There’s a part of us that wants to write (pre-frontal cortex part of our brain that makes us human) and there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to write (primitive brain that makes us the relatives of reptiles).
When I am getting into the flow of writing, sometimes I feel like it’s a conversation between my primitive brain and my pre-frontal cortex that goes something like this…
Primitive brain: This is boring and not bringing me any immediate satisfaction. Will you please go get some jelly beans or chocolate with mint because I could really use something more exciting right now.
Pre-frontal cortex – just give me a few more minutes. We are focussing our attention so that we can have a long-term reward of sharing our thoughts and ideas in order to serve others. We will help them and you will feel good, maybe not right now but eventually, if we do that.
Primitive brain – I really don’t care about feeling good later. I want to feel good now. Just give me some candy and I’ll be able to quiet down for a while.
So how do we work with our primitive brain instead of negotiating with it?
Feel the urge to do something else and let it pass through you. Have a compelling reason for the long-term gain and remind yourself of it over and over again. Cover the bases around what the primitive brain cares most about – your survival – stay well fed, hydrated and rested.
How are you supporting yourself in your writing ahead of time?
<Right now I am eating a granola bar. This was poor planning but at least it’s not the jelly beans!>
Sometimes that part of us that doesn’t want to write can feel like a small child whose needs are not being met. One of the best pieces of advice that was given to me about caring for my children, and it applies here to the part of us that doesn’t want to write, is to stay ahead of the basic needs and everything else will be easier.
Instead of resisting the urge to go get some candy, a cup of tea, or anything other than the writing that is in front of us, feel the urge and then do the thing that is going to give yourself long-term satisfaction. Accepting all of the parts of us, the part that wants to write and the part that wants to go get jelly beans is the way to creating more of what we want in our writing and our contributions to the world.
If you find yourself procrastinating when writing, I invite you to email me for a complimentary Discovery Call at firstname.lastname@example.org where we will talk more about what’s happening for you and whether the work I do may be a good fit for you.
– Brooke Castillo (amazing!) has a podcast about urges as it relates to overeating and overdrinking that stimulated my thinking around this
– Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman