Learn to be a Writer, Part 1 – It Takes a Tribe

So you wanna be a writer? Can you be a writer? Yes, you can learn to be a writer, especially if, like me, you’ve had an underlying feeling for a while that you are meant to be a writer. Of course, it helps if you can write, too, and are an avid reader as well.

Learn to be a Writer – It takes a tribe

This was the theme of this year’s Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference (2019), in Colorado Springs. This is one of the things any writer starting to get serious about their writing does – they seek out their tribe. This means joining a local writer’s group (or two or three), being around your people who are also writing and who can help you along your journey, learning the ins and outs of writing and publishing, etc. I’ve learned more practical, professional information about becoming a writer from my writer’s groups than anything I remember from being an English Major in college. (Of course, it was a long time ago.)

I started in one writer’s group, from which I learned a lot and made vital friendships (which later translated into me being introduced to my future agent), then switched to a different writer’s group which met my immediate needs as a writer. Their focus is for all of us to get our stories finished. This was exactly what I needed – a structure and group of writers to hold me accountable to actually getting my first novel finished. They meet every other week, and in the off weeks we each submit around 2,000 words, to get feedback on at the next meeting. This way we each receive good feedback from readers of our first draft while it’s being written – helping to make it better and shape our story. This group is my Alpha Readers, if you will.

Studying the Craft of Writing

Then there’s actually studying the craft of writing. I highly recommend you connect with writing friends by going to writer’s conferences. Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference is one of the best, but there are many others – there’s an annual conference in Denver, one in Salt Lake City, the Romance Writers of America hold their conference in a different city each year. Speaking of which, be sure to join these groups. Joining Pike’s Peak Writers is free (and they hold monthly workshops, meetings, critiques, etc.) and they offer scholarships to their conference. Some writing organizations have an annual fee, like the Rocky Mountain Writers in Denver.

You will learn to be a writer as you take the workshops and classes at these events. There are so many class choices offered at conference, you can go to whichever topics you are most needing in your writing life. Last year I took classes on Writing the Perfect Monster, Techniques of the Advanced Novelist, Writing to Theme, All About Magick, How to Make Money as a Writer, How to Build an Author Platform, and Getting into the Hot Middle Grade Market, to name a few. I also learned, after professionals advised me two years in a row, that my novel, written for the Young Adult market, really is a Middle Grade novel – big changes in the revision process, like having to trim a 90,000 word novel to 50,000 words or so – yowza!

This year I attended many classes on the business of being a professional writer (from sources of income as a writer to building your marketing plan), as well as classes on going deep with your character, the resonance of writing, outlining your plot, customizing Scrivener, etc. (Scrivener is a writing software program that works great for drafting novels or other writing projects – even nonfiction.)

The point is, no matter where you are on becoming a writer (or being a writer), there will be classes that are exactly what you need to propel you forward.

Connecting with your TribeJerilyn Winstead with Rachel Howzell Hall

Besides the awesome classes, at conference you get to hear inspiring talks from New York Times best-selling authors, and then meet them at BarCon in the evenings (or at the meal tables). This past conference I really liked Anne Bishop’s talk about tribes. She mentioned that our first tribe is with our own characters in our writing. We spend more time with them and in their lives than with any other tribe in our writing life.

Then you have the tribe of other authors and writers, published and unpublished, who you connect with in your writer’s groups, events and conferences. Then is your tribe of professionals – like when you get an agent, or work with pro editors, etc. Honing my novel with my agent has been so much fun – I now have a partner-in-crime, as invested in my story as I am, and together (with her set of objective, professional eyes) we are making my novel better and better. Soon she will be pitching it to publishers.

Can you be a writer?

Yes, you can learn to be a writer by starting to act as a writer – and joining your tribes is one way to get started. The tribe of your characters as you write, the tribe of your local writer’s groups, the bigger tribe of writers and professionals you meet at conferences, the professional tribe you develop as you get an agent or hire pros to help get your book published. Lastly, as you reach success, you’ll gain a wider tribe of readers and fans. Being a writer is an ongoing adventure with many ups and downs, and with our tribes we will make it together.

Learning Why We Eat the Way We Do – Personality Types

This post has more to do with my own health journey, which affects all parts of our lives, including writing. I’m a little overweight, though up into my 30s I was that skinny girl who could eat whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. Since then, I’ve tried so many diet plans, but with every one I find myself rebelling against it in a fairly short time – unless I had an outside motivator, like a professional modeling or acting gig coming up. I wear a woman’s size 14-16 but I used to always be a size 10, and would love to return to that, my perfect size for my 5’9″ frame.

