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November 18th, 2010

Writer's Block: Speak and spell

If you could cast one type of magic spell, which would you choose, and why?
I'd love to be Metamorphmagus.
My brain is constantly churning out awesomeness and weirdness, I have far more awesome ideas with so much potential than one person could ever give justice to in one lifetime. But there is an unfortunate side-effect of this... my brain is constantly seeking new input so it can continue to churn out awesomeness and weirdness. And if it gets the slightest bit bored, it says "Bored now" and seeks new input. If it can't find any new input, and I don't appease it with thinking about one of my stories or one of my hobbies like coming up with new codes or cyphers, then it obsesses on one of several things it does when bored, like coming up with nonsense words or repeating existing nonsense words/phrases and coming up with new variations on the old ones. The point is, my mind is always active; I find it difficult to quiet my mind, and I'm becoming more ADD with each passing year.

Another side-effect of how my mind works is, it interferes with activities which require concentration. Well... some, like playing with Legos when I was a kid, I could focus on while my brain rambles on. Too bad Mom didn't know this, growing up. My teachers were certain I had ADD, and Mom (citing things like Legos or drawing as examples) was equally certain I wasn't. Little did she know, I could focus on those things because they required only a small portion of my mind to do, leaving the rest of my mind free to wander as it pleased.

As far back as I can remember, it has also interfered in my reading. A large part of why I've never been a fast reader is because I'll get so far, and either the input of the story will inspire my brain to think about alternative plotlines or some new inspiration for something in one of my own storyverses, or one of a bunch of other possible reasons to go wandering off, and waste minutes or even hours exploring these ideas... Or, alternatively, my mind will get so damn bored with a slow part of the story that it will look for any excuse to stop for a while. Even when I was at my fastest in terms of reading speed, it would often take me days to read something that, if my mind didn't wander so, would be done with in hours.

Add to this problem the fact that I take after my mother in that I have "reading cycles," IE we both go through a cycle wherein sometimes we will read voraciously and practically inhale books for weeks at a time, and other times we'll go for weeks where we're not reading at all, or can't find anything we can get lost in. Depression seems to worsen these cycles. I've been in an extended "This book should be totally engrossing me but I'm slogging through it like trying to swim through thick mud" cycle of late. I bought some Seanan McGuire books back in September... kengr got through all four of them in about a week, and I'm still not done with book 2. The stories are interesting, the characters are great; under the reverse, "inhaling books" part of the cycle, I would have finished all four of them already, or been almost done with book 4 (which is actually "Feed," by Seanan's alter ego Mira Grant).

Also... despite where I am in a reading cycle, online fiction is a whole other ball of wax. I will never get an e-reader not because I'm against the idea of e-readers but because they would be a waste of money for me. I find reading anything from a computer screen to be more and more difficult the longer it is, no matter how fascinating it is. Occasionally I will read whole articles or fictional stories on my computer screen, but no matter how engrossing it is, if it's longer than a paragraph or so, reading it becomes harder and harder and harder. My limit for length on online stuff, even the most engrossing stuff, is about 2 pages. Anything longer than that, and I just can't finish. Even 2 pages is pushing it majorly; by the end, I am exhausted. I don't know what it is about words on a computer screen, I can see the words perfectly fine, but for some reason long text entries on computer screens have always given me so much difficulty that unless I'm really REALLY interested, it just isn't worth it to read the whole thing.

There are some work-arounds. This effects my writing, too, specifically the editing. I work around it by looking at specific chunks. My excellent memory for stories helps me piece the chunks together. But I have never, ever read anything I've written from start to finish - only in pieces. The only exceptions are short (3 paragraphs or fewer) LJ/DW entries, before hitting "submit." But this one? This one is already so long I'm going to be unable to read the whole thing over before posting it. And occasionally, in LJ/DW entries, I have a whole bunch of things I want to say that never get said because I take a break to let my mind wander, and by the time I get back, I've forgotten a bunch of stuff I wanted to add. So I try not to do that as much as possible when doing entries. Or other times, I will practice what I want to say in an entry for days before actually making the entry, which helps me remember more.

