Skip to content

No Brainer

When the brain just isn’t up to it, and the words don’t come at all, let alone flow . . . you have to do something about it.
Which involves a certain amount of belly button gazing, right when you’re least able to do it. Because first you have to figure out why.

So, let’s check the usual suspects . . . getting enough sleep, eating right . . .

OK, OK, we know them all and what to do. You’re just . . . tired of this . . . stuff.

Well, why don’t you take a mental vacation?



Run away from home.

Free as a bird.

Write something silly, utterly ridiculous, that you’ll never, ever publish.

Ha! Take your favorite characters and throw them into the mirror image world. That’s right, give Spock a wicked goatee and mustache and drop his best friend in to see what he’s up to.

It’s amazingly fun, all the potential that made him or her a hero, twisted around into a massively competent villain. C’mon, envision that turning point when he chose the light. Throw your inhibitions to the winds and see what would have happened if he’d turned to the dark.

Don’t worry! No one’s ever going to see this unless you want to amuse your Beta Readers. And if your back brain is shocked and appalled, and refuses to make him really evil, all the better. Write his redemption in society’s and his friends’ eyes and you may have something you can actually publish.

No? You couldn’t do it?

Okay, go trawling through Pixabay and find a pretty picture and design a killer cover around it. Go on, think up a title, the silliest—or most stuck-up—pen name you can think of. Slap them on there. Then add all sorts of lighting effects. Are you thinking up a story for it yet? Better go back and change that pen name and claim it for your own!

No? All right, not enough mental vacation.

Turn on the radio. Invent a character who’s singing that song. Is she a spy, undercover as a musician? Or is he really Elvis, back from Arcturus and missing the music here? Or is the singer about to be murdered? Why? By whom? How? What sort of person is going to investigate?

You don’t like starting with characters, and having to find a story?

All right. The six basic story types. (1) Boy meets girl (2) Sin and redemption (3) Betrayal and revenge (4) Impersonation (5) Quest (6) Overcoming high odds.
Grab a dice. Roll it. That’s the basic plot, roll it two times more for the types of subplots. Oooo! I got sin and redemption, with impersonation and boy meets girl. Try it, see what you get.

No? Your brain is playing hard to get, let’s try this: which give you random mixes along the lines of “He’s a benighted overambitious inventor on the hunt for the last specimen of a great and near-mythical creature. She’s a sarcastic Buddhist Hell’s Angel in the wrong place at the wrong time. They fight crime!”

If you can’t get silly with one of those I’m going to have to go back to analyzing your sleep and dietary habits!

Still nothing? Play solitaire. When you’re done, how many families do you have, with how many children? How many kings or queens never married. How many young jacks are out there, breaking ten’s hearts?

Oh, man, your brain really has quit, hasn’t it?

OK, writing prompts. Six words at random from the dictionary. You must use all six on the first page. Then keep writing.

Seriously though there really are times when writing just can’t happen. Do not stress out about it. Relax and concentrate on what needs to be done in real life. The writing will happen again.

Because with a baby and a toddler you’re exhausted and only time will change that particular problem. But time will change that.

Or see if your meds are causing the problem. Or lack of meds (Synthroid is your friend!)

Or you should try lo-carb, no matter what your family eats. Ha! As if that would last!

Stress? That’s a biggie. Family issues, money woes, big stress. Some, only time will cure, some need all your time right now. Most need energy to deal with and leave nothing for writing.

One of my big stress coping mechanisms was an imaginary place. I’d take a brief mental break now and then, day dream away my tenseness planning on who lived in my magic village . . . witches, mages, a few gods, a retired evil wizard . . . This was pure escapism, and maintained my sanity until the kids were old enough for school and I could both write and take a part-time telecommute job.
. . . but be careful if you try this, you might end up writing it!

Here’s what happened to my Magic Village:

  1. One day when nothing else was going or flowing, I took a notion to write fanfiction. Of my own stuff. As a Stargate crossover. It will never see the light of day, but damn, that was fun, and I learned all sorts of things about my MC that I hadn’t known before. So, general principle: toss your reluctant character, the one who’s refusing to play ball, into some other universe, and see how he copes (or fails to as the case may be).

