Monday, November 23, 2015

Can't Stop, Won't Stop: The Curse of the Writer's Brain

My brain never stops. Ever. Not to sleep regular hours. Not to enjoy normal holidays. Not even to take vacations that other people take and post about on social networking all smiling and happy and thought-free.

My brain doesn't take vacations. It hasn't since early childhood, when I realized I was going to grow up to be a story-teller, because that was all I ever seemed to be doing. Whether I was telling them to other people, or to myself, or to my invisible friends (who were real, just invisible), I was telling stories. Whatever was going on in my environment became a story. Whatever I was thinking or feeling or experiencing became a story.

Things have not changed. Sometimes I try to write and my brain freezes up, probably because it's tired and sick of all the coffee I drink to try to stimulate it. I think it freezes up, too, because it has too many ideas and they all clog the line trying to get front and center. Because they all want and need to be heard and acknowledged and explored in some detail, even the ones that don't deserve to be.

I know many creative people who have the same problem with their brains. Artists, musicians, directors, advertising agency folks, illustrators, you name it...we all suffer the same fate. I ask many of them if they ever take a day off. They laugh. I laugh. We have a good laugh and get back to work getting our thoughts and ideas OUT of our brains and onto whatever canvas we've chosen to express ourselves.

I want my brain to take a week off here and there, but it doesn't listen to me, and by now, I have run out of ways to try to convince it that some downtime will make it come up with better ideas. It snorts and chortles and goes on doing what it wants, because my brain has a mind of its own. I don't even try much any more.

The thing is, I can't fight who I am and how I'm built. I've tried. People say, "Take some downtime. Stop overthinking. Set it aside for later. Rest." I look at them and shake my head, because I know it isn't worth getting into a big argument over. They have no idea what it's like when my brain is telling me to ignore those people. Flip them the bird. Tell them I have important work to do and ideas to mull over.

I have negotiated a bit of middle ground, though. My brain allows me to get around three to four hours of sleep a night. Now and then, it allows me even more, but that is rare and I don't push it. I take what I can get, you know? Sometimes it lets me watch a whole television show or movie without interrupting me with ideas as to how I could do it better. That's always pleasant. In return, I let my brain run its mouth off and try my best to keep track of the ideas it spews out like waste from a drain pipe. Yuck. Now there's an image for you. But that's the image my brain wanted to give me. I've gotten used to it.

I hope my readers will, too.

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