Brain at Work

I’m grateful that the “step away from it for awhile” tactic works as a method for getting over tiredness or writer’s block for me. It has always felt to me as though I say to my brain, “Okay, just run this in the background for awhile, and let’s see what the results are later,” and then I can stop focusing consciously on whatever scene or section is giving me trouble. And my brain does that, it lets the ideas brew subconsciously, and I’ve found that often even just a day later, I suddenly feel much more like I know what I need to write, or like the words are coming to me again. Sometimes it takes longer than a day, of course, but it always works eventually.

Which is probably just a lot of rambling to say: Brains are cool. 🙂

I do think it helps me as a motivational tool as well, though. To not think about it as “I have writer’s block” or “I’m stuck on this scene,” but rather, “My brain just needs some time to work on this subconsciously,” or “Need to let this scene percolate for a bit.” It sounds much less daunting that way, much less negative, which in turn makes motivating myself to try again a day or two later much easier.

For other writers: do you have an experience like this? Or do you deal with feeling stuck in other ways? I’m curious to know how other people think about this issue.

Now, probably time to stop rambling (and mixing my computer and coffee metaphors).

~Ethelinda

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4 thoughts on “Brain at Work

  1. I’ve had similar experiences in some areas, but generally not with writing. If I’m taking a test, I’ll sometimes skip a problem because the answer is probably hidden in the rest of the test somewhere, or I figure that if I practice on the easier problems the harder ones will make more sense.

    When writing though, I think it’s very rare that I’ll return to a problem and it will seem easier than when I stepped away from it. I do take breaks, but not because there’s any particular kind of problem which I solve better on a break, but because I work better when I’ve had a break within the last couple hours.

    As for writer’s block, I think I experienced something like that at least once. I was working on an article and I think I had gotten through the sixth round of editing and we were starting to wrap things up and get the thing published, and suddenly my mind went blank for a couple months. (Not totally blank all the time, just whenever I tried to think about the issue I was writing about). Every week or two, I would sit down, try looking at my editor’s suggestions, and no thoughts or ideas would occur to me.

    Eventually, I sat down, and instead of trying to fix the problems, I just wrote an email to my editor detailing each issue and question I was unable to answer, and by the time I finished writing that email I knew what to do, and the article was done within a week.

    So, for me, writing about the problem seems to work better than stepping away. I think it’s because when I feel like I have to step away, it’s because I don’t know what the problem is, in which case I can’t give my subconscious a standing order to solve it. If I know what the problem is, I can usually make enough progress using pen and paper to feel like I’m not stuck.

    I don’t know if this is helpful to you, but the reason why I didn’t post a comment on Chapter 3 of The Wizard of Suomen is because I have writer’s block. I have something written already, but I just don’t know what to think about what I’ve written and every time I go back to that chapter I get this dull, empty feeling and no thoughts come to mind. I figure it’s ok, because there are other chapters out there and I can always go back once I’ve read the whole story (I’m always much more confident when writing about a story that’s over, compared to one which is still up in the air in a lot of respects.).

    • I definitely think that this is probably an individual thing, to a certain extent, because different people’s brains work differently. 🙂

      I do also use the “writing it out” method at times too, and my notes for this story are sometimes full of long rambling parenthetical comments where I ask myself questions about how a particular event needs to happen or why a certain character is acting the way they are. So I can definitely see how that’s a helpful method too! It’s just been an interesting experience for me to also know that sometimes I can just set my brain a task/problem, and let it work, and then come back to it later.

      Please don’t ever feel obligated to comment on any particular chapter! (I don’t think you would feel that way, hopefully, but just in case. 🙂 ) And it will probably be easier once the story is wrapped up with (if I do my job right) all the threads pulled together well. I very much appreciate your comments, but if you just don’t feel like you can or want to say much on any given chapter, that’s completely fine.

  2. I’m with both Ethelinda and Evan here. I have solved various types and degrees of severity of writers’ block via the “step away and work on it subconsciously” and “write about the problem” methods.

    • It is always fascinating and exciting for me to realize just how well both methods work, when applied to the appropriate issue. It lets me trust myself more, in a way, so that even if I don’t have the answer right now, I can be sure that I’ll figure it out eventually.

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