On Writing: When Your Brain Locks Up

There are days you’re just out of spoons.

This is not a post about breaking writer’s block, more’s the pity. This is about when your brain just can’t write. Not, won’t write, as can happen when you’re tired or there’s a new Shiny Anime or you’ve written yourself into a corner and you can’t yet chew your way out of it. This is about can’t write, because your brain is currently saturated with adrenaline and/or exhausted, staring like a deer in headlights at the oncoming collision of Murphy about to completely, utterly wreck your life.

Which has pretty much where my head’s been at off and on since… ergh. April last year. Several years before that weren’t much fun either, but at least the outbreaks of Murphy were relatively stable and predictable. I could, and did, plan around them, writing like mad on the days I’d get some peace and quiet, otherwise surviving.

Lately? Every time I think I’ve gotten things tamped down to a dull roar, something else blows up a few days later. Start the day, get ready to write – bam, crisis, head locks up tighter than Fort Knox.

So. What do you do when you’re too wired, exhausted, or your hands are just shaking so much that even scribbling notes is unreadable?

Me, I try to find something useful but destructive to do. Hack down yard weeds so the place is in town regs. Shred old paperwork. Trash any old junk I can find. Anything that will 1) let me get moving to physically burn off some of the stress and 2) is something that needs to get done. So at least I’ve gotten something out of the way, that might give me a chunk of free time to write when I do calm down.

Speaking from far too much personal experience, yes, you will calm down eventually. The body can only maintain Red Alert mode so long. (Though Yellow Alert… that can last a long, long time, and I’m not looking forward to how hard it’ll hit when things are finally over.)

It’s helpful to have clean sheets on the bed for when you finally crash.

It’s frustrating to have all the creative work you’re trying to do get stopped dead by the latest trauma. But the time to do synchronized swimming is not when you’re getting washed downstream toward the waterfall with all the sharp rocks.

Save yourself first. Then write.

29 thoughts on “On Writing: When Your Brain Locks Up

  1. I’m maybe not having fear/adrenaline problems, but I have been having a few issues starting a couple days back with fatigue/verbal processing issues.

    Last night, up past my bedtime, I found myself compelled to try to write an essay that I flat out wasn’t thinking clearly enough to be messing with. I’d long prior hit the level of fatigue/confusion of verbal ability that meant I should not be writing anyway. Then I found myself taking some foundational thinking I’ve been attempting in an area of ideological theory, and trying to put together an explanation in a context that I rarely can control my temper well enough to write coherently in.

    So, was up way too far past my bedtime, and went deep into bizarre compulsive behavior that only left me more tired today. I’m very much not sure how I should plan to recover, or if I can recover enough to get anything useful done this weekend.

    Not quite the same, but there are a number of ongoing activities that have not left me mellow.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, I’ve done that with one non-fiction project this week, for the sake of another.

        I shelved a fun combo of trolling/careful philosophical analysis, that is partly aiming at people who have pissed me off on twitter, and partly at people whose RL actions have left me a bit enraged.

        I shelved it because I honestly think the other project will be more fun. Some of it is fairly boring, but every fun thing has boring bits. What is drawing me to is most is a fun little bit of explanation, to help an audience understand something they haven’t really been exposed to before, and with some interesting challenges. There’s a trade off between giving as comprehensive an explanation as is concisely possible, and being too partisan to reach my full audience.

        Anyway, I’ve been sitting around this morning thinking of the second project as something I have to do, because “I promised”, so it helps me to remember it as something I want to do, for the joy and the challenge.

        I just got DVDs of the Sentinel, which I got because the bunnies are telling me that one of my major characters in WIP could be a Sentinel. I don’t know the show well enough to think that question over properly. I’ve also got most of re:rise in front of me. I can turn /that/ into “ugh, what a chore.”

        Might be laziness and poor discipline on my part, but one of the ways I find myself having to cope with an organized work load is being able to go back and remember why I wanted to do something in the first place.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. (Pardon my sense of humor, I’m the kind of person who watched Shield Hero and declared of course the group was a mess, the DPS thought they were in charge and abused the tank while ignoring the healers.)

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You could probably get all the stuff you’d enjoy out of it just from someone sharing “funny Shield Hero moments.” Some of them are awesome creative, like using insanely high armor but very low DPS to threaten people into not robbing you. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I actually came to the conclusion that Shield Hero wasn’t being dumped on _enough_ by the world, since the NPCs who did the dumping A) don’t have the proper authority to, and B) get removed after a while by the NPC who _does_ have the authority, and who becomes Shield Hero’s patron.

        Raid Boss Battles aside, I wanted him to continue to go FTSIO on the whole corrupt mess, going around helping people while the PTB continue to gaslight everyone into thinking him a diabolic villain, until he won by being a folk hero in the eyes of everyone who isn’t benefiting from the aristocracy.

        Unfortunately, it all ended up being ‘good NPC of higher station smacks down bad NPCs’, and my interest kinda waned at that point.


        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ah, but she’s over-extending her power in doing so– and is going to piss of the neighbors. Main thing it did was make a reason for him to be anywhere near the DPS, which both allows for drama, and the secondary storyline, to be carried out.

