Sunday, September 1, 2013

Voices in My Head

Right now I'm empathizing with one of the characters in my new book, who reflected:
"That was an inadequate phrase if ever there were one: 'of two minds.'... two minds was a comfortable minimum."
It's a writer thing, to walk around with multiple realities jostling in your skull. There are the things you think about to get through every day: whatever has to be done in the office, making dinner, the lives of family and friends, bills due for paying, world news...Then there are the things you note in passing or that come to you at the borders of sleep, things that tell you they ought to be filed for future mulling/writing. And, always, there's the project you're working on.

I can't speak for all writers, but there's a dedicated room in my brain that runs a continuous feed of whatever I'm currently writing. While I'm going through the rest of my day, and also when I'm asleep, it keeps up a subliminal churn back there. This is why I find myself walking to the subway and suddenly feel the pop of an issue resolving itself, because a piece of my mind has never stopped working on it. When my writing time arrives, I flip the toggle and this back room becomes my main dwelling space for the next hour or three.

This usually works pretty well. Not that I have much choice in the matter; it's the natural way my brain works. The only time I run into trouble is when I've got two different projects jostling for the writing room. Like now, for example, when I'm simultaneously diving into the notes and fragments of one book and handling the publication activity for another.

It's crazy hard to set aside thoughts of the completed story and buckle down to work on the next. Although the outgoing book is set in a fanciful alternative 19th century, I've been living there for the last few years; that world seems absolutely as real to me as the almost-here-and-now of the story I'm about to write. At this moment, those fully-realized characters are much more vivid (not to mention beloved!) than the stick figures that I first have to flesh out. Yesterday, I spent about ten hours fully immersed in notes for the new book. Last night, I woke up twice with ideas about further adventures for my Upsilon Knot characters—and twice more with pre-launch jitters, wondering how the world will receive them.

I know my brain will eventually sort things out. Over the next few weeks, the first flush of publication excitement (and associated internet obsession) will subside, while the "new" world will become more and more engaging. But for the next few weeks, I'll need just that much more discipline to focus on the writing and, 24/7, my brain is going to feel a little bit overcrowded!

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