Guest Jeannie Lin: Hacking my own Brain and Writing for my Id

Hi friends! I’m very excited to welcome Jeannie Lin back to ALBTALBS! Also also! Did you know Jeannie just had a new book out yesterday?! And that it’s the Lunar New Year tomorrow? I mean, all the stars [or you know >.> celestial body singular?] aligned for this post! Congratulations on the release of Tale of the Drunken Sword and welcome!

Hacking my own Brain and Writing for my Id

The Hidden Moon by Jeannie Lin book coverMy family has a bunch of different superstitions around Lunar New Year, the most pervasive one being that whatever you do on the first day of the year will be the nature of the mojo you get for the rest of the year. We eat a bunch, spend time with family, get showered with money and act cheerful in order to set ourselves up for posterity and wealth and happiness for the new year.

I’m not superstitious, but I am in my head a lot which can sort of amount to the same thing. I play mind games with myself all the time because I know my brain is super analytical, but I also know my brain likes novelty and whimsy so it CAN be convinced to do things even though it knows it’s being tricked.  

So, I thought it would be a good way to jump start a productive writing year by starting out the year with a book release. It’s something I think my brain can be convinced of. 

I’d just quit the stressful day job and Lunar New Year was less than month away, so if I was going to make something happen, I’d better make it happen quick. 

Well, I thought. The only way I can write something that fast, even if it’s a short story, is to somehow write without fear. Which I know is easier said than done because (see above) I’m in my head all the time. The only way I can write without fear is to unleash my Id. 

In psychological terms the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that strives to satisfy basic needs and desires. 

The Liar's Dice by Jeannie Lin book cover

The best talk I’ve heard in ages is Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ Writing for Your Id, which I purchased from the RWA 2018 conference recordings. In terms of craft and also motivation, this workshop unlocked the puzzle about why “writing what you love” is actually rather profound advice. My background is also in cognitive science and so JLB’s approach seems to align and lock in place in my head. 

Somewhere between Book 1 and Book 10, I’d become afraid of what I loved. That it was too cliché. That it wasn’t clever enough. That it was too weird. That no one would want to read it. 

So I cycled through the ideas I had in my head seeing which one pushed my pleasure buttons the most on a gut level. It was a fantasy idea I’d been batting around. 

My brain is convinced that it is not imaginative enough to write cool fantasy, btw. It prides itself on being an overthinking, logical brain that does hours of research and likes the idea of magic, but can’t let go enough to write it. 

The problem with trying to counteract thoughts like that is that deprogramming doesn’t work. The only thing that might have a chance of working, a la “Writing for Your Id” – is to feed my brain candy. To bribe it into writing for my id. 

My Id had very simple demands:

  • Swords
  • Flirtatious banter
  • Swordfights
  • Flirtatious banter while sword fighting
  • Floaty, silky robes that whip around in action scenes
  • Imperial exams 🡨 I know this is kind of specific
  • Cute guy writing brushwork calligraphy 🡨 This is really, super-specific

At this point, my brain starts whining about how, HOW am I ever going to make it writing romance when everyone wants super-alpha men with powers and I want guys who know their way around a calligraphy brush?!? 

Shut up brain! Lots of people find literacy sexy… 

I fed the brain more candy and…I think it worked. After less than a week, I had a first draft of “The Sword and the Scholar” which was a nice, yet sort of understated title. I needed a more sensational, slightly quirked title – like something might have been lost in translation. 

Tale of the Drunken Sword passed the reader poll as the overwhelming favorite. So, I went with it. 

No fear!

Jeannie Lin mini-bio:   USA Today bestselling author Jeannie Lin writes historical romance and speculative fiction set in imperial China. 

Tale of the Drunken Sword by Jeannie Lin Book Cover. [Description: Alt-text for cover: Book cover for Tale of the Drunken Sword by Jeannie Lin. Asian woman in white dress sitting with sword beside her surrounded by red autumn leaves.]A Tang Dynasty martial arts fantasy from bestselling author Jeannie Lin
Lu Yan is a hard-drinking, womanizing scholar on a crooked path to enlightenment. When a mysterious woman at a roadside inn warns him of an approaching horde of demons, it’s time for Lu Yan to sober up and discover what he’s made of. Now if he could only find his sword…

This is a short story ~26 pages in length



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