The Effects of Tour Brain

At the Fourth Street Fantasy convention this weekend, friends and fellow writers have been asking me how I’m doing. My answer is “things are great, but I have tour brain.” To which they nod and offer me sympathetic smiles. They know from tour brain.

But maybe the rest of you don’t, so let me explain. I’m on my third week of touring for Redshirts and I have a week to go. It’s not a solid month on the road — I’ve been back home a couple of times for a couple of days, which is excellent for doing laundry and reminding wife/child/pets that I live there — but it’s still a lot of time.

This is both something I signed on for and something I’m grateful to have. Touring, especially as extensively as Tor’s been touring me, is expensive and the results are uncertain, so not every writer gets to go on the road to promote their book as I have been able to do. Likewise, I told Tor to flog me like a rented mule when the book came out, and they took me at my word. And to be clear, I am having fun this tour. It’s been fantastic to see people and to see the enthusiasm for the books. So I want to make sure you all know that I think being on tour is a very good thing.

But it eats your brain. All the travel plus being “on” plus being focused on the peculiar task of publicity means that you end of being a combination of tired, wrenched out personality-wise and a little muzzy-headed when it comes to things that are not immediately about the tour or your book. When you have have a moment to sit still, what ends up happening is you look a little dazed, as if you were bonked on the head by a pvc pipe, and then your conversational ability drools out of your face and you do a suitable approximate of everyone’s favorite genial but slow uncle, sitting in a corner, waiting for someone to come get him and tell him it’s time for corn flakes. At the very least, it’s what happens to me.

There are other effects as well, one of which you have have noticed here. Athena, my daughter, noted to me that the blog’s a little less interesting than average for the last couple of weeks, in part because there’s not a huge amount of variety of topics here. I told her she’s correct, and that’s partly because I haven’t been doing anything else but touring and resting. I am aware of the major events of the work in the last couple of weeks, but I wouldn’t say I’m thinking about them to any significant extent; right now, for outside information, my brain is set on “receive” rather than “process.” As a result the couple of times I’ve sat down to write about some national event, I’ve ended up staring blankly at the WordPress backend for five minutes before saying “screw it” and either playing my guitar or taking a nap. In one way it’s liberating not to think about all this crap — What? Obama and Romney blah blah something something? You don’t say! — but I recognize it’s less interesting for the rest of you. Sorry.

(Also, from a practical matter, writing on controversial/current topics means riding herd on the comments, and I just don’t have the time or mental energy to do that when I am touring. Which means — surprise! — for the duration I’m writing about the tour and/or relatively non-explody topics.)

Again, it’s worth it — the results of the tour have been a more than fair trade for the time and energy put into it. But it’s also true that when I am finally done with everything on July 1 (that’s when I drive home from Louisville and FandomFest, my last tour event), what I’m likely to do is sleep for three days straight. Hopefully my tour brain will then be erased. Just in time for ComicCon.