Being an Author Has Altered My Outlook
One day, I began writing my first book. While I had taken the typical English classes, I had no formal training and I didn’t use any writing guides. I simply started on page one without a plan on 3/12/2016. Because this was my first attempt, getting my book published was completely chaotic. Then suddenly, my book was out there. On a side note. HELP!!! My book is titled Interviewing Immortality. Please check it out!
Over time, the writing went from a marathon to a part-time hobby due to getting a full-time job. I adjusted to the transition and in some ways, my writing output increased. I have since noticed that my writing ability and grammar have significantly improved. I am also aware that my speech has improved. Of course, this is to be expected. Authors think about words and use them better. The same can be said with respects to an athlete and their body.
I did notice two side effects that surprised me. My attitude and my perception have both changed. Let’s start with my change in attitude. I consider myself to be conservative, honest and thoughtful. I take time to think about my actions and make careful decisions. I’m not impulsive, careless or light-hearted. Others would probably agree with this conservative assessment. I don’t consider these qualities to be negative and I find that my life is generally pleasant, but not too exciting.
Since I began writing, I have noticed that I’ve become slightly more liberal, a tad more socially responsible and a bit more care free. I fully attribute this changed from my writing efforts. An author has to get into the minds of the characters. Even non-fiction authors have to get into their subject’s heads. These “people” need to think, react, feel and act far differently than an author’s humble life. An author cannot simply duplicate themselves. Let me be completely clear. Nobody wants to read about the adventures of Bill Conrad, Super Engineer! Spoiler: His secret identity is a part-time author. Just yesterday, in an epic display of courage, he FULLY overcame an obsolete resistor. Our hero! Yeah, not best-seller material.
A good story has conflict, personality, and depth. To achieve this, I believe that good authors have to build a bridge and connect with their characters. In order to tap into this alternate realm, a good author has to put their own specific [boring] life aside and think independently. From there, they can mentally build a scene and plop their character into this fictional reality. I have done this so often that I think the results have changed me. They have taken the edge off my conservative personality and the result is a more balanced life.
This was a really unexpected change and I am still comprehending the impact. Granted, it’s a small change, but it is a change that I fully attribute to a different type of thinking. Is this an improvement? Honestly, I’m not sure. Most people resist change. They like their simple lives and I’m no exception. If I were to guess, I suspect being more liberal is a wonderful change. Am I comfortable with this change? Perhaps. It’s defiantly a new chapter. Ha, get it? A book reference.
Growing up, I wondered how the world worked. I asked questions like: How do the tires stay on a car? How does a radio work? Why is the sun so hot? My parents, teachers, and friends would patiently answer my deep technological questions to the best of their abilities.
It wasn’t a surprise that I became an Electrical Engineer. It’s a short leap from a desire to understand technology to developing technology. This occupation requires knowledge, discipline and the will to experiment. I still find technology fascinating, I still have a lot to learn and I still ask many questions.
Notably missing from my early learning equation was people. People cannot be “Engineered.” It is a mistake to think this way and it is a mistake I still continue to make. When I did analyze people, I thought of them as programs. Programs have routines, limits, variables, inputs, and outputs. There is the logic behind their every operation even if the logic seems illogical. People in many ways follow these same patterns.
As I started writing, I began to understand that my characters lacked depth and they didn’t have good descriptions. A character would walk into a room. Something would happen and they would leave. How were they dressed, what did the room look like? All of that was missing. My beta reader (mom) pointed this out and I did a lot of updates to yank these descriptions out of my head.
As the years past, I began to notice a change in my perception. People were no longer faces in the crowd. They were little gems that I could silently mentally describe. That woman. Her hair is “flowing and fresh.” No. I can do better. Her hair is “naturally bouncy and it brightens her face.” Better, but not great. I need a better subject; more edge. That woman over there. Her hair is “spiky crazy blue and it makes her face pop.” Hmm. Getting somewhere. Keep looking.
I really get into describing people and thinking about them. I wanted to know their backstory, their history, their choices and why they were here at this exact moment. Since I don’t’ like striking up conversations with random people, I mentally describe them by filling in the blanks based upon their appearance. What is that woman thinking about at this exact moment? Who are her friends? What would happen if something suddenly happened to that man over there? How would he react?
I also found myself listening more and asking more questions. People had changed from being programs to characters. This was a fascinating new aspect of my personality. I now look forward to going to open areas just to watch people.
At times, it feels a bit creepy to just analyze people from a distance. How would I feel if somebody were mentally describing my nose or how I would react to a monster? I just threw this shirt on. I wasn’t thinking of the bold statement it would make about my personality.
Do I have any emotional attachment to these people? Not at all. To me, this is just a mental exercise and I often forget about these random thoughts. What about my co-workers and friends? Yes, I do study them, but not too closely. People are perceptive and staring at them and making mental notes certainly does get noticed.
When I am describing a character for a book, I draw upon these descriptions. Many times, I will be writing and think about a specific person I recently observed. I believe that this effort makes my descriptions more realistic.
Do I study myself? I have always studied myself. I try to be a better person and I try to treat people better. I do this by observing how others react to my decisions and by learning from my mistakes. Writing has helped in this area as I have a much more focused approach. Now, I know better questions to ask myself.
Overall, it is very clear that writing has changed my personality. How much? I would say 10%. Am I 10% changed or 10 % better? Hard to say because my mind is the one telling me that I changed 10% and I know that my mental outlook is vastly conservative. How about 5% better and 5% probably better. There is that conservative mind kicking in. What will happen in my future? I am guessing that this change is nearly complete. Perhaps there will be a 5% increase, but I suspect the update is tapering off. However, life is unpredictable. You, over there. Watch out, a monster is coming!

You’re the best -Bill
August 15, 2018

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