Switching Gears
I used to own a red 1990 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX. She was fast, nimble, and underpowered. Wait a minute. Did I say she? Yes, her name was Kim (all great cars need a name.) Kim had a finicky personality, a need for speed, and must have corners. On every drive, Kim challenged me to drive, and we loved the open road. What about the underpowered bit? Kim had less than 120 horsepower and weighed too much. As a result, when I needed to accelerate, I had to drop a gear and boot it. Kim took off like a shot with a whoosh of her turbo. Yeah, I loved every second.
The problem with Kim is that she began showing her age, and I had to get another car. The car I replaced her was an Audi TT 225. That car was better designed, lighter, and had 100 more horsepower. What, no name? He or she had no personality and did not get a name. When I wanted to go faster, I touched (not booted) the accelerator. No gear changes necessary. Also, no joy, and I sold him or her 4 years ago because he or she was becoming a pain.
What does this have to do with writing? Kim, my first Toyota truck, and the Audi were stick shift while the other cars I drove were not. A stick car requires the use of a clutch, which results in vastly different driving experiences. However, I never had an issue. [All right truth. I stalled Kim on several occasions because I forgot to clutch.]
On any day, I could jump in Kim and take off without thinking of it. Or I could climb into my dad’s automatic “Van of Death” (TM) and drive off without concern. I did not require any mental to change stick versus automatic.
How did I accomplish such a feat? Honestly, I am not sure. I suspect humans have some sort of muscle memory that allowed a mind to switch between two radically different car types seamlessly.
I wanted to explore this concept with regard to writing. At present, I am writing two new blogs, self-editing four books, writing two book reviews, and working on outlines for three new books.
Each item has a different plot, style, goal, and characters. When I switch from one to the next, my mental muscle memory kicks in. All the details (names, writing style, and plots) automatically click. This changed has the exact same feeling as switching cars. Have I ever made a “switching gears” writing mistake? Surprisingly I can only recall two in the thousands of hours of effort.
I find it fascinating that my mind can make these jumps. One would think some preparation would be necessary. For example, referring to a list of character names or the plot outline. Books contain thousands of little details, and it is natural to assume that they should be confusing, and switching gears would be difficult. But no. Just like a car, I jump in and go.
What about working on multiple books at once? I have learned the hard way not to. I suppose that would be like driving two cars at once. The human mind is indeed strange. It can do many wonderful things, and yet, it has limitations.


You’re the best -Bill
July 15, 2020
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