Saturday, August 6, 2011

My Writing Brain



I have a complicated relationship with my Writing Brain.

Let’s start with the fact that it can be stubborn. Sometimes, I get out my trusty laptop, full of hope. I have time and some ideas I want to develop. I unlock the door and invite it out to play but many times, it refuses.

It is not the eager horse that my photography brain is. It is more cat-like—deciding on its own terms when to engage and when not to. Sometimes no amount of cajoling can make it come out and behave right.

However, there are those beautiful times when the time is right, the conditions are right and the words and ideas flow out. The cat is on its back, loving every minute of the attention, showing off its colors and angles. Purring away. Ah, this is heaven for a writer. Sheer heaven.

In everyday life, my family thinks I am a terrible eavesdropper, and I am, but my writing brain makes me do it.

I can nearly fall out of my chair in a waiting room listening to a couple talk about how they are going to have to get new linoleum after his mother carved her name in big letters on the kitchen floor.

At the store, I am fascinated with the weathered 60 year-old at the register buying baby formula, a bottle of gin, and one beet. What a back story there must be there.

On the airport shuttle I pretend to read my magazine, but my writer’s brain is taking in all the details of the other passengers: the large diamond on the hand of the girl who looks 18 years old, the cracked heels of the otherwise magnificently groomed woman, the business man who repeatedly looks at one message on his phone with absolute love and devotion.

I had Lasik surgery years ago in order to shed my glasses. The doctor told me I would be able to see things at a distance but I would need glasses for things up close. I didn’t think this would bother me, but then I got in line at the post office and my writing brain insisted that I find out where the person in front of me was sending a package. It drove me crazy not to be able to see. I wanted to know what book the woman on the train was reading. I wanted to see what was on the papers little boy was running hone from school with. I went back to glasses.

The writing brain is nearly always working, even if it is not evident. Many of you blogging buddies know the feeling—the spark, the flip of the switch, the idea that appears out of no where. Perhaps a writing problem has been brewing in your brain for a while and suddenly, while doing something completely unrelated, a solution comes to you.

Sometimes it’s a new idea. There is a sudden urge to write down at least the grain of the idea. Hence, the small notebooks you can find in almost every writer’s possession.

(The other day I found myself barreling down the 101, madly making notes in a small notebook as I drove. The subject: irritating people who text while drive. Wonder what those people in the lane I wandered into thought about people who make notes while they drive?)


My writing brain and have had a long and complex relationship.

You see, about ten years ago, I was incredibly frustrated with writing. I knew I wanted to write, but felt like nothing I wrote was good enough. I had no place to go with my writing. I wrote a novel, loved it, and then abandoned it after looking at it again and deciding it was no good.

I was wracked with guilt and fear. My family was suffering because I was so frustrated and torn. I went right up to that door of my brain and I shut it. Locked it up. I was never going to return. It had caused me too much grief.

It worked. For about a year.

But then, the scratching started. I ignored it. Then the banging started. I drowned it out with work and other activities. It didn’t work. There was something inside me that had to write. Whether it was good or bad, I knew it had to come out. I literally felt gummed up inside. That’s when blogging came along. I tentatively opened the door, took a deep breath and wrote my first post.

I would suspect that 99 percent of all bloggers have a Writing Brain. Some of you have small rooms you keep them in. For some of you, it takes up the whole second floor.

I’ve been so encouraged by your comments and your blogs. I love the blogging world. I always try to support those people who are just starting out, just opening that door up after years of keeping it closed.

I learned the hard way that it does no good to hide your light. It may be a low light, or a funky light, but if you need to write, you need to write.

Open that door and invite the writing brain out.

Make a night of it. Have fun. Say what you have to say. Wear a few sequins.

And shine like you are supposed to.

54 comments:

Donna said...

What a wonderful post...I may not be much of a writer but I know how to play "pretend" pretty well!Hahaa.
You Always say "it" Beautifully Betty! Keep it up...
hughugs

Marg said...

OMG, I am the same way. I love to watch people and what they are doing. Love the story about the withered lady in the grocery store line with Gin, baby formula and one beet. Too funny. Love this post. Better stop that writing notes while driving. We would miss your blog.

Kathleen said...

Brilliant! Ever seen Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on creativity? I think you'd like it!
http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And you just keep writing Betty! Your creativity and humor overflows and I never know what I'll find when I visit your blog. And those texting people probably think you're nuts.
Did your son arrive safely in Virginia?

Out on the prairie said...

