I remember it used to be limited to things I was writing. That was fine. I would analyze my writing as I constructed it. That seemed to be quite practical, allowing me to assess whether or not I was moving things in a proper direction. If it wasn't making me happy, I could change it. "Oh, I'm building a cliched story, or at least something I've seen done before. Looks like I need to do something else."
Now--and though I say now, it's something I've seen building over several years--I can't just sit and watch a movie or a TV show or enjoy reading a story. As I take them in for processing, my mind is analyzing them. This isn't to say that I can no longer be entertained, but I've got a whole other nerd processor running simultaneously. I guess that means they're not doing enough to engage my brain. Yeah, I was that kid in school, with mom exchanging pages of notes with teachers about giving me extra work in class.
When it's entertainment time, I'm trying not to be spoiler guy for anyone else in the room. Fortunately, working out the mystery set-up of TV shows or movies ten minutes in doesn't mean I can't enjoy a good story and entertaining characters with well-written dialogue. In fact, it makes me look harder for them. It also makes me look for more news and read more non-fiction to give the Nerd a rest, but that's OK, too. I like learning. The Nerd loves Jeopardy!
With fiction, though, I'm looking for something that's not wasting my time. I want something that's well-written, whether comedy or adventure or drama, because while I'm immersing myself in the alternate reality the Nerd is at work. "Ah, here's the conflict character," he says. "Here comes the climax," he tells me. "This would've been better if--" or "Oh, they still need to do ______ because they still need the plot element of this character to ______ in order to justify the others doing ________." "Remember how all this started?" he asks. "Look at these changes _______ has gone through." "Oh, this is going to work out to be ________." "Needs more cowbell."
The Nerd isn't so much a critic as a clinician, breaking written works down into analytical elements. I suppose that means it lives in the left brain, being all logical in there. I know it's tied into the writing part because, as mentioned earlier, it does it to me, too--analyzing my writing as I'm writing, figuring out story formulas, story needs and such. Sometimes, it's almost like having a co-writer, I imagine, but with smoother communication. "Look, irony! Call Alanis Morrisette."
"What're you doing?" she asked as I backed up the movie for the fourth time to replay a single line of dialogue. "Is something wrong?"
"No, I just love the way he says that line," I explained. "It's this perfect inflection where you can tell he's in pain after being tortured, but sounding surprised that it hurt. It's just enough to make it sad and funny."
"You're such a nerd."
"It's a great delivery," I said, pushing PLAY. "Sorry." Sometimes it gets out in the open.
Eyes aren't just the windows to the soul, they feed your brain a tremendous amount of information you're not even fully aware is there. So what's that brain of yours doing with it? How is it affecting the way you interact with what, in effect, is your particular world? Something tells me that other writers must go through this sort of internal interaction much as I do, watching people as character studies and absorbing entertainments as analytical examples as well. You tell me, though. How does the world look from your POV and does your reality have enough cowbell?