Everyone Loses Their Minds: Writing Your Way Out of the Labyrinth of Your Own Imagination

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by Eduardo Santiago

In recent years, neuroscientists have determined that the average human brain has between thirty and fifty different thoughts per minute, with each thought lasting approximately three seconds. Add to that the daily distractions of day jobs, children, pets, traffic, noises, doctor and dentist appointments, visits from in laws, the ding ding ding of texts and sexts, tweets and memes, and still, many of us try to tame that beast by playing music in the background, often with lyrics, in order to stay seated at the keyboard and try to keep a complicated storyline vibrant and alive on the page.

In addition, most novels and memoirs contain a vast array of characters, which take up residence in our brains, where they do battle with imagined judges, critics, that embarrassing moment in high school, and that agent we have not heard back from…yet.

With all of that going on between our ears every single day of our lives, it really is a wonder that anyone can finish writing a book. Yet it happens, people with busy lives and crazy brains do set amazing works of art on the page, they manage, over a series of drafts, to write fully engaging, flawed yet fabulous stories. People just like us, people who regularly misplace their car keys, their wallets, their passports, their children.

In fact, it’s often the people who misplace everything, the people who, when they get a flat tire, call suicide prevention first and the tow truck next, who most often write the better books.

My class Headlights in the Fog: Re-energizing Your Novel or Memoir is for those of us who get lost in our own neighborhoods, who get distracted by a memory from high school and suddenly forget why they walked into the kitchen in the first place. Because, interestingly, we do manage. We do eventually figure out why we’re in the kitchen ( a day-old muffin is the best known home remedy against writers block). We do get through the day and very often accomplish much more than we ever thought possible.

In this workshop, we will learn how to focus on fine writing, how to use our 70,000 daily thoughts to our advantage, we will learn how to mine that embarrassing memory from high school for literary gold, and above all, we will create a creative, innovative structure that will get you out of the weeds when you inevitably find yourself there.

Getting lost in the wilderness of our own thoughts is inevitable, and so is the frustration that comes along with it. But if we equip ourselves with the tools that help us find our way out (compass, smoke signals, and screaming til you’re raw are not viable options for writers), we come to realize that we are never truly lost — and that we are free to carve a path that no one has ever traveled before, that we are free to write the book no one has ever written before.

A work of art that is truly and magnificently ours.

Eduardo Santiago’s first novel Tomorrow They Will Kiss (Little, Brown & Co.) was an Edmund White Debut Fiction Award finalist and a Latino Book Award finalist. Mr. Santiago’s next novel, Midnight Rumba, was awarded top honors at the prestigious New England Book Festival 2013, the Latino International Book Awards, and The Beverly Hills Book Awards.

His fiction has been published in ZYZZYVA, Slow Trains, andThe Caribbean Writer, and his nonfiction has appeared inLos Angeles Times, The Advocate, and Out Traveler Magazine. Mr. Santiago earned a BFA degree from the California Institute of the Arts and a Creative Writing MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles. He has taught writing for UCLA’s Writing Program and at Mt. San Jacinto College.

He is the founder of the Idyllwild Authors Series, and a two-time PEN Center U.S.A. Fellow (2004 & 2008). His many personal appearances include CBS News, NPR’S All Things Considered, The New York City Book Festival, The Miami Book Fair International, The Los Angeles Times Festival Of Books, and The Tucson Festival of Books.

 

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