08 February 2010

Total Eclipse of the Mind

by nm boliek

Usually I wake up in the middle of a story playing out in my mind.  I sit up very slowly and attempt the Zen Method of Story Capture or ZMSC for short. I'm sure you're familiar with this method but you probably know it by another name, sometimes it’s called the "Oh @*%#*!@# Method." No, not familiar? Well, let me acquaint you with this quiet but very effective secret to achieving total Creative Insanity.
ZMSC is usually performed while waking from sleep but BEFORE you are fully awake, best results are achieved if no one speaks while you talk quietly to yourself and you completely ignore the dire need to urinate. Here’s a hint:  Do not even attempt to walk to the bathroom - for some weird reason, I have yet to understand, the trip to the bathroom seems to cause the story to vanish into thin air. The summer I dreamed up my novel I wore adult diapers everyday – right up until I had enough story to go it on my own. That should tell you how important it is to not ripple the water, any water.
Now, as you practice this method, you must also try not to focus on the story. Totally ignore the story.  The best explanation I can offer for why you must ignore the story is to point back to another experience I had with my novel:  Somewhere around late May I woke to the pivotal moment in my action scene.  As it played out I carefully adhered to the ZMSC rules- I pretended to be thinking about the laundry… I sorted the lights and the darks….. Remarked to myself about the various types of stains white shirts seem to collect ……and I totally ignored my need to urinate. All of this while passively listening to my main character say his goodbyes to………………. ? “Who? WHO? Who is he speaking to !!!!. I can't see , there’s  a SHADOW!!!!” of course I accidentally yelled these demands out loud to the KESM. And it happened in a flash - the whole scene vanished.  The Keepers of Ethereal Story Matter (KESM) are not to be toyed with. IGNORE THE STORY or perish along side it. Its a tough lesson.
A word about the KESM, because I'm sure you're mumbling “this person is a nutcase” and you're right I am. I won't argue that but that’s beside the point at this point.  The point here is that there are invisible but very real gatekeepers to the Land of Stories. And they take their jobs very very seriously. The Keepers of Ethereal Story Matter - or KESM for short, are the worst of the lot. They allow no human voice to be heard during their pre-dawn screenings. Their punishments are cruel and permanent.  It’s been a years since I made that fatal interruption, and I still have no idea who my main character was so painfully leaving behind. See? Crazy but imbued with massive wisdom.
Another variation of the ZMSC is the often attempted exercise of keeping a notebook on the nightstand. Supposedly so you can “capture”  sleepily scrawled snippets of brilliance for later use, don't bother it’s a worthless exercise. Again I reference my experiences with writing my novel, as the whole third chapter was written using this Sleeping Shorthand Method.  Someday, when I'm very famous and the drafts of my book are published, Aliens are going to be amazed that I was able to so accurately pen an entire chapter in their native language - without ever having set foot in an Alien Academy. I have no idea what happened in that chapter but two of my characters didn't make it into the fourth chapter.  No matter, I carried on without them, thinking eventually I'd stumble across an Alien Language Translator but there has been no such luck.  Let me add that if this method works for you please continue and know that you are among the rarest of writers.  Deep Space Dual Language Translators of the Sleeping Shorthand Method will be much in demand one day. You are ahead of your time, light years ahead.
ZMSC is also a valuable tool for any writer that has trouble threatening or cajoling uncooperative characters into meaningful storylines. But it’s not for the weak or the lazy, as you can see from the few examples I have provided. It requires passive but active awareness at a time of day most sane people find ungodly.  I recommend gradual participation until the voices in your head become clear and impossible to ignore. By the time you feel compelled to eavesdrop on yourself the rules of ZMSC will have begun to make sense in some nonsensical way; this is normal. So is speaking in tongues when your editor calls to inquire about your alternate language submissions. Its simply a temporary side effect of listening to the voices in your head too much. When it happens just hang up. When he calls back pretend you just got out of the shower, claiming no knowledge of the previous phone call.  This has been my modus operandi for years – Now my editor will only speak to me by email.
So there you have it, a tried and proven method for Creative Insanity.  Of course this is really just the tip of the Creative Subconscious Vortex. What lurks even deeper is the Brilliant Scrawling Beast, a mythical writer type that publishes with minimal editor or psychiatric intervention. But that will need to wait for next month; maybe my roommate will have dropped the charges by then.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I've never been fortunate enough to dream up a story as you described. On the rare occasion I wake remembering a dream, it was usually a bad one.