Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lost shoes, wandering minds and being different

Sometimes I forget how different being a writer can make me. Not in a bad way, necessarily (at least, *I* don't think so--though I'm sure some might disagree). Just ... unique. Not like everyone else.

I notice things other people don't see, and the wheels in my mind start turning, dreaming, putting together pieces. Next thing I know I'm off in my own world imagining all the possibilities, lost in the story I'm already telling in my head. Oblivious to everything else around me.

Like yesterday. I was with a group of friends who were deep in some sort of conversation I was supposed to be listening to and participating in. But I wasn't. Because a few minutes earlier I'd spotted a lost shoe on the side of the road.

It was a black, men's dress shoe (I'm still lamenting the fact that I'd left my camera at home and couldn't take a picture) and I couldn't help wondering how it ended up there. What crazy string of circumstances led to its unfortunate, cast-off fate--abandoned in a dirty gutter, like roadkill.

I'd concocted at least 5 different scenarios--and a possible picture book concept--when I realized something had changed. The buzzing, humming sounds around me had quieted. The conversation my friends had been having had stopped, and they were all looking at me, waiting for me to answer some question I hadn't heard.

I thought about telling them I was distracted by characters and worlds and stories that ended in a lone, lost shoe--but I was afraid they wouldn't understand. So I played the tired card, asked them to repeat the question and *tried* to be a better friend and pay attention to what they were saying. But my mind kept wandering back to that lost shoe.

That's the thing about being a writer. You see stories everywhere--and you never know when inspiration will strike. I'll probably never write any of the stories that raced through my head yesterday--but I had to keep thinking about them until I saw them through. Because every so often, one of those stories or pieces of ideas becomes a book. It's an amazing, magical process. But non-writers just don't fully understand it. 

Some find it funny, like my husband--who has learned to laugh when he catches me smiling at a joke only I heard, or shaking my head at a character who's been telling me what to do (sadly I'm not making those things up. I swear I'm not crazy) Others just ignore me. And some think I'm distant, easily distracted. Possibly rude.

I'm probably all of the above. But mostly...I'm a writer. That's what writers do. We see. We wonder. We dream. And then, we write.

What about you guys? Do your minds wander as easily as mine? Any tips for how to prevent getting *quite* so distracted around non-writer friends?

51 comments:

  1. Yes, my mind wanders too. And it's different because we're reading different books than our adult friends and they don't want to talk about our ramblings about our plot or character issues.

    I'm finding I enjoy talking to my daughter and her friends (they're 13) about books they're reading more than my adult friends or family. I wish they didn't have to grow up and start reading adult books.

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  2. This is totally me. Some of my friends think I've lost it, lately. I tend to be much more quiet during conversations. I can't help it. My brain is now a sucking machine, taking in the slightest detail and flipping it this way and that way.

    It's okay, though. I'm cool with it. I live with four guys and they always seem to be spaced out, never hearing my voice. I just blame it on them. lol

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  3. My mind CONSTANTLY wanders. If I'm reading a really good book, I try to mentally rewrite it or add my own things to it. I do that with movies too.
    I'm a horrible driver because that's where I do my best mental writing.

    I've zoned out while teaching before... in the middle of class, while I was giving directions...

    Who's teacher of the year.... this girl!

    My friends end up repeating the question a few times and or I end up agreeing to do something I never wanted to do.

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  4. This is so true! I find that after I've been involved in an intense writing session, I have to give myself time before I leap into the next thing (like my teaching job) otherwise I'm totally distracted, still stuck on working out my plot.

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  5. It's not just you. I tell stories in my head all the time. Half the reason I bother writing them down is to make sense of some of the chatter.

    Loving that shoe in the middle of the road, btw. Did you snap that or is it a Google find?

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  6. I totally do this all the time. I sometimes voice my theories and get a few laughs from my kids. Oh well, I guess that's why people think writers are crazy, right? ;)

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  7. Love it! Yes, my mind wanders down odd paths all the time and my friends don't know what to think. Actually, they probably think I'm a bit off my rocker. Oh, yeah, that's just Mary, our eccentric (read: weird) friend...

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  8. Love this post! I try to keep my mind from wandering around my friends and co-workers, but it's hard. Most of them have learned to ignore the glazed look I get when my mind goes elsewhere.

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  9. Damn. I had a really funny, sarcastic joke about you being rude all ready for my comment, and then you had to steal it away like that.

    I think that a lot of artists suffer from this kind of loneliness. And unfortunately the more creative and talented you are, the more alone you tend to be.

    At least you have your husband, he sounds awesome.

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  10. Oh yes, my mind wanders! I often play the tired card, too, so I can't say I have any tips for you, though.

    What I find even *harder* than the wandering mind is discussing exciting books buzzing around the blogosphere with a friend who has no idea what I'm talking about. Usually I get the "well, I don't have time for reading" excuse. Which, of course, leaves me going "whaaa??"