    Besides, serves him right.

    February 16, 2018
    • Oh, I like that! So you just watch yourself, Xen, or it’s off to . . . Hmm, going to have to ponder this one . . .

      February 16, 2018
    • You know, my current favorite author, I found via her fan fic….

      AO3 is an option, here.

      Heck, make a category that’s something like “BlockFic” and label it “Wildly AU,” and go to town.

      Worked for DC, but they charged for their AUs.

      February 16, 2018
  2. No Brain…. Not that I don’t have ideas. Trouble putting words down when the Squire just threw his third tantrum of the morning (just because i turned a light off…in the bedroom…). Sleep hasn’t been happening, or I slept in to late and had to rush EVERYTHING. Yeah, some days I have the words chased out of my head by too much stuff. That being said when the good days come I write like the wind. Hoping today is a wind day.

    February 16, 2018
    • Yep. Darn good thing I wasn’t trying to make a living writing while the kids were little. Because you can’t even “Wait till I finish this sentence” Let alone scene–when the crying/screaming/crashing/ominous silence start. Sleep? What is that?

      February 16, 2018
    • *Passes the coffee* I’ve got two of them but my husband and I tag team and we have my folks close by. I salute you sir.

      February 16, 2018
  3. All my mornings start with no brain. I search for the brain. Coffee helps int he search. Then, after much distraction, chasing the snark, I find myself writing. My brain having snuck in, unannounced, and the words start flowing.

    February 16, 2018
  4. carlton mckenney #

    My daughter comes up and describes where she is and where she is stuck and then we play a game of “Why don’t you…Yes, but…”. Since none of my ideas are any good she eventually gets this distracted look and wanders off. And comes back 2 days later.

    February 16, 2018
  5. thephantom182 #

    When I’m -really- stuck I go clean the workshop. Even if its already clean (like that ever happens). This seems to break the ennui and get the things moving again.

    Like fiber!

    Then there are the times when the characters refuse to do anything but fool around with each other. There’s nothing to do but write it down. So the books end up as romance adventures, because of all the cow-eyed glances and heart-felt confessions… argh.

    You start off trying to write a rip-roaring adventure with guns and zombies in it, and you end up with lippy spiders and amorous werewolves that ignore the zombies so they can make out.


    February 16, 2018
    • When the words are really stuck, I clean so I don’t have to write. Those are the really bad days.

      February 16, 2018
    • Clean… workshop… oh, so it’s precision optics, huh?

      February 16, 2018
      • thephantom182 #

        Oh yeah, totally. ~:D Clean means I rearrange the too-much-stuff, and sweep up the grass that fell out of the lawnmower. And the sawdust.

        Another Phantom tip: When you design a shop building, and you carefully calculate the space you will need for all the machines and storage, the final part of the calculation is to multiply by two. Whatever you think you’re going to need, double it. Then start making plans for the next building, for when you’ve completely filled the first one and you have to move all the garden stuff, the hotrod, the bikes, the mower etc, etc, et bloody cetera.

        February 16, 2018
  6. thephantom182 #

    The nice thing for me is that I know it will all start going again, I’m not fearful that I’ll never write another word. I’ve been told some people have that fear, that would be very bad.

    I know the story is in there, growing. Sometimes I have to wait and go do something else. Sometimes I’m stuck doing something else and the story is exploding out of me. That’s a bit more annoying than when its stuck, to be honest. But whatever, I know it will come out eventually. So I go clean the shop, sweep up the floor, make some sawdust out of perfectly good lumber, until the solution springs forth. Ta-da!

    Part of the problem is that I don’t know how it is going to come out. The characters discover a problem, then they have to figure out a way to fix it. Sometimes the problem is pretty hard, and the fun of the story is finding a -practical- way to handle it, given the tools they have. You can’t Deus Ex Machina your way out, that’s BS.