I totally agree with the need to write. My computer often offers me a chair, when on other days it wants to sit empty.I love to take notice of all around me, but have wondered if others were aware of my stare.

Old Kitty said...

Oh BB!! Listen to your great big wonderful brain and write write write!!!! Even Kitty is helping you with the thesaurus so it's all good!!!!

Yay for you!!!! Take care
x

Gigi said...

Betty, in addition to beautiful photographs, you have the ability to write so beautifully and eloquently. I'm glad you finally decided to let your writing part out again - it would have been a shame to have never met you via blogging!

Bouncin' Barb said...

This is so true BB. I had to write and a year later I'm writing better than I thought I would.

Brian said...

Happy weekend Betty! Never any rest for that writing brain of yours. I'm not sure if I have a write brain or a wrong brain!!!

Linda said...

I'm so glad you released that writing brain after all those years of confinement. You have a real talent. I think you should get that novel out, dust it off, and let me read it.

Catherine said...

I agree with you Betty ~ I think the blogging community is a very creative bunch!

Thank you for sharing your writing and photography brain with us! :)

xo Catherine

Daisy said...

Wonderful post, Betty. Yes, my writing brain and I have had some struggles along the way too. I think I need to get some sequins. :)

The Green Streak said...

Love this post, especially since it so closely describes my writing brain! Gee, wonder why? :-) One of my favorite husband stories is the day he said, "Quit writing stories in your head!" I was staring intently at a couple at a pay phone and my staring embarrassed him! I still do it, though.

Eva Gallant said...

That was so good! You captured the writer's brain beautifully! I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't blog!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

First Betty I love the pic.
Whenever I am out and about I am always looking for inspiration for a poem, it's as though my "Writing Brain don't shut down.
Enjoy your post made good reading.

Enjoy your week-end.
Yvonne.

Pearl said...

I keep my writing brain in my pocket, where it is free to continue to believe that it operates separately from its owner...

Pearl

Keats The Sunshine Girl said...

Such a great encouragement for all the writing brains out there, me included:)And I always enjoy your humour. Thanks!

Retired English Teacher said...

The writing brain described as a cat is a perfect way to make sense of its behavior. I loved this post.

Blogging is an excellent place for the writer that wants to get out now and again. Thanks for your thoughts on this, and for your encouragement.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

Thanks for this encouragement, Betty. Your writing brain is all right!
xoRobyn

jenny_o said...

Thank you for an open and frank look at how your writing brain works. One thing that surprised me, but also encourages me, is that you sometimes can't come up with something to write, and it's often just when you have the time for it. The only time I get ideas is when I'm on auto-pilot doing something like ironing or washing dishes or (eek) driving. If I sit down to write, there's nuthin'!

EmptyNester said...

I am always inviting my writing brain out to play but he turns me down more often than not.

Your writing brain, on the other hand, always puts out some of my favorite reading EVER.

Sara said...

Oh, I heart this! I'd guess that my Writing Brain currently resides in a large-ish closet. That's no good! Going to bust out my sequins and peacock feather hairband to coax that baby out of hiding. Champagne may or may not be also involved.

Ms. A said...

I don't have a writer's brain, nor a blogging brain. Thankfully I do have a built-in censor, because if I blogged what I'm usually thinking, it would be downright scary.

I love how your brain works. Mind if I borrow it?

Leah J. Utas said...

My writer's brain agrees.

Susan in the Boonies said...

I've never stopped to examine my process very closely, but I did relate to the idea of having some idea incubate for a long time, and then, one morning, out it comes, born fully grown, with a driver's license, and a suitcase, ready to face the world on its own, without so much as a "Thanks for goin' thru labor!".

Self-centered, thankless little buggars.

Stephanie V said...

Oh, Betty, thank you! You've legitimized my eavesdropping completely! Now I'll just say it's my writing brain.
Seriously, you've made a great statement. I think that so many of us are writers in our hearts. Blogging is a great start - for me it's probably the only published writing I'll have but it's out there.
Now, when and where is that party? I've got my sequins on!

Madi and Mom said...

Hi BB
First of all we missed you like crazy...finally we have our BB fix.
Secondly, you are owned by a beautiful kitty
Thirdly, finally Mom's brain has a title..she does for sure have a writer's brain...she nearly cracked up reading the things you do...she does the same thing..she is a people watcher too. Maybe she is your 5th sister MOL
Madi

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

What a great post! Sometimes I think I should put my writing away and be done with the frustrations and time away from my family and other things I enjoy. For some reason I keep going and it so helps to know I'm not the only one going through these emotions.

