Monday, October 01, 2007

Hardwired for Argument

I wrote this months ago, but ended up too brain fried to edit it properly. Then it wasn't timely. However, since I've just come down with another cold it's probably time to dig it out.

I learned something this week.

I've spent the past couple of days coping with a cold, one that came complete with a fever and a general slowing of mental processes. This has had a negative impact on my writing productivity among other things. The first day, I got about 1,300 words, respectable but not what I should have managed. The second day was a dead stop. Nothing happened. The third day I managed 400, probably. I had to stop because I couldn't tell whether they were any good. It was dialogue and it was a natural flow, but I wasn't sure if it was doing what I needed it to do. So, I went and looked at the outline to see what it was supposed to do. Still couldn't tell. The part of my brain that processes that information simply wasn't functioning.

It's not the only bit that's been out sick. I've also had trouble with cooking and pretty much any other process that involves decision making or advanced reasoning, with one lone exception: argument

I've written several essay bits for the Wyrdsmiths blog and other purposes over this same period and I haven't had the slightest bit of trouble with them. I appear to process argumentation by spinal reflex. When I mentioned this to my wife, her response was pretty much "Duh!"

So, what do you do by spinal reflex? Can you write when your head feels stuffed full of cotton? Would you want to?


tate hallaway said...


Fantasist said...

You could try writing about illness and disease. Or, from the viewpoint of a character suffering from such.

Possibly, the general feeling of weakness and unease can be extended to, say, a viewpoint character suffering from a gunshot wound, or demonic posession, or anything else along those lines that alters their perception of the world around them

Rick Bylina said...

Your wife's right. Stop arguing. Or, at least, find the spots in the story with high tension and work on them since they usually involve some tense and terse words.

Otherwise, take a break and go bowling. You can yell at the pins that don't drop.


Stephanie Zvan said...

Rick, I think what Kelly would say if he were a bit more awake and aware is that he means arguing in the sense of picking apart what everyone says, insisting it be strictly accurate, rather than fighting. No less annoying, perhaps, for those around him, but a different set of skills for writing.

I can write while I'm sick, assuming I have enough energy to sit up. I won't necessarily be able to use most of the words, but interesting story connections get made as I veer toward delirium. Editing, however, is pointless. I can't even properly read what I've written.

Kelly McCullough said...

What Steph said. I can write essays while I'm sick since they're argument focused. For me argument isn't about creative thinking, or at least not the same type of creative thinking that fiction is, it's about persuading and making logical connections in support of my point of view. I grew up in a family where you needed to be able to make a case for anything you asserted no matter how fogged you were, which is why I say it happens by spinal reflex. But the sort of creative leaps that I need to make to write story are simply beyond me when I'm really sick.

Kelly McCullough said...

Fantasist, Rick,

Thanks for the comments. It's really not so much about wanting to achieve more while sick as it is about understanding the limitations of my brain when I've got a virus.

Fantasist said...

Oh, I was thinking it was more about "Hmm, what else can I do when I'm sick and half out of my mind?" It seemed like the perfect time to set aside the Internal Critic and just go ahead and write like someone, well, sick and half out of their mind.

But, I understand what you're saying, now. I'd bet it's all about motivation and focus. When I'm sick, I can actually focus in on details without issue. But, creativity is about connecting somewhere else in that grey matter and not about focus. For me, at least.

Kelly McCullough said...

Makes sense. I need the focus, and my internal editor isn't a blocking-type, but rather a looks-over-the-shoulder-and-suggests -things-type. It's almost never "this is awful throw it away" for me, but rather, "I know how you can make this better." I suspect that's because editing and writing aren't separate tasks for me. I talk a bit more about that here.