Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Now, granted for me that’s a little difficult, since my workday routine is to roll out of bed when the alarm goes off at oh god AM, drag clothes on, drop a couple of eggs, some shredded cheese, and some bacon into a tupperware, swallow the morning pharmacopeia, and head in to work. Once I get there I fix breakfast while my computer is booting up (whisk eggs and cheese together with fork, lay bacon on top, nuke 2 to 2.5 minutes), then settle in for the day’s insanity.

I still seem to manage. This morning’s ration of impossibility included discovering bizarre bugs, trying to work around someone else’s bloody nuisance bug (it being a trifle difficult to use information embedded in a program when the compiler corrupts said information), working on a server that’s currently got negative disk space available… Yes, negative. It runs a bunch of virtual machines and doesn’t actually allocate the space for them unless they’re turned on. We can’t turn them all on at once or the physical drive will faint. So yes, we TARDIS our hard drives at work.

Oh, yes, there’s also the Three Amigos, aka the cats, who are busy defying just about everything since Teh New Kitteh arrived on the scene.

I’m not entirely sure that my entire life doesn’t count as impossible, actually.

That’s not one of the impossible things I’m talking about, though. Anyone who saw what I do during any normal day (for Kate values of normal) would wonder how in the name of all that’s holy, unholy, or otherwise I manage to actually write anything. Take yesterday (please). I got about 2k words in, albeit on Overlord fanfic (it’s still plot and character development practice, damn it, and I’ll eventually do the filing of serial numbers and attach it to a universe where it will fit), while sorting out half a dozen different odd problems, discovering several other equally odd ones, running automation on three different systems to test what I was doing, flipping between my main system and my old one according to which machine had the things I needed on it, and a certain amount of administrative stuff. I write in dribbles in between everything else, sometimes no more than a sentence at a time.

How do I manage that without getting totally disjointed?

Stuffed if I know. Seriously. Whenever I’ve gone back to edit something, I’ve never been able to tell which parts got written in dribbles between other things and which parts I managed to get a decent chunk of time for. I’ve also never run into any major continuity problems. Glitches, yes, frequently, but not big problems.

Here’s what I think is happening – and those who are also juggling too many things and not enough time for any of them can take heart because I suspect it’s reasonably common. Memory is associational: you don’t remember things in isolation, and you certainly don’t recall them in isolation. There’s context and a bunch of attached stuff. So you hook to one piece in the form of the last paragraph you wrote on Story X, and that associational dragnet hauls out all the rest of the story information that goes with it – your characters, some notion of where you planned to take that scene, how deep the current POV character is in the smelly stuff and so forth. If you don’t try to concentrate too much, your subconscious will fill in the blanks while you’re writing.

Not that this is something to rely on: Sarah’s mentioned a few times that when she was fighting the after-effects of concussion she lost a lot of the connections and couldn’t remember from one page to the next where she was in the books she was writing at the time. When I’m arguing with a virus the subconscious magic tends not to work, or I’ll wind up looking at the page and going nowhere because no matter what I do I don’t actually know what’s supposed to be next in the story. Usually once I figure out what’s next, I’m good for a good round of fits, starts, and spurts.

It’s not what’s supposed to happen. All those things about butt in chair and write and work at it and so forth? Yes, they work. But I’ve actually never been able to see the difference between doing that and sliding in bits and pieces around everything else.

Of course, the fact that whenever I have a bit of mental space my mind is narrating pieces of the current story doesn’t hurt. That’s how I figure out what should come next. It’s also how I handle the out-takes, as it were. What I find interesting about the way I work is that it’s not supposed to be possible. Hell, as a narcoleptic, I shouldn’t be able to hold a demanding (and bloody stressful) full-time job, much less do that and write. Okay, I do all of it while some variation on half-asleep, but then I do everything while some flavor of half-asleep. I’m not sure I’d recognize awake if it hit me. I’d probably think I’d gone manic or something (yes, I can sleep-type. The main difference between that and the more normal sort of typing is that the “safe for general consumption” filters go away. Being able to touch-type helps: whether my eyes are open or not makes no difference.).

All of which is a really roundabout way to say to everyone here who writes, if someone tells you you’re doing it wrong or the way you write isn’t possible, screw ’em. So long as it works for you and you can keep at it, it’s fine. Even if it is supposedly impossible.

4 comments

  1. When I had kids underfoot, I trained myself to keep the story in stasis in a corner of my brain, and pop it back out when the interuption was over. Of course that meant I couldn’t remember from one second to the next what I was doing in real life and what it was I’d come into this room to do or get or put away or . . .

    Now that I’ve got these great huge blocks of time all to myself, I’ve mostly lost that ability. But I now have no problem remembering where I parked the car. Very odd, the things we can do to or with our brains.

    1. I do wonder what great huge blocks of time all to myself would feel like. I’m sure I’d get used to it eventually.

        1. I’m sure it would be bad for me, just like being ridiculously wealthy. I’m ready for the challenge, though.

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