Tag Archives: Brain

A Punch from the Brain, Retaliation from the Heart

If someone has a magical solution to help a person stop overthinking things, I, personally, would love to learn more about said solution.

Because it’s exhausting, friends.

I overthink to the point where I only focus on the negative outcomes. My immediate reaction is to assume the worst, because my mind easily twists and warps things to fit into that equation, where the only solution is the one my overthinking brain creates. Until that worst case scenario is proven false or doesn’t come true, I just assume that’s the reality, the truth of what’s to come. And then once it doesn’t, I feel like a fool, because everything obviously pointed to things being okay or things working out, yet my brain couldn’t help but distort those signs, those facts. I tell myself, See, you didn’t need to worry? Don’t put yourself through that again.

I’m sure you’re not hard-pressed to figure out what happens next.

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I’ve been doing this a lot lately in terms of my evolving friendships and undefinable love life. It can be the simplest things, from not receiving a text for a while to not being called a pet name to putting in all the effort to being left out of a hang out session. I over-analyze, I replay conversations, trying to pick up meanings from inflections and word choice and things left unspoken. I become hyper-focused, always worried that my reality is actually going to become what my brain tells me it will–and it’s never good. And life is good, right now, and who am I to deserve that? How long can it last before I mess it up; then, once doing so, how long will I spend regretting that one confession, that one crying session, that one time where I admitted too much or became too vulnerable and fucked everything up?

These thoughts and fears and scenarios birth in my brain and then worm their way into my emotions, twisting me into a sour mood where I either don’t want to talk to anyone at all or I become needy, desperate for affirmation and confirmation that these fears are heedless and merely vicious to my own subconscious. Suddenly, my desire to be productive diminishes, and even writing and reading become chores when they should be exciting. If it’s really bad, the emotions will manifest into physical pain, in my chest or my stomach, a throbbing pain in my temple.

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And all the while, the scenarios don’t stop replaying in my head, pointing out exactly what went wrong and how I caused it.

This sucks. It makes me seem like my brain isn’t exactly all there. That I’m emotionally imbalanced or the most needy human. It makes me seem like…a bit much, maybe too much to handle or perhaps not even worth the trouble, even for the good times; for the times when I have my brain under control and I don’t give into every seed of doubt, every change, every fear. How can the good times be worth it, for my family and friends and partner, when they also come with moments of the bad, which occur more often than I like to admit?

I can’t make a case for why, but I like to believe I’m worth it, anyway. Even though it’s not the most enjoyable part of my personality, being an overthinking worrywart is a part of my personality. A part I’d like to lessen, a part I’d like to be more in control of, but it’s a part of me nonetheless. So yeah, I have a lot of anxiety and I overthink way too much. But that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to me. That doesn’t mean that those demons are right and I’m going to ruin every aspect of my life, to my family to my friends to my love life to my writing career.

So thanks to those of you who stick by me, despite of this.

And also? A little note to that overthinking brain of mine?

Yeah, I’m in a point in my life right now where I have a lot less friends than I used to, so the few I’ve held onto, I’m suddenly so paranoid I’m going to lose them for good and my life will become nothing but working and coming home to an empty house; a routine never broken up by coffee dates to catch up, weekly 1-1 sessions, long conversations or tears caused by laughter. I’m at a point where I am falling hard for a man who is scared of commitment, so we might never have the type of relationship I’ve always dreamed about, and he’s become so important to me, I’m so nervous he’s going to disappear from my life and not only will I be alone again, but I’ll also no longer have him as a constant presence, support and light. I don’t want to lose him. I’m at a point where I’ve been struggling to write and I’m scared I’ll never get over that, but I’m also scared of the books I have written never going anywhere, never being loved the way I love them. I’m at a point where I feel like my financial status is dominated by bills and I’ll never catch up and feel ahead or financially comfortable, so of course I’ll either always live paycheck-to-paycheck….or worse.

But you know what, my lovely, over-energized, never-ceasing brain? All of those things could happen, all of those fears could come true, and I will still be okay. 

I could lose every friend I have and see no one. I could get my heart shattered by this man. I could have every book I write get rejected. I could lose my job or live paycheck-to-paycheck forever. One or all of these things could happen and yet I will still make it. You wanna know why?

That’s calling living.

That’s life.

If I didn’t have these fears; if I wasn’t putting myself out there and risking my heart, risking my hopes, risking my dreams; if I wasn’t so attached to people and passions and things; is that the kind of life I want to live? Sheltered, comfortable, safe, complacent, routine?

No, I don’t think so.

Some days, you win. You make the inside of my head a living nightmare. You exhaust my friends when they have to remind me, again, that they aren’t going anywhere. You make my family’s foreheads meet their palms when I repeat the same mantra of, “But what if X? Can’t you see Z?” You give me anxiety, you make me fear, you add unnecessary stress, you steal sleep, you absorb will, you cause pain. And I hate you for it.

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But other days, I win. I take risks. I follow my heart. I create art. I enjoy the little things. I run miles. I laugh with friends. I get overly excited about dogs. I nerd out. I go on adventures. I work. I live as a hopeless romantic. I do whatever I can to break up the monotony and mundane aspects of life.

No matter how hard you hit, no matter how many punches you throw, I’ll come back swinging just as hard. It may take hours, days, weeks, before I retaliate. Before my positivity can make a comeback and prove more powerful than my anxiety. But know this, anxiety. Know this, my overthinking, over-analytic, obsessive, cynical, hopeless mind.

I will never stop fighting.

And I will conquer you.

Cheers.


Defeating the Brain

So, writing and your brain. Your brain is, arguably, the biggest asset to assist telling and crafting your stories. It also, not surprisingly, is your biggest enemy. One that I’ve been battling–and losing to–for the past six, seven months. There are three main areas, I think, where my brain has created mindsets and thoughts detrimental to my writing game, to the point where I easily went weeks without writing at all.

