Sometimes the Brain Surprises…

I wrote about this the other day (and then forgot to post it until the day after I wrote it, DUH) over on Paksworld, but it’s a general enough “How WriterBrains Work” story that some of you may be interested, too.

As mentioned, I’ve started Book II of the Horngard group, and am presently just under 40 pages in.   I had the aftermath of an event in Book I, showing up, with two Marshals (one older, and the supervisor of the younger one)  headed back to their home grange with supplies they’d picked up somewhere (city at a distance from their smaller-town grange)  and the residue of an event they’d partially witnesses: four dead bodies (horse thieves) and the four horses the horse thieves had been riding.  The conversation was convincing the senior that he needed a far more serious talk with his junior than he’d had so far (and said serious talk occurred in today’s session that isn’t quite finished yet) but the “How WriterBrain Works” part isn’t there.  It came later, when they reached the town and the town judicar agreed to take charge of the thieves’ bodies and have them buried in….and in that moment between the “in” and the noun phrase I used, what came to me is a phrase I had never heard, never read, and certainly never used: “scraw ground.”   I stared at the page.  Scraw?  Ground?   OK I dragged up a vague memory of having seen the word “scraw” somewhere–read it online or read it in print, I didn’t know.  I had no clear definition for it.  Scraw ground sounded “old”…traditional language in some dialect or other.

So I looked up “Scraw definition” and got several answers, some longer and more detailed than the rest.   A piece of turf…could be used after drying for fuel.  Scraws could be laid on a roof before thatching  (made me think of the sod houses of prairie settlers).   And scraw *ground* brought up “bog or field from which scraws are taken.”   I had arrived at the back door of the bog burials of criminals in the boggier parts of northern Europe by a route that I was completely unaware of.   Bog burials I certainly knew about,  but I didn’t know “scraw” or its association with bogs, and the first definitions I saw, just “turfs,” didn’t get me there.  I was thinking of dryer ground, and the rolls of turf you seen on trucks sometimes, off to become new “lawns” in new developments.

WriterBrain is focused tightly on whatever story it’s telling.   While I enjoy playing with dictionaries (and loved my thesaurus that disappeared after I lent it to M- at one point) , WriterBrain when it’s on task, so to speak, cares about words only in relation to that story, the one it’s writing.  WriterBrain in this case already knew that “cemetery” wasn’t going to work, and “potter’s field” wasn’t going to work.  I needed a word for where this town buried criminals, the people with no families (or money), the transients…those of little importance to that town.  The Girdish grange buries its own.  So do some of the other religions and guilds and so on but the others…have to go somewhere.   Faced with a gap in the story and the fact that my conscious mind wasn’t finding what it wanted right away, literally, in that instant between “buried in…” and what came next, said “scraw ground” very confidently to my fingers, which typed it without my slowing down much.

How the heck did it DO that?  Where had it been hiding “scraw” all that time?  How had it known what drawer to pull open, what page to turn to, what it meant?  That it was even a real word (I wasn’t sure after staring at it in the ms, let alone meaning, so went off to find it.)  It’s not in my “daily” dictionary, the one on the floor beside my chair, which has “scrawl” but not “scraw.”   Since I have some neurological differences, esp. after the concussion but possibly present from the encephalitis that put me in a coma for days…and am the parent of someone with neurological differences, I would love to know exactly how the need for a phrase I’d never seen or heard triggered the exact right thing I didn’t know existed.

The four horse thieves were duly buried in scraw ground near that town.    And I absolutely enjoy having the strangeness that is WriterBrain back in full functionality.  Yes, writers need a large vocabulary, and yes, brain injuries, infarcts, bleeds, all sorts of things that damage brains can remove words from the working memory.  (I’ve had a 2 month fight with the word “caltrop/caltrops” which I know I used to know and use, and which disappeared on me.  I now have it hooked to CALTRANS because that gives me the first syllable and the critical “tr” that follows. If I can think or say CALTR and visualize the object, the “op” reappears instantly.  Another weirdity, but not necessarily by WriterBrain…that one I think, was a casualty of the concussions.)   But I’ve never had an experience like “scraw ground” before.  I  hope you have one when you need to write something and are handed the word you didn’t know was the word you needed without actually looking for it.

One thought on “Sometimes the Brain Surprises…

  1. Brains really are extraordinary when you start to think about them.

    I have stayed in a property that had a heather roof, laid as thatch would be not growing, on top of a layer of turf, though I think originally craw would have been used. Here is the place –

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