There is a point in the course of a workday when you look down and realize your brain has liquefied and leaked out your ear.
Depending on what you do for a living, you may continue to function with no discernible change in performance.
When you’re writing though, brain liquefaction can be treacherous.
It’s been happening to me more often lately as Daylight Savings Time jolts me awake at 4 a.m. and suggests this is the ideal time to make sure I remembered to disable the sprinkler system.
Fortunately, I’ve come up with a list of writing-related chores I can perform sans mental function. When my head turns fuzzy, I turn to these tasks:
Mess with mechanics. My editor recently sent me the style manual for Sourcebooks. Many of the rules revolve around formatting stuff like the proper use of ellipses and em-dashes and scene breaks. Not tough, but time consuming and a little brainless. Perfect. Style guide or not, there are always little consistency issues in formatting and punctuation that you can fix in a manuscript when your brain isn’t up for anything more creative than chewing gum.
Brainless research. I’m not talking about complex stuff here. I’m talking about the scenes you ignore when you’re writing them because you don’t have time to go research the preferred method for spitting wine in a tasting room or whether the Iditarod uses the northern route or the southern one in odd-numbered years. When you’re brain-dead, it’s the perfect time to use the Internet for something besides searching for naked pictures of Daniel Craig.
Find & replace war. We’ve all got ‘em – those annoying words and phrases we overuse. I’m particularly fond of “just” and anything that involves the raising or quirking of eyebrows. Even with a minimum of functional brain cells, you can search for overused words and replace them with something a little less tired.
Rename places and characters. I know most authors put more thought into character names and and geographic locations than I do, so this might be relevant only to me. I tend to use names haphazardly, always intending to go back and put more thought into the decision when I have time. Brain-liquefaction moments are the perfect occasion to peruse phone directories, baby name books, or even the employee roster at work to find more suitable names for hastily named places and people.
The brain-dead brainstorm. I’m not a plotter, but I do keep a Word doc of random thoughts on future scenes and plot twists. When I can’t muster the brain capacity to do much more than clip my toenails, it’s a surprisingly good time to add to this document, usually in a stream-of-consciousness fashion. Fatigue can spawn some surprisingly useful ideas…like this blog post, for example.
What do you do when your brain gets too tired to function creatively? Do you keep pushing, take a break, or find some other way to put the few remaining brain cells to work? Please share.
I have to go scrub the gray matter off my desk before the dog starts lapping it up.