Now, if I’m honest, I’m mostly sharing this in the hopes that other people have these problems too. Since I’m both a writer and filmmaker, some of these are more writing-specific and some more film-specific, but let me know if other creative types experience this stuff too!
1. You basically have two sets of eyes
I see what’s actually happening and what I’m actually looking at, but I also see what could be there; what might happen. And it’s almost always scary stuff (thanks brain). I thought this would fade as I got older, but even at almost twenty I can’t seem to switch off the part of me that expects to see someone behind me in the mirror 24/7, or the part of me that sees a corpse standing outside my shower when I open the door. I can’t stop seeing and feeling that thing perched on my windowsill when I roll over in bed at 3am and open my eyes. To put it simply, it’s like like ‘I see dead people’ but in a more imaginative, less literal way. Hopefully.
2. You see everything in words
This sounds really crazy, but basically I see in words as well as images. Not literally, I suppose, but rather than seeing a tree and appreciating the tree, I see a tree and see adjectives and phrases to describe it, rather than just seeing a tree. I’m a very visual person, but whenever I see certain things my brain kind of translates them into description for a poem, or action for a screenplay. It’s weird.
3. You start speaking in film lingo all the time
I always find myself recounting a tale to my parents and I’ll say ‘cut to ten minutes later’ or ‘to give you some exposition’ and similar phrases. Writing this out, it sounds incredibly pretentious so I’d just like to take this moment to apologise. But I honestly can’t help it. It’s like how when you spend time with people you pick up their colloquialisms – while studying and working on films, you just start replacing certain words and phrases with others that are probably more film-centric than the actual conversation.
4. The dreams are crazy
A few weeks ago I was explaining one of my dreams to my best friend, and he just says ‘why are all your dreams so complex?’ and I replied ‘because that’s how dreams are?’ to which he replies that most people only occasionally get dreams like that. To elaborate, all my dreams are ridiculously intense and complicated. (I’d provide an example but honestly it’d take up a few thousand words). I almost always remember my dreams, and the easiest way to explain it is that my average dream is effectively a film series, with multiple location changes, in-depth themes, subtext, character development and multiple crazy plot lines. But perhaps the weirdest thing is that my dreams have always been like this, even when I was much much younger, they were still as detailed and intense as they are now. So every day when I wake up I spend the day thinking about my dreams, and feeling as though they literally happened to me. It’s like living weird multiple lives.
5. You can never shut your brain off
I mean never. Whatever you’re doing, whatever you’re focussing on or talking about, whoever you’re with and whatever is going on you can never stop your brain wandering off onto other things as well. For me it’s normally ideas or descriptions that just kind of float through my head and out the other side, and sometimes it’s just random tangents. But that never goes away. It’s why most of us seem constantly distracted and have appalling sleeping patterns – it’s not that we don’t care or we’re deliberately being rude, it’s that there’s this part of your brain which is constantly whirring away and you can’t turn it off.
6. Everything takes longer to say
Oh, how I envy people who can send short messages. This is most prominent online, but whenever I’m commenting on anything or writing a blog post or sending a message, it just takes so long to say what I’m trying to say. I don’t understand why some people can say the thing I mean in five words and it takes me twenty, but whatever I do to try and refine the message/comment/etc. it’s still so long.
7. The consistency comes in waves
This is something I’m working to improve on, because for a career in writing of any kind you need to be able to write steadily to meet deadlines etc. But personally I’ll have months of intense inspiration and writing where it’s all I can think about, and I hardly sleep or function other than writing because I just need to get the words out. But following that there’ll be months where you can sit in front of a page and can’t think of a single word to write. Frustrating doesn’t even begin to cover it.
8. You have so many different ideas
I know some people are able to solely work on one project until it’s complete, or at least the first draft is. But I am not one of those people. Right now I literally have fourteen scripts on the go. Most are on the back-burner, with just the original inspiration written out in the form of the opening scene or plotline written out, while I focus on and consistently write and redraft about three main screenplays. I don’t know if this is bad for me or good. I know it’ll be bad when I’m being paid to write something and I’m constantly inspired for my other projects, but surely it’s best to get out the ideas when they come rather than ignore them and hope they come back when I’m free?
9. Sometimes you just get a bit terrified about your brain
About once a month I go into a slightly catatonic state and freak out about how much space my imagination takes up in my brain. It’s terrifying that you can’t explain where the imagination comes from. I just stop sometimes and think ‘holy shit there’s worlds inside my head. There’s hundreds of places and people with entire stories and lives that I didn’t have to actively think up step by step, they just appeared and existed without me having to make it happen.’ It is genuinely scary, because – for me at least – most of my films and characters do seem to write themselves, or rather they just exist already. I don’t have to think up or plan what happens, what has happened or who the characters/worlds are. They’re just there already. It’s like they control you rather than you control them.
10. You can never watch a film again without analysing it
Self-explanatory. Some people can turn this function off. I envy those people greatly.