Friday, August 27, 2010

Mind Mush

This post was supposed to be about characterization. I had it all planned out in my mind. I should’ve written it early, but I didn’t. Still, I started the post and got about two paragraphs into the post. And my mind was total mush. Of course, having a migraine at the time didn’t help. I can write with a bad cold or any minor illness, I can’t write (at least not well) with a migraine.

But the migraine didn’t cause the brain mush. It was a result of mind mush, stress, and really tired eyes. But the point of this blog post (am I making sense or is post-migraine fog interfering with my thought processes) is mind mush. Mind mush is that state of brain where you’ve been writing/editing/revising way too long and the words you’ve written look like Swahili. Normally, I’d take a break. Do something fun. Watch a movie. But this time I can’t. Gotta get this revision finished.

Oops, I forgot about the point. Here it is: How do you deal with Mind Mush? How do you sharpen your mind? Yesterday I tried the move-to-a-new-writing spot and read aloud. It worked until the end of the day, at which I was reading aloud and wasn’t even sure what I was reading. And I’m not asking only other writers, I’m sure students have suggestions. (Sadly when I was in college I was one of those students who kept regular hours and never pulled an all-nighter or even a past-midnighter so I have no experience to draw from.) Please do not recommend twenty cups of coffee—I do have to sleep afterwards.

I’m looking forward to your suggestions!


  1. I do take a short break--even if it means coming in under a goal by a day or two. I'd rather do good work late than crummy work on time--and if I try to work when I'm in a daze it's going to be crummy. So I do something reenergizing--creative or enjoying reading, a movie, a hike, or something else "escape-y."

  2. What do you mean you can't take a break? You can take a break. You aren't under contract -- enjoy it!

    One thing's for sure. You can't recover from mind mush by work. Why can't you just take a week off? Is it really that big of a deal if your revision finishes a week later?


    (No, really, I'd just be worried I was revising my manuscript into crap and "wasting time" or something. I'm surprised you can push through!)

    But while I'm taking a break, I watch some comfort movie that I like just because I like it, not because it's good. Like Aladdin. Hercules. Peter Pan (the 2003 one). Catch Me If You Can. Movies are good because you don't have to use your imagination so much. You're giving that part of you a rest.

  3. I did take a break--I ran the treadmill and watched half of Paycheck while I ran. My mind feels much clearer. Action movies are invigorating to me. Movies was a great suggestion.

    I don't take a long break (a day or two) simply because next week my schedule changes radically--school starts--these are my last few "free" days so I want to get as much done as I can.

  4. I guess our brains are like our bodies, we can drive them into the ground and then they rebel on us. Unfortunately, being a night owl, I do stay up too late and consume way too much caffeine. I like it. But I pay at the cost of mornings (I don't have kids in school so can get away w/ it a little).
    I think you are doing the best you can w/ your circumstances. Maybe work in a few more or even one break during the day.
    Praying for ya!

  5. Oh, when school starts, I bet you will be loaded with inspiration. That's how it is for me. The ennui of home life kills my writing. (I was unemployed for 3 months.)

  6. Yeah, exercise is great for mush mind syndrome..


    there is always dark Chocolate:)

  7. I hate that mind mush...I call it brain fog. I usually have to just completely change what I'm doing to refresh myself, like the refresh button on the browser. You know?
    Sorry about the migraine. I get them too, and they are awful.

  8. Somebody already mentioned exercise, but what about sunshine and fresh air? A walk outside tends to clear my head. Sunshine is good for brain health. Other things I've tried that have worked for me: a piece of fruit, an EmergenC packet, a glass of wine. Don't laugh at that last one. One glass of wine can help me focus. A tired mind is prone to distractions. Wine gives me tunnel vision. A catnap is also grand on occasion.

  9. I find working a puzzle, preferably a jigsaw, or doing something constructive, like programming, helps when I can't get my creative juices flowing for an essay.

  10. Connie, here is a constructive idea for you. Try employing Matt (chosen as the youngest in your family) to read to you for 2 hours or whatever he likes for a reward (maybe a week off of chores :))and of course, assuming he has the time. Before you start, print 2 copies - one for you and one for Matt. You will need markers - thin and colorful, and a hard writing surface. Then have him read to you for one hour with no commentary nor cadence, while you mark it up. Don't stop, just keep marking with circles, lines and one word comments, whatever works for you. After the one hour, he can take a break and you can go back and edit. Later that day do it again. Hope that works. Colleen

  11. Yeah, I agree, a walk outside always does it for me. Esp. if you go to a place to walk where you haven't been before or not for a long time. Taking a break to cook helps me, too.

    At least you have a husband who wears suits and ties occasionally! My husband owns ONE Suit and TWO ties, and only wears them for interviews (not even weddings anymore!)