Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Zombie Approach

It's 3am and my thoughts are being uncooperative - both for going to sleep and for writing anything useful so I'm taking the zombie approach:

Need brains - preferably chewy.

No - I'm not advocating a morbid midnight snack. What I'm suggesting is that when you're too tired to galvanize your creativity into producing something useful to, instead, draw on the observations, insights and thoughtful experiences of others.

This is where the other brains come in: in yummy bite-sized pieces of input from people who've successfully managed to use their gray matter and produce something that's stuck in my mental teeth.

It doesn't have to be earth shattering concepts, a big Zarathustra-theme-announced revelatory thought or even a deep contemplative and profound thing to count as being brain-fodder. It's things like remembering that the word 'extemporaneous' exists because some dweeb used it badly in a blog and made you laugh. It's a muppet quote catching your attention because the stupid sock just told it like it was and made you think. It's realizing that the chalk marks made by a gifted toddler* look remarkably like a CIA code you saw used in a movie once. It's noting that the subjects on your mind seem to suddenly appear around you in droves - like when you're contemplating the Urban Fantasy genre and suddenly every experience can be paralleled with stories of zombies, vampires and werewolves.


But what on earth does this have to do with writing? Specifically, what does it have to do with persisting with writing in the middle of the night?

Taking the focus off me and the writing I 'have' to do makes it easier to let random thoughts about things I've seen and heard tumble into one another, forming a mental soup of weirdness from which I might - maybe, if I'm lucky - find a maggot - uh, nugget - of something worth staying up for.

In that near hallucinogenic state one can get into when you're tired but can't quite get your eyes to stay closed long enough to fall into an escapist sleep, the mush of my neurons start firing up little connections between the oddest things: like the reflections in the kettle sitting on my stove that might reveal more than moonlight if I stare at it hard enough, or that the swirl of patterns in the living room rug might put me on the path to Faerie if I let my feet follow them with the right concentration, or that the dogs twitching in their sleep are trembling due to sensing their greater shape-shifting cousins talking a walk in the neighborhood...

Yes. It's all rather fanciful, even trite for the most part, but every now and then there's a little Eureka! moment where two or more disparate images or pieces of information draw me into a world where there's magic and mystery just around the corner and a story waiting to happen.

And abruptly my own brain shudders out of its stupor and kicks into high gear.

My body might protest at the sheer dead weight of my too-heavy eyelids trying to slam shut for the night and the most my voice-box can manage is a mumbled, incoherent grunting sound but inside the wheels are turning, the inspiration is firing, my fingers appear to be on auto-pilot and the next thing I know I've typed up a new article, the opening paragraphs of an intriguing story or a surprisingly insightful blog entry that not only makes the readers crack a smile but perhaps gets them thinking themselves... (even zombies can dream - right?)

It's a great way to get a whole lot of writing done without needing a fully-alert and functional brain of one's own.

Of course, the fact that I'm not using a brain may very well show in this post.

Excuse me while I pick that cortex out of my teeth. Mmm.

* That would be MY very gifted toddler by the way.. of course.

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