Jeanne: Book Brain

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve had a bad case of book brain.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, it refers to the severe absent-mindedness associated with being deep into writing a novel.

The reason for this is that humans are capable of holding five to nine (or about seven) pieces of information in their brain at the same time. If you use five of these slots to track what’s happening in your book, that doesn’t leave much for real life.

Under the effects of book brain, I have:

  • Forgotten appointments
  • Burned dinner
  • Forgotten to put specific ingredients in dinner (thus turning a somewhat healthy bacon-cheese-and-broccoli quiche into a completely irredeemable bacon-and-cheese quiche
  • Completely forgotten to make dinner
  • Missed my turnoff
  • Missed birthdays
  • Looked up to realize Old Dog has been waiting for a response for a really long time
And it can be even worse. This didn’t happen to me, personally, but I know a writer who rear-ended someone and wound up in traffic court.
On the plus side, under the effects of book brains, I have:
  • Solved knotty plot problems
  • Created inticate characters
  • Described settings so real you could be there
  • Written some really great stuff that, even when I went back and re-read it months later, I still thought was great stuff.

I’m hoping this round yields some of those positive results.

Have you ever had book brain? If so, what’s the worst and best thing to come out of it?

10 thoughts on “Jeanne: Book Brain

  1. Ah, the old “seven plus or minus two.” I think I average 5. I will often go into a room and just stand there, wondering what in the hell I was going into the room for. I did nearly burn dinner the other night. I don’t think it has much to do with book brain as it does just my normal ADHD absentmindedness. God forbid I add book brain to that or my house will fall down around me.

    Here’s hoping nothing more serious happens. I had a friend flood her entire apartment, and consequently the one below her, because she set a sink to fill to wash dishes, then never came back to it. For hours.

    And really…who can fault a cheese and bacon quiche? Certainly not me!

    • The last time this happened, when I was first working on The Demon Always Wins, I freaked out and thought I had Alzheimer’s. Old Dog said, “Calm down. You’re always like this when you’re writing.”

      He really is a peach.

  2. I know I wish *I* had a cheese and bacon quiche! I’m like Justine—I can’t tell if I’m having book brain or just general absent-mindedness. But I certainly forget way too many things. And my book right now (knock wood) is going fairly well, so, yeah. I’ll blame my forgetfulness on writing!

  3. I’m bad with the laundry. My husband will put a load in to wash and ask me to take it out of the machine or dry it or whatever when the cycle finishes. I always say ‘sure.’ Which I would, if I heard the beeper. I may be sitting in the next room, but if I’m in book land I don’t hear a thing. Sorry, honey 😉

    When I’m deep into the story I also set a (loud) alarm on my phone to remind me to cook dinner, and I try hard not to drift into book mode when I’m driving, because for sure I’d rear-end someone. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to figure out the new novella, so I’ve been in the real world and feeling very cranky about it!

    • You have a lovely blog. My neighbors own horses and though I don’t ride, I love having equine neighbors.

      Horse brain–absolutely!. I had this same conversation where I posted the link on Facebook. Book brain can take the form of horse brain or art brain or music brain or, in my FB friend’s case, crochet brain. To your point, whatever passion consumes is where we have to wander, unfettered, to reach our fullest selves.

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