Hearkening back to an offhand comment in part 2 of Gremble’s Narratology — I’ve been pondering the question of how-much-do-we-verbalize-our-thoughts, and lately paying more attention to my own cognitive process as I go through daily life. I think I really do verbalize less than half the time, and almost never in complete sentences. I’ll see a dude with nice hair walk by, and the only word that pops out in my brain is, hair, accompanied by a non-verbalized cloud of approval. Or when mentally compiling a grocery list, must buy, followed by images of a bag of frozen broccoli or a gallon of milk, and where those are located in the store. Like some kind of nominal aphasia, that my brain doesn’t finish verbalizing the thought because the word for these things doesn’t come as readily as the rest of it.
I was chatting with a fellow writer-friend about this, and told him as much.
“Huh,” he said. “My thoughts are verbalized about 99% of the time.”
“Huh,” I said. “Really?”
“Yeah. This makes a lot of sense though — because I never could understand it when people say they can’t find the words to explain their thoughts. If I’m thinking something, it’s already in words.”
Which makes me wonder if mental verbalizing — or not, as the case may be — is at all related to writer’s block. If so, I am unutterably envious of people whose brains verbalize more than mine does. Because I’m never, ever out of ideas for fiction, but a frustrating amount of the time, I come up at a loss for words. “Soldier through” isn’t advice that works for me, because for the quality I produce when I’m soldiering, I might as well just roll my face on the keyboard.
The only thing that does work, with some degree of reliability, is to (1) go to bed reading and (2) wake up and write first thing in the morning — i.e., while I still have someone else’s words rattling around in my head. Which, unfortunately, isn’t always feasible when you’re a grown-up with other obligations in your life.
In other news, I’m back to work on the Dredd fic, and it still takes me a thousand words to get my people out of an elevator. Guys, I am not built for short-form.