        I actually had a lot of issues with the characterization of the other “heroes” until they did the scene were they’re comparing abilities and how to gain them, and he’s the only one who’s trying to improve the whole thing rather than max out his own DPS. Suddenly realized “WAIT! They’re toxic DPS!” And it clicked.

        So the higher ranked NPC, who just blew most of her power to undo the initial screwup, is functionally handing out a group quest where they’re forced to party with the tank.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Might be a retcon, but per wiki it turns out that there is a big bad behind the whole series of problems that the weapon heroes are summoned to address. It also turns out that the one of the initial ‘bad npcs’ was a fragment of that entity, apparently because the entity likes an up close and personal view of the mess they cause.

        Do I necessarily find that persuasive or skillful?

        I think there are a fair number of these Isekai LN that started as webnovels that have design choices made early I don’t care for, but that I enjoy reading anyway on the strength of the execution by the time I got around to it.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. It helps, honestly. We’re getting through things one day at a time, but it always takes at least a day to get past the worst shock of someone having yet another health crisis.

      We have backup plans. And a few backups for those. We’d rather not use them. But whether or not things go well enough for us to get moved out to a place that’ll let us have the dog and get the house sold is just not something we can control.

      One thing at a time. Currently looking up moving companies so we can grab someone in a hurry if we have to. And spent some time earlier today clearing off a bunch bookshelves so they can be donated – less stuff we have to move!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It looks like they aren’t very big, hypestat says 1 visitor a day, but the whois suggests it’s a spam site.

        Registry Registrant ID:
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        buying internettraffic com
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        You might try emailing, but I’d use a burner email; then I suppose you can use the abuse email….

        (dots removed and replaced with spaces to avoid spam filters)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m sorry. I saw it when searching for your site on google, figured it was a Russian unauthorized copy of your works. I wanted to let you know, just because Ao3 has had a rash of them lately. I didn’t mean to add to your stress at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and I’ve already dealt with stuff being stolen from FFN and AO3 last year/beginning of this year, and a jerk who decided to start putting death threats to me and to fans on Embers. Hence why that one is now comment-locked.

      I’m pretty sure it’s that guy who started up those again on FFN (using anonymous reviews this time) for a few days about… huh. That was just two weeks ago, yeah.

      I hate this year.


      1. Oh, gads, did they start out almost sane and then go utterly gonzo even if they’re just talking to themselves? With user names often based on STDs? (no, not joking)

        You might have a Y@m@ the Sp@ce Fish infestation. (name maimed to avoid the most common bots) You’re female, a successful creative, and given his level of coherency he probably decided that you’re Japanese because of Count Taka and the Vampire Brides. Shadowdancer dealt with him before. If he’s not already here, I don’t want to bring him down on you. He’s obnoxious.

        We both know that Florida has cyberstalking as part of their standard stalking law, and I know from my husband that they will enforce it, but HE might not know that. Just something to keep in mind. Next step will usually be trying to get the anti-theistic totalitarians to jump to his tune and swarm, although the last time I remember him trying it, they’d wised up. He…doesn’t learn very fast….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. IIRC, that wasn’t the name used, but the first comment was sane, while the rest were hateful spewings I will not repeat on this blog.

        Yes, there were death threats. None of them involved being Japanese, although a certain reviled group of the other major Axis nation was brought up many, many times.

        I appear to have gotten whoever it was bounced from both AO3 AND Fanfiction.net, though. Given I could point exactly to said signed comments.

        I get so tired of dealing with people like this. I swear I need a CAT scan to find the Narc Magnet so I can have it removed.


      3. Must just be a generic crazy, then.

        Not that it makes it any less draining, but I’m glad you’re spared one known pest, at least.

        *hugs* They wouldn’t pick you if they did think you were big enough to get them attention.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. You write stories, that people enjoy, and will *pay money* for. Worse, you have social-friends (*waves around blog*) who will talk to you without being emotionally manipulated into it.

        You were in a bad situation, dug down deep, and you’re digging out. Worse, you haven’t given up— which means that their failures aren’t the iron law of the universe, they’re not “bad luck,” it’s something that can and should be fought. Which means them stomping on folks when they had a chance was wrong.

        If they don’t tear you up, they’d have to face themselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks, I appreciate that. 🙂

        Obviously a deprived soul not exposed to Conan the Barbarian and Sherlock Holmes early enough in life. Those two characters never ever gave up.

        Seriously, can you see Conan the Cimmerian whimpering about, being taken into slavery or facing down eldritch soul-eating monsters is Just Too Haaaard?

        Darn right you can’t. *Empathic nod*

        Life is not fair. People should try to be as fair as possible – and deal with those who aren’t. Preferably with a broadsword… ahem. *G*

        Side note – I’m now caught up with all of Re:Rise, and anyone interested in not just mecha but character development? This anime has it but good! I want to take mental notes, it really covers how hard it is to get from Ragtag Bunch of Misfits to True Companions.

        Now if I can figure out how to get that into books….

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I’ll pass it on to my husband– he loves that kind of development, and I think he’s almost through If it’s for my daughter, I’d even defeat a demon lord‘s available stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Yeah, he is a wee bit difficult, and desirable to avoid.

        Which is coming from me: I’ve just realized that I owe an apology on another blog for my recent behavior.

        Liked by 1 person

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