There are many different types of writers. Some write on occasion as a hobby, others make it their career, while many write all the time simply because they love it. We all have different goals and dreams and reasons why we write. But whether it’s a hobby or your full-time career, I’m afraid I have terrible news. Once you’ve started on that writing path, your brain forever changes.
Writing is like a plague. The moment you begin dabbling into it, it creeps into your brain and spreads and spreads and spreads. Then, next thing you know, it’s happened.
You have Writer’s Brain.
I am sorry to say there is no stopping the infection from spreading, and there’s no cure once it has taken root. That moment you label yourself as “writer”, there is no going back.
“But wait, Christine!” you’re probably crying. “Is there any hope at all?”
Um…no. If you’re gonna be a writer, the disease is going to infect you. You’re basically doomed.
BUT. Knowledge is power, yes? And, as with any disease, it’s good to be knowledgeable about what exactly is affecting you and what symptoms you’ll be experiencing. That way you won’t get caught off guard and can take actions accordingly.
So, because I love you all, I’m here to explain exactly what Writer’s Brain is and the side affects that go with it.
A disease that affects primarily those who have taken up writing in which the brain’s thought process of literature, media, people, all means of entertainment, and the world in general changes drastically.
Ex. “She couldn’t enjoy reading the book due to her Writer’s Brain wanting to rewrite the poorly written sentences.”
In short, it changes your view of EVERYTHING.
And you may not even realize it. Self-awareness of the disease can often come gradually. But, eventually, it will hit you. At that point, there’s no going back. So we may as well rip off that band-aid now!
Let’s look at how the symptoms affect every aspect of our lives.
AFFECTS THE WAY YOU:
. . . READ . . .
Before you were infected with Writer’s Brain, you used to just read a book and that be that. But once the disease hit, reading became a vastly more complicated endeavor.
Now that your brain is solely focused on words and plot structure and characterization, it automatically searches for these things whilst you read. Used to, you’d read a book and merely did or did not like it, and that be that. Now, your silly brain pinpoints every. single. minute. detail. on why you did not like the book or why you thought it was the greatest creation to ever be produced and wonder hoooow did the author come up with such brilliance. Because now you understand what exactly it takes to write a book.
You discover every single typo because, hey, just a bit ago you spent 3 hours scouring your own manuscript for those pesky things. You notice the way dialogue is written, or how world building is weaved into the story, or the exact structure the author chose to write the book. You can often foresee what will happen next, because you noticed the author mentioned that knife on the table so it’ll be used to most likely stab that guy in a moment. Or that person is probably going to end up being the villain judging by the way his character arc is spiraling downhill. You notice patterns and writing tricks and basically EVERYTHING EVER.
Once upon a time, your conversations may have gone like this:
Person: So what did you think of that book?
You: I loved it! I was totally hooked on that plot and got very attached to the characters.
Now it probably goes something more like this:
Person: So what did you think of that book?
You: IT WAS GENIUS. The author’s ability to foreshadow blew my mind. And the way they used fragments to get the heart pumping was perfection. Although the pacing may have been a bit too fast. But Character A’s motivation that led up to the climax was so relatable and made me completely fall in love with them. And I couldn’t get over how unique the third act of the book was structured. The writing style was beautiful, too. Although some of those typos did distract me from the story. But still, I kept taking notes because wow, such genius.
WE CAN’T HELP IT, OKAY????
Reading is no longer reading anymore. It’s accidental research because you can’t help but notice every. little. thing. Your brain is just wired that way. I’m so sorry. Because sometimes you just want to read. But noooo. Now you have to pick apart every itty bitty detail. You’ll find yourself even mentally rewriting poorly written sentences! Or even the whole book.
Side affect of Writer’s Brain. There’s nothing we can do about it.
. . . WATCH TV . . .
This is really about the same thing as reading. Although you’re not looking at sentence structures, you’re still seeing how a team of writers chose to layout a plot, bring their characters to life, etc., etc. And, once again, instead of turning your brain off to settle in for some relaxing entertainment, your new Writer’s Brain switches to research mode and analyzes every slight detail.
“Oh, that facial feature that character just did was so expressive. I need to figure out how to describe with words.”
“Wow, the dialogue is so sharp and witty. Gotta take notes on that.”
“This is such a good fight scene. I need to pay close attention to each movement so I can properly create my own fight scene in my story.”
“Whoa, they ended that episode with such an amazing cliffhanger. I’ll have to remember that for when I end my chapters.”
It never ends, guys. It never ends.
But your Writer’s Brain is not just gathering research. It’s picking up IDEAS. And this applies to both reading and watching TV. Ideas from something simple like, “Hey, I really like this genre this show is set in. I want to write something like it.” To ideas from the smallest things. Like that person in the background wearing the yellow hat in that one scene that literally has no name or lines but your crazy Writer’s Brain suddenly has a plot bunny sparked by them and next thing you know you have an idea for a 10-book series, a prequel novel, and at least 3 or 4 companion short stories. All because of that one background character with the yellow hat.
