I was walking with my daughter this morning. It was one of those mornings, you know the type: birds singing their little hearts out, the distant rumble of a lawn mower eating its breakfast, a faint scent of petrichor where an unruly sprinkler showers the sidewalk, and, last but not least, the gentle sun, just waking up, its embrace soft and inviting. This is not always the case in Central Oregon on a July morning. Often the sun bores down on you with an intensity that threatens to send you racing for cover and roasts the little birdies, silencing their songs. On those kinds of mornings, the lawn mowers remain hungry, and the water evaporates before it ever hits the sizzling concrete. Not this morning, however. This morning beckoned me to sit on my back porch with a mimosa and my writing journal. Instead, my husband announced that it was a perfect morning for washing his truck and requested that the family keep him company out front.
I can assure you that there no such a thing as a perfect morning for washing anything. There was no grumbling, though. Okay, there was very little grumbling, a minuscule amount. We paraded out to keep that man company while he scrubbed his precious truck (is it wrong to be jealous of an inanimate object?). Luckily, my daughter saved me from the tedium of watching my husband as he behaved like an adult. The advantage of having a toddler is that now I have an excuse for wandering aimlessly while my mind races through the different plot lines, narratives, and wild fantasies that take root and grow there. As we meandered and I watched the pipsqueak flutter from flower to concrete crack to mystery objects lying upon the ground, I realized that my mind operated in the same way. I have a toddler’s brain.
Many a year was misspent railing against the way my brain pieces things together. In school we are taught that the introduction must come first, then you write the body and finally the conclusion. Things must be done linearly, or they are not correct. This black and white way of thinking got to me and, for a while, I thought I was stupid. My brain does not function in a linear manner, and when I attempt to force it, the damned thing shuts down. It’s like trying to fit the Hulk into a Geo Metro, no matter how you try, it just isn’t going to happen.
I have often been envious of my husband’s brain, it is so freaking linear and grown up. Everything has a place; thoughts have a logical progression and order. He’s the kind of guy who mows his lawn in tidy little rows. I’m serious. I am not allowed to touch the lawn mower.
If his brain works in perfect, tidy lines, mine is a chaotic jumble of rapid-fire, seemingly random thoughts. My brain doesn’t like lines. Those thought fly by in all manner of anarchy, leaving me breathless and a bit overwhelmed.
Lately, I have learned to embrace, rather than fight against my brain, and this has made all the difference. Here’s what I learned:
- Start wherever you want to, just because it is the beginning does not mean that it must be written first. As Tess Gerritsen says, “Write in any way that works for you.”
- Let your brain get distracted. If it leads you down an unrelated path, follow it. You might find beauty waiting that you would otherwise have overlooked.
- Consider a nonlinear format for your writing, but make sure you do so with purpose and intent. Author Clayton Lindemuth has more to say about this kind of writing.
- Don’t force it. If your brain stalls, give it a break. Go for a walk, stop and look at that pebble you would otherwise have ignored. Watch the way the birds circle on a warm afternoon. Notice the man walking past you and try to guess his story. You’ll be surprised what will jumpstart your brain again.
What is important is writing.