Stupid Smelly Brain

Magic! Magic! Magic! Oi! Oi! Oi! must be rewritten and the send button pressed by midnight Friday week. The writing is going just fine and dandy. However, my brain will not stop coming up with other ideas for the bestest, most brilliantest, most amazingest novels eva!

It’s driving me mad. There I am finally nailing a scene that has been allluding me for months and brain starts whispering sweet nothings about snowboarding werewolves, zombie cowboys, Australian ex-ballerina underwater police. If you don’t write them now, brain tells me, they will run away, never to return. They will die of starvation! In a gutter! It will be all your fault!


What do you lot do when this happens? How do you make the brain shut up and focus on the urgent urgent urgent task at hand? Do I have to threaten it with the withdrawal of gold koala bear stamps? Make it stand in the corner on the naughty mat?



  1. Darice on #

    Oh, that always happens to me. In the midst of one project, my brain begins dredging up the bestest ideas.

    I use the same trick I use on my three-year-old — the set-up. I take fifteen minutes and write down the idea, thus reassuring myself that I’ve given it attention and won’t forget it. Then I go back to the project at hand. For some reason, this works, even though I am only fooling myself.

    (The three-year-old version is “I set her up with the crayons/ dollhouse/ teddy bear picnic and get her involved in playing, then creep back to whatever task I was doing.”)

  2. Little Willow on #

    Write them all down in your notebooks or on little notecards, and save them for later. Tell them that you love all of them equally, but 3M 3Oi needs some special attention right now 🙂

  3. Little Willow on #

    postscript: bring on the underwater ballerina! i’m a dancer. let me know if you need any tips.

  4. shana on #

    i have to suggest what i’ve just read that Justine Robson does:

    “I have a writing secret. I got a bargain-bucket tiara froma wedding shop, and now if I want to write I just put the tiara on and assume it commands power over All. Then I can do whatever I want! I’ve tried to give them out to other people, but they don’t seem to want them. works for me, though. (I have two. There’s a bigger, more ostentatious one for the more difficult writing.)”

    i knew i’d have a use for that idea, so i planted it at gwenda’s. bnd it’s useful already, look at that! technology works!

    now go on your excuse-for-a-thrift-shop-mission and find something that fits your needs.

    (simultaneously, this sets you up with a great expedition away from the computer, from which you will return with gobs of focus to spit the last out.)

  5. shana on #

    yes, people wonder why i’m an agent and not a therapist.

  6. Sherwood Smith on #

    I’m with the others who say jot it down in a notebook or on cards, and then get back to the one with the deadline.

    Another thing that at least works for me is, I promise myself if I get a certain amount of the deadline project done, I can then play with one of the shiny new ideas giving me the old shoulder roll and winkie-poo.

  7. marrije on #

    well, don’t look at me, since i get up at bloody 6 am to work on a proposal and then decide that visiting justine’s website is just that much more interesting than writing about shiny new prospective websites 🙂

    and hurray on the writing going just fine and dandy!

  8. 3³ on #

    I take a note of it, but just a tag line so I don’t get too invested in thinking up cool things.

    “A buddhist meets an immortal and realises not all things are transient.”

    That never gets rid of the itch to think about it though; so I turn back to what I’m doing and read out the last line. Then I continue reading and thinking out loud as I type for a while. I find that when I’m reading out loud it’s tougher for things to distract me since I’m engaging more than one part of my brain on the subject.

    Warning: bad technique to use in public unless you want a five seat buffer zone between you and the rest of humanity.

  9. Rachel Brown on #

    I do what everyone else does, apparently– write notes so I don’t forget, then return to whatever is due. I tend to lose notes, but if it’s a really good idea I remember it anyway.

  10. Justine on #

    Tragically, I also do what everyone else does. But it does not stop smelly brain from coming up with yet more ideas that must be jotted down.

    What I really want to know is how to shut brain up? Or at least have brain concentrate solely on the task at hand.

    And, Shana, I’m not going to wear a tiara! Even if the lovely Justina Robson does it.

  11. maureen johnson on #

    It is the curse. The Brain never stops. Take heart, though . . . yours seems to be doing something useful! When I am stuck mid-chapter (or half page, or totally blank page), I say to myself, “Clearly it is time for lunch/to read a bunch of stuff online/to repaint bathroom/to run naked through the streets.”

  12. tricia sullivan on #

    i know exactly what you’re talking about.

    this is the opposite of what you want to hear, and probably the world’s worst advice, but i wouldn’t fight it. i’d take a chunk of time and get as much of it out of your system as possible. i’ve noticed many times that when working really hard on a deadline for one project, the engine gets really hot and lubed (sorry if that sounds disgusting) and starts throwing up the most amazing stuff. i’m not a believer in disciplining the old creative powers excessively and making them bark only on command. if it’s coming to you, take it, use it–there could be a long dry spell sometime when you’ll wish you were in this place again.

    if the thing is so powerful it really is threatening to suck you in and keep you forever, then you can always resort to assorted self-flogging methods (setting a timer and making yourself do your duty for that time, bribery, threats, etc.–like you I’ve been ‘locked in’ by my partner more than once) but i suspect you’ll find that sooner or later, guilt kicks in, you reach for the caffeine, and it all will get done. you used to be an academic, right? so it’s not like you’re unfamiliar with putting your nose to the grindstone.

    never turn down magic.

  13. shana on #

    it doesn’t have to be a tiara … it could be a cricket helmet of writing glory.

    (i went back and looked at your pictures – some of the players wear helmets, right?)

    the point, though, is the power over all! if you give this unusual-object-of-clothing the ability to make you focus… then when you put it on, it’ll make you concentrate on m3oi3!

  14. May on #


    just kidding. I believe in jotting them down too.

    i think it helps if you don’t actually write a scene. just scribbles like, ‘red hair, blue eyes’ and ‘hates mr. x because he killed her parents.’

    once the book or lead character’s voice takes form in my head, it’s harder to cut it off and work on what you’re supposed to be working on.

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