The Mystery of the Brain

Making time to Brain Powerblog has been harder this summer. I’m revising my traditional mystery manuscript, and I’ve become obsessed. After having breakfast and spending an hour or so reading in the morning, I move to my computer where I remain for the rest of the day. Today I made myself promise to make time for exercise. If I were someone else, I’d worry about me. Words like hyper-focus and perseveration would come to mind. 

            I really love revising. Writing a first draft has been described as “starting with nothing and creating something only slightly better than nothing (Kathy Leonard Czepiel).” But revising is starting with something (however lame) and polishing it until it shines. Not once has the process felt burdensome. I go to sleep thinking about the book, and I wake up thinking about it. In fact, I often wake up with a new thought or a previously missed insight. This morning I woke up thinking about two needed corrections.  

            That elusive time between sleep and wakefulness often gives rise to creative thinking, but some of the ideas, when exposed to the clear light of day, turn out to be hairbrained. Several years ago, my husband and I were planning a new house, and I awoke one morning with an idea for the perfect floor plan. Absolutely Astonishingly Perfect. But as the mists of sleep fled, I realized that the plan was not only unbuildable but laughable.  

My waking thoughts about the book, however, have been really helpful. Maybe it’s because my mind has already constructed a framework. I’ve heard people say (don’t know if it’s true) that everything our brain registers sticks there permanently. But to actually remember something, we need a connection—a link. Sometimes a tiny fact, thought, or impression can rattle around by itself in our brain for years, and then one day a connection is made and it reappears. This may account for what people call déjà vu 

Have you ever had a thought that nudged you all day, flitting on the fringes of your consciousness but refusing to materialize? Then, suddenly, when you’re least expecting it, a connection is made and the thought springs to mind full blown? It was there all along. It just needed something to attach itself to. 

My protagonist, Kate Hamilton, experiences this phenomenon. As an amateur sleuth, she can only observe and ask questions. But some of the things she hears and observes, having nothing to attach themselves to, remain hidden until her brain makes the connection. One of Kate’s elusive thoughts materializes, leading her to the truth.

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