Hello! If you’ve been reading this newsletter, I value your feedback and would appreciate it if you can fill out this anonymous survey. It’s four questions long and will take less than a minute unless you have additional comments. I’ve been feeling a little stagnated here and would like to evolve it to whatever the next stage will be. Related to the above and in my general lack of creativeness, I started The Artist’s Way. I’m on day two of a 12-week program and I’m hoping it’ll give me some creative clarity.
My birthday was on Monday and I booked a last-minute short getaway in a cabin. I ended up herding escaped goats that morning. Anyway, it was too short a trip but it did give me some downtime that I really needed.
The brain drain
I call it the brain dump, and I even have a note with the same name on my phone. But “brain drain” rhymes and is probably more attractive sounding than “brain dump.”
The brain drain is when you set aside some time and write. What do you write about? Literally anything in your brain. Whatever thoughts are coming to your head, including things like “I don’t know what to write about,” “why am I doing this,” and “I feel useless and not like a writer.” You don’t stop and think about what you’re writing until you’ve reached that point where you feel your brain drain is done.
I first learned this technique when I was doing NaNoWriMo. Writing 50k words in one month is no joke. And it’s all about the word count; editing is not encouraged until you’re done with the challenge. At the time, I struggled to write so many words daily – especially since I had chosen to do a fiction novel – something I had not written in at least five years. My character’s quotes? I felt like I used every synonym for “said” in the thesaurus.
So I was introduced to Write or Die. It’s still available, but it hasn’t been updated in four years, so I’m unsure how good it is now. But the idea was to input a word count goal and a time limit. You could choose the level you wanted and this affected how the site would react if you stopped typing. For example, I think the basic level started showing red at the edges of your window. The extreme level actually started deleting characters if you stopped writing. Other options would make loud noises. Anyway, it was very effective.
Nowadays, I use the brain drain technique when starting an article and finding myself blocked. I might get too focused on finding the perfect first sentence or not knowing how to structure an article, so as a consequence, I have a blank text document staring back at me, basically taunting me.
And since starting The Artist’s Way book that I mentioned in the intro, the brain drain is in action every morning. I’m supposed to set aside half an hour in the morning to brain drain for three handwritten pages (called “Morning Pages”). Three! Pages! Handwritten! My hand was cramping halfway through the first page. But it’s a brain drain that you set aside and don’t reread until much later, if ever. The idea is to clear out the morning cobwebs to open your mind up to more creative pursuits. I’ll get back to you in a month or two to tell you if it’s been working.
So, the next time you’re stuck in a creative problem or feel like you’re blocked, I recommend trying out a brain drain. Also, if you start doing The Artist’s Way or have done it, I’d love to know about your progress!
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