    It feels like I live in two totally different worlds sometimes.

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  11. According to my 10 yo, I have a LOOK when I'm thinking about my book while doing something else.
    Whenever I get THE LOOK, he'll say, "You're thinking about your characters, aren't you?"

    I'm just waiting for the day when one of my kids takes a picture of THE LOOK. Maybe that's why I've hidden their camera. ;)

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  12. Ha! Great post. I can totally relate. Once my 3y pulled me from a writerly daze when she tugged my arm and said, in a very freaked out voice, "Mommy, why are you staring at me like that?" I asked my husband what I look like and he says I get a very intense, somewhat creepy look when I'm thinking about my book, and I usually focus on people's eyes when I'm thinking. Haha, I had no idea.

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  13. Um, what was the question again? Sorry, my mind was wondering - I mean, I'm tired.....;)

    Great post - like a peek inside a hidden world.

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  14. LOL! This happens to me all the time!

    It's really embarrassing when I'm in the middle of a conversation and I go off on a totally unrelated tangent (at least to them) - my brain has been buzzing and making connections with seemingly unconnected things, but they're not there in my brain to follow those odd threads.

    I get the *Best* looks from my boyfriend when that happens. LOL

    I've given up trying to hide it - and just apologize for it being a perk of being a writer and a creative :) We can afford to be quirky, right?

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  15. We writers might not be the easiest people to be friends with, but we do keep things entertaining. And know that you are not alone with this habit of dreaming even as reality plays out before your eyes. :)

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  16. Yay for being so inspired by this enigmatic shoe!! Good for you!!

    My head is perennially stuck in cloud cuckooland I'm afraid. The few friends who tolerate me know to just ignore me when they see That Look I have - which is all the time really!! LOL!!

    Take care
    x

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  17. This happens to me ALL the time- however, it usually strikes me in the car (driving or riding shotgun). My mind just wanders and I get lost in my story. And, just like you, I have to keep thinking about it until the story is over. It is really challenging when it is my children that are being ignored! However, the screaming usually brings me back.

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  18. Sigh. My hubby gives me crap every day for how easily I can be distracted. And he's given up taken me to coffee shops or pubs...so many characters....

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  19. This is the EXACT reason that I follow writer blogs, to know that I'm not alone! Even when I describe someone or something I tend to use my "writer voice" and my friends look at me like I'm weird (i.e. I say that someone has striking blue eyes and a smile that is a dentist's wet dream). But it's nice to know that other people can see something out of the oridnary and immediatley think of stories and characters that surround it!

    Thanks again for another great blog!

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  20. Oh yes, I've been there. It's the story of my life. I used to get in trouble for daydreaming. My friends used to snap their fingers in front of my face all the time. "Hey, Carol, come back to Earth!" Every little thing, and sometimes nothing at all would distract me. Every time I see a pair of lost shoes hanging on a telephone line or a mitten squashed in the road, even roadkill. It's all fodder for the writing mill. Thankfully you have an understanding husband ;)

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  21. Funny! I've been there. Except, I apparently have a "face" when I'm brainstorming (hubby calls it daydreaming). Awesome.

    I love this post!

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  22. I'm not always fully present with the people around me. I'd like to work on changing this.

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  23. LOL, I'm always distracted. My friends find it hilarious to watch me write, because apparently I make a ton of funny faces as I figure out what my characters are up to. Love that a lost shoe led you to so many places!

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  24. One time, I was discussing a character in my book with a friend at dinner, and I said "I just can't figure out how to kill him!"

    Needless to say, I got some scared looks from people at other tables :)

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  25. This is so right! I live in my head a lot...something others may not understand.

    demitrialunetta.blogspot.com

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  26. So get this. Sometimes I find myself blurting non-sequitors into conversations because I've had an entirely different one going on in my head. Ah, well, a little embarassment seems like a small price for a good story. And, happily, my family tolerates my constant scribbling into the mini-notebooks I carry with me everywhere :) A lovely post! - Stasia

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  27. omg! I am sooo glad I'm not alone. I love to watch people..and make up stories :)

    Love it!!

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  28. Only every moment, every day. It's one of those things that I can't help and has been ingrained in me since childhood. I don't think it's going away anytime soon. Sadly, there is no cure and if there was I wouldn't want it.

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  29. My mind wanders all the time. It's probably a reason why I am such a crappy student - though for some reason people tell me I'm a gret listener. And I guess I am, as long as they're telling me a story - their's, hopefully...

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  30. Ha, how comforting that I'm not the only one. This ties in with my own post today, about characters talking to me. Yep, non-writers find that a little puzzling or scary. Good thing we have other writers around to validate our nutso-ness!

