I read an article about a month and a half ago by Frank Bruni, entitled “The Meaning of Tony Romo, Super Bowl Psychic” and can’t seem to get it out of my head. Bruni waxes eloquent about Tony Romo’s proven ability to foretell what plays will be made and who will win. For instance, in the two weeks before the 2019 Super Bowl, he made 15 forecasts. Thirteen were correct, and on the two that weren’t, the team should have followed his advice, because in not doing so, they screwed up.
Romo, of course, was the quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys for over a decade. He was very good as a quarterback, but he seems to have really found himself as a commentator and prognosticator. Bruni ascribes this to genuine insight, based on “deep knowledge.” Bruni sets this in our present-day world where everyone’s an expert and no one’s an expert. Where the Internet provides anyone with a wealth of information but no way to judge it. It’s heartwarming to hear about people you can trust to know. But what the hell is deep knowledge and how does one access it?
Well, clearly Romo has deep expertise and experience from his ten years of quarterbacking. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. It’s gotta be about the principles underlying the knowledge. I figure what I’m looking for is the 7/8 of the iceberg that is underwater: the info between the lines, the associations or relationships that connect the nodes of knowledge. Implicit, not explicit. I say this, because this is the way I think. Ridiculously, I can’t tell you what I think until I write it out. Then it says itself. My fingers are more in sync with my brain than my mouth is….
Which leads me to a book I wrote called RIGHT SIDE TALKING. It’s about Anna, a young girl with intractable epilepsy, who, as a last resort, submits to an operation to sever the corpus collosum – the connecting fibers – between the two sides of her brain. Though the operation successfully reduces her seizures, she’s left forever with two separate minds: left and right, each unaware of the other. It’s absolutely a real procedure and well-researched. The patient is fully functional. Only in the lab does it show that one side doesn’t know that the other side exists.
…Well, that’s the set-up, but of course, I had to have a plot!
I imagined that Anna, while recovering in the hospital, witnessed a murder. Her dominant left brain could not recognize unfamiliar faces, and was, therefore, unable to identify the killer. Her right brain could but was unable to speak. Gradually, painstakingly, the right learned to spell out its thoughts in scrabble letters. At long last, on a table in a hospital lab, she described the person who committed the crime. Too bad the killer was reading that very same message.…
Well, now that I think about it, I suppose I was writing about myself. My right brain seems to know a lot more than my left, but it doesn’t have control of my mouth. Knowledge so deep, I can’t always access it.
But I know it’s there. When I write a book, typically, I start with an idea: why is autism suddenly so prevalent, for example. Or the nature/nurture conundrum. Or lucid dreaming, where the dreamer is aware that it is all a dream. But translating that into a storyline is a struggle. I’ll come up with a few things and then let my unconscious work on them, starting work on one with only the haziest idea of where it’s going. The characters take it where they will, or the plot will sort of bootstrap itself and tell me where it wants to go. Or I have to take a break until something suddenly pops into my head while I’m at the supermarket or taking a shower.
It’s not really a bad thing not knowing where you are going, though it can be mighty uncomfortable. I just have to hold on tight, trusting that a book will emerge out of chaos, and that “I” really know what I’m doing. Whatever “I” is. Writers sometimes say it feels like the words are coming from “God.” I wouldn’t claim anything so high-minded. Most likely, it’s my right brain trying to communicate in the only way it knows how. Through my fingers.