Carsen Taite recently blogged about a certain illness. This malady attaches to the brain right around the time she’s trying to finish a manuscript and some perverse set of synapses and other brain firings cause her to begin contemplating her next novel. This of course, blocks the flow of the current novel and wreaks havoc on her creative process, not to mention her completion tasks. While this syndrome isn’t life threatening by any means, it is considered a threat to edit goals. I believe the technical term is: deadline killer.
I, too, am afflicted by Premature Creative Syndrome. And I struggle with that same devious pathological cognitive condition. It’s current outbreak happened the other night. And this time it was a case of premature onset of PCS. Rather than striking at the end of work on a manuscript, I contracted the illness at the beginning of my novel. While writing novel #5, I lay awake last night and felt my synapses firing in strange ways. OK, maybe there’s no empirical data that proves that synapses are related to higher thinking, but I swear that that’s what was happening and I felt it in the right side of my brain, so there.
Anyway, as I lay there thinking about the first chapters I’d written of novel #5 , I jumped to planning novel #6. How would the story start? Where would the story start? Sheesh. It was 2:30 am and I was pondering how to write a novel that I shouldn’t be spending brain time on for quite a while.
Novel #6 happens to be an adaptation from a screenplay treatment I once pitched to the movie studios. No, I hadn’t had a shot of whiskey that night nor had I become frustrated at my progress on novel #5. The thoughts just…came. A stream of what I thought was brilliant consciousness (hey, it was 2:30 after all) flooded my head. It spoke like I was reading it from some already written manuscript, not from the years-old treatment which is a cut and dry outline, but from a fresh and lively character’s POV.
At that point, I knew if I fell asleep, the next morning would bring a faint, foggy, and frustrating memory; one that would tease the peripheries of my recall faculties, dimly dancing just out of reach, so I got out of bed (Susan asked what the heck I was doing but has come to understand insanities) and I turned my laptop back on to write it all down. Naturally, I then had to go into my study to find the treatment from long ago (we’re talking 1992) and flip through the pages.
By close to 3:30 am, this disorder had run its course, my mind had calmed down, and I was able to go back to bed.
So here’s my question. When stricken with this illness, do we take some kind of pill that can suppress precipitative musings or do we just succumb to it’s feverish doggedness?
One camp may recommend the former, for deadlines prevail and first things first. But those who prescribe to the latter may argue that any and all creative thought should not be quashed regardless of when said thoughts occur. I mean, heck, it may never come back! Like Jackie Robinson said, “Above anything else, I hate to lose a new idea.” OK, maybe he stopped at “lose” but he could have been talking about a cool story concept.
There are no PCS support meetings. There are no PCS self-help books in Barnes and Noble.
And still, I know I have to live with PCS and just hope its symptoms become precious sources of creation and productivity.