Stagnant Brain Syndrome

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here.

Let’s be honest – who here has ever suffered from stagnant brain syndrome? You know, that dull, woolen headed feeling that cobwebs are stuffing your brain. Nothing comes out right. Perhaps, you wonder if you have lost your mind because you suddenly seem incapable of putting two coherent words together.

Here is a definition, courtesy of Google.

stag·nant /ˈstagnənt/ – adjective

  • (of a body of water or the atmosphere of a confined space) Having no current or flow and often having an unpleasant smell as a consequence. (Umm – eww. Forget this. I’m not talking about brackish water today)
  • Showing no activity; dull and sluggish: “a stagnant economy brain“. This more like it!

Now it would be totally unfair to blame (or give any credit) to The Doubt Monster. What I’m talking about is a cousin to “burnout”.  I’m also not talking about Writer Avoidance Behavior. This is when you are honestly trying to write and you just can’t focus.

Stagnant Brain Syndrome is when you let yourself get in a creative rut. You fall into a pattern. Using the same go-to plot devices or situations because they are familiar or easy. Suddenly, you realize that what you’re writing is not that engaging and your readers will know it too.

You stop writing. Blame ensues (Doubty gets in trouble). Or you decide that you have writer’s block because you struggle to put words on the page.

How do I know this? Because I’ve been there, dear readers.

But there is hope. You can overcome Stagnant Brain Syndrome:

1. Leave your house. But not to go run errands or the usual mundane chores. Take a walk. Clear your mind.

2. Or – go to the movie theater (I know it’s expensive. If your local movieplex has bargain night, go then). Again, leave your house and go somewhere without internet access or other distractions. Why the movies? Because a film is a few hours of diversion. This way you don’t end up watching a Downton Abbey marathon for two days. Not that I’ve done that….

3. Take a day trip (one of my favorites). I’m doing this today. So you won’t see any comments from me until later.

4. Clean out your closet. Yes, I mean the one you put your clothes in. Or tackle a chore you’ve been putting off.

5. Take a look in the mirror and clear out the mental baggage. Is something bothering you? Are there stressors in your life pulling you down? If so, can you tackle one or develop a plan to make it better?

6. Have you gone for a physical lately? Rule out  physical concerns. And not to state the obvious but – get a good night’s sleep!

7. Play opposite day – tell yourself you’re not allowed to write today. Like when you want to eat that last cupcake or piece of chocolate. Pretty soon, you’ll be itching to write because it’s forbidden!

You may have noticed several of my suggestions involve leaving the house. Our brains need stimulation. We need to build life experiences and interact with the world around us. Otherwise, we could end up like that guy in The Shining, wielding an axe, shouting, “Here’s Johnny!”

Don’t let that happen to you!

Anyone else have this happen? And how did you overcome it?

24 thoughts on “Stagnant Brain Syndrome”

  1. Nice post! I agree – leave the house! for those who’s regular day doesn’t involve leaving the house, it’s important to get outside and just be at peace for a few minutes!

  2. Thanks for affirming once again that I am not alone on this writing journey. My brain has been as fuzzy as a…well…I can’t even think of a decent metaphor. I’m taking my daily walks, TRYING to escape the internet, revamping my marketing vs. writing strategy, and forcing my butt into the chair to write, but every word on the page seems to lead to more drivel. I remember having a similar problem with previous stories. You know, when there are words on the page but they aren’t going anywhere? That 130 page mark in the story when you know that you are overdue to have something blow up, someone killed off, or a steamy smooch needs to happen or your story will be dead in the water?

    Defintitely a stagnant brain problem. Time for a time out! I’m going to take a ride to Albany–that’s what I’ll do. Be back in a few hours. I’ve never actually been to Albany and that’s where my characters have to go next, so that’s where I’m going…see ya!

  3. My problem is focusing after working a 40-hour week! 🙂 Sometimes just reading a novel will help. 🙂 Or rereading earlier sections and revising until a thought comes to me, or brainstorming different directions the story can go in. 🙂

    Excellent post!