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  31. Great post! I'm the same way. My husband thinks it's weird that I can sit on the subway during my commute and not listen to my iPod. I'm usually imagining or daydreaming or thinking of stories. :)

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  32. There's nothing like unfocusing your eyes and taking a stroll with your imagination. My favorite time to ponder potential stories is when I'm surrounded by a group of friends who are talking, and I'm utterly tuned out. Maybe it's rude but nobody's called me out on it yet! :)

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  33. Oh Good Lord, yes. I'm glad I'm not alone. I feel quite badly for my husband, who I often have to ask:' What?' after I realise I've drifted off... he's into philosophy and require close concentration most times! :)

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  34. hi miss shannon! yikes my mind wanders off so much i made up a border collie inside my head to round it up and get it back to the for real world. sometime i make it wander on purpose and that when i got chores to do. ha ha. you could borrow my dog if you could want. :)
    ...smiles and hugs from lenny

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  35. I've always been a daydreamer. My mind wanders daily. The strangest things will pop out at me while I drive, grocery shop, work, whatever - and I'll wonder, "What's the story there?" I've been so lost in my own head before that people will walk right in front of my face and I won't see them...weird.
    My advice to keep it reigned in around friends (or just appear to) is to take the advice of married men everywhere and just - smile and nod. If it works for them, why not writers? :)

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  36. I am sooo bad about doing this. My friends tease me, my family is used to repeating themselves, and my co-workers are too scared to say anything. As they should be.lol

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  37. Ha ha ha. I can TOTALLY picture you doing that. I don't do it very often, but I think it's because my level of creativity fluctuates. Sometimes I'm filled with imagination and others...not so much. :-)

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  38. Dude, you need a notebook. Then you can scrawl "Lost shoe on road" and get back to your real life. At least this is what I do.

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  39. Yep, I'm guilty of this too! Any little thing can catch my attention and I'm sucked into my own little world. Usually my kids bring me back to reality. But if it's something that really interests me, I scramble to find something to occupy them a little longer so I can finish sorting things out.

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  40. I can relate! I am easily distracted. Or is it that I'm not easily distracted from my craft? Yeah, I'm going with that.

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  41. I'm the same. I spend a lot of time asking people to repeat themselves because I've zoned into writing mode. lol.

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  42. I do this too often, mostly around my hubby. I ask him to repeat himself a lot. But he's a big thinker too so it is mutual. We've come to an understanding in that way. If I have something important to tell him I ask him if he's listening first then proceed. I've trained my brain to try and not do this so much around friends, and most of the time it works. When it doesn't I try and pick up the flow of the conversation and use a lot of nodding and smiling.

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  43. Yup, it's so true. I got a PB idea yesterday when I almost ran over a squirrel. I think maybe I'm trained now from PiBoIdMo to think of EVERYTHING as writing material.

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  44. I think writers are terribly interesting people, always something going on upstairs. Creative things. That's why they're so much fun to hang out with (even at parties when the space out in the story universe! :)).

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  45. you make me laugh! yes this happens all the time to me. It can be very entertaining in a dull moment ... and a little rude if I'm in company. :)

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  46. What a cool hubby. Mine's the same way. I daydream constantly. Even when I'm teaching homeschool. I see Ivy do something and then it begins. The what if thoughts. Isn't it cool to be a writer? :)

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  47. I'm so glad everyone else does this too!! I see stories everywhere I go! The hubs just shakes his head at me when he asks "what" and for a second I debate telling him but instead say "nothing". He knows.

    I have to make a real effort not to go into "writer mode" when talking with friends too. I'm sure it would get annoying and boring to anyone who didn't make up crap all day long!

    Great post. Made me happy.

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  48. Oh yes, I used to be like this constantly, until I started keeping index cards with me (recommended by Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird) and scribbling thoughts on them, similar to what Elana says above. It relieves my mind, because I used to always lose those story ideas.

    And also, Shannon, you said: "I'll probably never write any of the stories that raced through my head yesterday." Oh, but I hope you will!

    Great post. We writers are daydreamers, for sure.

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  49. I am always seeing lost shoes on the side of the road and I wonder how so many people can lose so many shoes. I'm pretty sure they're not falling off their feet, but that's how I picture it. They're walking down the sidewalk and POOF! Their shoe falls off but they keep on going.

    I'm thinking there are a whole lot of ticked off mothers out there wondering what their kid did with their other shoe...

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  50. See, when you started this post by saying being a writer made you different, I was all set to tease. You know: No, Shannon... how to we break this to you? It's not the writing. You're just...

    But then I read the post, and curses, you're SO right. I'm always disappearing into daydreams. I have no advice at all on how to dodge it, but if you find anything that works, let me know! Not that you'd want anything to work too regularly.

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  51. Here I was thinking it was me just being an old dude. But all along it was just being a writer? DUH!!!!!!

    So the next time my wife finds the TV remote in the fridge next to the eggs, I'll just tell her, "Chapter five." :)

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