Thursday, January 18, 2007

Brain-Freeze Prevention

By Nichole Giles

Everyone I’ve talked to lately seems to have the winter blues, (also described as the winter blahs) myself included. I suppose we all have our ways of combating this depressing, gloomy season. We exercise, we shop, we read, we clean, we eat. A few of us write. But not always.

There are days when I don’t feel like doing any of these things. I shouldn’t admit to it, but there are days when all I want to do is curl up and go back to bed. Or put on my most comfy clothes and curl up in front of the TV and stare at the nothing that is on. And I really don’t like TV. What is wrong with me?

When I do turn on that wicked waste of time, reports of record breaking cold, ice storms, and blizzards that shut down airports and close roads flash across the screen repeatedly, along with commercials for medicines. There is a medicine for everything—every kind of cold, flu, or allergy—because in this kind of cold, it can’t be prevented. But make sure to keep a pen handy. If one of those medicines does you harm, the ad for a lawyer follows close behind.

Even my story is suffering. The one that has been building up in my head for the last year, anxiously awaiting its turn to be written. I’m wondering if my characters have fallen asleep, or if time in the land of no name (because I haven’t come up with a good one yet) has stopped, waiting for winter to pass in my world. Every time I turn on my computer intending to start working on this particular story, I can’t seem to string two thoughts together. The weather is freezing my brain. So, what do I do?

Well, I’m not going to claim to have the solution to my own dilemma, nor the dilemmas of anyone else whose work is suffering because it’s January. Instead, I’ll offer a suggestion.

To prevent brain-freeze, keep your brain moving.

Many people have problems with broken water pipes during the coldest winter months. Pipes that are run through outside walls are at risk of freezing unless someone either diverts heat toward them, or runs water through them. Some people set up space heaters, or open their cupboard doors to let the warm air get to the pipes; others turn on the faucet and let it drip all night long. All good suggestions.

The same concept can apply to our over-chilled brains. At a time when you least desire to write, do it anyway. It doesn’t matter what you write, or how. Apply all your neurotic behavior, sit at your laptop, or Alpha-Smart, or grab pen and paper and write one single word. Then let drip another word, then another, and another, until you have written at least one sentence. Then try for another sentence. And so on and so forth, for at least ten to fifteen minutes. If at the end of that time, you still feel utterly uninspired, go ahead and stop. Maybe the writer in you just needs a little break. And he or she is perfectly entitled.

Sometimes, it’s okay to wait a while. We are writers. Writing is in our blood, it’s in our brain, it’s in our hearts. So go ahead and give ‘the writer’ a short vacation. Don’t worry. He/she’ll be back. In the meantime, the parts of us that live in the real world will get by. Even if it is only day-by-day.

Borrowed from “The Pocket Muse Endless Inspiration” by Monica Wood. “Today, write about the last piece of something and the two people who want it.”


Tristi Pinkston said...

Thanks for the post, Nichole. Right now I think I've got the opposite problem but the same result -- I've been thinking so much that my brain fizzled out! Still doesn't work, regardless of how we got here.

Triple Nickel said...

We blog readers love the winter blues. Nothing to bother our blog reading like mowing lawns, weeding gardens, or cooking dead animal flesh on a grill.
Thanks for a great blog and pray for snow!

Nichole Giles said...

Hi Tristi. I was wondering today if I used all my brain cells in December, and now I need to spend January staring at the blank screen in a stupor just to replenish.

I'm hoping by spring I'll be raring to go.


Nichole Giles said...

Hi, Triple Nickel. I love reading other people's work before starting my own. It is so fun to see what everyone else has done. So, in the blog reading department, I agree. However, I don't believe you will hear me praying for snow anytime in this life. I'm something of a summer girl, myself.

Thanks for reading.