The Writer’s Brain (that place where ‘the right word’ disappears)

I hate those days when I sit down to write and my brain won’t cooperate. It’s not that Ms. Muse isn’t around, but that the perfect and plentiful thoughts she provides instantly disappear, falling into the shadows of my cerebral cortex before I can secure them on the page.

It’s not dementia or writer’s block, but that infuriating bleakness in my head I call the creative wilderness. It’s a cavernous void lurking somewhere between eureka and gotcha, where amazing ideas slip away into the dark, whirl around in a vortex, and finally re-emerge, frosted with mediocrity. I had a morning like that a few months ago, when a brilliant idea shimmered for an instant, then dropped out of sight. I struggled to grasp the elusive thought but the words I eventually dug up were lackluster. Nevertheless, they provided crude building blocks, so I pinned them onto the page and continued to write.

Then during recent revisions, a glimmer of the original idea flickered into sight. The sun came out; the temperature rose; the chill receded. I wrote furiously and the scene became what I had long ago envisioned. Gotcha! Finally.

There is a moral here… something along the line of persevering even when the Muse shows me a cold shoulder. Not getting bogged down searching for the perfect words when they’ve been temporarily sucked out of reach. Believing that I can always return to make the inadequate better, but if I allow myself to get dragged to a standstill waiting for the desired words to reappear, the rest of the story may never get written.

Are you one who has to make every scene perfect before moving on to the next, or do you ‘write like the wind’, getting the basics in place, knowing that you’ll strengthen the weak spots in later revisions?


13 thoughts on “The Writer’s Brain (that place where ‘the right word’ disappears)

  1. seanjrankine says:

    Very true. Something I’m learning. I used to write as though I were writing my final draft. I’ve learnt that the first draft is just that..a draft, from which greater things can hopefully come.

  2. Judith Robl says:

    If I couldn’t depend on revision, I’d be too frightened to put pen to paper.

    Too often I’ve watched the perfect word march right out my left ear without leaving even a trace of dust behind. Eventually, I can track it down, but sometimes it’s fifteen edits later. There’s a reason my blog is called Ephemera Captured.

    Love your photos and the allegory you posted today. Beautifully done!

  3. “Frosted with mediocrity.” I LOVE that! And I can so relate — the feeling of sitting there knowing that something great is lurking inside your brain, but, for the life of you, you can’t find it! I’m one of those “write like the wind” writers. For me, the magic happens in the revisions. 🙂

  4. Beautiful photos! And yes, this happens all the time and I just have to push through. Often the eureka moment will return during revisions and be an even better one. Keep on writing!

  5. Nope, not me, Carol. I go at it like a devil-child, race down the speedway like a bat out of …. and then later, once I feel the basics are down there, I can always go back and play with perfect. The muse is a fickle mistress and we need to dance with her when she is in the mood and stopping to fuse over her tresses ain’t gonna work. Let her hair go wild and see if you can tame the little she-devil later 🙂

  6. Hey you…Boy-o-boy have you found the words /realities you know me best by!!!
    And why-o-why isn’t Ms Muse listening? Oh, of course, she’s in the basement into
    that very large chest looking for something I need! Like those thoughts I lost…she really gets upset when I do that (especially since she has to hunt thru the brain fog to relocate them and put them away until I need them again.) It’s quite bothersome I’m sure. Now if I can just toss these great comments down to Ms Muse maybe she’ll calm down and understand I’m not the only one!!!

  7. You described the “creative wilderness” so well! It drives me crazy when that perfect word or idea flits into my brain and out before I can do anything about it.

    I tend to just write…often leaving big holes knowing I’ll come back later. Once I get to writing I’m afraid to stop!

  8. Darlene says:

    I tend to do a little of both. I write a rough draft of a chapter, let it sit, then go over it to polish it before I go on to the next chapter. I also read it to my critique group and adjust accordingly. After the novel is complete, I revise the entire book a couiple more times. But when I have an idea, I just need to get it down on paper. I often jot things in a notebook (or scrap of paper) for future use. It gets messy but it gets done.

  9. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I write first, revise later. The revising takes 90% of the total project time!

  10. I do some editing along the way, but mostly I zip through the first draft.

  11. Thanks to all of you for adding your thoughts here today. Obviously I’m not the only one who sometimes has to write past word blockages! LOL! I like hearing of the different approaches you take to your writing and revising.

  12. joylene says:

    I’m late because I’ve been painting like crazy. Literally. I’m covered in the stuff. But I had to stop by and say that I’m a bit compulsive when it comes to my mss. I used to race to get the first draft down as quickly as I could. These days I seem to be spending months on the opening. It has to almost perfect before I feel comfort continuing. It’s almost as if I fail to make it shine, then maybe the ms isn’t worth reading.

  13. Laura Best says:

    I sure wish I could write like the wind. I think I’d accomplish more, but after all these years I don’t seem to be able to move on until have a scene right where I want it.

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