Pretty much everyone experiences it once in a while. Call it burn out or fatigue or brain drain (my personal favorite), but you stop running long enough to sit in front of your keyboard and get some writing done and your mind just goes blank. No one home. No ideas, no energy, nothing but the sensation of your brain cells possibly liquifying and draining out through your ears — the origin of my preferred moniker for the situation.
Honestly? That’s me right now. My blogging has been a little sparse in recent weeks, and I feel the self-imposed pressure to come up with an informative, thoughtful post for all of you. Something that’s not a list of links or a general announcement or an embedded video of someone else’s ideas or experience. All of those are wonderful blog content, but I always aim to keep a percentage of posts my own original material and, well… not much of that going on at the moment. Because the instant I clicked on Add New Post (a good 40 minutes ago), I realized that my brain was not going to be cooperative this morning.
What causes brain drain? In my case, I’ve been on a reading jag for work — more so than usual — pushing through a lot of submissions and client material, some of which require editorial notes. I attended a conference, taught a webinar, tackled a whole bunch of behind-the-scenes contract/vendor/distribution details on a number of projects. It’s been brutally hot on and off for weeks and I’m sleeping badly as a result. And I won’t even go into the personal end of things. So, business as usual? Busy life as always? Yes, of course, but it does add up, and my brain has apparently decided I’ve hit the point of maximum density. Time to drain everything and start over. In other words, it’s telling me I need a little break.
Now, brain drain is not the same thing as writer’s block, though they certainly can overlap. But where writer’s block often signals that you need to get a better fix on where your story needs to go (or where it has been in those last pages you wrote), brain drain calls for a letting up — taking time away from the chaos and the hectic schedule to breathe and clear your head. Brain drain demands a day off or a long nap with the phone silenced or an honest-to-goodness vacation. It’s tempting to try to squeeze the life out of every moment of your day, especially for writers who often need to fight so hard just to find the time to focus on their current work in progress. But as important as it is to commit to your writing, it’s also important to maintain your health and well being so you can produce your best work. And sometimes that means giving yourself a break.
So the next time you find yourself staring at the blank page, ask when you last did something completely mindless. You may discover you’re overdue for an afternoon playing hooky or a long weekend at the beach.
TGIF! Welcome to the end of yet another very weird week. My brain keeps turning over that old blessing/curse from Confucius: May you live in interesting times. For better or worse, I’d say recent weeks/months/years certainly count. But it’s Friday and I feel bruised and beaten up after a long few days of too much desk time, way too much coffee, and far too little sleep, so that’s about as much as I’m going to say on the social/political front today.
What I do have for you is a great collection of links for the week. Like last week, there’s a bit of a mishmash, but I feel many of them will help you load up your writer’s toolbox — both literally and figuratively — and to tackle your writing goals. But don’t worry, there’s plenty of reading goodness to distract you, too, if that’s where your mood is. Wishing you a wonderful weekend filled with all things word related. Enjoy!
The Mental Health Benefits of Writing, Backed by Science – In case you were worried that writing was driving you crazy.
Novels Bring World War II to Life for a New Generation – A look at the recent uptick in popularity of WWII-era novels for young adults.
Laptop Buying Guide for Writers – K. Tempest Bradford pulls together a few of her podcasts that talk laptop features and her recommendations specifically for writers.
Faerie-led: Thoughts on Writing Meaningful Fantasy – A thoughtful look at the genre.
Apple Begins Paying Out on Ebook Settlement – In case you haven’t heard, you might have some extra book money floating around.
Think You Couldn’t Possibly Lose Your Amazon Publishing Account? – Important read for self-pub/hybrid folks, but interesting for all.
A Map to Get Out of Writer’s Block – A very handy, helpful graphic, worth saving for future emergencies even if you always feel inspired and ready to write.
49 Underrated Books You Really Need to Read – Have read and loved a number of these, but better believe my TBR list just got longer.
New York Taught Me to Be a Better Listener – Interesting read. Note that this didn’t have to take place in New York, the author just happened to have her learning experience there.
Serial Reader app – Looking to squeeze some classics reading into your life? This free app sends you classics in short installments, a new 10-15 minutes’ worth of reading each day. Huge and growing collection of titles. So far just for iOS, but an Android version is in the works.
Happy Friday, everyone! As January winds down, it’s a good time to take a quick look at some of those goals you set at the start of the year, just to make sure you’re still on track. I know it can be difficult once the holidays are over to keep your plans in mind, especially when your boss and your family have goals of their own that often involve you. Make it a habit to check in with yourself pretty regularly so you don’t forget that your goals are a priority, too.
And with those words of wisdom, I want to give everyone a heads up that this blog will soon be migrating to a designated URL — one of my goals for the new year (and long overdue). Everything will stay live here until I’m satisfied that the new site is up and running properly, with the links functioning and so on, and then there will be a forwarding message to take you to the new location. So don’t be surprised if things look a little different on a near-future visit.
But enough of all that. It’s time for Friday Links! If there’s a theme this week, it’s world domination — at least the world of books. I hope these encourage you to get out there and read and write great things, ignore the naysayers, and take risks with your career. The only one who can do it is you.
14 Secret Habits Every Book-Lover Is Guilty of Having – I know I am. Particularly the one about buying pretty new editions of books I already own.
Diversity Is Not Enough: Race, Power, Publishing – A look at how very white the publishing industry still is behind the scenes, and how that affects the diversity of books.
World’s First Free Online Course Dedicated to the Exploration of Literature and Mental Health – Sounds very interesting. Starts Monday, Feb. 1, so get a move on if you want to join.
CTRL-F, DELETE: Word-Trends, Sneaky Clichés, and Other Turns of Phrase You Should Immediately Delete from Your Manuscript – A look at recent trends in incorrect or overly frequent word usage.
What Was Lost? Why Writers Should Value Their Working Drafts – How digitalization has changed the writing — and rewriting — process and what that means for posterity.
Talking Black History and Love Stories with Romance Writing Pioneer Beverly Jenkins – A great interview looking at historical research, diversity in the romance genre, and how Beverly Jenkins got her start.
Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators – An intriguing theory, with a bit of a push for all of you putting off getting your words down.
Opportunities for Writers: February and March 2016 – A list of contests and calls for work with deadlines coming up in the next two months.
Happy Friday! What has your week brought you? What are you hoping for this weekend? I suspect a good number of you are hoping for warmer weather, given what’s been going on on the east coast. I’m wishing you all sunshine and milder temperatures, or at the very least some time to burrow under a cozy quilt with a mug of your favorite hot beverage and an excellent book.
To kick the weekend off right, I’ve got a nice assortment of links today. I hope you find them inspiring and/or helpful. I feel like they lean strongly toward the self-help aura of January, but a couple address important issues that can hit you any time of year. Enjoy, and have a wonderful weekend!
Navigating Stuckness – One artist’s dissection of the stages of his career and the path he’s taken, both the high points and the low.
Year of ‘Reading Women’ Declared for 2014 – An article on the wave of people dedicating themselves to making sure women writers and writers of color get more attention. I’m going to have more to say about this next week.
Staff 5s 2013 – Powell’s Bookstore’s annual lists of the year’s top five books from their booksellers. Always fun because the range of tastes practically guarantees you’ll find something intriguing you hadn’t heard of before.
On One Writer and Depression, AKA Life in the Black Pit of Hell – Bestselling author Alyssa Day talks candidly about her fight with depression. A really important read.
Things They Do Not Teach You in Writer School, #17 – Author Marie Brennan on figuring out how much story you have, or how long your book might end up being.