Editor Brain and the Joy of Music

Had kind of an interesting realization the other day: Music is really the only form of entertainment which I can enjoy anymore without my internal editor kicking in.

I’ve been pursuing professional writing as my career for almost a decade now and, in that time, I’ve tried to “hone my craft.” I’ve joined critique groups, read books & blogs, attending writing workshops and conferences. Basically, what all this work did is it gave me Writer Brain.

Then, about five years ago, I made it worse and became a professional editor too. Now I have Editor Brain on top of Writer’s Brain. (I think becoming an editor was what finally pushed it over the edge.)

Basically, what this means is I have become super nitpicky. Writing is my thing, it’s what I’m good at, it’s what I do. I can see the underlying structures “the wires” in a book, so to speak, which means that the “performance” of a book has to be really good for me to lose myself. If it’s not, I’ll be reading a book and re-writing the sentences in my head, pruning words, rearranging paragraphs. And I can’t turn it off! I can’t make myself enjoy a book where the prose itself isn’t good no matter how intriguing the plot is.

On the other hand, when I find it book that is really well written I will literally get a sense of physical relief as I start reading: Oh, editor brain isn’t going to be triggered! I can just read this and enjoy. (This happened with Carolina Home by Virginia Kantra. I’d been reading a bunch of poorly written stuff; I opened that book and immediately thought, “Oh thank God, this lady knows her way around prose.”)

The other problem since I took up screenwriting is the nitpickiness doesn’t just apply to books anymore. I’ve driven my BF crazy the last couple weeks because we’ll start a movie he likes and after about half an hour I’m like, “Is the plot going to kick in at some point?” We tried The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and I was dying. That thing takes FOREVER to start. What are the stakes? What’s the plot? I gave that a half an hour and then I was done.

BUT, but this hyper-critical tendency doesn’t happen with music! And I think that’s because I know nothing about music. I can’t see “the wires”. I don’t know the technical aspects of it so I can’t judge them. I can listen to music and I don’t care if the beat is too repetitive or the vocals are off or whatever. I can just sit back and let music take me for a ride. And sometimes that is really refreshing

Remind me never to take up a musical instrument. We all need one thing in the world that we can just enjoy without picking it apart right? 😉


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