What goes on inside a writer’s mind?

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Potters, painters and photographers all have tangible elements to work with. Writers work in a sphere of the unseen. What an ethereal realm we are engaged in…weaving the fabric of our stories from little more than imagination and inspiration. Sometimes I feel like one of the weavers from ‘the emperor’s new clothes’, spinning my story from invisible thread and inviting my readers to believe in the fantasy I’ve created.  Or, perish the thought, am I the foolish king, unfit for this position?

What elements compose the substance of this elusive calling? Just what are the raw materials of our craft? As you might have already noticed, the only visible materials we have are pen and paper.  It’s our brains that do all the heavy lifting. Here’s a look inside the brain of a writer at work.

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What else goes on inside a writer’s mind?

  • A writer is abnormally consumed by the desire of putting ideas into words. Subcategories can include the love of actually writing with pen on paper (even if you use a laptop most of the time), scribbling notes about the most inkling-est of ideas in the most unlikely of places (think showers); and a penchant for writing implements, which can often lead to pen fetishes and petty thievery.
  • A writer will have an overactive right brain that gets really cranky if it kept too long in the box of left brain constraints of making a living.
  • A writer is often overly mental — not able to shut the internal dialogue off. Writing creates an outlet to focus all that cerebral energy and direct it into something hopefully positive, entertaining and inspiring.
  • A writer must have an overactive imagination which stops just short of getting hopelessly lost and going stark raving mad. A healthy dose of reality checks with the outside world is necessary to stay sane.

When in a highly creative state I envision my brain neurons exploding like a bunch of fireworks. In my never-ending thirst for knowledge, Google turned up a new word for me to ponder in searching exploding brain synapses.  Synaptogenesis.

Since I’m no neurosurgeon I can only report my Wikipedia find on this matter. “Synaptogenesis is the formation of synapses between neurons in the nervous system. Although it occurs throughout a healthy person’s lifespan, an explosion of synapse formation occurs during early brain development, known as exuberant synaptogenesis.

Exuberant. I love that word. I’ll take my overactive, exuberant brain as a good sign.

 

Thinking like a writer

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The more I write, the more I find myself thinking like a writer when I’m not at the keyboard. Some of my best ideas come when I’m in the shower,  especially when I’ve hit a wall or have a question for my character who gives me a blank stare as an answer.

It’s usually a conscious decision to multi-task like this. I’ll make a mental note of where I’m stuck and carry that with me, like I’m tucking it away in a special fold in my brain. I carry a pocket spiral with me at all times for that little gem that gives me even the slightest nudge of forward motion in my story. I’m delighted whenever this happens. It adds a spring to my step and a sparkle to my eye.

I don’t have the luxury of hours of time blocked off for writing since I’m still working, so this method helps me make the best use of my time. The more I consciously think this way, the more of a habit it becomes.

Even reading the newspaper offers tidbits for my plot and characters. A news story about a woman who abandoned her kids mentioned that she drove a purple Ford Escort. This jumped out at me like a flash. It was the perfect car for the chain-smoking, gambling grandma that my MC’s mother dumps him on.

If I’m not stuck, I still find myself thinking how I would describe something….like the last three leaves on the tree in my front yard. I imagine they are having an argument about who’s going to drop next.

Unexpected unpleasant encounters? Those too are fodder for my writing bag. Recently we found ourselves in a seedy part of L.A. at a rental car agency I found online.  The scruffy looking employee on duty and the repainted cars parked on a side street looked like the repo car business it truly was. While my husband was trying to extricate ourselves from the contract we had with them, I entertained myself with memorizing details. I’ve never seen so much black wrought iron with pointy spikes as I did in L.A.  But I might be able to use this in some future setting.

I’m thinking that this mental multi-tasking is a way of allowing the door to open to the right brain…by keeping my left brain content enough that it’s being all adult and responsible.

I have more thoughts about multi-tasking and women. But I’ll save that for another post.

If you are a writer, do you have this habit? Do you find it useful? Fun? Or does it get in the way of what you’re trying to do with your responsible left-brain task?