Weird brain

TOUCHSTONE is galloping alone, wrapping me up in it, so that even on days then I have other jobs to do, I get 2000 words in on it. Sometimes writing is like stumbling through a dark attic with a failing flashlight, hard on the shins and inspiring no confidence in the eventual outcome. Then the path ahead opens out and you see that it’s not an attic, it’s an open track, gently curving over easy hills, and someone’s even been so nice as to surface it for you. You break into an easy run and feel like you’re flying.

Of course, often the apparently easy path takes a jog sideways and you’re back in the attic again, cursing and stumbling through the accumulated crap and dust.

But the singleness of mind required to keep the path in focus has its drawbacks. Extensions are taken on filing taxes, debris accumulates first in corners, then on surfaces you need to use all the time. The other day I found I’d driven ten miles without fastening my seat belt, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before in my entire driving life.

Then there’s the peculiar brain things. At this stage I’m often plagued by ditties. Over and over again, a few bars of some really idiotic song moves into my brain and takes it over, as if it’s just got to have something to chew over during the hours I take its word-producing machinery away from it. Every time I wake up at night, the ditty is there. I peel carrots, the ditty visits; fold laundry, I’m clicking my teeth in time to it. At the moment, it’s a stupid country western song I’ve heard perhaps three times in my life about how you should life like you were dying, but it dropped out of the radio the other day (Note to self: never listen to the radio when a first draft is going this way. Or television.) and has moved into my distracted brain like that bug Ricardo Montalban drops into Checkov’s ear in the Star Trek movie, which still grosses my daughter out (Hi, sweetie.)

The only thing I can to is counteract it with another song–Sweet Betsy from Pike works well, something about the relentless beat–and finish the damn book. It’ll go away as soon as I am a multi-dimensional person again.

In the meantime, between March 13th and 18th, the excellent Lynn Viehl over at Paperback Writer discussed ten questions about the publishing business. Any of you interested in the nuts and bolts of being a writer should take a look. Or maybe print it out and pin it to the pocket of your shirt for regular reference.

Just don’t set it to music and send me the results, okay?

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  1. Stephanie on March 23, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    Hi, Laurie. Is there anyone who *isn’t* grossed out by the bug in the guy’s ear in “Wrath of Khan”? I’m freaking out just thinking about it!

  2. Anonymous on March 23, 2006 at 4:33 pm

    When I’m occupied doing something more or less mindless (*very* different from writing, I know) I have “tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to be free” running through my mind. Rather nice, actually.

  3. riobonito on March 23, 2006 at 8:56 pm

    This past week, I’ve found myself driving without my seat belt too, in the middle of a family crisis..odd that something I thought I did on auto-pilot, apparently took more brain engagment then I previously considered, decided middle aged ladies who are in the middle of such things, need to double check! I hope I don’t end up in the store wearing my slippers, I live in a small town! Love to hear from you Laurie! From an old Monterey resident transported to the gold country!

  4. Jessarakitty on March 24, 2006 at 12:15 am

    The autopilot songs are actually called earworms and my office has had a plague of them this week. Several of us sang ‘Birds and the Bees’ by Jewel Akens aloud for awhile b/c one poor sufferer had it stuck in his head. He said it cured him, but maybe he was just being nice. I had ‘Ramblin’ Rover’ by Andy M. Stewart playing in my head for a few days, complete with rrrollled ‘R’s.

  5. Jessarakitty on March 24, 2006 at 12:15 am

    The autopilot songs are actually called earworms and my office has had a plague of them this week. Several of us sang ‘Birds and the Bees’ by Jewel Akens aloud for awhile b/c one poor sufferer had it stuck in his head. He said it cured him, but maybe he was just being nice. I had ‘Ramblin’ Rover’ by Andy M. Stewart playing in my head for a few days complete with rrrollled ‘R’s.

  6. Anonymous on March 24, 2006 at 12:29 am

    Now and then I look down to make sure I put my trousers on after I’ve walked out of the house.

