Boy, do I miss the days when I could just read books like any other reader would. When I could watch TV like a regular couch potato. When I could go to the movies and just get lost in the special effects while chewing on a Twizzler.
Those days are long gone.
Ever since I started writing seriously again three years ago, I've been ruining my own entertainment, because I now suffer from a serious case of Writer's Brain. Take TV, for instance. I can't get through an episode of Criminal Minds without questioning the believability of FBI profilers actually making arrests in SWAT-like formation. I can't get through an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit without predicting the backstory of both the victim and the rapist. And I definitely can't watch an episode of CSI without wondering why on earth Marg Helgenberger is wearing stilettos to a crime scene.
I never used to be this way. I used to stare in rapt attention at the screen – be it big or small – and lose myself in the story. I could almost always suspend my disbelief. But now? I analyze everything. I often figure out the ending to the movie thirty minutes in. I'm finding it very hard to be surprised.
It's the same way with books. Even when reading published books, I mentally edit as I go. I pause at a poignant sentence and, instead of marveling at its complexity and richness, I wonder how I'd rewrite it if this were my story. If I'm reading a novel written in the third person, I count the number of POVs and compare it to my own book. I analyze dialogue tags. I question the presence of each and every adverb. I compare every author's villain to my villain.
And it's not just fiction. Writer's Brain affects real life stuff, too. The other week, I was watching some reality show about animal hoarding, and they featured an elderly woman who had 85 cats. She could barely feed them all. Her house was disgusting. They found piles of cat feces under her sofa, along with the bones of a kitten who'd obviously died there. The woman had her cats taken away, and I couldn't help but think it would have been so much cooler if they had lifted up that sofa and found the old woman's bones there.
I know. It's so wrong.
I'm not sure there's a cure for Writer's Brain, other than to stop writing, which of course is not an acceptable solution. Do you guys suffer from Writer's Brain, and if so, how do you manage it?