    Of course the characters are -me-, and I’m not a post-human super genius like they are. So it sometimes take a while for the potato I call a brain to generate a solution. But it will, eventually. ~:D Meanwhile, the shop is clean. And the kitchen, the bedroom, the laundry, the wood pile…

    February 16, 2018
    • thephantom182 #

      Sorry, this was a reply to Pam Uphoff above. My windows 10 box just froze hard, and then UPDATED when I re-booted it. Crappy old Mozilla Seamonkey remembered my unposted MGC comment, but Word lost my work! That little reboot just cost me an hour’s work on MS Word. 😡

      Off topic important safety tip:

      I dug into MS Word Autosave just now and discovered it was shut off. Apparently there was a recent “upgrade” that gives you Autosave automatically turned on when you have MS OneDrive and Office 360 enabled. I think that was the fall creators update from Mickeysoft.

      Well, it seems to have turned Autosave -OFF- on my box here. I just turned it back on again, I guess we shall see if it stays turned on.

      So friends, go check your autosave settings in Word. I fricking hate re-writing things, and I’ve re-written this exact scene twice in the last 24 hours. Two identical system crashes. This time I’m manually saving every five sentences instead of every time I think of it.

      Also, using Grammarly disables autosave. So manual-save all your corrections, in case something bad might happen.

      General question for y’all, how many irritating crashes like this would it take to make you switch operating systems and word processors? Two crashes has me strongly thinking of Ubuntu and Libre Office. I’d do it now, but I know Libre Office has some shortcomings for long text files like a novel. One is it takes forever to load. But it doesn’t CRASH randomly, and I’ve never seen it change its settings on its own. Microsoft and Apple stuff has an unwholesome tendency to do that.

      [snarl!!!] 😡

      February 16, 2018
      • My hard drive cratered last month. Between cloud backup (why did I make it documents only!!!!!), two lap tops, and hunting through thumb drives I only had to recreate one cover from scratch, and one from re-downloaded art.

        February 16, 2018
        • thephantom182 #

          I’m familiar. I back up -everything- all over the place. I have a NAS box sitting here quietly backing up all the boxen in the house, I have four or five thumb drives I update religiously, there’s the tablet that is also updated, etc.

          But nothing can save you when you’ve been typing for an hour, thinking that AutoSave is working when it isn’t, and the operating system decides it needs to do an update Right Now. No warning, no nothing. !@#%!!!

          So now I’m f-ing with the OS and the word processor instead of working, because some pushy jerkweed decided I’m too stupid to update my own PC and they’ll just damn well do it for me. I’d like to thank that guy personally, right about now.

          Anybody know how to permanently foil auto-updates in windows 10? That is something that would be worth knowing.

          February 16, 2018
          • They’re putting in the ability to indefinitely snooze the update next month.

            February 16, 2018
          • The spousal unit discovered that, if you tell Windows 10 that you’re on a metered connection, it won’t auto-update and you can pick when you want to do updates. Unfortunately, I don’t know the trick for telling it that you’re running on a metered connection (I use Macs, and so far MacOS still asks and lets you put off the update).

            February 16, 2018
            • It’s under connections, only works on wifi.

              February 16, 2018
      • thephantom182 #

        Upon even further investigation, MS Word displays an “Autosave on/off” button on the “quick access toolbar” that I never noticed before. New glasses are a wonderful thing, eh?

        So, despite what you do in the Options menu, the Autosave button in the toolbar remains set to “off” and it is shaded. You can’t click it to turn it on. Then hovering over the button gets you the message: “Save to OneDrive or SharePoint Online if you want to use AutoSave.”

        It seems Mickeysoft is Really Interested in getting me to use those cloud services. To the point where an important feature is disabled unless I use them, apparently. Maybe I’m wrong, further testing will reveal no doubt.

        But if there’s only AutoSave if I use OneDrive, I’m switching. Call me crazy, but I’m not interested in having my private documents flying all over the internet getting saved on servers that I have zero control over. Example, what’s the copyright on a “deleted but still stored” file? I don’t know, and I’m suspicious that the answer will not be to my benefit.

        LibreOffice is looking better and better today. If only Ubuntu and linux generally wasn’t such a pain in the ass for desktop use…

        February 16, 2018
        • thephantom182 #

          Final update, AutoSave is actually working now in MS Word, even though the toolbar says it is turned off. So what they really mean is that the remote cloud auto-save service is turned off, while the local, save-to-the-hard-drive service is turned on.


