Last weekend, I learned the Enemy’s name and, more importantly, how to kill the motherfucker.
I was at Mysteries in the Midlands, a mystery writers conference in Columbia, South Carolina. It was a cozy (in more ways than one, which I’ll get into later) affair. It started with a lovely dinner at the Palmetto Club with the moderators, panelists and other bigwigs attached to the event. I was there as the +1 with my sister in law, Beth aka Jaden Terrell. So, since I was there as her arm candy, I was on my best behavior. No cursing, no farting, no politics and nothing too terribly macabre.
Well, 2 out of 4 ain’t bad.
Most of the writers there write cozy mysteries, stories where the violence happens off screen. No sex. No or very little swearing. The murders are cocooned between dinners, neighborly visits and garden parties as a delightful amateur sleuth figures out clues.
A very polite crowd. In spite of their craft.
I overheard a woman admonishing a man because he said, “Shit”. I was perplexed. Everyone at this table conjures up and plots murders, no matter how clean and civil, they are still MURDERS, and you’re all up in this guy’s grill for saying shit? Bitch, if thoughts are as dangerous as actions, every motherfucker at this table should be in prison.
But, as a +1, I kept my tongue still.
The next day, I went to a panel about Neuroscience and Creativity. A fascinating 90 minute lecture about how your brain works while being creative.
This is where I learned about The Enemy.
Get this. Your brain weighs around three pounds is about as big as both of your fists. Go ahead. Make two fists and put them on top of each other. That’s roughly your brain.
Now, see that bit that is around your first knuckle? That is where your prefrontal cortex is located. That piece of cerebral property is where YOU live. That controls all you know, think and how you see the world. It is your ego. All your hopes, dreams, fears and loves. Right there.
All that rest, merely a support system to keep the meat covered skeleton you live in working.
Now, here’s the thing. according to a bunch of people in white lab coats who study brain meats while, when you are being creative guess what piece of the brain is completely shut down?
The Prefrontal Cortex. That little piece of you. The ego. The self editor. The voice that says “Shouldn’t you be doing something else?” It shuts down. It shuts the fuck up.
The White Coats say that when this PFC shuts down, creatives are able to access what they have labeled, The Flow. That really cool feeling when you are knees deep in a story and everything falls away? Time. That headache you had. Hunger. Fear. Anxiety. All that shit no longer matters because you are in The Flow.
And that cool feeling? That is your brain is rewarding you with a download of dopamine and serotonin for your troubles.
Sweet, sweet dopamine.
But to get there, you have to shut down the Pre-Frontal Cortex. The enemy.
And that bastard won’t go down without a fight.
I asked the speaker, “Is it possible that the Prefrontal Lobe doesn’t want to be shut down? Like a toddler not wanting to take a nap. Is that where procrastination comes from?”
So, how do we access The Flow?
Lots of ways. You can just sit down and start writing. Just write nonsense (like this blog! HA!). Or take a walk. Sweep. Do something physical. Anything that diverts the Enemy until you BAM! hit it where it lives, put it to sleep and get that sweet, sweet Flow.
Or, much like the way I’m doing it (right now!), you can take a more chemical approach.
Neuroscientists have determined that it only takes 0.07 Blood Alcohol Content to put the sweet baby prefrontal cortex to sleep. A smidgen under the legal definition of drunk.
So, fill up that glass.
Drink. Shut down the Enemy.
Science says it’s okay.