Scientists confirmed recently that writers are more likely to struggle with mental illness (sometimes, as recently noted, due to syphilis). Since we’re so used to our alcoholic literary greats, and a smattering of suicidal ones (Plath, Woolf, Thompson, Wallace–and many more), this comes as no great surprise. On a happier note, a new study using fMRIs and MFA students has found that writers show different brain patterns than “normal people” just writing: in fact they resemble “expert” thinking patterns of all professionals doing what they’re best at–musicians, athletes, competitive Scrabble players. I don’t know if I’m happier to learn the fMRIs found no gaping black holes, or that MFAs do in fact teach you something.
"I learned through imitation, but it was only when I followed—or found—my own voice that I was able to derive a different kind of inspiration from reading fiction, something subtler and more expansive. Today, when I reach a wall in my own work, I turn to authors I love to remind myself what is possible: that sentence, that structure, that daring twist of plot." Chloe Benjamin, who just yesterday published a piece on choosing book titles for The Millions, writes about the dangers and rewards of reading while writing for Poets and Writers' Recommends series.
The Masters Review has announced Ann and Jeff VanderMeer as the judges for this year’s Fall Fiction Contest. The winning story will receive a $2,000 cash prize as well as publication in the magazine. Go submit, then read Josh Rolnick’s essay for The Millions on ten things he's learned in over a decade of sending out stories.
If your characters go on a road trip, do you have to take one, too? When Mary Miller wrote The Last Days of California about a family driving from Alabama to California to meet the rapture, she hadn't even been to the desert herself. To ensure it was accurate, though, she mapped important destinations on the route. "For Western Louisiana, I thought, 'Is there actually a Waffle House within forty miles of this border?' because I wanted it to be accurate. So I had maps, and I was tracking mileage," she told Down & Out.