Tag Archives: thought processes

Stepping Back

As a kid, I think I was a very literal reader, or – perhaps – I had a literal, somewhat inflexible brain. I couldn’t understand a nugget of wisdom like ‘Handsome is as handsome does,’ for instance, because the syntax seemed to make no sense to me; it took me years, even after the phrase was explained to me, to really get a grip on what it meant, as opposed to what it was saying. My mother had a fridge magnet which used to baffle me as a little girl – the saying on it was: ‘Housework is something I do that no-one else notices unless I don’t do it.’

Image: suburbanrebelmom.blogspot.com

Image: suburbanrebelmom.blogspot.com

I can’t tell you how many hours’ thought that phrase took up in my six-year-old brain. Every time I thought I had it nailed down, the words would just slither out of my hands again, sticking out their tongues and waggling their ears at me, and run off to cause havoc somewhere else.

To be entirely fair to my infant intelligence, the phrase could have been more clearly put, but still. I look at it now, and I’m embarrassed that it took me so much effort to wrap my head around it. I just wasn’t able to understand how housework could be something you did (because it clearly states at the beginning that ‘housework is something I do’, which I took as a definite statement, i.e. the housework is being done), while simultaneously not doing it.

Now my explanation of my thought process is starting to confuse me. Perhaps we’d better just leave it at that!

Image: laseoulguy.com

Image: laseoulguy.com

Luckily, as I’ve grown, so have my abilities to understand figurative and indirect language, and my facility with visual imagery and puns, and that sort of thing. I’m glad, at this stage of my life, to have had those moments of confusion surrounding certain phrases and sayings, though – it meant I thought deeply about words and what they meant, and how they fit together. It probably did a lot to spark off my interest in creating words instead of just reading them. I didn’t always ask for help with these verbal conundrums, you see – I just took them into myself and pondered them, sometimes for years, until I’d cracked them.

However, there are times, even now, when I feel like my thought processes around language and words are still a bit too inflexible. If I read something and straight away my brain lands on one particular meaning based on the words I’ve seen (even if – or especially if – it’s wrong), I find it hard to over-write it and replace it with the correct meaning. Occasionally, the same thing can happen with my thought processes – I get caught into one way of thinking, and then I can’t see my way clear to get out of it.

This isn’t to say I’m some sort of dyed-in-the-wool type who can’t accept that a way of thinking is wrong, or flawed, or whatever. I’m perfectly willing and able to change my mind on things, to learn new stuff and amend my opinion on a whole range of issues. When it comes to writing, though, I think I find it hard to think flexibly. I put my plot down on paper, and it leaves a heavy impression. Even when I take it back up again to put it down somewhere else, that heavy impression remains. I find it difficult to stop my thoughts following the same old channels, and leaving me stuck in the same old corners as before.

This is a problem.

Yesterday, I found myself getting tied up in a terrible muddle with ‘Tider’. The book is too long, for a start, and I’m very aware of editing it down to a more realistic word count, and – as I said yesterday – there were several scenes which I felt were too wordy, and not necessary, and too slow-moving. I hacked away more than 6,000 words, removing scenes which spoon-feed our protagonist some of the things she needs to know in order to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding her family – but then I found myself marooned on the island of ‘What Now?’

Image: arabia.msn.com

Image: arabia.msn.com

Of course there’s a way around this. Of course there’s a new plotline that will satisfactorily bring my characters from Point A to Point Z and everywhere in between in an elegant, clever and interesting way – but the harder I tried to find it, the bigger grew my muddle. I found myself sinking my head into my hands at several junctures yesterday, lamenting the fact that I just couldn’t see around my old plotlines – the trails they’d left through ‘Tider’ were so deep, and so clear, that trying to bypass them or reroute them or dig them up altogether was just beyond my power.

So I turned off my computer at 6 pm yesterday, as I normally do. I went about my other duties, as I normally do. At the end of a ‘normal’ writing day, however, my brain is usually fizzing and firing off ideas and suggestions and images long after I leave my work behind, but last evening I made a huge effort to ignore it and give myself a little bit of space to decompress. It’s very hard for me not to panic when I feel an idea that once worked well no longer fits ‘the brief’ and needs to be changed; I feel like I’m trying to force a river to alter its course, and cut a new path through the earth. The harder I try to make myself to think in a different way or to read what I’ve written in a more flexible way, the less likely I am to be successful.

