Turning off your brain in order to write

I recently came up with an idea for a new novel and I’ve been really wanting to write it. I’ve thought of a decent plot, some great characters, and a wonderful setting. Every time I start to write it though, my brain screams at me. 

“Emily, you’re not doing this right.”

“Emily, this is a terrible intro. Does in medias res mean ANYTHING to you?”

But then, there’s the other part of my brain that says in soothing, confident tones:

“Emily, just put words on the page.”

“Part of writing is revision, you’ll come back to this.”

It’s like the devil and the angel sitting on your shoulder. A classic dilemma. 

In reality, you have to tune out the one side. The part of your brain that tells you to fix it, to sit there with your blinking cursor, dwelling on how to make it better when you really have no idea how to do that needs to shut up. Ignore that part of your brain. Turn it off. 

I’m not good at this. I am a known planner. I anticipate things happening. I’m classically two steps ahead of everyone else. Life’s punched me in the throat a zillion of times and I still insist on looking to the future. 

That part of the brain that gets ahead of me, well, I need to flip the off switch on that, too. I have to be present. Focus on the draft at hand. Where am I in the story? If I’m scared of getting ahead of myself, I can always jot down a few notes. Hopefully those pages won’t run off and I’ll get there. Eventually. Eventually, the future always becomes the present. At least that is guaranteed. 


One thought on “Turning off your brain in order to write

  1. I know exactly what you mean. I plan in great detail before writing narrative and inevitably something pops up during the actual writing. I use a very simple technique to keep things moving. I stop, put a big bracket right in the narrative,write out the problem on the spot, close the bracket and keep going. That does two things. First, it ensures I won’t forget about it. (It’s hard to miss a big fat [ on the page.) Second, it gives my mind time to dwell on the issue. Good solutions usually take a minimum of three days. Several weeks is not uncommon.

    Once your “story nag” knows you’re acknowledging its concern and actually write it down, it tends to let you move on and come back later.

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