Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Old Reliable

I spent a lot of last week feeling really bad, either not attempting to do anything constructive, or trying and failing, and in addition to my physical discomfort I was plagued by the sense that if I were just a little better, a little stronger-willed or conscientious or something, I could have done things.

I was supposed to be figuring out which of the agents and editors from the conference it would be fruitful to submit to, and which works should be submitted; but all the contingent circumstances from Moby's mishap on the way into town distracted me, my notes were even less legible and useful than usual, and I didn't have the sense I usually have of who could reasonably be expected to connect with my work. I'd stare at the notes and do a few web searches and then curl up in a ball and moan a bit to indulge my physical distress, feeling that I had done nothing whatever.

And then yesterday I realized that I'd made a decision - this work, that editor. Only one decision, and possibly the "wrong" one (it being always more probable that any given submission will be rejected than not), but one more than I had felt myself capable of making at all when I woke up.

And the moral of this story is that, as long as you keep it fed and watered, you can trust your backbrain to carry on with your work even when your conscious mind doesn't.

That thing people say about only using 10% of your brain is not true at all. We are all using every bit of our brains most of the time. There's some redundancy built into the system, but there's no wasted space. It is more nearly true to say that we are only aware of about 10% of the work our brains are doing at any given time. The bulk of the work - heart pumping, synapses firing, muscles moving, decisions making, stories writing - happens outside the small circle of light cast by our conscious will and attention.

Just because you're curled up in a ball moaning doesn't mean you're not getting any work done. So lighten up on yourself, and be ready to put that work into a form usable by the outside world as soon as you feel better.

1 comment:

  1. This is so true Peni! Many is the time I've been "stuck" only to have the solution present itself upon waking. And yes, the brain is always ON, always working. (Thank goodness or we'd be mumbling idiots.)