A Mental Mugging

I had the occasion to be in several waiting rooms the past week and found the same annoyance in all of them. Blaring televisions, usually spouting a certain unintelligent ‘news’ station. It’s damn aggravating. And people are just riveted, staring at the black box on the wall, drool dripping down their chin. Well, I may have exaggerated the last part, but not by much. Vacant eyes and vacant gaze.

When did we start undervaluing the benefits of silence? Is internal contemplation so painful we have to fill every waking moment with noise?  Am I alone in preferring my wait time not be populated with background blather? The worst I do is read a book, check Instagram for pretty pictures, or do some navel gazing. And I’m trying to phase the book and phone out and just use the time for a little mindfulness practice.

Several people mentioned to me my place of work should have some background music in the office. Oh, hell no. First comes the inevitable fight over country or pop. (Nobody listens to the blues anymore.) I would hate the constant, insidious noise leaking into my brain. Worse if it was a radio station with its irritating commercials and shouty preaching. I pity retail workers, especially at holiday time. How many Rudolf’s can one person take before they snap and stab a customer with a candy cane?

Silence. Consider cultivating some. Embrace it. Reflect. What would it hurt? You may learn something, or may just learn the lack of noise makes you very uneasy. All progress. Or you can be like me when you find yourself alone in the waiting room. Reach up and snap the television off.

There, I feel better already.

This is Your Brain on Writing

As you may have noticed, I’m still pretty much Missing in Action on the Internet/Website/Blog. Still writing on the newest fantasy novel. With two weeks vacation at home, I managed to boost my word count to 80,000. The end is in sight. And I think I know how to get there.

One thing I learned, that surprised me, was to trust my brain. The reason it surprised me is because I can walk into WalMart, step inside, and totally forget what I went there for. If I made a list, I get home and discover things that never made it onto my list. So forgive me for being skeptical about the powers of (my) brain, and the ability to make story out of half coherent sludge.

On a different side of the equation, I probably thought about this story for two years before ever trying to write it. That’s a lot of time to mull things over. An epic game of ‘What If’. I’m convinced my fascination with science had a lot to do with it. I’ve mentioned before I have no background in science, really, except the Earth Science and Biology I took in high school. Then came college and I took an elective in Astronomy, and everything changed. I could calculate light years. I could ponder things like the planets, the universe, cosmology, and physics.

Those things percolated in my brain pan for years, until a resurgence a few years ago of my interest in physics. I started reading about it, the different branches, the philosophy behind each. Not having the math background for much of it, my degree in philosophy came in handy to dig out little nuggets of information I could understand. So they plopped into my brain, along with some reading on traditional (witch) magic, and a reread of Tolkien books. Lots of them.

My brain got cooking, and a few years later, served me up a fine mix of elves, witches, magic and physics. Even some engineering. Yeah, surprised the hell out of me, too. The scary part was I remembered things I read years ago, and I was able to do some quick research, confirm ideas, and go forth with writing.

The last part about trusting my brain? I wrote without outlining first, without having a definite ending, without really knowing who all the players on the page. And my brain came through, built a plot as I wrote, characters appeared when I need them, some fully fleshed out, some shy and hiding in the shadows, waiting their turn. One thing my new and pushy brain enforced was no going backwards, only forwards. No jumping back to start editing when still in rough draft. Only rereading the previous days writing to get in the groove again. Full speed ahead. Dominoes falling. And it worked. I trusted my brain, and it didn’t let me down.

I’ve been short changing my brain by thinking I was a space cadet, couldn’t remember things, didn’t have the chops to mash different fields together. My brain pummeled me from the inside and proved me wrong. Trust in yourself. That’s all my brain asked. And I gave it a try. Have you trusted your brain, lately?

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