Memory Lane: Closed
Lately, my memory is taking too many naps. I keep forgetting stuff. It’s nothing serious …
Or is it?
I don’t think it’s age-related—tweenagers are complaining about the same thing—and my neurons are getting a daily superhero workout. As an author, I’m always writing. And I’m having to stretch myself to do this and that: find ways to promote my books, grow my brand, blah blah, blah.
But all those thises ’n’ thats are part of the problem. The neurons are overworked, overwrought, overwhelmed. They’re suffering from sensory overload.
Headlines in particular have been doing my head in. It’s not so much the number of headlines, though. It’s the numbers in the headlines.
I hated Maths at school; was always more of a word person. A wordplay person. Still, I almost feel sorry for numbers. They’re being disguised as words and exploited in headlines as clickbait.
‘Ten ways to …’
‘Nine tips for …’
‘Eight reasons why …’
Hypnosis uses numbers—‘I’m going to start counting backwards …’
—and those laundry lists that have a hypnotic effect can make the reader fall into a trance and be open to the power of suggestion.
Personally, I think numbing number use is becoming clichéd. And a clichéd headline suggests the content is unlikely to be original.
So, I stopped clicking. Mostly.
I was click-baited last night. But not by numbers.
Even worse than the numbers game are the mind games—the urgent how-to’s that just know what’s right for you. Absolutely. Unequivocally.
‘You should have …’
‘You need to do …’
‘You have to be …’
And the most arrogant of all: ‘You must …’
A pin on Pinterest got on my nerves. YOU MUST NOT EDIT WHILE WRITING, it said. Words to that effect. I can’t remember exactly because ‘must’ whipped up a mental shitstorm, deductive reasoning went down the crapper, and like a social gaming kid in a Candy Crush store, I bit.
The blogger, an ‘expert’ author of a single book, categorically categorised the things you must do to resist the temptation to edit before your draft is completely finished.
I inhaled for a count of 1, 2, 3, exhaled for a count of 1, 2, 3, and became clearheaded. If there was any point in arguing with a dogmatist, I’d have said this:
Dear Ms Hard-arse, ‘must’ doesn’t pass muster. When I get creatively blocked, I start to edit. Yep. Before the manuscript is anywhere near complete. And it’s awesome. It unblocks. I see things in my words that I didn’t see when I first wrote them. And guess what? It leads to unexpected new directions.
But there was no point, so I clicked off.
Open to Question, Not Suggestion
Notwithstanding the know-it-all headlines and hard-line matter, there are some helpful blogs out there. Good opinion pieces aren’t opinionated. And many of them have headlines framed as questions, as in should you edit as you write?
Questions make you think. They don’t try and explain you to yourself. Questions stimulate the imagination, where directives can impede and impair it. And self-questioning awakens intuition.
Looking out for Number 1
Following your intuition doesn’t always make sense. At times it can seem like you’re doing something for no good reason. Afterwards, though, various good reasons can emerge.
Or 1 good enough reason: It felt right.