When Half My Brain Goes on Vacation, All of Me is Happy

A half-day writing retreat while hubby and doggie hiked to the top of a mountain.

A half-day writing retreat in McCall, ID while hubby and doggie hiked to the top of a mountain.

Like many authors, I have a day job that takes me away from my writing. I’m lucky enough to absolutely love my regular job. And yet, working full time while also writing is stressful and I have to be careful to not burn out.

I’m one of those people who become hyper-focused on projects. It’s not a skill I’ve acquired, it’s just something that happens. I become so completely absorbed in what I’m working on that everything else disappears. Avid readers probably recognizes this as something that happens when they’re deep into a good book. To me it happens with whatever I’m working on. As you can imagine, multi-tasking is not my friend. And yet I do it. I have to.

I work on lesson plans while students stop by to chat about grades and assignments. I grade homework in-between attending meetings and running to class. The constant switching tires my brain and every time I have to switch from one task to another, it takes longer to get back to where I left off.

A wonderful dinner cooked by fellow writers at a long weekend retreat in Leavenworth, WA.

A wonderful dinner cooked by fellow writers at a long weekend retreat in Leavenworth, WA.

It would be wonderful if I had the luxury to do only one thing at a time, but that’s not how the world works. So, instead I cope by staying late at school to work on projects that requires more complex thinking. Everything is quiet. My brain calms down and becomes completely immersed in whatever I’m working on.  I’m oblivious to time’s passing and hours go by without me looking up from my task.

Not surprisingly, I write better and more when I have large blocks of time available. I am not productive if I have less than an hour to write. And yet I have to be. Now that I’m writing under contract, I have to produce more in less time. The main problem I face is that my mind doesn’t let go of work just because I’ve left work. My brain keeps processing a particular problem or issue that is teaching related, no matter how much I tell it to let go and concentrate on the creative process of writing.

Imagine that. Being creative on demand doesn’t seem to work.

The workaround I’ve discovered is to force half my brain to take a vacation. I tell the teaching part to go disappear somewhere exotic and not bother me, while I force the writing half to be completely immersed in writing. I go on writing retreats with other writer friends, sometimes they are for a day, sometimes for a weekend, sometimes

for a full week.  And I attend writing conferences where I learn from workshops, network with other writers, and meet publishing professionals. Basically I eat, sleep, and think writing, writing, and more writing.

The view from my hotel room at a weekend retreat in Kirkland, WA.

The view from my hotel room at a weekend retreat in Kirkland, WA.

It would seem like this would be a lot of work and leave me exhausted. And yes, I am tired after a long day at a writing conference, but my creative well is also filled to the brim. My brain has switched over to full writing mode and ideas come quicker than I can write them down. Every synopsis fire quicker and on the same topic. That hyper-focus that can be such a curse is now an asset. I feel refreshed, happy, and so very alive. So many writers in one place at the same time generate a creative energy that fuels me and sustains me for a long time after I’ve left the conference.

And when I am in need of a refill, I plan the next writing retreat or start looking for the next conference to sign up for.

What tricks do you employ to fire your brain into creative mode?

RWA 2015


About Asa Maria Bradley

2016 Double RITA finalist, romance author, news junkie, physics instructor, and diver. Loves Norse mythology, ranch dressing, and cop shows. Lives with husband and rescue dog of indeterminate breed in Pacific Northwest. Represented by Sarah E. Younger of the Nancy Yost Literary Agency. Writers about sexy modern-day Vikings. More at www.asamariabradley.com and @AsaMariaBradley.

Posted on August 17, 2015, in Auth: Asa Maria Bradley and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Hi Asa. I wish I could say that I have figured out the trick to be most productive with my writing. It seems like there is no magic solution, it’s just a personal journey to find out what works best for you. But I love your ideas.


  2. Late to the party – no surprise there. I was busy multi-tasking. Creativity comes from doing repetitive tasks that free our minds. It’s why good ideas arrive in the shower. It’s why some people like weeding. It’s why I take my phone on walks (I record the ideas). Great blog, Asa!


  3. You’ve hit upon a great topic: multi-tasking. Let’s add it to our 2016 list of topics.
    A lot of us are faced with same issues.


  4. Great blog! I’m with you on switching gears and having to be creative on demand…those writing retreats are so necessary! Chocolate and wine help, too. 🙂


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