How Many Brains Does it Take to be a Writer?

a writers brain pixabay neurons-582054_640I’ve noticed lately that my brain is composed of compartments. Boxes, if you will. It began back when I was working a day job. I’d get in my car in the morning, drive to work, and practically solve all the problems of the world in that 25-minute reverie. I’d get phenomenal ideas for a new book, polish dialog in an existing one, remind myself to tweet and Facebook about a promo I was running. Brimming with ideas and good intentions, I’d dash into work and …

It was all out the window as soon as I sat down at my computer. My brain jumped from the “car” box to the “work” box, and all bets were off. But the funny thing (not really) was that, as soon as I left work and got back into my car to drive home, *poof* — all those car box ideas miraculously popped back into my head. And I hadn’t done a single one of them!

Now that I’m retired from the day job, it’s gotten worse. I don’t spend near as much time in the car, so that box is fairly empty, and of course the work box is gone completely. But now I have the writing/office box, the kitchen box, the living room box, the shower box, the patio box, and the sleeping box. Sitting on the patio, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the birds, I can let my mind wander to all sorts of productive and interesting things. As soon as I wash up the cup and realize I need to vacuum, it’s all gone. Same for the shower. It’s amazing the ideas a warm stream of water and sandalwood soap can unleash. But as soon as I step out of the bathroom, dried and dressed, the ideas dissipate with the fog on the mirror. The sleeping box is even worse. In those few contented minutes before I fall to sleep at night, I can get the best incandescent light bulb ideas in the world. I know — know — I will remember them, they’re that good. When I wake up in the morning…

Yeah. They’re gone.

So what is that? Is it — *gasp* — age? Am I of sufficient maturity that I can no longer connect the dots in my head from one room to the next? Do our bodies undergo some sort of physical metamorphosis? You know, that old joke about our brains being in our butts, so as soon as we get up from a chair to go get something, that bright idea goes into hiding until we go back to the chair and then as soon as our butts touch the leather — ah ha! Then there’s the lazy Susan hypothesis. Our brains are like turntables, spinning — albeit slowly — in a constant circle. The bright idea pops up, but the turntable keeps spinning and if we don’t act immediately, the thought recedes into the shadowy back corners of the brain and we have to wait until the turntable comes back around again to retrieve it. And sometimes this all happens in the middle of a sentence. I hate when that happens.

Luckily technology has produced all sorts of amazing and almost magical gadgets to help with this problem. I know, you’re thinking digital recorders, noise-cancelling headphones, lasers, and ultrasonic frequencies, right? No, the solution is more outrageous than all of that stuff. It’s …

Post-it Notes.

I keep Post-it Notes and a pen at every conceivable location in my house.  Next to my chair in the TV room, piled high on my desk, tucked into the bedside table. The only thing I don’t do (so far) is wear them on a chain around my neck, but that’s not totally out of the question, either. This way, at least, the only thing I have to remember is to gather up said notes every so often so I can complete whatever those amazing ideas are.

What’s funny is that, sometimes, just writing the note is enough to cement it into my memory. I may not be able to recall the idea exactly, but I can sometimes re-imagine the notepad, the pen, the words flowing out of it. Oh, yeah! I need laundry detergent. And a new ending to my latest book. Other times, I’ll come upon a note unawares and think, “What the heck was that for?” Oh, yeah; I need more pens. And sometimes, sadly enough, I’ll read my own note and just for grins my brain says, “Nope. Have no idea what that means.” Blurgh.

So obviously being a writer requires many brains, cut up as they are in compartments, and a breadcrumb trail of Post-it Notes to connect them all and pull them all together. Thinking about this, it’s amazing that I have any coherent thoughts at all, but apparently this patchwork method works, because I’m still able to assemble a few sentences into a reasonable paragraph. At least, so far…

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

39 thoughts on “How Many Brains Does it Take to be a Writer?”

  1. Ha! Love this… I have to tell you that I once saw an ink pen that had little slips of paper that you could pull out of it, they were pre-loaded. Not certain if they were post-it notes but probably.

  2. Go and sit in your car, even if yo don’t g anywhere. Perhaps some of the ideas will come back. If you have a notepad with you….:)

  3. I’ve always said I do my best work in the shower.

    (There is also an “outside of the box” joke about this post, but I haven’t figured it out yet.)

