Thursday, February 2, 2017

Brain Swapping

With the publication of my short story collection "Scaring the Stars into Submission" (which you can buy HERE), I've found myself in a hyper-creative state of mind. I've shuttered myself up in my apartment the last two weekends to do editing and revising on two more literary projects: "Rise," a magical realism novel about a two year flood that drowns a large part of a tropical countryside, and "The Machinery of the Heart: Love Stories," a collection that's been completed for awhile now, but won't be released until later this year.

I always knew my thinking changed when I started focusing on writing more than the many extraneous trappings of daily life, but it was never as obvious as this week in a text exchange with my friend Mike. We were discussing weekend plans and I told him that I had fully planned on staying in to focus, that I wanted zero distractions all weekend. He said he understood and that it sounded like I had a plan as far as productivity over the course of the next three years goes. To which I responded "No plan means huge gaps between releases. Sometimes you gotta drown in the silence to hear the whispers of the fiction.

He laughed and said he could tell I was writing again solely from my syntax.

And he was right. I once wrote about disconnecting (from technology) in an effort to allow your brain room to breathe (you can read that HERE). It's essential for the creative mind to often forget about the projects, whether it's painting or writing or music. Stepping away is a good thing. It often allows new inspiration to bubble up in the back of your least it does for me.

I spent most of 2016 simply reconnecting with friends and trying to go out and do more up until I threw out my back. Even then, I had several friends keep me company many of those nights as I struggled with pain management and eventually surgery. It was a good year to really step back from the writing and focus on the important things. The life/work/creative life balance can be a hard one to achieve.

And I think I've finally found it. I recently got promoted at work to the Senior Content Editor position. There's still editing to do, but the majority of my work is administrative in nature. Payroll, hiring and firing, etc. This allows me to do more editing and revising of my own work once I get home. The more work done during the week means more time to spend with friends on the weekend. We're not quite there yet, but we're closer.

But I digress. Making a conscious effort to slip back into full on writing has certainly changed the way I approach everything else. I say things with more thought behind them. I leave my phone in the bedroom while I write on the floor of my living room, preventing myself from checking it every five minutes (which is completely unnecessary). Time slows down and I become more productive. Last weekend I edited 17 of the 18 stories in "The Machinery of the Heart" and it's nearly 400 pages long at the moment. Currently, every edited piece is perfectly formatted and ready to be published by Amazon.

Rereading through all those stories has brought up other ideas and notions worth exploring in future stories, many of which I hope will find their way into the third collection currently titled "Trying to Prepare for a Life I'll Never Have." That same Mike said that phrase as we spoke about past relationships and I was hit by the weightiness of all the narrative possibilities found in that single statement. It encapsulates so much in just nine simple words.

So for now, I've swapped out the social brain for the creative brain. I always like to feel that I'm moving forward, that there is some personal goal I'm approaching. If I feel like I'm stagnating, I become frustrated. There is always something else out there to be gained when one exercises the discipline to make it happen.

I put out my first book. I sold 146 copies in the first month and I couldn't be more thrilled about that. People seem to be enjoying it. I also got promoted at work, which is the first time that's happened since working at a pizza joint in high school some 20+ years ago. These are the things that keep me moving forward, that keep me pushing myself to do better and to be better. Sometimes brain swapping is necessary in order to make sure you get what you want out of life...just make sure you're putting plenty back into it.


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