WHAT IF THE WRITING BRAIN NEVER TURNS ON AGAIN?
I fear, every morning, that today will be the day when the brain DOESN’T clear.
There are days like that, but I most fear the day when IT stops happening forever.
With an illness like CFS (or whatever the heck they’re calling it this week, other than CURED), you never know what the progression will be, whether when you come back – if you come back – it will be on a lower level of functionality, enough, maybe for brushing your own hair, but not enough for intellectual work.
And, trust me, writing is intellectual WORK. What goes on the page is the product of research, reading, studying craft, and creative thinking. I don’t seem to have the angst much any more (except to worry that I’m producing melodramatic trivia), and I know that the only way is through writing the next piece, IF there is a way through.
Trust the writing process
I do the things I do every day: I take my few meds that sometimes work, I get the can of caffeine dripping into the veins, I sit in the chair (butt-in-chair has its own acronym all writers know: BIC), I turn the computer on.
I am ready, but is the brain ready?
The brain fog is thick, murky, viscous.
I wait agonizing minutes. An hour. Another half hour.
I play games of Sudoku, gauging my mental speed. Nope, not there yet.
I can’t make decisions. How then could I possibly write?
Finally, something clicks. The magic number is 7. If the hard Sudoku is done in less than 7 minutes, the brain is ON! I feel the click. I don’t really have to spend 7 more minutes to test it – I can feel the synapses firing faster AS I do the puzzle, locating the numbers and the patterns and filling in the boxes, seeing connections, REMEMBERING where that 4 will go.
I CAN MAKE DECISIONS!
That is what I’m waiting for: the human capacity to make a decision. To pick one word and not another. To see a pattern and sequence in the story I’m trying to tell: this goes first, that goes later, and this is how she would say it.
The fear is allayed for another day. Maybe. This is just the BEGINNING of writing, that feeling that I can.
I still have to DO it. The most important decision, the first one, is to block the internet.
Am I procrastinating?
No. I’m sitting here. I want to write. I know what comes next.
Why can’t I do it sooner? I can – but not on the day when the actual writing happens, the assembly, the effort to launch.
Because my brain insists that, if it no longer works, it wants to spend the rest of its life stroking itself, looking for SOMETHING online to make it feel better. It doesn’t want to do yoga and stretch and breathe or anything useful (that would be against BIC). It is petulant, wants brain junk food. I won’t let it have sugar, so it wants the next best thing: endless surfing.
See now, brain. We are capturing reality, creating out of nothing, observing our self. Surely it is good enough?
Now can I go write?
Finally something happens. It is actually on again. I only required patience. And sitting here.
I block the internet. I locate the right files. I try.
End of day
It is night, and I’m posting this.
One more day of beating down the fear – the writing came mid-morning, and the scene I’ve been agonizing over for days finally cracked the shell and emerged. It showed me its path – a different one from every other scene before it. Again, as seems to happen as I get near the end, I will ask my readers, “Is it too much?”
They have been kind.
Me, I don’t know – once the pieces are assembled like molecules in beakers on a bench in a chemistry lab, the result seems to determine itself by some rules I don’t even know I’ve invoked.
All I did was assemble, mix, and add fire.
I now have a fine hard-boiled egg.
Can you feel your brain turn on in the morning?