Work Brain vs. Creative Life


Leftover blackberries and red raspberries  from the batch I took to my writing group last night.

They– We are a talented little circle of five women I respect and trust. What a joy and privilege to work with each and every one of them.

Funny how, after all these years of writing I have to cycle back through some of the same hesitations and challenges. Also funny how as creative people, we sometimes have to give ourselves permission to do things. It’s even more convincing when others give you permission. That’s why I think that working with a group is so valuable, even though ultimately the finished work requires a lot of personal crafting.

I’ve been struggling with a piece lately, partly because I don’t know how long it’s going to be. I frequently wish to write a short story or essay, but I find myself stretching out as if I’m launching a novel or memoir. So where’s the arc start and finish?  How much detail is appropriate. Or maybe that’s just an excuse.

Last month was creatively difficult.  I suffered from a lot of Work Brain. I worked a lot of early and late hours and it was hard to get the read/analyze, research, write legible report, reboot mode to turn off. I operated under the illusion that I could start work early, take a writing break, and return to work. It didn’t play out like that. When I’m really busy, the demands and the priorities of those demands shift from hour to hour, and there’s always the possibility that a client’s finger is hovering over the SEND button right now…now…now to ask for an extreme rush request that will topple the best laid plans.  I was also struggling to work in a good long walk every day.  Maybe these are also just excuses.

During the past month, I’ve come at this subject matter I’ve been struggling with as a first person creative nonfiction narrative, a third person piece of fiction, and for the first time in little cartoons. I felt like I was losing at each attempt.

Last night, after work I went to a coffee house and made myself write a few paragraphs because I committed last month to read something and I do not want to become lax with my writing group.  This way lies madness, I tell you!

Anyway, I read the paragraphs and they weren’t putrid as they passed my lips. As we discussed them, and my issues, I could see that the paragraphs actually held lots of hints about the themes and issues I want to address. Someone in the group mentioned that I was getting at a lot in what I was saying, so I took some hasty notes and they’ll act as prompts or signposts for the upcoming month.

And guess what!?  They gave me permission to attack this thing from as many angles as I need to. I can decide later about length and point of view.

Today is one of my two work at home days, so I slept an extra hour and still had time to write by candle light in my library. The writing session included a series of rough drawings that illustrate part of the story.

I committed to reestablish a daily writing practice. I want to touch on that piece every day, so blogging doesn’t really count.

Yay, Creative Brain!



6 thoughts on “Work Brain vs. Creative Life

  1. markrhunter says:

    Encouragement from other writers can be a huge help! It’s no accident that my writing production has increased since I married a writer.

  2. seabluelee says:

    There are so many reasons/excuses for not doing things, especially writing. I’m good at them all. Good for you for plowing on through. I agree with your fellow writers – try everything. Clarity will come.

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