  4. I love your post-it note plan. I guess they call it tactile learning, which is the kind of learner I am. If I write it down, it stays in my memory. If I don’t, it’s gone, like a wisp of air. So, I try to write down important things, or else they go away. Though, I hadn’t thought about surrounding myself with post-it notes.

  5. I knew I wasn’t the only one that goes through this, but I never realized there were so many of us. Especially the night time episodes where you tell yourself that it’s so good there is no way you’re going to forget it, and then you wake up wondering what the hey! You know it was good, but where did it go…

  6. Bless you! I’m not religious but you’ve just described what happens when I walk from the loo, bright idea in hand… and lose it by the time I’ve evicted the cat from my typing chair and sat down in front of the computer. Now where did I put those post-it notes?

    1. It’s almost like walking thru a doorway is actually walking thru a radiation threshold, and our brains get zapped on the way. Just going from one room to another wipes out the smart cards in our brains.

  7. I’d settle for a brain that works more efficiently. As it is, I have to compartmentalize everything; the problem is finding the info and pulling it out when I need it. LOL!

  8. On my way back to Turkey after 3 week holiday with children and grandchildren in New Zealand. Major revelation; writing and family don’t mix because I’m not a magical multi-tasker. Solution; fish oil, mindfulness and a seperate country for writing i.e Turkey.
    Hey, I’m new at this game and learning everyday. Thanks IU and Melissa.

  9. IAN MATHIE beat me to it – I was going to recommend that you go sit in your car to see if those boxes come back! But your Post-Its plan is great if it works for you – good idea to keep them everywhere (I keep cheap reading glasses everywhere.)

    Remember the Hipster PDAs? Well here’s an article that has a sort of Sticky-Note PDA (scroll down about halfway to see it.) Plus, at the top of the article is the Sticky-Note Surprise hack.

    Which reminded me of when Moleskines first became a Thing, I couldn’t bear to write in them, so I wrote on Post-Its and stuck them on the pages! I still have an entire unwritten-in Moleskine. LOL

    What would we do without Post-Its?!

  10. I’m a bit late in posting here. I share your problem. There is a theory that if you walk through a door you forget what you were thinking in the room you just left. So you need to return to that room in order to recall your thoughts. Probably post it notes would work well, and I tend to write things down as soon as possible. Sometimes the thought disappears even as I reach for the pen! iPhone notepad is great, and speaking into it makes it that much easier.
    I think writers suffer from overload anyway and the thoughts run around in our brains, jockeying for first position, and that’s why we forget!

    1. You could be right, Ester. We seem to have so many more ideas/characters/thoughts running around in our heads than “normal” people. What’s really bad is when you open your mouth to say something–and it’s gone. I hate when that happens.

      1. Isn’t that the truth Melissa? But, it works magically when you just stop worrying it with trying to recall your thoughts, and it pops back up again to front of the line—usually pretty soon. Same thing with recalling names, or similar. Sometimes it takes a couple of days, but, bingo, you’ll suddenly get the recall. It’s like going into archives to dig deeply for something filed away long ago, perhaps even decades ago.

        1. My husband and I kid about the turntable going around. If we lose a thought, we just have to wait for the turntable to circle slowly all the way around so that thought is at the front again. But if we don’t catch it quick–gone again!

  11. I have to take issue with you, Melissa, when you describe people who aren’t writers as ‘normal’. I would respectfully suggest that it is we, the writers, who are normal. Anyone who isn’t, isn’t.
    And Ester, don’t you find, when things pop back into your mind after being temporarily mislaid, that they always arrive just a moment too late for what you originally wanted them for? That’s one of Sod’s Immutable Laws.

  12. Ha ha, yes Ian, that’s true. But the fact that they do (often) pop back up at all leaves me in hope…I think there’s an art in halting the “search” process immediately, to enable a faster “pop up”. And I do believe that, in a way, we’re “normal er” and are sometimes our own therapists, through dumping it down in writing! What d’you think?

          1. Nor i you. I always look forward to your posts, from which I derive great entertainment and most useful information.
            Thanks so much! 🙂

  13. I think the beauty about “getting it down” clears one of the memory boxes to make room for newer collected “clutter” to write about! What can we do? It’s a merry-go-round—once on it, you’re doomed. Now, where are my red shoes?

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