I’m writing this post to remind myself how to fight back.

Mindset One: Writing is Work

I mean, yes. I know there is a stigma that writing is easy or maybe even a waste of time, but both of those are absolute lies. Writing takes a lot of work. Sure, it could be defined as simple: put words together until they form coherent sentences that tell a story. But there is a lot of finessing involved. There are a lot of drafts, returning to and reworking what was previously written. And, personally, I think the fact that you have to constantly battle your own head–and that battle usually doesn’t stop even after you’re published and doing well–makes it one of the hardest jobs of all. So, yeah, writing is work. Writing takes work. But what I’ve been struggling with is treating writing like work.

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Hold a moment, lemme explain.

I recently started editing ARTEMIS again. Last week, I opened up my latest draft, scrolled down to the chapter I last left off on with every intention of working on it again. But then I realized that chapter needed a lot of work. It was filled with repetition of ideas and information that needed to be resorted, cut and most likely reworded. There wasn’t enough detail to truly put the reader in-scene and I needed to figure out what the point of that chapter was, really. Knowing all of that needed to happen after reading just the opening line of the scene, I actually closed the draft and decided to work on it the next day. I just wasn’t in the mood to try and figure that shit out. In that moment, I was viewing writing as work.

Let’s look at that scenario from a different angle, for a moment.

Those issues still exist in that chapter. But instead of looking at it as, “Shit, I need to ground readers in-scene and add in all of this description,” how about: “Alright, let’s see how interesting I can describe this room layout. What do I see? What do readers need to see? How is it important? What does it tell? Let’s put all that into words as beautifully as I know how.” Okay, let’s try again. “Wow, this chapter just told me X three different ways in three different paragraphs over five pages. This chapter is everywhere, without any focus. I’m going to have to rewrite the entire thing.” Instead: “How about I make an outline of what this chapter needs to convey and then figure out how Artemis would logically tell it. Let’s make some beats and rework the info that way. Oh, and don’t forget to incorporate his humor. It’s one of your favorite aspects of his character.”

The work hasn’t vanished. The work still definitely needs to be done. But when I think of it as work, I’m definitely not as eager to complete it, sometimes to the point that I choose not to do it at all (a luxury I have considering my writing doesn’t pay the bills yet). Yet when I think of it as an opportunity, as a challenge, to improve my writing to another degree, to push myself that much further, to give this story everything it deserves and more; I’m not only more eager to work on it (most of the time), but I also enjoy it.

Last night, I finally returned to that chapter. At first, I reread that opening line and I just wanted to pull up another tab and start browsing through social media. I didn’t want to put in that work. But I just forced myself to keep reading, thinking in the back of my head, How can you make this better? And how can you have fun while doing it? I ended up not only “finishing” editing that entire chapter, but I also wrote for almost two hours–a lot longer than the planned 30 minutes I wanted to edit.

It’s a simple change in mindset, a simple change in how I view the work I’m doing. But it’s a trick that actually helps overcome this pesky brain of mine.

Mindset Two: Editing Doesn’t Count

This is stupid.

So I’ve had a writing drought recently. And though the past two weeks, I’ve slowly been getting back into the swing of things by editing ARTEMIS, my brain will sometimes whisper that I’m still fully stuck in my rut, because I’m not writing anything new. Editing something I’ve already written doesn’t count.

Again: stupid.

Of course editing counts. Hell, I often find myself working harder when I’m on draft two or three of something than when I was just spitting out nonsense the first time. I don’t have any tricks to crush this idea (it’s been rather persistent, of late), except to remind myself that it’s ridiculous. I’m putting words to paper. I’m strengthening the foundation I laid months ago. I’m rewriting, adding new scenes, cutting, re-envisioning…yeah, it bloody counts as writing.

Mindset Three: Fear and Doubt

This one is as infuriating as it is constant and confusing. I’ve always had fears when it comes to my writing: wondering if it’s good enough, if my stories are worthy to tell, if they are unique, if they’d ever sell. I fear getting publishing and reading reviews claiming my writing is shit, my characters are boring or my plot is trash. I fear offending/misrepresenting people/ideas unintentionally with what I write or what my characters do/believe. I fear never getting published.

And then there are the doubts.

I doubt the quality of my work. I doubt my ability to tell stories. I doubt that any of my ideas are original. I doubt my ability, my craft, my execution, my effort, my drive, my heart, my characters, my plots, my worlds, my voice…myself.

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Pair fear and doubt together and that equates to a lot of time doing anything but writing. Ironically, it’s easy for me to bury my biggest fear underneath all aforementioned: giving up and never writing again.

Honestly, I think I need to focus on that fear a bit more. Because it is real and it is fierce, even if I hide it underneath all of these other fears and doubts that plague me more often they should. Yet how can I ignore that fear and risk it coming true just because I doubt myself sometimes? Just because I am afraid I won’t live up to my own standards of storytelling, my own expectations of myself; afraid of a negative review (which will always happen, no matter how fantastic a story I write), afraid of rejection or hell, afraid I won’t ever be published at all?

Here’s the thing about writing and being a writer. I’ll always have stories to tell. If I run out, I’ll always find things to draw inspiration from. If I mess up one book, I will always have another chance to do better. If I perfect a book, I’ll still have a chance–and an expectation–to improve. Failure and hiccups are inevitable. Yet how many characters have I read, let alone written, who have been faced with impossible odds and make a dozen mistakes–sometimes even failed drastically–only to come out victorious in the end? No matter how many times their brains told them it was impossible, they pushed forward.

So that’s what I’m going to do. Push forward and write stories, no matter how many times or how many ways my brain tries to convince me to do to otherwise.

Cheers.