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Author Information

Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Does Your Writing Reality Fit the Plan?

You can’t predict when an “a-ah” moment will arrive or how your writing will unfold — creativity is, by definition, unpredictable.

But if the reality of when you show up for Product Time (aka writing time) rarely matches the plan, you’re either resisting your writing or you have a bigger problem.

My Modest Plan

Today I planned to get up, feed the dogs, have breakfast, work on my novel and walk the dogs before my first coaching appointment.

My Reality

I got up. Fed the dogs. While cooking oatmeal, I remember I need to call my gas utility company. While on hold, I remember an email I need to send to a coaching client. Before I can finish the email, the service rep takes me off hold, asks a few questions and puts me back on hold.

I turn off the burner under the oatmeal, send the email and, since I’m already in Outlook, check for messages that require action this morning. A email notification from Facebook sends me to my FB page. On my way there, I see a photo my sister posted. Scrolling down to Like her photo brings the next post into view. A friend posted a cartoon I have to share. And then?

Frankly, I can’t remember what happened after that. It’s all a blank until I came to about a half hour later.

The Result

addicted to computer2Oatmeal is overcooked, cold and uneaten. My characters are still waiting. The hour is gone, and so is my ability to focus my attention. I can regain my focus by walking the dogs, but my first client will call as soon as I get back.

How did this happen again? When I know better? When I advise students, readers and coaching clients to avoid these kinds of distractions?

The Cause

social media writers block canstockphoto15832084Your brain loves novelty. You are hardwired to respond to novelty. Every time you notice something new on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, email, your phone, tablet or laptop, your brain gives you a little squirt of dopamine.

Dopamine is often described as the “feel good” neurotransmitter, but recent research suggests  the “gimme more” or “do it again” neurotransmitter is more accurate. Even if it doesn’t feel that great, we want more.

Dopamine plays a significant role in addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, food, shopping and, most recently, social media. Apparently we are all dope(amine) addicts.

The ping, beep or flash that tells us there’s something new to look at reinforces the addiction and makes it oh so hard to resist the temptation to continue fracturing our focus. We can’t stop ourselves from following the next electronic signal down the rabbit hole.

After all, it’ll only take a second. It’s not THAT bad. And I can quit anytime I want.

Are you sure about that? For a few days, make a note of how often you get a dopamine hit from an electronic source. Your don’t have to change anything, just observe. When you lose track of time (like I did), note that too.

My next post will offer solutions. By then, you may be ready to hear them.

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    […] all had days when the writing reality didn’t match the plan. We’ve all started out with great intentions to write but somehow ended up listening to the […]


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