speech

Having had some time to think over Neil Gaiman’s words in the speech I reblogged earlier, I’ve been able to narrow down things he said that gave me hope. He said he never had a career plan – nothing aside from a list he wrote when he was about 15 of things he would like to do during his life. Sounds a little like my plan. But while his list consisted of a few different things – writing a novel, a comic book, a movie etc, mine really only has one – write novels. One after the other, after the other. I’ve never really been one for planning. When asked where I hope to be in the next 5 years I always think “How can I know? Who knows what may happen in that time, what opportunities may arise.” That has changed a little since having children and gaining a mortgage, and I should say, committing to being a writer. I can now say, in 5 years my children will be x age, and both at school, so I will have more free time to pursue my writing. My mortgage I want paid off as soon as possible and so I’m working towards that too. I once read something Sara Douglass had written – about having the perfect life – she worked for I think it was 7 or 8 months of the year – getting out one book (or it may well have been two I can’t remember exactly now – someone else out they may have read/know this?), which gave her an advance to budget off. Any further income was simply icing on the cake. This lifestyle also gave her the remaining 4-5 months of the year to focus on her other passion – becoming self sufficient. This lifestyle sounded (and still does) brilliant to me. It gave me a concrete idea of something I’d like to work towards. But this idea is the only ‘plan’ I have. It is no more detailed than Neil Gaiman’s list.

Another thing he said was that the things he sent out that he was not certain about always surprised him with how successful they were. I know I have sent many many stories to competitions over the years – over confident, certain of success, only to be disappointed. I am about to submit my first novel (not the first one I have written, but my first submission to a publisher). The novel is okay. It has some bits I am really proud of – sentences I highlighted during the editing process and gave a great big tick. But for all the work I’ve put into it there are still sections I wonder about – could this be improved? Could that be extended? Maybe the story would be more interesting with a few changes here or there?

But I can’t spend forever ‘fixing’ it, for I daresay it will never reach perfection and instead would spend forever hiding in my home, preventing me from working on new stories.

I hope I haven’t lost you along the way. This post seems to have been a bit of a babble. Thanks to everyone who’s stayed with me this far!

There’s one more thing I’d like to say about my novel.

It’s printed (one massive stack of paper there!!) – all it needs is one last skim for spelling/grammer errors, and I will send it off.

Wish me luck! 🙂

This is my first attempt at reblogging… I truly have no idea what I’m doing so I hope it works!! I loved this post so much I had to share it. It’s a commencement speech that Neil Gaiman recently gave, and is very inspiring. I love so many of his thoughts. He talks of how the world is changing, traditional methods of distribution are changing: “the old rules are crumbling and no one knows what the new rules are, so make your own.” Very thought-provoking.
But the following is one of my favourite comments of the speech:
“Be wise… and if cannot be wise, pretend to be someone who is wise, and just do what they would.”
Brilliant – definitely worth a watch!

Lightning Droplets

Here is a really lovely commencement speech that Neil Gaiman recently gave.  It is quite thought-provoking, a little funny, and amazingly inspirational.  It got me writing for the first time in a month.  I hope it does the same for you!

These are a few of my favorite one-liners.  They are all the more poignant in context.

If you don’t know it’s impossible, it’s easier to do.

I learned to write by writing.  

I tended to do anything that felt like an adventure, and stop when it felt like work, which meant life did not feel like work.

A life in the arts is like putting messages in bottles on a desert island and hoping that someone will find one of your bottles and open it and read it and put something in a bottle that will find its way back to you. 

The things I did because I…

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Inspirational Quotes part 3

 

I have found one of my book of quotes! I have several notebooks, all about the place. The quotes in this one range from thought-provoking to humorous to down right strange! Here are a few…

I’ve learnt that not all poetry lends itself to music – some thoughts need to be sung only against the silence – Jewel

It’s always okay in the end, if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. – Unknown

Being Australian I find this one quite funny: 

Don’t worry about tomorrow being the end of the world. It’s already tomorrow in Australia – Charles Shultz

And I seem to have a few on reality:

Ignore reality – there’s nothing you can do about it – Natalie Imbruglia

Reality is merely an illusion. Albeit a very persistent one. – Albert Einstein

Reality is a guess made by the mind based on information imparted by the senses. – Alice Borchardt (from one of her books I think, though I have not recorded which one…)

And this is along similar lines:

There’s no life I know that’s like pure and simple imagination. Living there, you’ll be free, if you truly wish to be. – Willy Wonka (from the original movie on Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory)

I have two more from the movie(and possibly from the book by Roald Dahl? Haven’t had a chance to check!)

