Michaeline: Ready, Steady, Go!

1818 Gentleman on a mountain top, staring out at a sea of fog below.

As the BBC Darcy said, “I *will* conquer this.” (Friedrich’s “Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog”, via Wikimedia Commons)

This week, brain fog has been my enemy. I’ve had scattered hours where I could write, but it seemed so much easier just to click on the internet. How do you overcome this?

I’m not quite sure. But next week, I’m going to work on the “ready” and “steady” before I go.

My “ready” strategem consists of being ready to write. Justine provided a very nice link to the habits of writers this week, and while googling around, I found more. Over and over, many successful writers leave some juice for the next day’s writing. That might be a matter of knowing what happens next , or it might be a paragraph saying where things are going. Don’t know what’s next? I’m going to end with a question or a couple of options. My Girls in the Basement can think it over overnight, and with any kind of luck, provide me with a direction when I sit down to write again.

Getting my “steady” together is just a matter of taking care of myself. Good food, exercise and lots of water before 4 p.m., and winding down properly for a good night’s sleep. I don’t usually have a problem sleeping, but I find that on the nights when I’m a little restless, a cup of chamomile tea, or a nice guided relaxation video from YouTube can get me to bed on time.

Despite the brain fog this week, I have been able to read a lot about the actual process of writing, and I hope that being armed with new knowledge will help me vanquish some of the fuzziness and indecision.

What do you do when the brain fog makes it hard to get words on paper?

10 thoughts on “Michaeline: Ready, Steady, Go!

  1. I’ve had ten days of brain fog, Michaeline – I developed an absolutely horrible cold and my head’s been totally full of cotton wool. I spent a day last week trying to power through and write a new scene, but it was hopeless. It took me another whole day to put together last week’s blog post, and I was relieved that it didn’t turn out to be total gibberish.

    Apart from the blog post, I awarded myself a few days of lots of hot lemon drinks, lots of reading and no writing – hence my blitz through all the Ben Aaronovitch Peter Grant books. I think it was a good plan because the writing was so good I forgot to feel sorry for myself, and I did a lot of thinking and got a really clear picture of where I want to go with my WiP. Since I started to feel better, I’ve been making notes on scenes I want to write, trying to think about a new title, and I found some amazingly useful information for one of the later books I want to write. I’m giving myself until Sunday evening to keep noodling around, but come Monday morning, it will be all about the word count and brain fog is banned.

    • It’s hard to do anything when you have a cold, Jilly. I’m glad you’re starting to feel better and I’m sure the break will leave you fresh and ready to hit the keyboard come Monday morning.

    • Oh, that’s rotten. I hope you are feeling better now (Sunday evening here, anyway). I often feel a bit more creative with a fever, but there’s nothing I can do with a cold. Bleh. But I often find a fallow period really helps with . . . well, anything. When I was studying Japanese, I often felt like I understood it better after a short vacation. And I have heard of writers who spend time after a book just filling up on new material and new things.

      Monday’s going to be a great day for all of us! I wrote a thousand words of varying quality today, but I can edit words on the paper. Everything is so relative — 1000 words of crap is better than absolutely nothing.

  2. If I’m too tired to write new words (like probably today), I revise something, just to stay in the story. If it’s been a while since I revisited a sectuin, the fresh look can bring perspective and new thoughts to areas that need work. I get something done, but I don’t have the difficulty of making up new words when my brain is too fried to focus. Good luck with that fog!

    • I am starting to do the same (revise when I can’t write). I’ve found that scheduling my writing time helps put me “in the mood.” I will also noodle around with the giant (and I mean GIANT) flow-chart I have for my story, making sure all my subplots are well developed and/or wrapped up. It’s immensely helpful when I don’t find I have the mental energy to write, but still want to stay connected to my story.

      • You know, Kay and Justine, this can probably be quantified. I often flop around helplessly when I can’t write, but I could definitely make a list of “other things” and just work my way down until I found something I could do. In Justine’s link, Henry Miller had a short list of alternative activities for the evening: make notes, make charts, plans, correction in the MS. Modern writers can doodle around with their playlists or work on a scene collage when the words just won’t flow . . . .

        I should probably make a reminder list . . . .

  3. Sending get well thoughts to Jilly, and anti-brain fog thoughts to Michaeline.

    It’s good to take a break sometimes – I’ve done something to my hand (tendonitis, not sure?) from excessive typing and writing and have been having an enforced break from writing. I found it a nightmare at first but I’ve had some great plot ideas over the past week. Hand still wrapped in bandage and typing with one finger is a bit of a nightmare though!

    • Oh, ouch! I remember typists’ elbow after my first NaNo. Do take care of yourself. Has a doctor recommended anything helpful as far as stretches? I found a few on YouTube, but it seems that you need to heal first before you start stretching. Hope your hands and arms are back in shape soon.

  4. I try writing a rough outline of what I think is important in the story so far, then what could happen next to wreck everyone’s plans. If I’ve got nothing at all going on in the production side, and feel like I’d do more harm than good to my story to review/revise, then I go read a book. If I want hints on things I’m tackling in my book, I may read something similar… though I’m currently being inspired by Outlander on audio to write kickass, physically violent women. Everytime Claire grabs an Idiot Ball plotline and runs with it straight into a near-rape, or gets physically manhandled and has all the fighting ability of a dish rag, I go write another scene where a female protagonist uses Tai Chi, Krav Maga, or Tang Soo Do to defeat her attackers and escape with minimal harm. I’ve had other stories inspire something akin to fanfiction that gets a stagnated storybrain rolling again (and there are some authors I do not read while I write, or I end up doing derivative homages instead of writing my own story.)

    If my brain absolutely will not engage, it’s time for a passive story experience. TV, podcast, audiobook, etc. I really like watching movies with good plot arcs, especially older films. In 2 to 3 hours, I’ve seen a whole story. I own Magic Mike because I didn’t consciously catch the shift in music, splicing and filtering that caused the 3rd act mood shift from “stripping is a great job, you should do it!” to “this job is eating my soul, get out and run while you can!” Going back over it, I can see how it was done, and how it’s mostly movie shorthand. Doing the same sort of close reading/deconstruction with books is more mentally active, but great practice.

    I’m also conditioning my brain that Rhapsody in Blue means it’s time to write. It works like so many of the other rituals- sharpening 10 pencils, sitting in the same spot, going to a coffee shop- I’ve heard other writers use to tell their subconscious it’s writing time. I’m making a conscious choice to uncouple the music from location, materials, and mood. I’d had a lot of success with Write Or Die, but it had to be on a computer, and that does not always work out. With just the music as a cue, I can use WoD, pen and paper, my phone, tablet, plain old Word or even Notepad.

    Even on mental idle, if I get 100 words of description in, or ask “then what happens?” I’m pairing that particular piece of music with writing. Sometimes you need to recharge the batteries, and that means stepping away from the story. Sometimes you just need a quick jump start to get back up and running.

    • Sometimes a break really is the best thing, Flo. And I like the idea of conditioning your brain to write. I’ve got a “brain wave” CD that I play (when I haven’t forgotten my earphones), and I just discovered techno deep house, which I think might make some good writing music. I know a few of us write to classical music, and we all learned how to make a soundtrack for our stories when in class. YouTube makes it pretty easy to put together a list, and I’m sure there are some sound-only options, too.

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