a room of one’s own should not be near the mall

New essay up at storytellersunplugged. This was one of those pieces that started out as one thing (a reflection on the kinds of places where I write, and have written, and am writing now) and kind of veered away into something else, about the brain and my brain and the nature of creativity and how that way lies madness. Like that.

…..I come at the world just as fiercely through my body. I crave exercise, fill my closet with sensuous textures — leather, silk, velvet, suede, high-quality cotton — and have yet to outgrow my fondness for clubs, since dancing, music, lights and crowd act as cathartic ritual for me.

It’s almost as if the body has to take over so the mind can settle down, relax, find its way back into that dreamy, trance like state in which ideas flow and the writing takes over. It might come in fits and starts, that state of waking dream, but it does come, and then come back. If I’m willing to hang around long enough.

This need for motion is what makes it a very bad idea to work anywhere near places where I can buy books or clothes. It’s not just the body that wants to get away from the laptop.

Because if my brain is a creative brain, it is also a restless and fidgety one.

I am – as someone so nicely put it – a highly distractible person. This makes it tough for me to attend to tedious details or remember where I put things. I have had to replace way too many passports, green cards, and debit cards; ATM machines that aren’t swipe-through have been a bane of my existence. I have a troubled relationship with the roof of my car. I will put things there to free up my hands and then drive or walk away. “This,” the Causecast CEO said the other day, “is why you lose your car keys,” as he took the aforementioned item off the sunbaked roof of my Lexus and handed them over, demonstrating one of the reasons why he runs a company and I do not.

I can, however, write good and publishable fiction. At university I could crank out essays at the last minute and get one of the highest marks in the class. I could also skip a great many classes – and did, starting in high school – and still make the dean’s list. My brain has an excellent ability to find unusual connections and relationships between things, very handy for fiction and essay writing. But just as the body adapts to trauma and stress by heightening some senses (a sudden eye for detail, adrenaline-fueled strength and increased tolerance for pain) while taking away others ( bowel control), the brain also seems to operate along a similar exchange. The kind of steady, accumulative skill- and knowledge-building necessary in subjects like languages, math and science seemed impossible for me as a kid. I was an intellectually gifted child who nearly flunked fourth grade French, who won county typing championships yet barely – barely! – passed her typing class, who got a 50 in home economics because she never turned in the hooded sweatshirt she was supposedly making.

So when I won a significant four-year scholarship to one of the most prestigious universities in the country, a lot of kids and adults were shocked as hell — especially when the students who were actually expected to win those prizes didn’t do nearly so well. Those other students were respectably well-rounded. I, however, was not.

I am a specialist, or what some psychologists refer to as “spiky”, and that has advantaged me just as much as it has disadvantaged me…


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