Monday, October 20, 2014

Brain Standby Mode

No, I don't mean burst suppression brought on by events such as hypothermia, I mean spacing out. I call it Standby Mode because I see the brain as a lot like a computer. With no activity it goes into standby mode waiting for outside input to get it working actively again.

As a kid I used to space out a lot. I could do it at the drop of a hat, in a crowded room, or even in the middle of eating. Although not as often, I still space out today.

Just honk if you're behind me and the light turns green.
This is one reason why all your best ideas come when you are falling asleep, or taking a shower. When falling asleep your mind isn't distracted by the input of the day, and when you're not kept awake with other thoughts ("Should I watch Honey Boo Boo or Jersey Shore tomorrow? They're both on at the same time and I can't decide, aaaaaargh!") your brain is free to roam. The same goes for taking a shower. If you're like me you shower pretty much every day.

And if you don't shower at all you probably smell like a hobo.
After a bazillion times showering it's pretty much a routine. It's so routine, in fact, that your brain doesn't even have to devote a lot of thinking toward it, giving it a chance to wander. A shower is also a bit of a sensory deprivation chamber, since the sound of the bathroom fan and water make white noise so that you can't hear the outside world, and there's not a whole lot for you to see in the shower either.

Unless you've got, like, a super rockin' bod.
So maybe you fall asleep really fast and your skin chafes from taking five showers a day, how do you manage a Brain Standby Mode?

Force it.

It's both easier and harder than it sounds. I imagine it's a bit like meditation, except instead of letting go and emptying your thoughts to achieve nirvana or the like you're merely providing your brain an opportunity.

Basically, you want to unplug from everything. No Internet, no TV, no phone, no people, not even a book. You want to make your brain go from focusing on the outside to turning toward the inside. You want it give it an unchanging environment so that it doesn't have to use all of its power processing what's going on. It's why so many authors having rooms dedicated to writing (Neil Gaiman's writing gazebo being a personal favorite of mine.)

Granted, sometimes if you find your brain spacing off about the wrong things (the car, the house, the kids, what's for dinner, work, etc etc) you have to give your brain a little nudge in the right direction. Think of the last scene you wrote, or think of a different scene, or a scene in the future. Play with some ideas, your characters, go through some scenes in your head you don't plan to have in your book.

If you need to, open up to the last page of what you've written, but don't actually write. Sometimes I find myself doing that. I don't stress that I'm not actually writing though, because I'm working it through in my head.

If anyone saw me staring glassy-eyed into the computer screen and asked what I was doing, however, I would tell them "Writing" because, in my mind, that's technically what I'm doing.

No comments:

Post a Comment