Hi everyone, I am pleased to present the Cognitive Neuroscience Professor and Author of The Neurotic’s Guide to Avoiding Enlightenment: How the Left-Brain Plays Unending Games of Self-Improvement, Dr. Chris Niebauer.
Hi Chris, thank you for agreeing to participate in this interview.
- Tell me a little about yourself and your background? What were you like at school? Were you good at English? What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Most of my childhood and early adulthood was spent being a guitarist, and playing music was my only passion. I graduated high school with a solid C average and was not a very good student. Then, for still unknown reasons, I had an epiphany to get a Ph.D. in psychology. This was very strange as my family didn’t value education, and it would have been fine if I never attended college let alone finish a doctoral degree. I was, and still am terrible in English. I write with the right side of my brain. This is great if you are a poet, but terrible if you need to use grammar, which is a function of the left side of the brain. When my daughter was about seven we were all in the car helping her practice for a spelling test and after I misspelled a word I told her “Well, there are many ways that you can spell a word” and my wife gave me a look like “No…there isn’t, what is wrong with you?” When I write, I have a hard time using any rules and could easily be “diagnosed” with dyslexia. Of course this is a drawback if my life was a spelling contest, but I think people are more interested in how creative you can be with ideas rather than getting all the rules correct. I know my work is under the non-fiction category, but I like to think of it as poetry. Even after getting a really good editor and proofreader I left some “errors” because I felt it reflected who I am as a writer.
- Which writers inspire you?
Simple things inspire me, like things that we don’t think too much about. Kids and how they will be so honest and spontaneous. Once my daughter asked my then very young son how much two plus two equals…and he said, “The water”, this resulted in a whole chapter. Another time, my son and I were playing with a blanket. He would keep putting one end in my hands but then wanted me to try to pull it away from him. He did this over and over. I found it a good metaphor for what we do as adults. We are still playing these same sorts of games but we are all serious about it now.
- What was your life like before becoming an author?
I’ve always been a writer of sorts since I’m a college professor. I have written countless lectures and a few scientific articles, but my first book was something different. It reflected what I think of as experiences beyond the categorical mind. The categorical mind is that rational part of thinking that puts the world into separate groups and doesn’t feel the connection of all the parts we call life. As a poet once put it “alone and afraid in a world I never made.” This captures how many people feel these days. I believe this sense of disconnection is just a function of the thinking brain but when it slows down, then…we feel connected like we belong to the world. I have always had these experiences before writing about them. Being a college professor has allowed me to practice taking complex ideas and presenting them in a simple way. I can use that practice to present some of these experiences of connection to people in a way that I hope is easy to relate to.
- When did you decide to become a writer?
My scientific writing was more of what I would call “work” with only a few exceptions. There are a couple of lines in my published scientific articles that I got a line or two of what I think of as poetry of the right brain into the article. Then I was sick for a week and couldn’t sleep. I was up all night at the computer and my first book just came out. As a kid, as far back as I could remember I always wrote poetry. I lost most of these but feel of being a poet has stayed with me.
- Why do you write?
Writing is therapy for me. It is cheaper and you don’t have to shower. If I “get out of sorts” it is always because I haven’t been writing. Of course, this is a catch 22 because one cannot just force a good writing session but it just seems that when I write, my world works out better and when my world is working out well, I’m usually writing.
- So, what have you written?
I have a number of scientific articles that are of limited interest to people without a particular background in the left and right sides of the brain. My first book and my second, which is in progress, are probably the only works that some normal person would, I hope, find interesting. I tried to put all the neuroscience in a way that anyone who is curious who they are…should be interested in it. I also started a blog, which is also great therapy but seems to be to a slow start.
- Where can people buy or see them?
Amazon seems to be the place I sell the most books and mostly it is the kindle version. I also seem to sell more on the UK version of amazon for some reason and my book is ranked higher there than in the US.
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books? What do you do to get book reviews?
I am in the process of this but I have learned a lot in the last year. My main strategy for reviews is to find reviewers for similar books and just email them a request. So far, that has worked out pretty well.
- What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
I wouldn’t think too much about the writing. It happens or it doesn’t. But be a good editor and don’t get too attached to all of your writing. I had chapters that just didn’t feel right so, in the end, it was best to just let them go.
- How can readers discover more about you and your work?
- Paperback: http://amzn.com/1478700432
- Kindle: http://amzn.com/B00J2I7Z8G
- Blog: http://www.worriedbuddha.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/chris.niebauer
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/worriedBuddha
- Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Niebauer-PhD/e/B00JBKM9WC/ref=cm_pdp_mf_mp
- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21483790-the-neurotic-s-guide-to-avoiding-enlightenment
It was a great privilege for me to get to interview Dr. Chris Niebauer, who has inspired me in many different ways. Thank you Chris!!! Good Luck with everything!