Another work-around is scanning/skimming. I've become great at scanning long entries to see if I'm interested enough to bother responding. If I am, I can then copy the entry, paste it in my reply, and break it into pieces, responding to the pieces. This does have the unfortunate side effect of responding to one piece and finding it was already addressed in a later piece, but better that than not reading it at all. Or, I might latch onto one piece, often the emotional core of an entry, and respond to just that. Like if someone's posting about all the awful things that happened to them today or this week, etc, I'll just respond to the core issue of "my day really sucked" and also big things the scan revealed, like "today my mother drove herself and a van of preschoolers off a cliff." (Nobody has actually posted anything quite like that, thank Goddess.)

One more hack is that if the long text is broken into lists or other kinds of smaller pieces, I can treat each piece as its own entity, which doesn't exhaust me at all.

And with reading things in print, bookmarks are extremely helpful. I think it's part of why I prefer print. It's difficult, often impossible, to bookmark online text, so each time I wander off and return to it, I have to waste time figuring out where I was. Most browsers or text programs, left up, will stay where they were in the text, reducing the time it takes to figure out where I was. But it's still easier in print books - there are more landmarks in print. Like, "Oh, I was on the right-hand page, the one numbered 304, in the middle by this spot where the indents form a kind of profile of a face almost." That sort of thing.

And with online fiction... for a while, I was so enthralled by the Whateley Academy series that I got quite a ways through it before getting stuck on one story for over a month and giving up. I was able to get as far as I did by keeping that tab up all the time, whether I was reading it or not, and going back to it when I was bored with other things. But then this one story came along, I got halfway through it, and got stuck. No idea why, just something about it. If it were print, being that stuck, I'd skip ahead a little and then go back, like I did recently with "A Local Habitation" by Seanan McGuire. The protagonist, October Daye, was getting nowhere in her investigation for soooo long that I skipped ahead to see who the villain was. Going back and reading how she found out who it was became a lot more interesting now that I knew who the bad guy was. (Though when I stopped for the night last night, she still hadn't figured it out.)
But that's not as easy to do with online fiction. I really wish that the Crystal Hall people would go to Lulu.com or PublishAmerica and publish a collection of their stories in print.

And there's another workaround I don't often use is the "Speak" function on Opera, having the computer read entries to me. I don't know why I don't use that more. Well, aside from the fact that the computer voice sounds a little odd.

But even the workarounds don't work all the time. I'll still get stuck, or my mind will insist on wandering far too long, or any of a number of other things will happen.

Oh, then there's the fun to be had from another weird thing about me and my brain... my energy level seems to be tied to my mental activity level. I think this is part of why my brain is constantly thinking all the time, even if it's about stupid stuff, because as long as it's thinking, I get to stay awake. My mind goes too quiet, and I yawn a lot at best, or start to fall asleep at worst. It doesn't matter how much sleep I got, or how awake I am. I can go from "bright eyed and bushy tailed" to "goddamn, I need a nap" in less than a minute if my mental activity level drops too low. So, as annoying as the random annoying songs I haven't listened to for years playing in my head, and the obsession with nonsense phrases like "fraggety burgundy" can be, that kind of nonsensical mental noise does seem to keep my energy level up. But I can't even meditate properly because I just cannot get my brain to quiet down. Even the kind of meditation where you don't try to shut your mind up, but just watch it do its thing, doesn't really work for me. I still get tired either way, unless my brain is actively getting my attention. Like I require the constant mental noise or all I'll ever do is sleep. It probably explains why the mental noise starts up the moment I wake up, even if it's just to go to the bathroom.

Gods, I am just one incredibly frakked-up individual. :-)

This was cross-posted from https://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/851757.html
You can comment either here or there.

Interesting way to protest TSA pat-downs

Stolen from [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith = I found this interesting option for activism: "Upset about invasive pat-downs in American airports? Here's how to stop it. Don't get upset. Don't refuse. Don't complain. Instead: moan. Writhe. Breathe heavy. If massive numbers of people start faking orgasm in the security line, I promise you that this will end in a hurry. Pass it on."

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org

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