Sign up for my newsletter to receive news and updates!

Posts Tagged ‘conversations with the brain’

The whole way through, I’m narrating this in my head

For the last couple of months, I’ve been trying out the meditation thing — largely through an app called Headspace. I’m not terribly far into it yet, so I can’t give a full review, but the short form is that it’s a secular program developed by a former Buddhist monk that guides you through the basics of meditation. It starts off with a free series called “Take 10,” which is ten days of ten-minute sessions; then if you subscribe, it moves on to “Take 15” (fifteen days of fifteen-minute sessions), followed by “Take 20” (you can guess how that one goes). After that it expands into other stuff — the “Discovery Series” and so on — but I can’t tell you about those because I haven’t started them yet. The program does require you to take everything in order, but I can understand why; fifteen minutes is a non-trivial step up from ten minutes, and likewise twenty from fifteen, so working your way up to it isn’t a bad idea.

Because I’m only a little more than a month into the program, I can’t say much yet as to what it’s done for my mental health. But one thing I can say: it has exposed just how deep-seated my instinct to narrate is.

The largest portion of each session is spent focusing on your breath and letting go of other thoughts — or trying to. My mind, of course, immediately identifies this as prime Thinking About Story time. So I gently take it by the hand and lead it back to my breathing . . . until it wanders off again . . . so back to the breathing we go . . . and after a while it gets the idea, sort of. Whereupon it begins narrating my experience of focusing on my breathing. It isn’t really possible to make a story out of “this time my shoulders rose more than last time, and my exhalation was slower,” but god damn if my brain doesn’t try. And it thinks about what I’m experiencing — difficulties with not thinking included — and starts crafting the blog post in which I will tell you all about it. You have no idea how many times I’ve written this post in my head. (I have a faint hope that actually writing it will head this tendency off at the pass, but it is a faint hope indeed.)

It’s actually kind of hilarious, watching my brain scrabble for a way to narrativize what’s going on. I knew I was the sort of person who will run imaginary conversations in my head, or mentally compose blog posts, or whatever, but I underestimated just how much my thought processes are bound up in telling the story of what I’m thinking about. Turning that off is haaaaaaaaaaaaard. By which I mean, I basically haven’t succeeded yet.

This is not unrelated to my difficulty with the mindfulness thing in general: focusing on my physical experience of something, rather than thinking about other stuff while I do it. I live very much in my head, with all my imaginary friends (i.e. my characters), and if what I’m doing doesn’t demand my attention, I tend to daydream. I can focus when it’s something like karate; that’s detailed and intensive enough that I can sink my thoughts into muscle and bone and breath. But without a focal point like that, not so much.

So I keep practicing. One of these days I’ll get a handle on it . . . right?

thoughts while packing for Sirens

SELF: Oh, noes! I cannot wear the costume I wanted to bring for the Sirens ball, because I have gained too much weight!

REST OF SELF: Well, we’re not eighteen anymore.

SELF: No, we’re not. <is tragic>

REST OF SELF: . . . hang on a sec. We have gained something in the waist and hips, yes. But this outfit is cut such that it actually still fits just fine through the waist and hips.


REST OF SELF: . . . through the ribcage. I somehow don’t think we’ve gained large amounts of weight in the ribcage. I think we’ve just grown. Seeing as how this was sewn for us when we were eighteen, and we are now thirty-two.

SELF: Wait, that’s almost worse. We can pretend we might lose weight someday, but we can’t really pretend our bones are going to shrink back to teenaged levels.

REST OF SELF: I’m going to ignore that weight-loss comment and point out that this is why someone invented corsets.


(I actually have to wait for kniedzw to get home and help me get dressed to see if this solution will work. If it doesn’t, then I should probably let go of the dress, since yeah — it not fitting is a function more of my skeleton than anything else. But I think it will; the dress only just barely doesn’t fit.)

I don’t even need to fall over!

Pssssh. That was only 2,908 words of writing. I feel like I should write something else before I go to bed; I was expecting to do so much more.

What I wrote was the climax, not the ending: this isn’t a complete draft yet. It probably won’t be for a couple of days; I have this Thing about finishing novels, where the last thing I write has to be the final scene (in this case, the epilogue), and what precedes it can’t have any holes in. There are definitely some holes in what I have at present, at least some of which I’ll have to fill before I can let myself write the epilogue — though some will probably get classed as revision-level problems, to be dealt with later. But right now, I have 133,951 words of book, and it is Very Nearly Done.

No, brain, you don’t have to write something else before you can go to bed tonight. Enjoy your victory, and get some sleep.

The authors is always the last to know.

. . . oh.


Apparently one of the things this book is about? Is identity.

You’d think I would have noticed it sooner, what with the stuff with Eliza and the stuff with Dead Rick and now that I think about it the stuff with Cyma — come on, Hodge, jump on the bandwagon; you know you want to — hell, even Owen has identity stuff going on. But no, I had to get nearly 70K into the book before I saw the obvious, and even then I only did because I was grumbling to myself about how many times I’ve changed Cyma’s name. I thought, you’ve got identity issues, and then I thought, oh.

And I was just about to ask myself what the hell this has to do with the rest of the book, when it occurred to me that that’s obvious, too.

Subconscious, you’re a real bastard sometimes, you know that?

a spoiler (of sorts)

Want to know how the Victorian book is going to end?

Here you go:

So there’s a funny story behind this. We’re in India, going from (I think) Mysore to Bangalore, and I’m staring out the window listening to music. My iPod’s on shuffle, and this song comes up. And the following mental conversation ensues.

SUBCONSCIOUS: We’re totally putting this on the soundtrack for the Victorian book.
ME: What?
SUBCONSCIOUS: For the end. Or rather, the Climactic Moment.
ME: Self, we don’t know what the Climactic Moment is going to be. Because we don’t know how the book is going to end.
SUBCONSCIOUS: It’s going to end like this, of course!
ME: It doesn’t work that way. We fit the music to the book, not the book to the music.
SUBCONSCIOUS: Uh-huh. That’s why the second half of Doppelganger maps perfectly to “Amazonia.”
ME: That’s different.
ME: Listening to the song gave me plot ideas. You’re saying I have to generate plot ideas to fit the song.
SUBCONSCIOUS: Exactly. Now get to work.

The subconscious always wins these fights. I gave it some thought, and realized that of the two-three very vague ways I had thought of ending the book, one of them fit much better with the mood of the piece than the others did — specifically the last minute. (It’s instrumental, if you haven’t listened to it yet; hence not really a spoiler.) Odds are rather good that we’ll be going down that path.

Now I just have to figure out why the book will end that way . . . .

conversation with the brain

Conscious Mind: <singing> Revise, revise, revise the book . . . .

Subconscious: Oooh!

Conscious Mind: Yes?

Subsconscious: This is what the book’s about!

CM: Yes, we know that.

SC: Nononono. I mean, yes, but think about this.

CM: I did. Months ago. And that’s about as far as I got.

SC: Get ready to go farther. What if [spoiler]’s motivation was Y, not X?

CM: !!!

SC: Uh-huh.

CM: OMG. That works. So well. And it fits with the —

SC: Uh-huh.

CM: Not sure where to first bring it up, but we can totally work that here, and all through this bit, and —

SC: <preens>

CM: . . .

SC: What?

CM: Except that we resolved that conflict based on the assumption of Motivation X. Just how is this supposed to work out if it’s Y instead?

SC: . . .

CM: C’mon. You got me started down this road; you finish it.

SC: <ninja vanish>

CM: I hate it when she does that.