I would love to be a word genius: stories spilling out of my brain with no need for editing or grammar checks. That’s not how my writing process goes, unfortunately, so I do a great deal of reading. Reading is my favorite thing and, among the amazing fiction I read for fun and the history I read for research (and fun), I also read about writing. Some of the books I read are craft and others are writers writing about writing. Most I read and put back on my shelf but I just finished a book I thought worthy of mention: Fire Up Your Writing Brain by Susan Reynolds.
This book doesn’t cover craft-not really. Rather, the book contains tips and tricks derived from neuroscience to take what I already know as a writer and make it work more efficiently. This is a book I’ll have to study and my favorite part were the quotes included from different writers.
There were three things I read on my first pass through this book that stayed with me:
First, a little blurb about Mark Zuckerberg was included stating he buys multiples of the same shirt in order to minimize how many decisions he makes in a day. He’s quoted as saying; “There’s a bunch of psychological theory that even making small decisions about what you wear, what you eat for breakfast, etc., can make you tired.” (Fire Up Your Writing Brain, page 162). The TBI I sustained in my car accident years ago means it’s easy for my brain to get overwhelmed. Planning my meals, multi-tasking at my job, researching, writing my manuscript, posting to my blogs…it can get difficult for me to keep it all straight. This quote struck me. I’ve already been looking for ways to simplify my life and reading this has caused me to make doing so a priority.
Two, no one is perfect and yet I keep expecting my writing to be so. The section entitled “Your Expectations Are Too High” on page 194 spoke to me. In it, Ms. Reynolds states “The best advice anyone can give inexperienced writers is to write a first draft as quickly as possible, as good books are not written, but rewritten and rewritten and rewritten.” This is something I’ve heard many times from many sources but perhaps, this time, I was ready not just to hear it but take it to heart. I finished a first draft years ago: all 611 pages of it. It’s been whittling and paring and cutting that mass of research and character background into something more readable that’s been a problem. I have difficulty not tweaking this, re-writing that, what if this, and would it be better if… What Ms. Reynolds’ book is helped me realize is it’s still too early in my process to expect perfection. I need to turn off my editing brain for a while. Easier said than done but I’m pushing through.
Three, it’s important to have a writing space. I’m fortunate to have an office downstairs where all my books are neatly on their shelves, I have a desk, a comfy chair, and a place to put my feet. While simplifying my life, parts of my office have become a dump site for papers I have to scan before I can shred, blank cards I have yet to fill out and send to friends and family, and other detritus I’m can’t throw away before I look at it. Writing in this room feels different than writing anywhere else in the house. Because of my books? I can’t really say. However, I need to get the room organized so I can work there without feeling anxious about mess. This too is now a priority.
I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads. The information in it is bound to be more useful than I yet realize. This is one that definitely goes on my bookshelf; just as soon as I get the shelf dusted and sorted.