Friday, November 18, 2011

The Mind Works in Mysterious Ways
(2011 NaNoWriMo update - Day 18)

I awoke this morning feeling like I needed to take a healthy dose of sinus medication and go right back to sleep. My head ached. My stomach felt like something sick and ugly crawled inside and set up camp. Forget about NaNoWriMo, that little voice in my head muttered. It’ll be there in the evening. Get yourself back to bed.

Thankfully, I didn’t listen to the voice. Sure, it took me an extra twenty minutes to pull myself together, but I put on a pot of coffee, took the sinus medicine (along with a couple Tylenol), and eventually planted my keister in the chair. The words came slow at first, too, but by six o’clock my word count reached topped off at a little more than one thousand. Sometimes, the best you can do is simply this: just show up.

The mind works in mysterious ways. Not a week goes by where I find myself amazed at the connective tissues the mind forms between experiences. For example, somebody in your day makes a comment, and the mind suddenly jerks a long forgotten dream from its dusty shelves. In some cases you replay the event over and over (Haven’t I seen this before?), and an unsettling case of déjà vu burns at the brain like an out-of-control fever. Mostly, though, you find yourself transported back to those dreams and everything granular—every sight and sound, every spoken word—swiftly comes into laser-sharp focus.

In writing fiction, I find that the exchange between reality and Neverland often works in reverse. Something a character says or does brings a real-life experience to the forefront and suddenly I am writing from the heart. Write what you know, they say, and sometimes we do just that. And it’s not just me; I believe this is true for all writers. If I had the opportunity to ask Stephen King one question right now, it would be this: How much of The Body (aka, the movie, Stand by Me) came from personal experiences? I would love to hear his answer to that. This morning (as well as other mornings) I found myself once again working with certain characters, and something they said or did brought an event or a viewpoint from the past to the forefront. That’s just the way the magic works for me.

The project is still on course. In fact, it’s better than being just on course; with the work now at more than 33K words, I’m two days ahead of schedule. My estimate is that I will reach the 50K goal by the twenty-fifth. And that’s not bad. It gives me plenty of room to reach 60K before the end of the month.

I hope life is going just as well for all of you, my friends. Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep dreaming. This is what we do. This is what we love. And if we can share something new with someone else—even the weird or bizarre—then so much the better.

Until next time…


  1. I enjoy those moments where my characters put my life into a new contrast. We can call it the subconscious doing work, but it's shaking, whatever it is.

  2. Great post, and a reminder that we're always writing, even when we think we're not. And kudos on the NaNo. I'm 22k into it, mostly prewriting, but having a good time when I get the chance to write. Peace...

  3. Hi Stephen, it's good to hear that your NaNo is on target, not so good to hear you're feeling a bit icky, I hope it passes quick.

    I'm amazed that you can find the time to post, read, and comment, as well as writing the NaNo too, I admire your stamina and dedication.

  4. John: You're right. Sometimes the characters help us to see things more clearly than we used to. I love that about writing. I especially love it about reading, because it helps me to learn more about life through the other people's work as well.

    Linda: The trouble with always writing is that it can sometimes cause little hiccups in life. While people are talking to you, you're off in your story thinking about what your characters are doing. It's at those times, I find that a good nod and a "Yes, uh-huh" work pretty well.

    Steve: The icky-sicky did pass quickly. And thank goodness for that. As far as the NaNo, I'm glad I have the looming deadline and word count ahead of me. They keep me motivated to push for more.

  5. Hi Stephen, pleased to hear that Nano is going so well for you.

    I always find these posts of yours so interesting, they make me stop and think about writing, how it affects me and how it doesn't—how those characters of ours invade every corner of our minds, in our waking hours and sometimes in our dreams.


  6. Helen: Thank you. Our characters do invade our lives. Thankfully, I have a spouse who understands. :)