Writing is a dance between your conscious and subconscious brain and sometimes that dance is as stiff and resistant as a middle school formal. Our conscious mind might tell us to dance with abandon, but our subconscious mind urges us to avoid embarrassment at all costs. Maybe it’s the conscious brain telling the subconscious brain this too—sometimes our sense of survival and need to avoid our fears is obvious and on the surface because we are self-aware; other times it’s something so painful that we disowned and numbed it out to the point of us not knowing why we resist but knowing we must resist. In other words, sometimes we’re scared and our conscious brain won’t know why.
Point is, writing is one of the rare activities that brings the subconscious brain to surface. And since it does that, we avoid it, even if we’re writing an article about mold that shouldn’t trigger our subconscious, but because the very act of writing COULD enact or confront buried fears, and so we resist it even when our conscious brain says “What’s your problem? Just write about black mold.”
How To Surprise Your Subconscious
This won’t be an article that urges you to leave your home, drink coffee, or break your work into smaller chunks in order to write productively. As effective as all those tips are, they are all in essence, tricking your subconscious and conscious brains to chill out from their awkward dance. But what if you brain is used to coffee and the walks are getting longer, and you’ve broken up your work into smaller chunks but there’s one piece you just cannot seem to complete? That’s when you can try these oddball tricks to shake up your brain!
1. Write on your bed.
This is a great trick because you never associate your bed with work. Because of that, you enter writing from a place of relaxation and no pressure. Of course, you DON’T want to do this too early in the morning when the temptation is to sleep in or too late at night or even at that 3 pm lull if you feel tired that time of day. BUT if you’re heavily caffeinated and have already walked around and researched, working on your bed, may be a nice boost to help you stop overthinking and plow through.
2. Write with the Psycho score on in the background.
Bernard Herrmann composed the musical score for the 1960 horror film Psycho, as well as several other Hitchcock movies. This tip relies on the score soundtrack in entirety, not just the iconic shower-killing-scene music you may associate with the film. Why write to frightful music? Strangely, you plow through writing and get a draft done better when you’ve a got a gradually building soundtrack that makes you feel like you’ve got to hurry and get it done before something happens. Sounds crazy, but the music for when the woman is driving in her car in a rainstorm and then sees the hotel—it’s frantically paced in a way that your worries about writing characteristics of black mold quickly disappear and you get hyper-focused. In fact, there are enough songs on the soundtrack to aim to finish your draft before it gets to the climactic shower scene song—so the nature of the Psycho score itself lends itself to productivity and its own deadline. Try it! It’s strange but effective!
3. Make cookies that are done in an hour.
This works whether you’ve eaten or not. The cookies are the reward you earn for a draft completed. If you’re on a special diet, make date balls or keto fat bombs or any variety of something with a smell will build. Point is, this trick is just adding a reward and requires the self-discipline to write while they bake. It’s meant to push you along so that you stop thinking and start doing so that you can receive the reward of a cookie. This weird trick works because you’re turning a procrastination device—making cookies, eating cookie dough—into incentive. After wasting time making cookies and eating dough, you already feel guilty and so you sit down to write, but you’ve earned yourself a reward at the end.
In conclusion, your brain needs to be surprised or scared or salivating in order to stop overthinking while writing. Try writing on your bed for a change of pace or listening to a horror score with a build-up like the Psycho score to plow through, or make and bake cookies to turn procrastination into incentive and you may find these strange habits help you write!
Samantha S. writes direct, dynamic, digestible copy for any purpose and any medium. To inform, persuade, or entertain. Her writing catches and holds people’s attention because it’s accessible and easily absorbed. As both a detail-oriented and big picture thinker, she’s precise with technical aspects and insightful with overarching themes. She can shift from sparkling and conversational to no-nonsense and informative.