Monday, May 24, 2010

Writer's Brain

There is a mailbox a block from my office. Three or four times a week I walk over there to mail something. At least once a month, I turn around, walk back to my office and call my cousin the Postmaster to tell her I dropped something in by mistake and could she please intercept it.

Most recently, it was a billing statement that was supposed to be hand delivered to the County Clerk and therefore not only didn’t have postage, it didn’t have an address, either. The time before, it was the invoice I print out for each month’s newspaper columns. It wasn’t even in an envelope.

How does this happen? When I leave my office, I have a plan firmly in mind. Step One: Drop my letters in the mailbox. Step Two: Walk the billing statement to the courthouse. Step Three: Stop by the newspaper office and drop off the invoice. Easy peasy.

Except somewhere between my desk and the mailbox, people start talking to me. Telling me their problems. Their deepest darkest secrets. Their hearts’ desires. Sometimes, they even tell me jokes. That’s not so good. Passersby get very nervous when they see me walking down the street laughing.

All by myself.

At least, it looks like I’m by myself. Inside my head, it’s pretty darn crowded. I’ve got characters from three different novels wandering around in there, yammering for attention, along with several horses and a couple of dogs. Even Bill the Goat has to have his say. Everybody thinks they should be the drop dead sexy star. Nobody wants to be the goofy-but-lovable sidekick.

I’m telling you, with all that commotion between our ears, it’s amazing more writers aren’t hit by buses.

It’s not just me. Really. My critique partner was filling her car with gas and had a brilliant flash of insight about one of her characters. She was so enthralled, she drove off with her credit card sitting on the roof. Hey, at least she remembered to take the nozzle out of the tank.

She thinks.

I know we're not the only two loons on the pond. 'Fess up, dear readers. What have you done while under the influence of 'writer's brain'?


Snarky Writer said...

Mostly random fits of absentmindedness. Earlier I put the pan on the stove, Pammed it, and turned the stove on. Luckily I remembered that I'd done so in time to get the food in it before it started to burn.

Worst is when I'm driving and I get thinking and forget I should be driving . . . and into the car in front of me is not the way to be driving.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

It doesn't usually get me at work but more than one dinner has burned to inedible ashes.

Katt said...

I hate burned toast. But usually, while I'm waiting for it to pop, I need to jot down an idea or check on something and I don't remember the toast until the smoke tickles my nostrils. Yes of course I could turn the dial down but then someone else turns it back up and I never think to check. sigh.

And oh how I hate to find myself in the wrong place. I seem to drive on auto-pilot while my characters are suggesting new scenes for themselves and poof! I'm at the grocery store instead of the doctor's office... or driving home with all the 'to be mailed' stuff on the seat beside me.

Unknown said...

I can barely get from one room to the next in my house without becoming distracted. I tell myself that being a writer is good practice for senility.

Every day when I leave the house, I look down and think, "Pants. Check!" Anything else I might forget, I think people will forgive me. But not lack of pants.

SAC said...

Actually, I'm sure that your friend took the nozzle out, because if she hadn't, she'd be dragging a nozzle-with-hose along behind her car. In the days before they had hoses that automatically detached from gas tanks when pulled on hard enough, even a small car could actually pull a gas tank right off its mount, with the ensuing friction causing enough heat to catch the gas underneath it on fire.

I know this because about twenty years ago, I was in the back seat of the family station wagon when the car behind us at the gas station pulled this trick. The column of fire was impressive. I was deeply disappointed that my parents made me (along with my siblings) get out of the car and walk around the far side of the gas station to watch as the fire trucks put the fire out. I was twelve at the time, and had more taste for adventure then than I do now.

We will never know if that woman was a writer, I suppose.

I can't even blame most of my absentmindedness on writing, either, since I've only declared my Serious Writing Intentions in about the last year or so. Mail in the refrigerator? I was putting the stuff in my hands away, and the stuff in my hands was mail and bread. Right? I'm not as sure about how to explain the time I put the cabbage in the tupperware cabinet, or the day when I arrived half an hour early to a set-time weekly meeting I'd been attending for months, or the time when I lost my glasses and to this day I'm not sure where they were because I found them the next day as I was walking up to school and noticed that they were on my face. But I definitely hadn't been able to locate them the day before.

Going with this "writer's brain" theory, however, perhaps this was my brain's way of telling me that I needed to BE a writer-- a way of saying, "Hey, we're making room for this pursuit up here! We've evicted memories of the dates of your nieces' and nephews' birthdays, where you put your car keys last, and why you just walked in to this room-- all so that there will be space for you to think about writing!"

Or, at least, that is what I can hope.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Snarky writer: Um, yeah. Let's not talk about plotting while driving. I can still see my totaled car at the body shop across the street.

Katt/Susan: I made a loaf of homemade bread the other day that looked like a black brick by the time I remembered that I forgot it in the oven.

KLM: I hate the days when halfway through the afternoon I realize my sweater is on backwards.

SAC: Can I please borrow that birthday/anniversary excuse? I've used up all of mine.

Penelope said...

This is an awesome post. Thank goodness for your cousin! :)

I'm guilty of forgetting to eat and driving to the wrong location while writing in my head.

Cynthia D'Alba said...

I WISH I could blame writer's mind on my forgetfulness. I put water on to boil and ALWAYS forget it. I have burned the pot dry before.

CKHB said...

I'd agree with you, but I'm too busy recovering from a recent accident with a bus.

Harley May said...

Yes, yes, and more yes. It's a relief to know I'm in good company. Honestly, how many lives can we live at once? I think every writer aims to push that question.

I left my critique group one evening, late at night, and had ti fill up with gas. I filled up my van with diesel. I know, the nozzle isn't supposed to fit but somehow I made it fit. I cried so hard. I considered surragacy to pay for the damages. God bless my husband is all I'll say. Bless that man. He deserves a medal.

Crystal Posey said...

I'm with Cyndi... I wish I could blame one specific thing, but I can't. I've been doing these kinds of things my whole life. It's amazing I haven't lost any kids yet. BUT, the most recent due to writing: Last week I went upstairs three times to get something and stopped in the hallway each time wondering why I was upstairs. The fourth time, the time I managed to hang on to what I was doing instead of a story, I stomped all the way to the bathroom to get that damn brush.

Linda G. said...

So many to choose from. Let's see...once, I got all the way to the store without my purse. While they know me well, they still wouldn't let me leave with the groceries without paying for them. Another time, I shopped, paid for the groceries, and then drove home without them.

Hmmm. Somehow I don't think I give grocery shopping my full attention when I'm deep in a WIP.

Bill Kirton said...

I signed a copy of a book for a friend with the words 'For Leslie, my good friend and anaesthetist neighbour'. He's a teacher and he lives miles away. I had to explain when he asked about it later that I'd borrowed his name for a character in an as yet unpublished novel featuring a policeman and his anaesthetist neighbour. Seems like my characters are beginning to write me.