A little nonsense now and then, relished by the wisest men! – Willy Wonka

We are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams. – Willy Wonka (I love this one!)

I love this next quote!

Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I was annoyed at how poorly reading prepares one for real life. One comes to expect things to occur and then they do not. _ Murasaki (from The Tale of Murasaki by Liza Dalby)

Stories have power. They are a trail to knowledge… they free you to know more than you think you do. – from People of the Earth by W Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw

There are so many more! Looks like I’ll be having a 4th installment of Quotes sometime soon! 🙂

Taking Charge


Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future. – Seneca.

I have wanted to be an author since I could write – or perhaps since I could read, as I’m guessing that came first! I wrote voraciously while at school, but once I hit University my writing was put on the back-burner. I still wrote, but it was far more sporadic. After I graduated (after 6 years at Uni, about 6 years ago) I started to write again, giving myself the goal of submitting a story every two months to a magazine or competition. I had no luck that year – perhaps I should have made the goal a bit more of a stretch – 6 short stories in one year is really not that hard.

When I discovered Nanowrimo in 2008, I signed up, and my writing has been a little more regular since then – basically I wrote a novel   every November, left it a month or two, edited it, then started planning for my next novel.  Last year I joined an online writers group, and I have been spilling out the same quantity as my school days. In (almost) twelve months I have written a 100,000 word novel, a 16,000 word novella, a couple of 3000 and 1000 word stories, and a collection of 100 word, and flash fiction (500 word) stories. Some I have submitted to competitions, some are still going through the editing phase (or in the case of my novella – awaiting their first edit).

I have delayed writing for many reasons. At 18 I felt I was too young – and after that too busy – and at various times not good enough. But here I am at 30 – a few small publications under my belt many years ago (one short story and a couple of book reviews) and nothing since. I think it’s time I started taking charge and working towards making my dream a reality.


Camp Nanowrimo!?

I received an email this morning about Camp Nanowrimo. That’s the more laid back version of National Novel Writing Month, for those who haven’t heard of it. And if you have never heard of National Novel Writing Month the basic idea is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days from the 1st to the 30th November each year. For more information click here for one of my previous posts, or better still, go straight to the source at http://www.nanowrimo.org.

Camp Nanowrimo, as mentioned above, is the more laidback version – held in both July and August. Having successfully completed Nanowrimo four times, I have considered taking part in Camp Nano! My first thought when I saw the email was, ‘Not this year, maybe next!’ On the other hand, I have been looking for a way to get back into the habit of writing over 1500 words a day, a habit which starts  around September each year (in preparation for Nano), and usually ends in the first few days of December. Maybe doing back to back Nano’s would be a great way to do that? Or maybe it would send me slightly insane… could be fun either way ;D

It’s only 1667 words per day… easy.

Anybody else keen?

(disclaimer: I haven't actually committed to this yet... still not sure I'm ready for Nano so early in the year...) ;)

Book Titles….

Anton Chekhov wanted to call his first volume of stories “Buy This Book or I’ll Smash Your Face In.” It was published in 1886 as as Motley Tales.

I laughed when I read the above! How funny is that! I am struggling with a title for my novel at the moment. In fact, I struggle with Proper Nouns in general. Character names, place names, book names… they are equally difficult for me. So much so that when I find a character name I like, I tend to use it in any new stories I write. This is fine while they are sitting unpublished on my computer, but if they make it out into the big wide world then a little originality would not go astray!

I wonder what the sales of Chekhov’s book would have been, if he had published under that title, and whether it would be remarkably different from his actual sales?