Your Brain on Words

When you tell yourself you don’t have time to write, your brain believes you. When you tell yourself over and over you don’t have time to write, you never find time to write. Even when you have four hours set aside to write, something always comes up. Because you don’t have time to write!

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

But if you tell yourself you have time to write, time appears. I wanted to write “time magically appears,” but in my experience, that’s not true. 

The brain is an organ that produces thoughts. It also believes thoughts—without question. Thoughts appear. We believe them.

Unless we make the effort to question them. 

“I don’t have time to write.”

Is that true?

“Well, no. I wrote for two hours yesterday morning and I’m writing right now.” 

What’s actually true is: I have time to write. 

Because our brains have evolved to expend minimal energy, our brains prefer not to have to make decisions. That’s why it’s easier to go to work the same way every day, even if you could have avoided that traffic by taking the back roads. Your brain, all our human brains, would rather be on auto-pilot, conserving energy for when we have to run from that saber toothed tiger. 

But there isn’t a saber-toothed tiger anymore. All that physical danger we’ve evolved to save our energy for doesn’t exist, at least not here in North America. We are very fortunate.

But our brains still operate the way they evolved to millions of years ago. So if we think a thought, it’s easier to just believe it and keep going because it takes less energy, which our brains equate to a better chance of survival. 

But some of the thoughts we “just believe” are harmful to us. “I don’t have time to write,” for example, is a poisonous thought to a writer, or to someone who wants to be a writer. 

So what can we do about these thoughts that appear and stop us in our tracks?

Take the time to question that thought every single time you think it and you will soon break yourself of the habit of thinking it. 

Questioning a thought takes energy. So your brain (and mine!) will resist. It will give you evidence (excuses!) showing why you don’t have time to write.

Keep presenting the evidence showing when you had time to write. Give concrete, specific examples:

  • I wrote for an hour right after I dropped the kids off at school yesterday.
  • I wrote every day for at least 30 minutes last summer when I did that journal challenge.
  • I wrote for 2 hours last Sunday morning.

Catch yourself thinking “I don’t have time to write,” and challenge it. If you do, you will soon be thinking “I have time to write,” just as often. You will also, I believe, be writing!

**********

Diane MacKinnon, MD, is a Master Certified Life Coach who used to work as a Family Physician. She’s passionate about writing and journaling and is (still!) working on her first book, a self-help book for medical peeps. You can find her at her website, www.dianemackinnon.com.

12 thoughts on “Your Brain on Words

    • Hi Trudy,
      Yes, our primitive brains are really good at putting things off. For me, developing the habit of questioning has been helpful. Questioning in a curious, nonjudgemental way. It takes effort but it does get easier with practice.

      Keep writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  1. Great post. but if you truly LIVE to Write than my advice particularly now as I age is that we must not STOP. In whatever way our pen can share about life and hope and journeying. WRITE1 WRITE! write!

  2. Important as ever, self-talk. Another idea: Track your time to help yourself build that concrete evidence the brain needs to change its beliefs. There are plenty of time-tracking apps, but a simple stopwatch or egg timer and a notepad will do. The bonus is that when you can actually see how you spend your time, you can make adjustments, too, and that might mean more writing time!

    • Hi Philosofishal,
      Yes, I agree! I’ve done that and I’ve been surprised by how much time I have spent writing and, some days, how much time I didn’t spend writing!

      Happy writing!

      Warmly,
      Diane

  3. So well said Diane! I started writing poetry on a daily basis after losing my Dad three years ago and haven’t stopped since! Thanks for sharing. I am a Creative Life Coach with a poetry blog and today’s here is today’s in case you have time to look?

    https://peacockpoetryblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/29/train-of-thought/

    I am also on Instagram as #coachingcreatively, let’s follow each other if you use this medium? You can also find me on Facebook under Sam Allen wearing a bright red and orange hat!

    I love connecting with fellow coaches and creatives as you can see!

    Sunny greetings from Switzerland!

    Sam 🙂

    • Hi Sam,
      Wow, I checked out your beautiful website and read some of your poems. Many years ago I lived in Switzerland for a year while in college and reading your pieces brought me back to that beautiful country!

      I’m rarely on social media but I’ll check out your instagram account.

      Keep writing (and coaching!)

      Warmly,
      Diane

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