Writer life is one big daydream. And that's not as dreamy as it sounds.
Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Author Shelley Cass talks about what it's like to have 'creative brain syndrome.'
(Not a real thing ... Or is it? Fellow creatives feel like this too, right?)
I find it hard to stay firmly in the moment, with my mind half elsewhere at all times. Ironically, this can stem from being so attuned to that moment (or the ones before, or the hypothetical ones coming up) that I stop focusing on its bigger picture, and get caught up in its most minute details.
I sometimes have to force myself to tune into a whole conversation rather than just letting my mind roam away to ruminate over someone's first sentence.
I grip the steering wheel as if my life depends on it, because it does, and I have to keep my mind on the road.
I wander off physically and mentally all the time. I get lost all the time. ALL THE TIME.
I can't sleep because movies are playing out in my head.
But when I get into what I really want to be doing, like my writing, I can go at it with hardly a pause from 9am til 3am.
As a teacher, I MUST listen and see and absorb all. I have to be rational and strategic. Once I step out of the classroom, it's like I've used up my capability to do so, and my mind divides itself into half being an attentive human, and half being anywhere else. It's a battle to make sure I'm truly taking in my world and my loved ones.
Because it feels like such an effort sometimes not to slip away into my own brain's black hole, I over compensate for fear of forgetting what matters.
I over-stress about every single daily thing in case immediate tasks or details slip my mind. I live by sticky notes and phone lists, re-writing and re-writing to-do list after to-do list. I feel the need to act on things immediately or they weigh me down. Sometimes I get so frazzled and so hyper-organised that I trip myself up by over planning, and jitter all over the place.
I know others cope by going the opposite way, and might have to just let things slide to reach a state of calm.
Yet I can be enthralled by layer after layer of magic in the things around me. One sentence in a conversation can set off a night show of fireworks in my mind. Small gestures are bigger than mountains. A cobblestoned street is full of history - where I can half see the silhouettes of swaying skirts or top-hatted figures who once walked there before. The glittering buds of distant city lights, or even strings of fairy lights looped around a tree can make my night. I'll never remember band or song names, and yet music can alter my entire being.
I was once inspired to write my way out of a writer's block after I sat still on the back step for a while, and just noticed the bends in the grass as countless green blades were rippled in waves by the wind.
As it turns out, I'm still the day-dreamy kid who stares out that window, but now I write a million lists and post them on the glass.
I think many creative souls are like this.
We feel someone else's joys or sorrows right down to our own souls - even a stranger on the news.
We can be in esctasy or a state of total disillusionment over something like the condition of one tree in our neighbourhood, or a whole forest across the world.
We see in images and daydreams.
We hear more than what's said, and our brains wander off on a tangent to investigate.
We are an odd blend - watching, despairing over, adoring and seeing the world deeply, wanting to mirror it and explore it in our own ways. However, we get so caught up in our own exploration that we then become a little removed from the world we love. Or a little too deep into feeling one or two aspects of it.
It can feel like surfacing from water, or from one of those oddly heavy dreams that keep pulling you back in ... but we do surface again.
For a while it might be that we are only half back. We might blink in confusion while we get our bearings in reality. But we are also likely to come back with a deeper, richer, invisible new layer of our own.
For the loved ones around a creative, I promise we hear you. We may have missed what you just said, but trust us - we hear you deeply. And we see you. We appreciate so many aspects of you.
For us creatives, be kind and patient with yourself. Your brain is working so hard, and often on so many deliciously dark, raw, exhilerating, or soft and beautiful things. Important things that are pieces of you. Sometimes the most hidden pieces. The exact pieces that might resonate with many others.
Try to remember that the next time you go off on a tangent, or become overly absorbed, you might just have been away finding something that was worth it.
Try not to feel guilty over this most special, wonderful, frustrating aspect of yourself. You can't help but get those wandery or soulful cases of 'the daydreams', and will suffer if you stifle this part of yourself. This 'creative brain syndrome'.
Ask for that last sentence to be repeated. Multiple times if needed. And express yourself in any way that pours most naturally from you, so that you become light enough to surface with satisfaction when you're ready.
Find your medium. Whether it be shy and hidden for now, with little pictures on napkins, words and ideas scrawled over note paper, songs echoing down corridors. Or whether it be with crowds and flashes, with everyone knowing your name.
For me, I put an awful lot of my reflections about our physical world into my fantasy series. I then put an awful lot of my own personal 'creative brain syndrome' issues into Kiddo, my protagonist in the Raze Warfare series. Apart from the, ah, violence and math skills, he has so much of me in him.
He deals with it so well though, and I mostly do too.
Aside from the line about taking out the trash (I'm already reminding myself to do it two days before), this poem especially resonates, and I wish I knew who wrote it.
PS, I finished writing this to find that the room had darkened around me. Too much time had slipped by. The last traces of a glorious sunset were fading away in the window behind my armchair.
PPS, I did still catch the most gorgeous swathes of pinks and reds, and smiled.
PPPS, every writer needs an armchair in a window corner. Armchair is life.
In 'Bits and Blogs', author Shelley Cass talks writing process, being the kid who couldn't read, writer life with a frazzled brain, and muses on her Muses.
Shelley Cass is an Australian author. She is the author of the LGBTQ+ romance action series, Raze Warfare. She is the mother of the epic fantasy trilogy, 'A Fairy's Tale', and has penned eroticas, dystopian futures ... and Sleep Sweet children's books. For information on her novels, visit BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS!