After hours brain work: rocking the back burner

By Josh Koonce

Twice in the past two weeks my brain has worked overtime for me outside of normal business hours to cook some ideas for me with very little conscious effort on my part. 

Maybe–like some men I know–the brain will only take on these extra cooking duties in the direst of  circumstances (like in the final countdown to PhD exams), but I have a suspicion that it might go beyond that.

The first time I had a school visit with a younger group of kids than I’d talked to previously, and I needed to reframe my author spiel. The second time, there was a guest blog post that I reallywanted to do but couldn’t figure out when to write. Both times, here’s what happened:

FIRST: I told my brain, “Brain, I need your help. I can’t think about this visit/post until tomorrow morning, and then I’m only going to have about an hour. While I’m sleeping, I really, really need you to help me get things started.” You probably think I’m joking, but I was that explicit with myself.

SECOND: I spent five minutes giving my brain some ingredients, as in a very spare, messy list of ideas I was thinking about for what I needed to write/prepare.

That’s pretty much it. Both times, I woke up (the first time at a normal hour, like six a.m., the second time at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m.) and got the task done in about an hour. It really felt like magic, but I’m wondering if sometimes we don’t accomplish more by micromanaging our creative processes a little less.

Of course, none of this was “real” writing (as in for my next novel), but it was still work that mattered to me and I wanted to do well. I’m itching to see if this is a strategy I can use to work out some kinks in my revision for The Knife and the Butterfly

I have to be careful, though; I don’t want to piss the kitchen staff off. Better keep it at one all-night, back-burner cooking session a week.


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