Reader Friday: Can You Turn Off Your Writer’s Mind?

Eugene Ionesco via Wikimedia Commons


“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” — Eugene Ionesco

Can you turn off your writer’s mind? Or is part of you always wondering What if?

24 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Can You Turn Off Your Writer’s Mind?

  1. In reading, it takes fantastic prose and a great story for me to do it. And I cherish those books!
    In movies, it’s even harder. I have a hard time not thinking the book would be better…and in almost every case, it is.

  2. I only stop wondering “what if” when I start wondering “what next?”

  3. Like Debbie, Nope. 24/7/365. When I think I have, the boys wake me up at 2:00 am and let me know what they’re working on. My wife continues to tell me that it’s not the boys, it’s the girls in the attic.

  4. I’m with everyone else. Nope. Subconscious always working. Even in my dreams. Until I wonder, what next.

  5. No I can’t. Nor would I want to. I can still become immersed in a great book or film, but I’m enjoying it on multiple levels, as a reader/viewer, and as a writer.

  6. Perhaps I’m thinking too hard about the question, but the writer side of me definitely has an on/off switch. When I’m in my office (or the place currently designated as the place to ply my craft), I write. When I walk away, I live the rest of my life. I try hard to be very much involved in every moment of every day.

    During long solo car drives, I often prefer silence, and while my mind will wander to wherever it goes, it rarely takes me back to the story I’m writing. That story will be waiting for me when I sit back down to do my job.

    • I like the idea that a writer should, at least in part, think of this as a job. You have work to do each day (the words) and you get them done whether you feel good or not. That is if you expect to get paid.

      I think it was John Cheever who used to write in the basement of his apartment building. Each day he’d dress up in a suit and tie, like all the other men going to work…then he’d take the elevator down to his “office” and write.

  7. Nope, can’t turn it off. I do ask, “What if?” a lot, but also, “Why?” I drive my husband crazy. He’s knowledgeable about man-type stuff, like electricity and tools and how to paint a house or a deck, so I’m always plying him with questions.

    I even spent good money on a book entitled, What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe. As Spock would say, “Fascinating.”


  8. This writing thing got outa hand when I furnished the basement suite for my muse. I leave the house for a break with a mind-clearing walk along the waterfront and what happens? I run into him sitting on a park bench.

  9. I suspect I’m 24/7 writing because I’m so new at it..

    I find myself analyzing much of my life experience through the writing filter. How would I describe the effect a cool breeze has on me while I’m out running, what to compare a left-over piece of pizza to, how to interpret that look that passed between two of my friends. I also find myself mentally outlining the books I read and the movies I watch. When I hear or see something that intrigues me, I wonder how I can incorporate it into a story. Total immersion.

  10. The writing brain is always on. When I’m reading, I’m noting remarkable lines. When I watch TV, I marvel at how adeptly the writers created their story. Anywhere, anytime, the ideas come in. My task is to corral them into something useful.

  11. Of course I c….. Plot!

    I may have retired from writing, but that quiet observer in my brain taking notes for future use will be there as I take my last breath. Writing is what you are as well as what you do.

  12. Guess this makes me the odd person out. Yes, I do have an on/off-switch to the writer part of my brain, though I don’t seem to have complete control of it. When I sat down to write my first novel (as opposed to the voluminous other things I have written over the years), I didn’t experience a single episode of writer’s block, more like writer’s diarrhea.

    Intended to be a lighthearted little piece about a unique personal experience turned into a serious piece on the upside of 700k words, dwarfing War & Peace at 587k. Oops. There are an insufficient number of modern readers having the patience to plow through 5 chapters of political maneuvering by the well connected to keep their sons out of the Napoleonic War’s way. All set during a cocktail party in a lady’s grand parlor, meticulously described.

    Solution, break the gargantuan piece into 6 novels, voila a double trilogy. Now that’s a lot of revising to put it back together into standalone pieces. A steady diet of revising is exceedingly tiresome. Luckily I was gifted JSB’s 24 lecture “How to” guide.

    So much for the on-switch. I find the off-switch is also very necessary. Some of the things I do can be quite hazardous and requires my full attention. Can’t write about something if you don’t survive it.

  13. Yes. All I need is a long stick, a 3/4″ spanner, and two bottles of Long John Jones’ White Lightning and then I am off to not thinking of stories at all.

    … not sure what the stick and the spanner are for, to be honest, but one must keep traditions.

  14. Hey JSB:

    I have to be careful about “What if” as part of the author’s mind/toolkit and “What if” as part of something else. Like mental health.

    And I can imagine “What if” turning on and off in different writerly minds according to their genre and tradition.

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