Brian (not the cat) said...

Baby formula and gin? Great idea! Maternally nutritious while intoxicating! I think Fitzgerald used to live on this, along with his Hershey bars. Why the beet? Beets me, although I imagine it gives the concoction a lovely clouded-Cosmo look. As for scribing while driving, take a tip from me -- hie thee to Costco and buy that little Olympus voice recorder they presently carry. Keep it on the dash, and when inspiration strikes, just push one button and blurt out that felicitous turn of phrase. It's also good for quickly capturing gems we hear on the radio, such as those NPR human interest stories, or Shostakovich himself playing his own piano concerto. It has a Gb of memory and you can download your recordings to your computer for editing, noise reduction, automatic transcription, or as samples in a hip-hop song. P.S. As it's about the size of a pack of gum, you can carry it in your purse and discreetly capture verbatum those semi-public conversations that intrigue you so much. Some might call this eavesdropping, but I say research.

Sarah said...

The face of that cat says it all--do not bother me. I will come when I'm ready.

That's how all the writing brains work, I suspect.

Ann said...

your writing brain is a lot like my crafting brain. My photography brain is the eager happy puppy with it's tail wagging and my crafting brain is the finicky "no you can't pick me up today" cat :)
I love your writing. You have a way with words that I can only dream of

floweringmama said...

So true! I feel that same scratching when the need to read comes on.

Linda Myers said...

I love that blogging counts as writing. I can do 15 minutes and post it. Otherwise, my longer pieces would torment me forever.

The Retired One said...

I hear you! I used to write, write write and the well just dried up. Photography is now a passion, but sometimes I hear someone say something that I simply MUST write down for "someday"..

Kazzy said...

The 60-year old at the register... I LOLed at that one!!

Lin said...

Everything is a blog post--or so my family says. I can't wait to tell the story of the fools I see each day or the adventure I experience at the grocery store. It's all exciting or not--but it is all worthy of the blog post.

Whatever did we do before blogs?????

McGuffy Ann said...

Great post!! Thanks!!

Leslie said...

Oh my gosh, so true!!
I've experienced all this every since starting my blog. And I have a list of "topics" on my iphone that I'm constantly adding to.
And randomly during the day an idea will pop in my head. I'm always thinking about my blog and what I can write about. And sometimes my writing flows and sometimes it doesn't. So random.

Sush said...

Well said and I love when the words are tripping across the page, fingers flashing and you look up to see and say..."Oh that was what IT was all about"!

Hugs~

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Oh yes, you nailed this! The writing brain is most definitely a cruel mistress - cold and distant at one moment, then demading and insistant at the next. Yes. Yes. Yes.

faye said...

My writing brain has been delegated to
the small alcove in the loft.. the
photography brain has taken over the
condo and refuses to share.

Glad your writing brain won out...
I enjoy all along while being very
envious of your talents.. ;-)

Hilary said...

What a loss it would be for us if you had kept it locked away. You truly add to my day with your writing brain and I thank you for that.

Rebecca Bany said...

Great post. I find writing as a way to relax!
www.rebeccabany.com

Facing50.Blog said...

What a totally brilliant post! Sadly my writing brain spends more time out than I do! I really enjoyed this post and if you are ever at the airport and see someone else pretending to read a magazine-it'll be me watching out for potential material.
Fab!

Cheeseboy said...

I think the one beet is to throw people off her scent.

Interesting stuff.

Marlene said...

I love your "eavesdropping" and "writing brain". Of course, I'm the same way...always seeking blog fodder! LOL!

SUGAR MOON said...

Great post and thanks for your support.

Ami said...

Dear Betty.
I think I love you.

Mental

Susan said...

I loved your novel and wondered why you never published it. I have always loved your writing. It's inspiring, funny, poignant-- everything I love about literature. Just wanted you to know.

Pat Tillett said...

Your "writer brain" was certainly out for this post. It was brilliant! I know that exact feeling. That is usually when my wife tells me I'm a bit nosey.

Green Monkey said...

again...... exactly what I needed. How do you know these things Betty???

Baby Sister said...

I love people watching!! It drives my family crazy sometimes. And it feels like this post was meant just for me. I love writing, but I stopped a few years ago because I never felt like it was good enough, but there's always been a part of me that is itching to start writing again. I need to work on that...

Pierre BOYER said...

I love this reading cat...
Greetings from France,

Pierre
http://pierre-boyer.blogspot.com/

Texas Yellow Rose said...

Yessss! :)