Day Three without internet. We think that the problem might be that the last guy to fix it, a descendent of B. S. Johnson, routed the line through the dog door. Thank God, Panera, McDonald’s, and Beechmont Toyota all have WiFi, but still, ARGH. I told Mollie I was going crazy without the net and she said, “Why? You don’t need it to write, do you?” And I do because when I think of something while I’m writing, anything at random, I want to go check it, to see it, to ask somebody about it. I have to go and find out. Which makes me feel guilty because obviously it would be better to just concentrate on writing the book which is so grossly past deadline I’m having trouble sleeping at night. Then I read an article in Scientific American Mind, and it all became clear and the guilt disappeared.
The article was “The Unleashed Mind” by Shelly Carson (Scientific American Mind, May/June 2011, pgs 22-29) and it talked about several aspects of creativity that I’d read about before including the ties to schizotypal personality, but the part that really grabbed me this time was her theory that many creative people have cognitive disinhibition, which is academese for the “Oooooh, Something Shiny” problem that plagues many writers. Only it turns out, it’s not a problem, it’s one of the reasons we’re creative (and disorganized and inefficient and, as Carson politely puts it, “odd”).
Cognitive disinhibition, Carson says, is
“the failure to ignore information that is irrelevant to current goals or to survival. We are all equipped with mental filters that hide most of the processing that goes on in our brains behind the scenes. So many signals come in through our sensory organs, for example, that if we paid attention to all of them we would be overwhelmed . . . . Thanks to cognitive filters, most of this input never reaches conscious awareness.”
Unless your mental filters develop holes. Then you end up with all kinds of trash in your thought process, images jumbled together, contrasting ideas overlapping, new relationships between unrelated things forming and tumbling through your head. You’re thinking about something or talking to somebody and something shiny drifts by and you’re caught, watching the connections form, your train of thought switched to another track. If you’re driving or talking to a boss who finds this annoying, it can be bad (that survival thing), but as far as creativity goes, it’s excellent. Everything’s invited to the party in your head, so some pretty amazing things stagger out at the end of the night. The fact that your brain doesn’t filter out the irrelevant means that you can make new relevancies, go places people with functioning filters can’t go. (Of course they can finish conversations and drive without missing highway exits; everything’s a trade-off.)
So there it is, the reason that being without internet while I try to write fiction is making me INSANE: My access to shiny things has been kneecapped, and that’s stifling my creativity. And also limiting my access to Talking Points Memo and Gawker and Ravelry and my own damn blog, but mostly, it’s cutting off the Shiny and inhibiting my cognitive disinhibition.
I really, really, really need my internet, although the food here at Panera is excellent, so there’s that. Back at you tomorrow from some undisclosed location. Until then, embrace the shiny.