I was staring at an app advertisement on my phone the other day when a brilliant idea for a novel came to me. I’m not going to tell you what it is, because it’s awesome and I don’t want the net gremlins to steal it. But as I pondered the awesomeness that was my own idea, and then shining beacon of sheer stunning gloriferousness that is my brain (Yeah, I just made that word up. What are you going to do about it?), it occurred to me to wonder – what would happen to me if I didn’t have my brain?
And ok, yeah, obviously, dead. Plop. But what about if I had someone else’s brain? We all look at the world from the unique transponder of our brains. We see the world differently, if only by a hair, than the person sitting next to us.
For example, I have a friend who is somewhere around seven feet tall. That’s not an exaggeration, that’s his actual height. We met in college and we had several classes, including life drawing, together. (Life drawing, for those who haven’t been to art school, is code for “drawing naked people.”) For one semester our life drawing instructor was a curly haired, 5’2” dreamer who once suggested that zoning out while driving on the freeway was a good place to get creative ideas. (We don’t have time to really go into that statement.) Anyway, at some point, she went around to my friend’s drawing board and suggested that his perspective was wrong. He checked, he double checked, he thought about it, and then politely suggested that he really did have it right. She stared up at him, she stared at the model. Then she drug a chair over next to him and climbed up on it. “Oh, nope, you’re right.” Your perspective is just different when you’re an extra two feet up in the air.
Two feet and an entire picture changes. If I had someone else’s brain, surely the ideas I have for writing books would be totally different. If I had them at all. But since I love my ideas, I love my brain, I don’t think I’ll be heading to Dr. Frankenstein’s lab to test out that experiment. But go ahead and thank your brain today, because it’s awesome.
The other night I dreamed that fellow Stiletto Gang author Linda Rodriguez rewrote the back-story on the main character of my Carrie Mae Mystery series – Nikk Lanier. Nikki is a twenty-something red-headed linguistics major turned superspy with an overbearing mother and a steady boyfriend who works for the CIA. Notice how none of that background involves a whirlwind marriage and divorce from a blonde lawyer and the adoption of an African orphan? But by the time my dream Linda was done that’s what Nikki had. And in my dream, I kept thinking, “Maybe I could make the divorce work, but what am I supposed to do with a baby? I can’t just send it back!” And then I woke up in a cold editorial sweat trying to figure out I was going to jam all these changes into Nikki’s next adventure that I’m 30,000 words into with no place to add in a spare baby.
What I love is that in my dream, never once did I question why Linda was rewriting Nikki’s backstory, and it certainly never occurred to me that I could just reject the edits. Nope, once Linda wrote it down, it was set in stone. Never mind that Linda and I have never actually met in person or done any writing together what-so-ever. In my dream, the changes were done and that was that. The other odd thing about my dream was the very real dual reality of Nikki’s reality. Linda may have written it, but I couldn’t send the baby back to the orphanage because Nikki would be upset, and what would her friends think?
But once I woke up, calmed down and then stopped laughing, it occurred to me to wonder. Do other authors dream about other authors? Do they dream about their characters? Is my brain off the deep end or just averagely crazy? I may never know the answer to that one…
When I was in college there was a hierarchy of artsy-ness. The fine artists looked down on the graphic designers, who looked down on the production people, who had to make do with looking down on people outside the art department. Web designers and Illustrators had to float around the edges and hope that no one eliminated their department before they graduated. I could never figure out why the fine arts students were so high and mighty – they were at a state school studying painting. It seemed wildly clear to me that their degree was a complete waste of daddy’s money. It was my opinion that the graphic designers were just as creative as fine artists; we just happened to be practical enough to want jobs after graduation. Such sentiments were far to mercenary for the art department where creativity only had to serve it’s own purpose and things like deadline’s, client needs, and money were all too, too pedestrian to be considered. Which seemed silly to me since even if you became a wildly successful painter you were going to come up against deadlines (we need 12 paintings for your gallery show in September!), client needs (the White House says the portrait can’t be a nude), and money (don’t worry your pretty little head about money!), why not learn how to manage these every day things? Wouldn’t that make you more successful? The resounding answer from the art department seemed to be that such thoughts would stifle the creativity.
And when it came to art, I had no problem shaking my head at their silliness. The only place I allowed myself that kind of indulgent largesse was in writing. I would be out tip-toeing through the tulips of my imaginary worlds for months at a time. But as I have gotten older and more experienced in the craft of writing I have discovered two problems with this. One – the product frequently is not what is needed. Too much wandering down unprofitable by-ways and I come back to the main plot of the story with about 100 pages of random stuff that don’t serve the story at all, but because I’ve just spent months on them, I love them too much to cut. Two – I don’t have the time. I now have a husband, a daughter, and a business to attend to and they all have a legitimate claim to my time. And how is the dog supposed to get any attention if I’m off typing… again? (Hint: He has to look gosh darn adorable.) So, my solution? Schedules and outlines. Those two foes of creativity have become my friends. With a strong outline my writing is faster and more productive than the days when I sat down at the computer wondering what to write today. I’m not sure how anyone else manages (and I’d love to hear other people’s experiences), but I’m hanging my hat on a schedule and an outline.