1. What does ‘Writing in the Gap’ mean?
The expression ‘in the gap’ comes from the practice of meditation where the practitioner seeks to eliminate all the ‘noise’ in their brain and rest in the gap between one thought and the next. The more this gap can be extended, the more peaceful the mind becomes. It also becomes much more receptive to creative ideas which emerge either at the time of meditation or some time later.
As described by Dr Wayne Dyer, in his book ‘Getting in the Gap’: The practice of meditation takes us on a fabulous journey into the gap between our thoughts, where all the advantages of a more peaceful, stress-free, healthy, and fatigue-free life are available, but which are simply side benefits. The paramount reason … is to … make conscious contact with the creative energy of life itself.’
To me, writing in the gap means to reach into this meditative state either while writing (so that I am not consciously searching for words and ideas, but just letting them flow through me) or at other times of the day when I am meditating or carrying out meditative activities (such as walking, running or swimming) that allow a creative flow to come into my consciousness. It can also happen while I am sleeping!
Being ‘in the gap’ is a similar state to being ‘in the flow’ or ‘in the zone’ (i.e. ‘complete absorption in what one does), but it is different in that being ‘in the gap’ can be achieved while not doing the specified activity.
The mechanism by which the spontaneous appearance of creative ideas occurs is often called the ‘Muse’ by writers, artists and musicians after the ancient Greek Muses—goddesses responsible for inspiration in literature, science and the arts.
Here is an example of an artist who shifted into the gap while out on a painting expedition. The state he achieved while in the wilds of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, then flowed back into his mind when he was writing about the experience.
A week ago I was there painting, standing under the branches of a ponderosa, amongst the sage and the dried bison manure. The country has a different smell to it. It’s an old smell rising out of the lichen covered rocks—those frozen retired nomads from a time long ago—strewn about this glacial highway.
I walked in that landscape a while. It’s a funny feeling walking alone out there, getting out of sight of the road, getting 15 minutes away from the car and npr radio. I came across a couple crows bouncing around, picking here and there at an old dead something. They didn’t seem to notice me. The sun beat on my eyes. Suddenly, time fell away from me. In the light I traveled back 10,000 years. I was no longer an artist or gallery owner. I was no longer a facebook user. I no longer drove a honda—I didn’t know what that was. I was a transparent observer. The wind cut through me and the buffalo were there before me—everywhere before me.
Tyler Murphy, Montana Gallery, Red Lodge, Montana, USA (http://www.montanagallery.net/artwork/#/tylermurphyart/). Reproduced with permission from the author.
2. Why should I bother to improve my writing skills?
In the past, most people were employed in jobs which did not require them to write (for example, people who worked in factories, tradesmen and servants). However, these days, with the vast spread of the internet and services such a phone text messaging, almost everybody needs to write. And if they don’t need to write for work, they want to write to be able to communicate with their friends electronically.
But sadly, as I have found through teaching writing skills to adults over the last decade, the vast majority of people struggle to write quickly, easily and well, even when writing simple emails or chat-site posts. Their grammar is missing in action, their punctuation doesn’t exist, their spelling is woeful and they use the same words over and over. I find this astounding, given that most people in developed countries spend at least 10 years in formal education and almost everyone has a computer or access to one.
There are many reasons why you should strive to improve your writing skills:
- to save your time and that of your reader
- to reduce your stress and anxiety with writing assignments
- to get a job or promotion
- to avoid confusing or annoying your reader
- to make money on the internet
- to win friends and influence people!
The list is endless. But the bottom line is, people do notice how well you write and they do judge you on your writing skills. Worryingly, what you write (badly) on the internet today is still likely to be accessible in five or 10 years time! So the sooner you improve your writing skills the better all round. Who knows, you may end up writing an award-winning novel!
3. How do I start to improve my writing skills?
You can start today by downloading my ebook The Seven-Step Guide to Better Writing which you can obtain by filling in the details in the panel opposite.
4. Non-fiction or nonfiction?
There are two different spelling forms for the word non-fiction/nonfiction. Even Wikipedia acknowledges this fact! (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-fiction.) I have chosen to use the hyphenated version as I believe it makes the word easier to recognise and read. However, as with all matters relating to editing, where there is debate about exact word usage, the choice itself is less important than being consistent in the chosen form within and between documents written by the same author or organisation.
5. What is the difference between fiction and non-fiction writing?
The simple answer is that fiction writing stems from the imagination whereas non-fiction stems from facts.
To answer the question as to how these two types of writing differ is much more complicated and it is actually easier to describe the characteristics of non-fiction writing, then describe the characteristics of fiction writing.
Non-fiction writing is characterised by sentences that comply with the rules of English grammar and punctuation and seeks to be relatively straight-forward in the flow of information. There are a number of different text types in non-fiction writing (e.g. information report, procedure, persuasion, recount, exposition, narrative and explanation) and a number of different styles (e.g. plain English, academic, legal, scientific, technical, journalistic, bureaucratic, business, internet, social media). There are also many genres of non-fiction writing, some of the main ones being: letter, biography, autobiography, memoir, journal, history, essay, narrative non-fiction, textbook, reference book, reports, speech, media release, fact sheet, religious text.
Fiction writing is characterised by sentences that may break the rules of English grammar and, to a much lesser extent, punctuation and often presents information in a non-sequential manner. The major forms of fiction writing are: novel, poem, drama, short story, novella, graphic novel (picture books) and comics. Fiction writing is also divided into different genres. The major genre are: drama, romance, satire, tragedy, comedy and tragicomedy. There are many sub-genre and new ones emerge regularly. Some of the most popular subgenre are: historical fiction, crime, detective, suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, young adult, fairy tale, folklore, legend, mythology, saga, horror, mystery, westerns, religious, realistic fiction, erotica and speculative fiction. There are also cross-genre, for example urban paranormal romance. In addition, there is literary fiction which is more focused on themes than plots and which usually provides some commentary on social issues, political issues or the human condition.
6. Where do the photographs come from?
With the exception of where specifically acknowledged, all photographs on this website have been taken by Dr Pippa Carron and are the property of Yelsel International Pty Ltd. The home page slider photographs are as follows:
- ‘That’s not writing that’s typing’ — Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona, USA (Sep13). Note: the two butte on the left are the right and left ‘Mittens’.
- ‘The object is not to write … ‘ — tethered donkey, Lindos, Rhodes, Greece (Oct09)
- ‘What is written without effort ‘ — railway station, Podgorica, Montenegro (Sep09)
- ‘The writer’s silent mind … ‘ — Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, USA (Oct13)
- ‘A pencil and a dream … ‘ — Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle, USA (Sep13).
- ‘Then arising with Aurora’s light … ‘ — Goat Island, Glacier National Park, Montana, USA (Sep13).