I get asked this question, or some version of it, a lot. So I thought I’d toss off an example, because this just happened.
I was reading a book and came across a word. I knew the word, knew the definition of the word, but had never known for certain how to pronounce it. By instinct, I reached for the dictionary, which sits on a shelf to the right of my desk at exactly arm’s reach (like, if I stretch my arm to the right and close my fingers around what they bump into and then pull it back to my lap, I’ll have a dictionary in my lap). I looked up the word and checked the pronunciation, despite the fact I had my laptop open the whole time and could easily have googled it and gotten a lovely voice pronouncing the word in my ear. But that would’ve been disruptive; I would’ve had to pause the music I was listening to. And even that’s an afterthought because I didn’t think about it at the time — I reached for the dictionary by instinct.
I looked at my laptop and thought about that for a fraction of a second before the following line appeared in my mind: “The phonetic symbols were the first to go.” I had a whole story unfolding in my mind. I grabbed my notebook and my pen and started writing.
I’m now in the midst of writing out every single word of a prose piece in my notebook. Something of a dystopian piece about the decline of linguistics and the understanding/analysis of writing and reading with the rise of the internet and e-books and such. I’ve not written a piece out word-for-word on paper in awhile. Usually I just sketch out a brief outline or a few thoughts until I get to the point I’m ready to actually write; then I move to the laptop. But this, it seems, wants to be written in ink first. And I think that’s probably okay.
But since y’all ask me all the time, I thought I’d give you a little insight. My brain is strange. Or, as I said more eloquently in tiny chat one night when asked this question: