I don’t know about how you and your brain get along, but mine was not in a cooperative mood this morning. I am sorry to say this is not an unusual occurrence, especially when I have a deadline looming. I had to have another motivational session with the three pounds of congealed pudding nestled in my skull.

I’ve spent enough time in the company of my brain to learn images-3that it’s wise to employ finesse when I want something from it. Rebukes and threats either make the brain anxious and afraid of making mistakes, causing it to slow down, or result in it going into a sulk and refusing to produce anything at all. Familiar with my brain’s quirks and proclivities, I know that a polite but firm approach is called for. This is never more true than when assigning it a higher-function, sustained task such as writing.

Here’s this morning’s conversation:

ME: So, Brain. I’m just reminding you that we’re going to start writing in three minutes.

BRAIN: We should check FaceBook!unknown

ME: We did that already. Remember, our goal today is to get through the next four scenes in Chapter 10, and if we look at our notes, we see that . . .

BRAIN: I think I need a nap.

ME: We just woke up an hour ago. So, remember, we’ve got our protagonist at the edge of the cliff . . .

BRAIN: Let’s plan that dinner party!

ME: Let’s not. Two more minutes. Writing. How are we going to get her off the cliff?

BRAIN: Ummmm . . .hmmmm. . .

ME: Great! You work on that, while I open the file and find where we left off yesterday.

At this point, BRAIN resorts to enlisting its innocent coworker, BODY.

BRAIN: (sotto voce) Psst, Body. I’ll bet you’re getting hungry, aren’t you?

BODY: Didn’t I just have breakfast?

BRAIN: That was fifteen minutes ago! Don’t you need a snack? Some chocolate?images-4

BODY: No, I . . . wait, chocolate? Sure, I want chocolate.

ME: I know what you’re doing, Brain.

BRAIN: Who, me? Body said it wants chocolate!

ME: We talked about this. Stop pestering Body.

BODY: I want chocolate. Really.


ME: Tell you what, get the next scene drafted and then we can have some chocolate.

BODY: Okay!

BRAIN: Damn. (sighs) What are we doing again?images-1

ME: Chapter 10. She’s on the cliff, remember, and the bad guy is heading her way, and she’s terrified of heights, and . . .

BRAIN: Is it windy?

ME: Excuse me?

BRAIN: How about if it’s really, really windy? We’re still in the 19th century, right, so she’s got on a big huge skirt, and with all that wind blowing up the face of the cliff. . .

ME: Hey, I think you’re onto something, Brain!

BRAIN: Shh! I’m trying to work.

And so it goes.  Being a creature of habit, my brain offers less resistance when I provide it with a regular schedule and a certain amount of ritual — the right light, the right chair, a cup of coffee positioned nearby — but it always requires some prodding. I am resigned to the fact that self-discipline is my job. After all, who’s the Self in this outfit?

How about you? What do you do to recruit your brain?


  1. The question I have for my brain is “Why do you work best at 3 a.m.?” I get wonderful, innovative ideas in the middle of the night. If I don’t get out of bed immediately and jot them down, by morning, they are all gone. My brain is on a different schedule than I am!

    • I know, right? Why are our brains so perverse when it comes to inspiration?

  2. This pretty well the trajectory my brain follows when faced with creative writing projects. It is Always Time for a Snack! No wait, I’d better put the laundry on, have a shower, prune the roses, have a Snack – oh I just had one. I even rented an office in an attempt to thwart my self-defeating shenanigans. Unfortunately there was a bakery just across the street, so I’m back to doing the laundry and Thinking about how I get my character out of his latest Brush with Death!

  3. Ha!! All too true!! Gosh, anytime I sit down to really focus and “do something”, I swear it takes all of 3.5 seconds for my brain to wander its gaze onto the wall and think of the dish I didn’t do in the sink. Or to plan what I’m going to do AFTER I’m apparently done what I’m doing at that moment. That brain loves to make up any sensations to get you back up off that chair doesn’t it. Although, I do sincerely think my body always wants chocolate 🙂

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