Friday, February 21, 2014


            Sometimes the writer needs to train his brain to be seen and not heard. Sometimes the writer’s brain is just not necessary—unless said writer is doing his taxes or composing a grocery list, of course.
            I remember long ago reading that Ray Bradbury had a big card on the wall above his desk that read DON’T THINK! At the time, long before I was published, I scratched my head at that.
            How can a writer write if he doesn’t think?
            Now, believe me, I know how right Mr. Bradbury was. All of my own best writing comes when I’ve quieted down that big ugly mass of wrinkly suet there under my scalp, when I’ve put the old thinker box in time-out and replaced it with the pure Zen of only my eyes.
            With the powerful, all-seeing WRITER’S EYE.
            In other words, sometimes you need to stop thinking about what you’re writing and let your eyes just see what you’re writing, and let your pencil or fingers on the keyboard merely transcribe those scenes and actions. When your brain engages, it’s like your least favorite uncle stumbling into the tree house drunk, spoiling all the kids’ fun. It plucks you out of that magical realm of the imagination and hurls you back into the humdrum world of reality.
            So what I do is literally take my brain for a walk and let the fella do what he’s always just dying to do--THINK. So while I’m walking with my dog, good ole Syd, I think about what needs to happen next in the book I’m writing, so that everything follows logically what I’ve written over previous days. I let my brain sort of rough in the day’s scenes, in the way a painter first roughs in a sketch to which he’s going to add the colorful, three-dimensional splendor of oils later on.
            Then, when my brain and ole Syd are exercised and satisfied, I go home, pour myself a cup of mud, settle down in my recliner while Syd starts snoring on the sofa, and I take up my laptop. Before I start typing, I send my brain to time out. Believe me, it often doesn’t want to go. It wants to keep jammering. Sometimes I have to snap my fingers and point to the “time-out room” several times. Sometimes it throws a real kicking and screaming fit on its way down the hall.
            Boy, what a pugnacious little cuss the brain can be! You’d swear it had been raised in the forest by wolves!
            But when it’s finally gone away, the invisible eye just above my nose takes over, and what a sweet, quiet feeling it is. The world of the story washes over me until I can smell the man sweat and saddle leather, the odor of the horses and the pine trees, hear the soiled doves tittering in their lairs, hear the old Baldwin locomotives panting down at the Denver rail yards. I’m right there in the scene, watching Sheriff Ben Stillman ride into the dusty little cow town where a bushwhacker lies in wait above the hotel, and a stray pig wanders across the otherwise quiet street looking very proud of itself for the corncob its holding in its jaws.
            Now, see—if I were relying on my brain, my eye would never have seen that pig above the brain’s infernal bluster!
            That brainless world, friends, is where the real work gets done.
            It’s the writer’s pure bliss, and it's damned addictive.

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