Writing the Other

I’ve been blogging almost constantly for many years now, and what happens when I do a writer’s course? I stop writing. Or not really, I’ve only stopped writing the blog – I’ve been reading and writing more than almost ever before, and these past six weeks doing the course Writing the Other with Nisi Shawl and K Tempest Bradford.

I met Tempest on the Writing Excuses Cruise, and we spent a day at the museums in Copenhagen. She was so supportive of my writing and answered all my uninformed questions, and also told us on the cruise about this course that I then signed up for. I am so glad I did! It’s been so enlightening, and just as Tempest wrote in the last e-mail of the course – it is a safe space where you can confront your prejudices and learn things you didn’t already know about whoever is the Other for you.

The best thing about this course was getting to work on your work in progress while thinking about these things. I had already planned a lot about my world and done a lot of worldbuilding, but this really took it to the next level.

Some of the exercises reminded me of things I learned while studying psychology and philosophy. We had many courses where we analyzed movies or texts, and in philosophy class we debated and learned to really look at an argument – what is said, what is left unsaid. The same thing goes for being a psychologist: your job is often to analyze the person in front of you. Which words are being used, what do they tell you about the person. What emotions do they elicit in you, and are those emotions yours, or are they just a reaction to the emotions that the person in front of you are feeling?

Being a psychologists, being a debater – both are skills that overlap being a writer. The funny thing is, while I studied so many people at parties and acquaintances thought psychologists went around analyzing everyone all the time, and that they sometimes manipulated people because of their superior knowledge about the human nature (wrong on so many levels). But the thing is – the people who really do this, analyze other people and try to manipulate the emotions – those people are called writers!

Writing is art and entertainment, and the point of both is to evoke emotions. And to do that you need to understand human nature. To do that well you need to write convincing humans of all kinds.

To write inclusively, you need to really look at your prejudices. To know where you come from, and to realize your blind spots and to do something about it. That is what this course was so great for. I really got to read and write and think about these things intensely for a few weeks, and it shows in my writing and in my thinking.

In an ideal world every writer would do  this course! Or rather, every human being, because we all need to confront our prejudices, and learn about people who are Other than ourselves, and learn how to treat them with respect.

 

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