Yesterday, after I had conquered an ugly migraine that wanted to keep me down, I followed Cerelys around for a little more of her hectic day to record another chapter of her story (I’ll proofread and post it later). She’s been getting into some dangerous places, deep in the sordid heart of the illegal story trade, as she runs around and works her magic for Mordrin, who’s frantically trying to keep the peace in Gadilia while he builds his network and prepares for the big vote. The autonomous regions are vital for his plan, but without the unifying presence of Gadilia, they’ll be far too splintered to offer any useful assistance. Peace-making is tricky work, but Cerelys is good at it. And of course the DUE-PIPs are still giving her headaches, but I think for the first time she’s starting to appreciate just a little of their perspective. Although she’s still as convinced as ever of the basic injustice of their prohibition of stories.
We’ll see where she ends up later, but after finishing the chapter I got pensive about everything I’ve been learning from the process of writing my stories. So I thought I would list a few of the things that popped into my mind, in no particular order.
- The Process Stimulates my Creativity
This is related to the technique that I developed when I was writing Pale, and am still using with some modifications for my new book. Basically, I try not to use my left brain to outline and develop the plot (although I do plan to try a left-brain oriented outlining approach with my next book to see where that takes me). Instead, I get myself into a very relaxed state of consciousness, as close to a dream state as I can manage, then find my characters and follow them around and record what I see them doing and saying. I usually start out with a basic idea of where the storyline is headed, but I’m often surprised by how it actually turns out when the chapter’s done. What I’ve been noticing, though, is that the more I exercise my non-linear dream self, the more likely I am to have unexpected insights and creative solutions to real life problems that just flash into my mind unexpectedly. It’s like the realization that I don’t have to follow my left-brain rules of logic and order frees my mind to see things in a different light. Of course, when I finish the book I’ll have to give it a thorough left-brain edit to make sure that all the storylines cohere and make sense within the universe of the story I’m creating, all the loose ends are tied up, the irrelevant parts are excised or made pertinent, etc. But it’s my right brain that imagines and creates. Lefty only analyzes and enforces some basic rules.
- The Discipline is Beneficial to my Mental Health
Essentially, because it gives me one more tool in my fight to balance productivity, relaxation, and so on. Whenever I’m feeling bored I have another world I can enter and lose myself in the mental wanderings. Whenever I experience anxious repetitive thoughts, I can leave them behind and lose myself in someone else’s story. I’ve discovered that it’s a really powerful tool to help regulate my moods and emotions. Whenever I have too much of a certain emotion in my life, I can write that emotion into my characters’ lives. Something about writing those feelings down helps me process them and gives my mind permission to be done with them. Additionally, the process puts me into something I’ve been reading about called “flow,” where you’re so absorbed in what you’re doing that it’s like time stops. Apparently, when your mind experiences regular states of flow, it’s really good for your mental health. I believe that’s true. I’ve experienced the benefits whenever I’m in the middle of working on a story.
- The Characters Stimulate my Empathy
Because I’m forced to live within a lot of perspectives that wouldn’t necessarily be my own. When you look at the world through various sets of eyes, it becomes natural to try to see things from the other person’s perspective whenever you engage in conversation. It’s hard to be radical and narrow-minded about things when you truly engage other perspectives. It also helps you feel connected to others and I’m convinced that interpersonal connections are absolutely vital for mental health. One of my crazier theories is that the characters I write about aren’t actually my own creation. They’re real personalities or patterns of thought that exist in the global human energy web. When I’m really in the flow, it feels like the dialogue isn’t coming from my own head, but I’m connecting to the energies of other people and letting them flow through my typing fingers and onto the screen. But even if that’s as crazy as it sounds, I do feel increased empathy with the real people in my life, which I count a positive.
- It Gives a Voice to the Non-Verbal Parts of my Brain
The part of my mind that dreams and imagines stories doesn’t have words. My left brain has words and that fact has given it the impression that its perspective is the only one I’ve got. That’s not true. My right brain has all sorts of creative insights but no way to tell them. When I use my technique to write stories, I give my left brain the task of simply writing down whatever it sees my right brain imagining. I get the feeling that my right brain has been trying to communicate things to my left brain for years. Now, it finally has a way. The stories it tells are full of metaphors that try to convey the ideas that my right brain wishes my left brain could see. And Lefty is learning that he’s actually a lot happier when he absorbs Righty’s insights.
There were other things I was thinking of that I no longer remember. Basically, I’m finding that writing stories is a powerful tool in the struggle to teach my mind how to be happy. And really, that’s my main motivation. Because happiness spreads. The more happiness I put into the world, the more there will be out there to come back and find me again. Everyone wins. I’m not writing to get published or make money, I’m just over here imagining stories for the sheer fun of it. It makes me happy.
That’s all I got for now. A very sincere thank you to everyone who chooses to read along. I hope you gain something that’s at least commensurate with the time you spend. I wish you all much peace and happiness in your own respective journeys. 🙂