Another holiday season has passed quietly for me, just how I like it. I watched everyone around me scurry to buy gifts, travel to see loved one, and fall prey to the holiday season hubbub en masse, while I bought not a single present and managed to avoid a majority of the Christmas music and Christmas crowds. The benefit of being a lonely Jew on Christmas is that I had a long weekend to do whatever I pleased, whenever I pleased. Luckily, in addition to a great deal of TV-watching, what pleased me over the long weekend was finishing a very long and very demanding chapter of my novel.
More and more lately, I can feel my novel seeping into all aspects of my life, commandeering my brain when my brains needs to be otherwise occupied, finding its way into my dreams, and invading the way I think about media, art, and creativity. I’ve worked long and hard to mentally immerse myself into my character’s world so that I can write it better, which is great, but there are certainly some strange side effects that have resulted from that immersion.
Of course I mean that, like most writers, the projects I work on have a way of taking over, so that I am always jotting down ideas or at least nuggets of ideas. And I know that I talk way too much to my friends and family about whatever latest writing crisis has arisen, and I thank you all for humoring me each time I stumble upon some tiny breakthrough and feel an urgent need to dissect and document that breakthrough.
But beyond simply living with the story in my everyday life, I’ve found that Fitz’s world has thoroughly infiltrated my own, so that my life is in some ways mirroring hers just as much as her life echoes mine. I find that when I’m really focused on accomplishing a particular scene, technique, or story structure element, I start to see that particular thing employed all around me on TV, in movies, and in the books I read.
For example, I noted while reading Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy as research for my novel, that skilled storytellers like Phillip Pullman will very often have an incidental character say something poignant early on, something that strikes at and defines the very core message of the story. Unless you intentionally look for these moments, they tend to blur into the background, having just barely planted a seed of the story’s message in your subconscious. Having just written this kind of moment into my own book, I suddenly started picking out uses of this technique all over the place. As if seeing through a building to view its scaffolding, this very often can ruin a book or film for me; if I pick up on the moral of the story before the story has been told, I tend to lose interest. I know that a lot of writers approach media this way—constantly dissecting, analyzing the methods at work behind the scenes.
Though I sometimes wish I could switch my writer’s brain off for a while and just enjoy reading like a reader or watching movies like a movie-watcher, I’m pretty sure those days are gone. My hyperfocused attention toward the crafting of a good story is fixed and permanent.
I’m not sure exactly what it all means or if it will taper off or even grow stronger, but for now I’m not complaining. Even if I do have to suffer through having Fitz on the brain in order to get the writing done and get it done good, I’ll be happy for it.