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Teacher, my brain is empty.

February 7th, 2008 7 comments

I am suffering from post-novel ennui. From malaise. From the disease that afflicts writers after the completion of a book, medical doctors after boards, and graduate students after finishing a dissertation.

Basically, my brain has drained. Somebody pulled the plug. There’s nothing between my ears except dustbunnies and crickets.

This turns out to be a bit of a problem, because I have a novel due June 1, and also a novella and a novelette. And I honestly can’t write any of them yet because they are not yet in my head.

Let me explain it this way. Essentially, when I think of writing, I think of projects as having something akin to soup, and something akin to fruit. Books are like soup in that to write one, you have to throw a lot of things in a pot and let them simmer until they are tasty and the flavors have melded, and then you can serve them forth. They are like fruit because they need ripening time, and if you try to pick them too soon all you get is inedible fruit.

So here I am walking this thin line between not blowing off my deadlines, and trying to buy some time to let my brain regenerate. (My personal life has been hectic lately too, which doesn’t help much with the whole OMG I have to write this book! problem. Writing, for me, seems to require a certain amount of free headspace, and that, of late, I have not had.)

Which leads me to think about observation, which is the best means I know of by which to refill a recalcitrant brain. Noticing things, a simple and neglected art, and the core of creativity.

You see, all that stuff that shows up in art, that has to come from somewhere. And mostly, we get it by abstraction from the real world. Things we observe, notice, internalize, and alter to fit our fictional reality.  And the better we get at this, the more intensely we can focus on and notice unusual aspects of our everyday world, the more effective we become at using those details to convey realism, concreteness, upon our constructs.

Those tiny tidbits–the telling details–are what makes the difference between an abstract, a symbol, and the illusion of reality.

And in some regard, it’s what my head is out of right now. Noticed things, experienced things. Things that have weight and heft for the brain.

So right now, frustrating as I find it when I would really like to be writing something, that’s my job. Noticing stuff. Experiencing it. Taking it in, whether it’s the tiny ripples a grooming cat’s tongue leaves in the fur of its wrist, or the way chalk gets stuck under my fingernails when climbing and makes it look like I have a French manicure, except for how ragged my nails are.

And maybe when I’ve done enough of that, I will have a head full of story.  I’d better, anyway, because for some reason this cat here keeps insisting she needs to be fed.

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