Two Sides of the Mind

Hi, this is Sarah, and I know that I’ve mentioned before that I have this small problem: when I’m writing, I can’t edit, clean up and put books up for sale.

In the same way, when I was working for the traditional short story markets, which involved  a lot of making spreadsheets and keeping track not just of where things had been sent, but where things might be acceptable, where similar things had gotten a sale or a “close but no cigar.”  I could and did this highly rational and logical task, but I couldn’t do it at the same time that I was writing.


Charlie pointed me to this article this week, which explains why, no matter how many decisions I made, no matter how much I tried to write and submit the same week, I could never do it. Instead I’d go through months and months of writing stories, and then through a month or two when I submitted.

Turns out that while you’re engaging the rational part of your brain, you can’t engage the emotional area of your brain, and vice versa:

The new study shows that adults presented with social or analytical problems — all external stimuli — consistently engaged the appropriate neural pathway to solve the problem, while repressing the other pathway. The see-sawing brain activity was recorded using functional magnetic resonance imaging. 

(There’s a lot more to it, and you should read the whole thing, but that’s the gist of the article.)

It also solved another problem for me, to wit why so many of my colleagues, who are otherwise smart and logical people think that the purpose of writing is to engage in “social justice” issues, and are both completely unable to see that “social justice” is an oxymoron which would punish people for crimes they didn’t commit and circumstances in which they had no choice, while elevating other people for similar circumstances, but also that their stories, conceived for the purposes of “social justice” fail not only on logical sense, but also on emotional engagement with the public.  These very intelligent people, be they writers or editors will engage in all manner of explanation for why the print-runs and sales keep falling, but never the obvious reason.


This is because the part they are engaging when writing these tales is purely emotional. Now, as illustrated by my dilemma above, we all engage different parts of the brain when writing and when considering how to present our work to the world.

Normally the emotional part of the brain is engaged by the story itself. I grieve with my characters, and live with them through their challenges. That is a difficult and not particularly rational process – I often spend the rewrite process making my story more logical and closing up plot holes – but here is the thing: those reasons and emotions are essential to the story, and at some level, there is always a certain amount of following the journey the way the reader will. Part of this is built on our own experience as readers and writers (and it’s why experience at both is essential to making a good writer.)

But the authors who write for “social justice” and who seem to market as though they are on a religious crusade which promises them victory if they’re pure enough, write from a narrative that gives them feelings and emotions in exchange for believing the right beliefs and saying the thing they were convinced – emotionally – need to be said.

Their emotion comes from saying those things, not from creating a story that can pull others along with the story. At the same time their marketing comes from the certainty that they’re “on the right side of history” and other such quasi-religious beliefs.


And there you have it why the publishing business got itself so backward and sideways. This is not unique to this time and place, but happens any time that the arts establishment are under the sway of a strong faith. This is how establishment art always ends up losing popularity and being open to takeover by rebels and outsiders.


The Hammer Commission
By John Van Stry 

To most people, Mark’s job seems dull, he investigates crimes committed against Church property; theft, vandalism, the occasional robbery.

But that’s just window dressing. Mark is actually an elite member of a thousand year old secret society that hunts down devils, demons, and other evils. His job is to find them, remove, dispel, or kill them. He’s on the front lines of the secret ongoing war between Heaven and Hell. However as wars go, this one seems to be finally winding down.

Unfortunately for Mark, all of that is about to change…


Skies of Navarys (Lodestone Tales 1)
By J.M. Ney-Grimm 

A royal geomancer announces that the goddess Evaia shrugs, and every citizen on the island springs to action. Amidst the uproar, the aeromancer Palujon steals unique and magical lodestones.

Mago discovers the theft and vows to retrieve the stones. His friend Liliyah questions Palujon’s motives. Why would a man of his stature break the law? Is he truly a rogue? Life and death hang on her answers.



Resonant Bronze (Lodestone Tales 2)

The warriors of Torbellai brought back a prize in the night, and young Paitra wants to see it. Even hidden away in the armory, the artifact changed the whole mood of their mountain citadel from dread foreboding to hope.

But the warlord hid the fighters’ plunder for good reason. Forged by trolls and radiating magic, it presents grave risk to any who approach it. Will Paitra survive his curiosity?



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