Friday, December 02, 2005

More Book Brain

My case of Book Brain (see previous post) has become worse. I learned yesterday that it's probably not a good idea to bake when you have Book Brain, but I needed to get started on my cookie baking so I'll have a hostess gift for the party I'm going to tonight and to have goodies to present to the publishing powers that be at Random House. I also had a new recipe I wanted to try. It's a fudgy cookie (to die for! And yes, Mom, I'll make another batch to bring for Christmas) that involves melting half a bag of chocolate chips with some cooking chocolate to serve as the base for the batter, and then you mix in the rest of the chocolate chips with some nuts. I got sidetracked while baking because baking reminds me of the book and Katie's tendency to bake to clear her mind when she needs to think. That reminded me that I'd already made a mention in this book of her baking something to bring somewhere as a gift, and I realized that I'd never mentioned the gift once she got there, so I was going to have to find a place to go back and show her giving the gift, and I was figuring out how that scene would go, which gave me an idea for another scene later that would be full off all kinds of meaning and symbolism and stuff. About this time, I was dropping the batter on a cookie sheet and thinking that the batter seemed awfully thin. I shoved the cookie sheet in the oven, and as I was turning to set the timer on the adjacent counter, I saw the bag of the rest of the chocolate chips, which explained the thinnish batter. I quickly grabbed the pan out of the oven, scraped the batter back into the bowl, added the chocolate chips, washed the pan and started over.

But that wasn't the worst of the Book Brain for the day. I managed to forget to eat lunch. I'd had a late breakfast (see previous post about another effect of Book Brain), so I was a little later getting downstairs for lunch than normal. I turned on the noon news, and the entertainment report was just coming on, so instead of getting lunch, I sat on the sofa to watch it. Then the weather report came on, and I started reading the comics section of the newspaper and working the New York Times crossword, which I usually do after I eat lunch. Then it was the pet of the week segment, and it was a really cute dog that made me realize how much I want a pet, but then I had to admit that a pet would be logistically difficult for my life right now (if I can't remember to feed myself, a pet would be a bad idea). And then the news was over and I went back upstairs and to work, somehow thinking I'd had lunch sometime along the way. I guess I didn't get hungry because I was drinking tea, as I usually do while I write. The scene I was writing involved people having a big lunch. Katie even mentally comments on how it wasn't just soup and sandwiches (hmm, maybe I need to go back and say what they're having. JK Rowling says one of her reading/writing quirks is that she likes to know what the characters have at any meal that's mentioned in the story -- and now that you know this, you'll probably be like me and start noticing the menus woven throughout her books). So by the time I was ready for dinner, I wasn't hungry and I had the impression of having eaten a big lunch.

Because of that memory of a big lunch, I had a salad for dinner. It was a big salad, a warm spinach salad with apple dressing and toasted walnuts (something I learned on a cooking show last weekend), and preparing it required actual cooking, like chopping and sauteing stuff, so again I felt like I'd had a big meal. I did have one of my cookies to make sure the recipe worked (breaking my week-long ban on sweets). But then at about 10 p.m. I was suddenly starving. That was when I finally thought back on what I'd eaten during the day and understood why I was starving. It was a little late for a big meal. Macaroni and cheese or cheese and crackers would have been good, but the only cheese I had in the house was shredded parmesan. I ended up making buttered noodles with the cheese tossed in.

Today I forced myself to overcome the extreme procrastination that is another symptom of Book Brain and went out to run all my pre-weekend and pre-trip errands. The errands took about an hour longer than I planned, in large part due to stressing out at Target over whether I'd forgotten anything I might need on the trip. Then it dawned on me. HELLO!!! THEY HAVE STORES IN NEW YORK!!! It's not like I'll be trekking into the wilderness. If I need something while I'm there, there's a drugstore of some kind on every other corner, not to mention more fun type places like Sephora and Kiehl's. While at Target, I was near the Barnes & Noble, so I just had to drop in. I then remembered that I'll be visiting my publisher, where I will have large quantities of books forced upon me, so I held off buying anything. There's still a copy of Enchanted, Inc. there, looking very lost and lonely on the shelves. If you're in the Las Colinas area of Irving, Texas, please go give it a good home or send someone to get it.

It would be nice if the Book Brain actually led to more writing, but it doesn't always. It can mean that I get sidetracked by thinking about the book while I'm supposed to be writing it. I can end up staring at the computer screen, daydreaming about a scene that may come later in the book -- or even in the sequel (book four should be easy by the time I get there because I'll have written the whole thing in my head while writing book three) -- and not actually get anything written on the part I'm working on. Then later I find I can't recall what I wrote and what I just thought about, so I have to go back and re-read what I've already written so I don't have the same sentence or even scene written a couple of times in the same book.

But I've realized that all this isn't such a bad thing. Maybe Book Brain just means the subconscious is hard at work, and my subconscious is a lot smarter than I am. For instance, in that piece of fanfic I wrote to amuse myself back when I finished the first book, didn't want to leave that world but didn't want to start writing a sequel until that book sold, there was a little piece of character detail I threw in on a whim. It wasn't something meaningful or that I put a lot of thought into. That detail led to a throwaway line in Once Upon Stilettos. And that led to something I put into this book. Last night during the lying awake and daydreaming part of bedtime, it suddenly hit me that there was a good, meaningful reason for that little detail. It made total sense. It was also rather touching, and thinking about it makes me a little teary-eyed.

So I have to remind myself that this isn't a race. I just need to meet the deadline, and if my subconscious is too busy for my conscious to string words together, then I should go with it and let the subconscious work. Even mentally writing the next book isn't bad because it helps me set things up in this book.

Now I'm going to go bake Christmas cookies before my brain gets sidetracked.

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