The mind as storage device

A flywheel is a device for storing energy: some machine or water flow or what have you gets it running and the wheel flies around, faster and faster, ready to transfer that energy into driving whatever piece of equipment one might require. A flywheel resists changes in its speed of rotation, and it needs a load to bleed off the energy it’s storing. Needs it.

I’ve had a week where, because of one thing or another (car, research, visiting family, doctor’s appointments) the built-up energy of the rewrite process has had virtually nowhere to go. Three hours inputting changes into the laptop while waiting for my car to be serviced; two hours one afternoon when all necessary beds were made up and refrigerator filled; that’s been it, for five days. Five days, in what should have been the final week of the rewrite.

If a flywheel is not given a load—punch to drive, weight to propel—while it continues to be shoved into action, there’s a risk that the entire machinery may batter itself to pieces. This is how my mind feels at the moment.

I need, I crave, to finish this book. I have all the lines in my mind, all the characters and their actions and their motivations and the interesting little sub-themes right there in my hands, and I have to go off and clear out a rubbish-filed guest room and make a trip to the grocery store. Every day, for five days.

The flywheel of my mind is going to fling itself to pieces, if I’m not given some uninterrupted working time very soon.

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  1. BetsyC on September 13, 2008 at 10:59 am

    “The flywheel of my mind is going to fling itself to pieces, if I’m not given some uninterrupted working time very soon.”

    Sounds to me as if you’re just going to have to take it. Shoot, Laurie, I’m awaiting your next book as anxiously as all the rest of your fans, but even if you just want some time to yourself – TAKE it! You’re as entitled as anybody else to cut yourself some slack. I know it’s hard, especially when they play the selfishness card – with women that is all too often the ace of trumps. But the “you owe me” goes both ways, hard as that is to remember when the whine of the flywheel drowns all other ideas. This would be a good time to ask for help from family and friends, or even hire some.

  2. Strawberry Curls on September 13, 2008 at 11:54 am

    I can only second what BetsyC has stated, so well. I have been in the position of overwhelming commitments to family and business and it truly can tear you apart. I remember going to a therapist for help on one occasion (husband with shattered leg, his business our only means of support and me trying to keep it going while caring for him and a small child traumatized by seeing his father badly injured) and the thing the therapist kept telling me over and over until I finally heard, was that I needed to take care of me first, or I wouldn’t be able to care for everyone else. That advise has been my mantra for the past 22 years, although I admit I went through a period between 2003 and 2006 when I forgot, and my life went downhill. I finally woke up and I’m back on track now, taking the time I need for me. I find everything gets done, eventually, but I’m much happier while I’m doing it. If you need to go off for a few days to write or to just revisit who you are, do it. You, your book, and your family will reap the benefits of a happier you. Good Luck. –Alice

  3. Roxanne on September 13, 2008 at 3:41 pm


    You are much beloved by many. You have many friends and loved ones. Reach out. Ask for help. Your work is important. YOU are important. Even an intelligent, creative, capable person needs help once in awhile.

    If I could, I would be there in a flash to help shop and make beds and clean guest rooms. And I am sure that there are many like me who would not hesitate to help out. Just ask.

    Take care,

  4. Laraine on September 13, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Laurie: NO ONE who enjoys your hospitality is going to stand up and say, ‘No, Laurie, don’t make me comfortable and feed me; go hide in your office and get some work done.’ It’s not their job to look out for your book, much as the rest of us wish they would do so . . . . It IS their job to watch out for you, and respect your needs, if they’re worth the invitation they’re enjoying . . . you tell ’em what you need, and then take it, no guilt. It hurts to think of you with the overloaded flywheel, I’ve been there, but there’s nought else to push the ‘stop’ button if you don’t push it. It ain’t selfish to push it, either. Breathe, walk, respect yourself and time for yourself and your work. L.
    P.S. What would Russell say?!

  5. fets on September 14, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    OK…here’s a novel (no pun intended) idea…hire someone. Or establish a fan club of “maids of honor”, who would be willing, let’s say for a signed copy of the first edition of whatever book upon which you are working, to clean, make up beds, cut the grass etc. Otherwise you sound just like I do when faced with starting and art project. Suddenly the garage MUST be cleaned.

  6. Teresa on September 15, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Sounds like you really needed to blow off steam. Thanks for letting us see your writing process. I find it reassuring and interesting. I look forward to the book. Really look forward to it.


  7. nkk1969 on September 15, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    Continuing with your flywheel metaphor…

    The thing to do, as soon as you can see your way clear to do it, is shove in the clutch, skip first gear altogether in favor of a rolling start in second, then rev up the RPMs and climb the tall hill of rewriting deep in third gear.

    Hey, I can’t help it. My DH is a mechanic and the only flywheel I can visualize is the one between the engine and transmission on a car. (shrug)

    I heard this old joke again the other day and thought of you. Maybe it will give you a chuckle and break the tension for a few seconds, seeing as it has to do with bees and historians/theologians.

    Where did Noah keep his bees? In the arc-hives. (grinning, ducking, and running)


  8. Carlina on September 16, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I’m sorry the re-write is going smoothly and your mind is an engine tearing itself to pieces as real life interferes.

    If you need more time to finish your book…take it. I don’t know when your deadline is to get the final draft in, but your fans certainly won’t crucify you. I don’t know if your editor will. I know it can be difficult to pause and take time for yourself, especially when one has loved ones to look after. I’m not in any position to give advice, but sometimes at the end of the day, I do take a little time for myself. A half and hour, at most. However, I do wish you the best and I hope your husband’s health is better.

    I may add, I’ve just started a shiny new job and you are very well read and praised among many of my colleagues. Academics love you for your themes and the complexity of your writing. They all agree you really know who to write mystery and that you’re verbally savvy and very intricate at weaving your plots together without the mystery being trite or simplistic like many other works out there today. That being said, I don’t think anyone will be upset if it takes you longer to get your final draft done.

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