The other night I was battling self-induced insomnia and I started thinking: what’s so different about the brain of a writer? What’s so different about my brain that I want to live inside the world in which my characters live, because I can see it just as vividly as I see our own? What’s so different about my brain that while I’m brushing my teeth, or having a conversation with someone, or casually watching MysteryQuest at the gym, that I start to see scenes flash through my head like a movie, or a scene in a TV show that I just have to write down, or else I’ll forget it and it’ll be lost to me forever? When I forget it, it makes me frustrated because I realize that I’d just fixed a plot hole subconsciously, like my mind had worked it out all by itself, and then if I forget, then my brain has to do double time to come up with a new solution which probably won’t be as good as the original. But of course, I’ll never know.
I know we all have the capacity to form attachment to fictional characters, I mean, you see this card all over Tumblr and Facebook among people who aren’t writers (although I do remember a popularity boom during Twilight, but I’m going to pretend that that’s not why):
And I’m not going to deny that I have a serious emotional attachment to Grey’s Anatomy* as much as the next person, but I’d really like to know what’s different about my brain than someone who doesn’t spend their life daydreaming (and regular dreaming) about people who only exist in my fictional little world. Now, as someone who watches quite a great deal of said medical drama, my first thought is that I have some sort of mental disorder.
For instance, I had a friend tell me she was planning to write a book. I was really excited for her and subsequently started asking her questions about her main character, and what the plot was going to be like, you know, little details. She started saying that she wasn’t sure, that she was going to have to make it up. She also started telling me that she had about five intro pages written giving some exposition, but wasn’t sure how to propel the plot and needed to choose. This is how some people write. But this isn’t how I write.
I hate choosing. Well, consciously choosing. Clearly I know that my brain chooses somehow, but it doesn’t feel like I choose, if that makes sense. My characters are already formed the way they are, and I can’t change them, just like I can’t change someone that I actually meet in real life. I feel that my best scenes are the scenes that play out in my head while I’m sitting there writing, and even if they happen at the most inopportune moment, I’m grateful because I get to learn more about the characters and the story. It’s almost like I’m just transcribing a movie, line by line, movement by movement rather than deciding what happens. My job is just to make it sound pretty so someone else can see it in their mind the way I saw it in mine. When I forcefully propel the plot forward because I think “wow, I really need to write something,” I almost always end up hating it because I feel like it’s fake.
I know this is probably the least productive method of writing, and not the way one should be looking at what can be a business, but I have a few years before I really need to be worrying about it, thankfully, so for the moment I’m going to stick to this method. I know that part of being a writer is being able to produce excellent work on demand within a certain time frame, but for the moment, that just isn’t me.
I do hope my brain speeds up and I’m able to go a little bit faster, but at the moment I prefer quality over quantity.
But really, I think it’s worth the research to see what’s different about the brain of someone who writes to someone who isn’t. I want to be on an episode of Grey’s where they watch the areas of my brain that light up while I write that wouldn’t otherwise be active. Part of me wishes I could be that science-y, but there’s really no future in that field for me, no matter how much I like to watch it on TV.
How do you write? Do you think there’s something different about a writer’s brain? (Or are we simply all crazy?)
*Side note: Speaking of, the eighth season isn’t out on DVD yet and it’s killing me to know what happened. I missed it when it actually aired, but I can’t bring myself to shell out to buy it on iTunes, so I guess I’m stuck waiting until September… let’s hope I don’t start reading the Wikipedia episodes summaries… oh wait. Too late for that…