Those of you who’ve been following me regularly may have gathered that I like audible books. I started listening to them at a time when I was spending two or more hours a day in the car and was under stress. I found they made me a better, lower-stress driver.
Before I adopted audible books, I’d get in the car exactly two minutes after the latest time I could leave and possibly be on time for the appointment/soccer practice/violin lesson/whatever. Then I’d try to make up the time in various quasi-legal ways, even committing small crimes that I know you all have done, so stop judging me.
With audible books, I’d sometimes leave early, just so I could get back to whatever exciting monster Owen Zastava Pitt was mowing down when I’d left off. I’d drive at or below the speed limit to milk extra minutes out of a story (thus causing the drivers behind me stress and inciting them to commit small crimes). I’d sometimes arrive at my destination early, but still be late because I couldn’t leave Owen dangling above the earth from some Old One’s slimy tentacle.*
I said, stop judging me!
Soon I was listening to audible books at the gym, with the excuse that they block out the daily dose of Katy Perry and Moves like Jagger streaming through the weight room’s sound system. Next, I started listening to audible books while doing dishes, ear buds shoved deep into ear holes, because dish-doing is boring. Eventually, I started laying on the couch in the dark, plugged in to the ever-present iPod. For no reason at all.
Hello. My name is Marie, and I’m addicted to audible books.
It seemed like a harmless enough addiction. Way better than cigarettes or donuts. But a funny thing was happening. As I was putting the final touches on Valknut: The Binding, I figured I’d better start thinking about the next book. Story ideas tend to clutter my head to the point where I have to fight to focus on the current project, so I felt confident I could easily come up with a plot. But when I reached into the mental clutter, I found…nothing.
There were too many rocks in the well. I’d been filling head with other people’s books, TV shows, and music, until there was no room left for my own thoughts.
And so I quit. Cold turkey. Right in the middle of Steven Sherrill’s The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break (which was imbued with a sense of impending embarrassment of such disastrous proportions that I couldn’t take much more, anyway).
I thought it would be hard to quit, but it really wasn’t. I found that I enjoyed letting my thoughts wander. I’d climb in the car, turn the radio on, and then turn it off again three seconds later. I’d sit at intersections, staring blankly at green lights, thinking stuff like, “Hey, maybe my next book can draw from Korean mythology…yeah, and maybe I should add more cumin to my next batch of fajitas…but I should definitely get Tom something minty for Christmas, and if Heyboo gets much thinner, I should take him to the vet…” (All while people in back of me were committing small crimes while laying on their horns.)
I began to feel excited to write new fiction.
I began to have terrific plot ideas in the shower, again.
I began to sleep better.
I began to remember dreams for the first time in a couple of years (a mixed blessing).
Maybe it’s just me (though I doubt it), but I think our brains need a chance to air out all those random thought we suppress as we go about our daily business. We need a chance to puzzle and worry at the little things we don’t understand. To plan. To work through niggling problems. To explore the what-ifs of our daily lives. And to let our imaginations wander.
So do yourself a favor and try unplugging for a little while every day. Turn off the TV. Put your mp3 player away. Leave the radio off. You might like what you hear.
*It may sound like I’ve set Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter books on repeat in my iPod, but I’ve really only listened to them once through. It’s just that some books are more memorable than others…