So, I went against my urge to keep hacking away at the problem, and I took an evening off. I watched some TV – I didn’t even read, which is unusual for me. I allowed myself to get lost down a totally different track, and I realised how tired I was. My brain was asleep long before my body was, I think.

And you know what? I woke up this morning with the tiniest little seedling of a new approach growing in my mind. It’s not a huge change; it’s so tiny, it’ll probably take less than a sentence to achieve. I hope that it will make a huge difference to today’s writing, though.

I’m also fully convinced that I never would have seen it unless I’d given myself permission to step back. Sometimes, trashy TV really is the answer to all of life’s problems.

Happy Friday – I hope a happy weekend is unfolding for you all.

 

Fridayzzzz…

Why is it, when I come to the end of the week – when two days of fun-time open up in front of me – that I suddenly find I barely have the energy to drag myself around? Gah. I suppose it’s partly because I was awake until the dark heart of the night working on my WiP; I just couldn’t go to bed last night without tweaking just one tiny little plot thread, which then of course turned into a torrent of changes which got bigger and bigger and BIGGER until it ended up being mentioned again on the very last page, and had become a symbol for something very important.

Sheesh.

That’s the danger of writing a book, I suppose. It sort of takes you over, denying you sleep, peace of mind and meaningful conversation. I’ve been living, dreaming, sleeping this book and these characters for so long that sometimes it feels like I’m wearing a pair of those super-cool virtual reality goggles you see in movies. I’m not sure if my inner world or my outer world is the ‘real’ one, but either way, it’s fun, if a bit disorienting.

The blog’s a bit late this morning because I made a cake first thing when I got up – it’s currently baking, and my whole house smells like chocolate, which cannot be a bad thing. I’m a reasonably recent convert to baking, but there are times, like now, when I’m so glad I have something else I can do which is creative and requires thought and precision, but which isn’t part of my fictive world. Of course, my brain still ticks away, my subconscious mind a bit like a hippo in a mudpool waiting to open its jaws and snap down on a juicy plot point, but when I’m baking I can feel, for a little while, what it’s like to be alone in my own head again.

Hippo Jaws Open Teeth Showing

You will not escape me, tiny plot detail! Mwhahahaa!

It feels great to be ahead of my own schedule with regard to the WiP. I do have some more tweaking to do – just adding or changing small details which will (hopefully) make the story more enjoyable and authentic (and won’t involve me staying up until the small hours!) – but it looks like next week I’ll have my hard copy in hand, ready to do the final edit. *bites nails* Hopefully, then, I’ll be able to have my book as finished as I can get it in plenty of time for my January deadline, and – shock – I might even be able to have Christmas off!

Next January 16th will be an important day for me, for several reasons: firstly, it’s my cousin’s birthday, and she will be turning 18. I’m not quite sure how that happened without me noticing! Secondly, January 16th is the date when the shortlist for the competition I entered back in October will be announced, and the deadline by which the competition rules state I must have my full MS completed. So, on January 17th, I will either be celebrating because I’m a shortlisted writer, one step closer to being a published author, or celebrating because I can *finally* post up some excerpts from this dang WiP of mine on this blog, and get some opinions from anyone who wants to stop by. I’ve been nervous about putting up details so far, just in case it contravenes the rules in any way, but I’m really looking forward to letting my idea out into the world, in whatever fashion I can.

After January, the fun can really begin. After January, my path to publication will really kick off, and (of course) I’ll be writing about it here, and hoping you’ll all hold my hand along the way. If I’m lucky, the competition will give me a kick-start, but even if I don’t get shortlisted, I’m still lucky. Taking the decision to write this book and making the necessary life changes to achieve that goal was the best thing I ever did (besides get married).

I’m excited by the future, and it feels great. I’m exhausted right now, but I know all the hard work I’ve put in will pay off next year, in one way or another. Thanks, everyone, for being here with me this far – I hope you’ll stick with me on the next part of the journey.