    1. Thanks Terry! I totally hear you on the 40 hour work week! Since I work the day job from home, I go from one computer to another in the short space it takes me to walk down my hallway. Not a lot of chance to get the brain into writer mode! I agree on reading a book too. That is a great tip. Sometimes it’s enough to unclog the old noggin’

  4. Been there too, Casey! I agree, leaving the old workspace is very helpful. Walks are my tool of choice. Also movies. Also cleaning. Cleaning the house really helps. Which is why it’s immaculate these days…

  5. Ah Casey, I’ve been fighting this since my husband passed three months ago. My closet is clean, I take walks, eat lunch with my friends, go to RWA meetings, went to see The Hunger Games all by myself, but I couldnot force my butt into that chair. And my mind would not focus on any one subject. Finally I decided that if I couldn’t write my new book, I’d work on pimping my old one. I have written sever or eight blogs in the past few weeks (I have one up today,). I haven’t sold any books, but it got me writing again and I’ve managed to complete four chapters.

    1. Awesome Susan! I think, sometimes, our brain knows when we need a change of pace, even if we don’t recognize it. I can’t wait to find out what your next book is about! I loved Secrets of Forest Bend!

  6. I was suffering from a severe case of this, but yesterday I spent all afternoon driving around placing flyers for Fiction Fest. I got outside, went for a drive and it was lovely weather. Today I woke up with an idea for my novel in a spot I was struggling with. And although I need to write today, the pugs are going for a pedi. (Oh that it were me!) When we get back, I think I’ll set myself up out on my deck to write – I always get a lot done out there.

    1. I was on my deck yesterday too! I had my index cards for my next book and I spent a couple of hours finalizing the order and plot points. I took the last few days off and it was really nice to have a long, uninterupted stretch to just think! Lucky Pugs! I hope their toenails gleam!

  7. Have a look at diet. Strange as it sounds loading up on simple sugars can make you feel fuzzy – this isn’t just cake and cookies – white flour counts. The only issue is that it takes about four days of diet modification to clear the cobwebs. A bit of good quality protein and plenty of veggies will wake up your brain if the cotton-wool seem really persistent. (Not that I’ll pretend this is easy…Some days, the cookies win.)

    1. Great advice Marcella! I eat a lot of fruit and veggies everyday, but I’m suspectible to eating too much sugar. Now I have an excuse to try and cut back! And I need to lay off the caffeine too.

  8. If you’ve tried getting out of the house and you’re still brain fried, have a look at diet. Some people find that simple sugars bring on the brain fog – cake, candy, cookies, anything with white flour. Switching to a bit of good quality protein and loads of veggies and fruit can clear out the worst cobwebs, the only issue is that it can take up to four days for diet modification to completely wake up your brain and body. And I won’t pretend it’s easy. Some days, the cookies win.

  9. Love this! I go outside. Yes. Go outside. Works every time. Play basketball with my dog, take a hike. Riding horses is the best cure.

    1. One of these days, I’m going to learn how to ride a horse! I’ve always wanted to. And I do love to walk. I hate the winter months. I get all cranky when I have to exercise to a DVD. Not the same thing! As soon as the day time temperature crawls into the thirties, I bundle up and walk anyway!

  10. Excellent post Casey. Every one thing you get rid of opens a space in your brain that adds to your r&r (rest and relaxation). It called negative space, like negative space in your room. Negative being a good adjective. Call it want you will, but it is breathing room, resting room, peace. I love getting rid of things. It can become a good habit. Thanks Casey for the inspiration.

    1. Hi Gail! Thanks! I don’t believe the creative mind was designed to churn through an 8 hour work day like you do at an anlaytical desk job. I think the creative mind ebbs and flows thoughout the day (I think there are studies that back this up too). Negative space is a most excellent concept!

  11. I’m all too familiar with SBS. Definitely agree with taking a walk, or getting out and doing something out of the ordinary. Cleaning is more a form of avoidance behavior for me, unless the house is a real sty in which case cleaning does free up energy.

    1. I agree on the cleaning. It’s not my favorite thing to do, so if I’m doing it excessively than I’m avoiding. The one place I do have to keep clean is my writing workspace which is the dining room table. It’s also the favorite dumping ground for everyone else, so I’m always moving stuff off the table!

  12. Oh, I am suffering from this right now. With having to write so many blog posts for guest blogs, I don’t want to write ANYTHING! But I know I need to get on with editing and ready to submit quickly here. I don’t want to lose momentum.

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