    A few years ago I had a major case of “song stickage”. My co-workers and I were sculpting away on a large project when “Smoke on the Water” played on the radio. Took us a full three days to dislodge it from our brains. By then we were all blurting out the first line of the chorus ala Homer Simpson… over and over and over….

  7. Terminaldegree on March 24, 2006 at 2:42 am

    As a music teacher, I am plagued by earworms. (Right now the theme song from the videogame “Zelda and the Ocarina of Time” is tormenting me, because I was just teaching a kid how to write out the music. Ugh!)

    The cure? Trying singing “Yankee Doodle” to the following words: “Aardvarks are our friends.” Loop these words endlessly until the tune is done. (If you end on the word “friends” you’ve sung it successfully. It’s not as easy as it sounds.) That level of musical concentration usually does the trick in getting awful ditties out of my head.

    And somehow “Yankee Doodle” doesn’t seem to stick.

  8. 2maple on March 24, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Sounds like the threads of your tale are all coming together.

    Unfortunately, at least for the first draft, you have to come up with your answer alone…no one else is in there with you’e2’80’a6 I hope :). After that, it’e2’80’99s out, and, anyone that gets to look at it can weigh in, whether you want them to or not. Working on any thing alone makes me start talking to myself (which drives one of my daughters nuts!) Sounds like musical reruns are your quirky thing’e2’80’a6I hate the term earworms, it makes me think of an old Rod Serling’e2’80’99s Night Gallery episode and a disgusting insect that was just that’e2’80’a6& still gives me shivers!

    At least, the thorny problem I’e2’80’99m working at the moment where I work, I’e2’80’99m doing with a couple of other folks’e2’80’a6and we get to debate, argue and grill each other with questions. Its fun ‘e2’80’93 we laugh a lot too. It helps me get things out so they aren’e2’80’99t rattling around in my head, unresolved.

    I guess things won’e2’80’99t be resolved for you until you get it all written down. C’e2’80’99est la vie.

  9. AlyssC01 on March 27, 2006 at 9:26 am

    Speak for yourself when it comes to ‘e2’80’9cYankee Doodle.’e2’80’9d
    I’e2’80’99m a non-American and it can just make a nest in my mind.
    I like the word earworm btw, it’e2’80’99s the first time I’e2’80’99ve heard of it.
    I can so relate. 🙂
    Normally, just when my concentration has reached its optimum my mind is suddenly tripped by a silly mindless song. I did serious horseback riding a few years ago, and I remember, in the middle of a hard jumping course that I was riding, a song I heard ONCE on a television show leaped up in my mind:
    ‘e2’80’9cDo your ears hang low, do they waddle to and fro?
    Can you tie them in a knot? Can you tie them in a bow?’e2’80’9d
    I lost count of my striding, forgot my course and freaked out my poor horse (though, mind ‘e2’80’93 that was no big feat, he just needed an excuse).
    ((What’e2’80’99s worse, now I have it stuck in my head again’e2’80’a6 yeahy.))
    Thanks for this post ma’e2’80’99am!! It’e2’80’99s wonderful.
    And more to the point, it’e2’80’99s always comforting to know that other people suffer under the same irritation as I do. 😛
    I am not alone!!!

  10. Roxanne on March 27, 2006 at 2:54 pm

    Re: the “earworm”–did you ever notice that the song that gets stuck in your head is usually one you don’t even like???

  11. CaraSusanetta on March 28, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    At my house we call them Brain Sludge. Sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it’s a jingle from a commercial. What annoys me is they sludge through sleep too. If there is a hell, these are the soundtrack.

  12. Chris on March 29, 2006 at 11:34 am

    I’m going off on a tangent here, but thought you may be interested to know (thinking of your postscript in Justice Hall) that there is a case highlighted just now in the UK media about a possible posthumous pardon for a serviceman executed in 1916. It will apparently be the first time it has happened based on the history, if indeed it does materialise…


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