The Enneagram

Some friends recently mentioned the Enneagram – I haven’t yet read it, but it’s a book and method of finding out your own spiritual personality type, if you will. There are several books on Amazon.com which teach the Enneagram, and I will be exploring that soon.

The Enneagram of Eating

Instead, I saw this version of the method and immediately put it on hold with my Libby app (an app to check out ebooks from your local library). I haven’t even finished it yet but I’m learning so much about myself, which explains why diets have never, ever worked for me.

Adventurer

The Enneagram lists nine personality types. When reading The Enneagram of Eating, I saw myself right away in Type Seven – the adventurer. This type (me) wants to experience new things, new tastes, new foods, new adventures – all with total freedom. That means no restrictions whatsoever, which translates to “diets will never work because every diet restricts you in some way or another.” In fact, my body now automatically goes into rebellion mode – anytime I try a new diet plan and set restrictions on my eating, my body then goes into overdrive craving the specific foods I’m not supposed to have. It’s like an obsession, it’s all I can think about, and eventually I end up giving in to it.

The Nine Eating Personality Types

Here is a brief overview of the Nine Types in The Enneagram of Eating:

  1. Type One: The Self-Righteous Sinner or the Selfless Saint
  2. Type Two: The Giving Gorger or the Humble Helper
  3. Type Three: Fast Food, Fast Life or the Chomping Champion
  4. Type Four: Moody Muncher or Creative Connoisseur
  5. Type Five: The Neglectful Nosher or Ruminating Relisher
  6. Type Six: The Fight-or-Flight Feaster or Courageous Culinarian
  7. Type Seven: The Gallivanting Gourmet or the Discerning Diner (what I call The Adventurer)
  8. Type Eight: The Binging Bully or the Forgiving Feaster
  9. Type Nine: Sluggish Scoffer or the Serene Health-Seeker

In the book author Ann Gadd goes through each type, and covers the underlying motivators (fear, shame, loneliness, etc.) which affect our eating habits in ways we’re probably not even aware of. She looks at each type’s primary Issue, Overview, likely Career Choices, Eating Triggers, How each type approaches eating and their own body image (including eating out and entertaining at home), each type’s food choices, what you may not see (behind the scenes in each personality type), how each type views their bodies, likely addictions, childhood contributors, and which diets and exercise programs will serve them best. Ann Gadd even includes how to motivate the various types (good to help your significant other – after fully understanding them), and what each level of the types look like – when they’re functioning in the most healthy manner, or on an average level (mixture of both healthy and unhealthy habits), and what they fall into when living unhealthy lifestyles.

Time to Change Your Own Habits in the Best Way for You

At first I resonated a lot with Type Four, until I read Type Seven, which is completely spot-on me. You may find you match with one or another of these until you find where you actually are. There’s also some overlap and some numbers in the special diagram affect each other in smaller detailed ways.

The good news – for Type Seven, the best advice Ann Gadd has is to slow down, every time I eat. Eating too fast (so I can get on to the next adventure right away) is my Number One Bad Habit. I always thought it was because I grew up with three brothers and I had to eat fast in order to get enough food, or that maybe I always ate fast because I’d get so hungry as a teen (with my fast metabolism). Now I see it’s more about my Enneagram eating personality type. Slowing down, learning to become mindful of my eating (no more eating while also reading, working or watching TV), actually sounds completely doable for me – though it will be a challenge. If this is all I have to really conquer in order to lose my excess weight, I’ll be a perfectly happy camper!

I had my right hip replaced six weeks ago (end of March, 2019), and I’m now finally allowed to start exercising again. I find that I have to move regularly to keep my mind sharp and my senses stimulated – it’s too easy to just sit at my desk with all the writing and researching I do every day. So it’s now back to my normal life – back to exercising and getting up to move more in my working day. (This is also why I love larping – it pushes my body to the extreme of moving).

I’ll be adding “Mindful Eating” to my daily task goals on my app, Streaks. If I can stick with this goal for a good length of time, hopefully I will see results! I’d like to lose forty pounds, but even losing that first ten makes such a huge difference in how I feel and look.

This book, The Enneagram of Eating, by Ann Gadd, is found on Amazon.com as well as at the library.

Please comment below on mindful eating, on eating personalities, if you’ve read the book, what type you are, and what its solution has done to help you become a more healthy you.