The Brain Looks Out For Us
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The other day a friend of mine had a good idea for her book. She had been trying to solve a problem with it for months and months, and we had discussed it before, but we weren’t discussing it then. We were sitting together on a porch swing, after a morning rain, talking about how we can’t keep up with climate disasters, a topic unrelated to the book but very relevant to our lives as hurricane season begins. And while we were talking, this idea was quietly forming in her head in the background. When I think about it now, I picture her brain as one of those time-lapse films of flowers blooming. Nothing, nothing, and then everything at once.
Hours later she told me about what she came up with and it was such an incredible idea. The book is already quite beautiful. But she had solved a specific problem of it. The idea would make it stronger overall, more vivid to the reader, and it would secure the structure. And it would be authentic to who she was and what she knew. I also thought it would make the book attractive to a publisher in a sellable way. I suppose by that I mean make it seem more marketable, which is another kind of way to solve a problem with a book. Sometimes making a book better and making a book more sellable don’t always intersect but in this instance, she had nailed it. (It was a very good idea.)
But the thing I was most excited about was witnessing how the creative mind works. How it solves problems even when we aren’t even necessarily thinking about them. How the brain operates beyond our conscious control to give us what we need.
The brain looks out for us, I think, if we look out for it. If we do our work, invest our time in ourselves and our art and our creativity, keep our mind clear for stretches of time just to rest it, balance ourselves between blankness and stimulation, get enough sleep, read, write, think. If we honor that thing that provides us with so much, it just might help us out one day. After the rain stops, it shows up. Quietly slips a solution to a plot problem into your head and cracks open the narrative of your book.
Are you tending to your brain? Are you giving it the respect it deserves? Respecting your brain is respecting yourself. I know you already knew that, though.
Twelve days till #1000wordsofsummer starts.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to Culture Aid NOLA.