Saturday, 19 July 2014

Writing makes my brain hurt

People think we writers have it easy. What a great job. You get to sit in front of a computer and make stuff up. Or maybe you recline on a couch with a piece of paper and make stuff up. Or perhaps, you sit in a cafe, nursing a cup of coffee and making stuff up.

Believe me, it couldn't be further from the truth.

Writing is hard work. And when I say hard work, I mean physically hard work. Ok, so maybe you're not likely to suffer a broken limb or a bad back (unless your writing chair isn't suitably ergonomic), but it's still hard work. How do I know this? Because when I have finished writing for the day, there is one part of my body that always hurts. My brain.

Writing really does make my brain hurt. It makes me feel like my brain has been squeezed and stretched and poked and prodded in every possible way imaginable. And why wouldn't it, because while I am writing, that is pretty much exactly what is happening to my brain.

Sometimes, at the start of the day, I sit at my computer, waiting. I feel a bit like a swimmer at a pool, preparing to take that first dive in. I know that once I start, I'm going to be putting my brain under serious stress. I feel like I need to draw a deep breath before taking the plunge.

As soon as I'm in there, I can feel the stress building up. Sometimes, it feels as if I'm wrestling with the words, trying to force them into place. Other times, it's as if I'm trying to rip something out of the very air in front of me, or dig it out from the depths of my mind.

Either way, it's not easy. The more I do it, the more I feel like my brain is being tied in knots. The more it starts to throb, making me feel like my eyes will pop out and my head will explode.

By the time I'm finished, I know I've put myself through a workout. I know I'm exhausted, and my head will need a good, long rest.

I hope I've convinced all you people out there who think that writing is like a walk in the park. Writing is difficult, stressful, brain-exhausting work.

So if it's such a slog, why do I do it? Because, despite all the mental strain, it's still lots and lots of fun. 

1 comment:

  1. In some respects I’m a lazy writer. If I’m not in the mood I don’t write. I don’t do nothing—I very rarely do nothing—but I don’t force myself to write. I could never earn a living from writing because I don’t have the right mindset. To be honest I’ve never really tried. I’ve never wanted writing to become work at least not that kind of work. Don’t get me wrong, I like work. I like activity that’s productive even if it’s not necessarily creative and I’ve never really had a job that I didn’t enjoy so I’m not really sure where this fear that writing might become the wrong kind of work comes from but it is there. Since I’ve been online however I have developed a daily schedule of writing and over the last seven years I’ll have written literally millions of words—the thought of rattling off a thousand words in a day’s a walk in the park—but I don’t cherish those words like I do my fictional work; that’s the real writing.

    I don’t think my brain hurts after a long writing session. Usually it wants to go on but it’s the rest of me that needs to stop. I’m getting a lot better at stopping when I’m tired and trusting that I can pick up where I left off the following day. There was a time when I believed in something I thought of as inspiration—it’s not really the right word but it’ll do—and when this came it was important that I use it all up because there was no guarantee that I’d feel inspired the next day or even ever again and so I would keep at it for hours and hours and it never did me any harm but now I have a fairly structured life and know, for example, that I can count on two and a half hours in the afternoon and that’s mostly when I write and what doesn’t get finished one day gets picked up the next.

    But you are right. There’re those who think that sitting at a desk all day is a cushy wee number and it is compared to most jobs but to suggest that it’s not tiring is just wrong.