As many of you know, I suffered a severe concussion over the summer. I’m still working out the issues. The good news is that, for the most part, my creative stream of imagery returned. Early last week, a new story idea flooded my brain, demanding attention, and looking for a way out.
Much to my girlfriend’s chagrin, I write the story, searching for every opportunity to get it out of my head and written down.
Within the past week, I’ve written approximately 40,000 words. Little by little, the words get out but the pressure to finish remains. Right now, I have such a clear understanding of where the story needs to go, that any delay stresses me that I might forget.
Alas, I keep on writing and beg forgiveness of my girlfriend who needs me.
This is Richard Verry, writing to you during a break in the action. Now, back to my writing.
This morning, I read a post on Facebook by my friend Leah Hart about an experience she recently had. In that post she revealed that two days ago, she had a terrific idea for a new novel. At the time, it was crystal clear in her head and she knew exactly what to do to write it.
However, she’s also a terrific wife and mother. At the time, her young children were ill and needed her mothering, which she gladly supplied. Family first. I get it and I agree completely. After tending to her children, helping them get through their discomfort, she took a moment for herself to write down her ideas.
Those ideas are now what I call ‘vaporware’. In tending to her children, the story idea didn’t get a chance to imprint itself onto her brain, and the brain did what normally does. It cleaned house.
Our brains are wonderful organs. They capture and store significant amounts of information. Information that we use each and every day. It also stores memories, experiences and all sorts of stuff so that we can learn from our mistakes and improve our every day lives.
The trouble is, our brains also have only so much capacity. Granted, some brains have more than others. Still, it’s a fact that if we don’t use those thoughts and apply them to our lives when they first bounce around in our noggins, then our brains are trained to clear them away to make room for new stuff.
It sucks. I know all too well. I have been a victim of this phenomena many times over.
I used to keep a notepad on me all the time to write these notes down for followup later. The result as you might guess, page after page, notebook after notebook of ideas that clutter up my home and rarely get referred to. So, then I tried using a white board. I have it prominently mounted in my home office where I do the bulk of my creative work. As I walk by, I can glance at it and recall at an instance, just what that idea was. ‘Better’. That board is so full of notes that it’s hard to see the white behind the black of the dry erase marker. Now, it’s almost a chore to keep it up to date and if anyone knows me, I hate doing chores. I do them, but I hate it.
With the advent of the smart phone, ‘Siri and Ok Google’ where speech to text has evolved to be practical, I began using the ‘speech to text’ features of my smart phone to capture and write down ideas. Much better and almost doable. I have my phone set up so that as I dictate my notes, those notes are written down and uploaded to my cloud account.
It works though I do have a funny story to go with it. One day, I was sitting in a café eating lunch, when an idea flashed through my brain. Great. A perfect opportunity to write down my idea. I whipped out my phone and tapped the icon. Who doesn’t keep their phone with them at all times? As soon as I did, I opened my mouth to begin speaking when lo and behold, I saw words appearing on my screen. And I wasn’t talking. Huh? Turns out the microphone was so sensitive that it was picking up the conversation of the people at the next table over. Wow! I thought. How cool is that. I was reading on my phone what they were talking about. All the personal details of their lives were being captured, converted to text and uploaded to my cloud account. I erased them but still ….
Since that day, I am careful to watch what I say, not just to the people whom I am sitting with but also to the strangers at the tables nearby. Word to the wise!
What have I concluded from these experiences my brain captures every second of every day? I get up at 4 o’clock in the morning and write. Many of my best ideas, dialog and scenes appear in my mind while I am in that half awake / half asleep state. I’ve trained my mind that if those ideas are good enough, to get the hell out of bed and write it down.
The scene, dialog, whatever won’t be perfect and will need editing. But, I’ve captured the idea and I can use it productively.
So, in the evening and right after dinner, when I seem to be checking out, my eyes drooping and it’s obvious I am looking for my bed, just know this. My day started at 4am and it’s been very productive. By 8pm, I’m tired, run down and ready to shutdown for the night. It sucks some days but that’s the way it is.
And oh, btw way. I started writing this about 5am, about a half hour after I woke up with an idea and I saw Leah’s post. Oh, shit. What was that idea that I had at 4am anyway?
When I write or paint, I tend to put on music so that I can stay focused on what I’m doing. The other day I was discussing music with a friend of mine. It got me thinking.
I play ‘Gold Dust Woman’ by Fleetwood Mac on endless repeat for hours while I write or paint. While I like this song, it is not my favorite. It’s only when I sit in my studio and work that I will put this one on endless repeat. It’s my go to song to play when I want to get lost in my project. Perhaps it is the catchy tune, the driving beat or just something that soothes my thoughts. I just like it. Therefore the CD is always nearby and ready to play.
It really doesn’t matter what the project is either. I could be sketching a rough draft, drawing a final composition, painting in oils and watercolors or writing chapter after chapter of my new book. The song somehow allows me to disappear into my project. Lost in the realm I’m creating, the words seem to flow effortlessly to the keyboard, the paint flows from my brush to the canvas and the pencils and pastels blend smoothly across the paper. I’m in Heaven, Valhalla or any place one associates with a perfect alternate reality.
Hours later, I will emerge pleased with the progress I’ve made. After consuming food and drink, I come back and review my progress. I rarely find something that I want to touch up or change. I can only think that the trance I’m in somehow enhances the quality of my work.
After emerging, I am often surprised by how long I was gone, disappeared in this trance. And yes, I am in a trance. I recognize and welcome it. I am most annoyed when I am forced out of it by some external influence. “Sorry honey if I snapped at you. You’ll forgive me. Right?”
Time to get back to work. Now, where did that CD go now?