Brain Pain: Exercising Your Mental Muscles

Brain Pain: Exercising Your Mental Muscles

As a teenager, I was that annoying kid in your English class who aced diagramming sentences. I was a grammar and punctuation savant. Like a math whiz with numbers, I seemed to instinctively understand the technical aspects of writing. I couldn’t always explain the language rules – English is one of the most complicated languages to learn, after all – but I always knew which tense was correct and where the comma went.

Way back then, my brain was a nubile and flexible organ. New information and all-night study sessions never caused a kink or twinge in the ol’ noggin. Nowadays, however, venturing into the grocery store turns into a frustrating mental exercise. I’m not so far gone that I can’t remember that I need coffee and milk, but I end up at the end of the dairy case racking my brain, trying to remember what other staple I’m out of. Toothpaste? Tampons? Tequila? Come on, Brain, don’t fail me now. Invariably, I just end up buying all three – only to get home and realize the third thing on my list was onions. Seriously? Onions? That’s not even close.

So when my fellow WoCers and I started kicking around the idea of trying our hands at non-fiction, what does my addled, failing brain do? Raises its receptors and says, “Hell, yeah, we can do that!” Of course it does. It’s already forgotten that we are both out of shape and aging non-gracefully.

Suddenly, I’m reminded of the Toby Keith song I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.

The four of us set up a book outline and a rough draft of a table of contents, then went our separate ways to tackle the topics on our respective lists, and while I have to admit, the first one was a challenge, it was fun. It felt good to stretch my grey matter, kind of like returning to the gym after a year of couch surfing and hopping right on the treadmill and trucking out two miles in thirty minutes. You know that feeling. Your endorphins are flowing and you don’t understand why you ever quit working out.

Then you wake up the next morning, and even your pinkie toe hurts, and suddenly, you remember why you quit exercising. It hurts.

Well, tackling non-fiction writing after over a decade of concentrating on writing romance novels left me in the same sorry state as jumping whole hog into a workout routine. Yes, I enjoyed the new enterprise, but damn, I was amazed at how hard it was. I mean, writing’s writing, right?

Apparently not. So here I am, that annoying smarty-pants girl from high school, finally getting her just desserts, tackling a new, exciting challenge and finding out that what used to come easily is now something I have to work for.

And you know what? Working for it – and working through the frustration of it not coming easily – has made this exercise even more fulfilling.

At this point, my partners and I are about half-way through our first stab at each of our topics. Does it make me a total bitch for being glad to see that this venture isn’t coming easily to them, either? I hope not, because just like nearly everything else in my writing life, sharing this adventure with these ladies, going through the ups and downs with such a cool group of chicks, makes it all the more meaningful.

Will our non-fiction book ever see the neon light of your Kindle? Yes, because we are four very determined women who will see this goal to the end. Will our efforts revolutionize the writing world? Probably not, but I can guarantee you this. They will revolutionize us. Our brains, our writing and our partnerships will all be healthier, thanks to our mental exercises.

And the fact that our brains refuse to act their age!

Dawn Temple

Back when her twin sons were young enough for daily naps, Dawn Temple took advantage of those quiet moments to pursue her dream of becoming a published romance writer. Sneaking in an hour here and there paid off in 2005 when she sold her first book, To Have And To Hold, to Silhouette Special Edition. She managed to secret away enough time to write and sell the second book in her Land’s Cross series, Moonlight And Mistletoe, but alas, her boys outgrew naps and Dawn let go of those stolen moments with her laptop to enjoy life with her two little guys and her big guy, hubby of 21 years.
But now, as an officially retired stay-at-home mom, Dawn has once again found the time and the creative drive to return to writing, and this time around, she’s set her sights on independent publishing. Her first self-published book, Peace of Heart, is scheduled for release in 2017.

5 thoughts on “Brain Pain: Exercising Your Mental Muscles

  1. It’s funny that you compared this to physical exercise, cause exercising my brain has led to me “thinking” about exercising my body. Not doing it yet, but even thinking about it is a move in the right direction. Heave ho!

    1. Lorinda, maybe we should see if Doug will build us both a treadmill desk, basically just a slanted writing surface hanging over the computer screen on your treadmill. It allows you to amble while typing. Personally, I think all my huffing and puffing might interfere with my creative juices!

  2. This is definitely a different type of writing, but I’ve found it fun as well as difficult. It’s made me really think about how best to frame what I’ve learned so that others can benefit from my pain, and that exercise takes me back to my technical writing days…

    I dug out an old graduate school paper the other day (an analysis of the literary criticism of Moby Dick, anyone?), read the first two pages, and thought, “Wow, I was really smart back then!”

    Today? Not so much… 🙂

    Thanks for another great article, Dawn!

    1. Sandra:

      We’re every bit as smart today as we were back in the day. The difference? Those were book smarts and now we have life smarts!

      I too am definitely enjoying the challenge and the new style. In fact, I have to admit, I think I get a little better with each one. Just goes to prove: the best way to improve as a writer is to WRITE.

  3. Dawn, I agree this adventure has been both difficult and fun! And I think we have all learned a valuable lesson – DON’T MAKE COMMITTMENTS WHEN ADULT BEVERAGES ARE BEING CONSUMED! No, honestly I am GLAD we are doing this. I think it is a valuable exercise for the 4 of us and I also think our efforts will be helpful to other writers. WIN/WIN

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