Sometimes you’ll get a bunch of different ideas from the most random things and put them all together into one novel. Like that inspiration you had from that one book and your favorite TV show and sheesh! you even got a great idea from an iHop commercial that would fit in this novel. Yep, you’re not safe from watching commercials either. You’re never safe again. Once the Writer’s Brain has infected you, it is wide open for the plague of plot bunnies.
Like I said, you’re doomed.
. . . VIEW PEOPLE . . .
Our Writer’s Brain doesn’t just change our view of our sources of entertainment. Oh no, it doesn’t stop there. It changes our view of actual, real life PEOPLE in our lives, too. Which is dangerous. Because often us writers go into full-on stalker mode and creep everyone out.
While sitting in a coffee shop, we may study everyone there. Because, oh wow, that guy with the beard looks like he’d be perfect in your new dystopian novel. Hm, that couple in the corner are having an awfully lively conversation. What could they be talking about…? *cue your Writer’s Brain coming up with an entire short story based off of them* That girl at the register has such a cute fashion sense. I want my protagonist's clothes to be based off hers.
But it’s not just studying strangers. You’ll probably creep out your friends and family, too, when you begin to notice everything about their personalities and their mannerisms and understand their motivations for things and can tell them offhand exactly what Myer-Briggs personality type they are. Or describe the exact facial expression they made last Tuesday when they were talking to the cashier in the grocery store about ripe fruit.
We writers are intuitive people. It comes with Writer’s Brain. We just can’t help it.
. . . LOOK AT SCENERY. . .
You and your family are going on vacation to the mountains. Wonderful. Some relaxing time to just unwind and— WHOA. Look at the creek right there, with the sharp boulder above it. What if a character was running from the authorities and slipped and hit his head on that boulder? OH. And over there, that hollow tree. A fairy could live there and heals him and then they find treasure down in the valley between those two mountains and—
Yeah. No turning off the Writer’s Brain. Everything you see is story potential. Everything.
. . . EXPERIENCE MOMENTS . . .
Interesting experiences aren’t just stories to tell your friends now. Just like watching TV or reading or even sitting in a coffee shop, everything you do is now research.
Oooops. The knife just slipped while I was chopping vegetables and now my hand is bleeding all over the counter and I’m experiencing horrifying pain. Well hey, now I can describe that hand wound scene in my novel accurately!
Oh, look at that, I just burned my hair with the curling iron. I guess now I know what singed hair smells like for that chapter with the fire.
Ouch. I just slipped, fell off the porch onto concrete, and am lying here with half of my body broken. Huh. Now I know precisely how my character felt when I made him leap off that building.
I mean, it’s not just injuries we experience that we view as research. It can be fun things, too. Like riding a rollercoaster or taking a trip to Paris or horseback riding or singlehandedly eating that entire cake in one sitting. But let’s be real, we injure our characters a lot, so…
. . .
I think you get the idea. Everything in our lives is now viewed via the Writer’s Brain filter. The world is no longer the same. Everything is story inspiration and research.
But it’s not just that. Your entire imagination and thoughts are centered around STORY. When you go to bed, you fall asleep by playing stories in your head. When you’re brushing your teeth, you’re plotting the next scene in your WIP. When you’re waiting for your lunch to finish cooking, you’re using your phone to research common ways wars are started (#truestory). Your life is now 100% centered around your novels.
Honestly, I often wonder what non-writers even think about. Seriously, all my thoughts are focused on my WIPs or my next blog post or new plot bunnies or how to fix that problem in that one novel and just…WRITING and STORY. If I wasn’t a writer I literally have no earthly idea what my brain would occupy itself with.
Because I have Writer’s Brain. And it’s an incurable disease.
But guess what? You know how I said there’s no hope at all and we’re all doomed? I LIED. Well, I mean, no, you can’t get rid of Writer’s Brain. That’s impossible. If I got your hopes up…sorryyyyy. BUT. It’s not just an incurable disease.
It’s also a superpower.
Because you are more intuitive and have a deep understanding of people. You enjoy scenery more, because that creek with the sharp boulder isn’t just water and a rock to you. You can take every experience you have, even the bad ones, and appreciate them because #RESEARCH. Books and television are so, so much more than mere entertainment.
The entire world is a blank page just waiting to be discovered and painted with stories by you.
Sure, it can be annoying when you’re trying to read and instead you’re taking mental notes on the author’s three-act structure. But it’s also fun to understand storytelling. When I was younger, if I didn’t like a character or something I’d often wonder why. It honestly confused me. Because wasn’t I supposed to like them? Or shouldn’t I enjoy this story? What’s wrong with it anyway? Well, now I can usually answer those questions.
I love how I can scroll through pinterest and be inspired to write an entire story by one little picture.
I love seeing a new place and thinking it’d be the perfect setting for a novel.
I love having story after story after story rolling through my head 24/7.
I love having a Writer’s Brain.
Maybe it makes us seem a bit odd and occasionally creepy and awfully eccentric.
But hey, that’s just the burden we superheroes have to carry. *winks*
Tell me, do you suffer from Writer’s Brain? Do you experience any or all of these symptoms? Are they an annoyance or fun to you? And do you have any symptoms to add to my list? Speak with me! Together we can support one another with this incurable disease.