Being Mindful

I notice the way my mind works has changed over time.

Is that odd? And no, it’s not a dementia thing, as some snarky individuals have suggested. I notice it mostly with writing and I suspect it’s a product of the last two years of concentrated fiction writing. Not just fiction but the fantastic kind. (As in fantasy, though I hope it’s also excellent.)

What I notice is I have homonym issues more lately. I type “no” instead of “know.” I recently did “knight” instead of “night.” Bizarre replacements where I know perfectly well what the word is, but something in my head replaces it as I type. This always happens when I’m creating, typing in a blur of speed to get the scene on the page.

There’s an amazing book that my mother discovered and gave to me. (There, that makes up for saying I only planted St. Joseph to shut you up!) It’s called My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor and is about a brain scientist’s experience with a devastating left hemisphere stroke. The book is easily the best I’ve ever read for a firsthand account of the difference between left and right brain thinking. I’m a brain scientist myself, in my winding educational/career path, and Taylor made me understand all the rules I knew about division of labor in the brain.

What the book affirmed for me, is that creativity comes out of the dreamy right brain. That side is timeless, non-linear, unconcerned with rules and boundaries. The left brain is the one that tracks how long it takes to cook a hamburger and reminds me of my lists of things to do, and what order they should be in.

I was discussing the revision process with two writing friends lately. The essayist proposed that revision is simply like refining a grocery list, such as moving items in similar parts of the store into the same group. The fiction writer agreed somewhat, but emailed me a picture of her dining room table arrayed with notecards for her current novel: her book in spatial form.

I stymied all further discussion by trying to describe how it felt to me these days. Lately my novel feels like a glass globe I hold in my head. I tweak the colors inside, moving the shapes and swirls around.

Very right brain, I suspect.

Thus, the homonym thing. My right brain doesn’t care for the letters, only the sounds and shapes. My essayist’s left brain writing gets engaged more now in revision. Even then I find myself sinking into the globe’s spell. I’m supposed to be reading out loud, to hear the voices. Sometimes pages go by and I realize I’m altering in silence, absorbed in the colors.


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