          February 16, 2018
        • They’re actually very good on copyright, it’s just trying to strongly encourage businesses to go into the big subscription cycle.

          What I can’t believe is they don’t have a freaking recovery feature. They use to have it, what the heck happened? I know LibreOfficeWriter has it, because the kids keep turning off my laptop and it keeps popping up in addition to the auto-save.

          Shadow did a really good blog article on the different suites, if you want to start fresh with comparisons.

          February 16, 2018
          • thephantom182 #

            Yeah, recovery feature missing from MS Word. But Mozilla Seamonkey recovered just fine.

            To be clear, I did test AutoSave as working locally without OneDrive (because I don’t have OneDrive set up at all). So even though the toolbar says “off,” the fricking toolbar is lying. But now I have to go and check, to make sure they didn’t shut it off when I was asleep.

            But no, there does not appear to be any crash recovery going on other than AutoSave. So if you have AutoSave set for every ten minutes, and your POS freezes and dies after you’ve been blistering along for nine minutes, you can kiss that nine minutes goodbye.

            Another update, I checked the new version LibreOffice 6 this morning with a large file, and it loaded as fast as MS Word. OpenOffice used to load verrrry Slooooowly, it seems they fixed that. So maybe I’ll be having a go at that again. I will for sure if I write this scene one more time and the thing dies on me.

            February 16, 2018
            • K, this soem other stuff miiiiight help you get your unsaved changes back…. but I would definitely change to a program that actually does something without having to jump through hoops.

              File>Info>Manage Versions>Recover Unsaved Documents

              see if it’s there

              Recover from Temporary Files
              When you are working on a document, a temporary file is also created that contains the same data. There is a chance that when your system failed, that temporary file didn’t get deleted and you can recover data from it.

              Temporary files have “.TMP” extension with them and you may have to open them with Notepad if Word doesn’t work. They may contain lots of other codes along with your document content, so you need to copy only the required data. You can access temporary files in the following directory:

              C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Application Data\Microsoft\Word

              Image 1
              You can also search in the Windows Start menu search bar for “.TMP” to find all files with “.TMP” extensions.

              February 16, 2018
              • thephantom182 #


                Recover Unsaved Files folder is empty. It saves .asd files, and there aren’t any there. Whee.

                .tmp files, they are not saved under C:\documents and settings\blahblah in Win10. I did a *.tpm and got the .tmp copy of the file I opened this morning when I started working on it. Conveniently viewable in straight txt only with all the weird ASCII characters included, using Notepad.

                So it does create a .tmp when you first open, but does not appear to update that as you go along. Nor do any of the smaller .tmp files contain any text.


                No worries, I -can- write it again, I just don’t like to. I’m lazy that way. ~:D

                February 16, 2018
                • ARgh.

                  Nothing lazy about not wanting to re do the work.

                  February 16, 2018
                  • thephantom182 #

                    I did it! I finally rewrote the scene, and it turned out purty good. Fricking Mickeysoft gremlins can bite me. I win!

                    February 16, 2018
        • You don’t have to use Linux to use LibreOffice. I use it in Windows 10.

          February 16, 2018
      • I have been using Open Office and the current Libre Office now for over a decade. Too cheap to spend the money for MS Office, and now since I am running Vista on my old laptop (turns nine this fall), I can’t get any decent modern software whatsoever…. Had no issues with it and one novel of mine (50k words or so) does load slow, but it loads and is workable.

        February 16, 2018
        • thephantom182 #

          I have one old Acer notebook I keep running XP, and Open Office version 3, mostly as insurance in case everything else gets killed by a virus or whatever.

          I have a pair of SGI Octanes, for a real trip back on the Wayback Machine. They run Irix, and they’re slower than a Raspberry Pi 3, but they are huge, tank-like, and best of all, obscure. Nobody writes viruses for Irix, its a dead language. Those are in case of Zombie Apocalypse. ~:D

          February 16, 2018
      • I cannot say how many, as I migrated years ago now and in the last couple years finally gave up on the “Just in case” Windows partition on the laptop. Have even decided that my next laptop, if there is one (phones are getting impressive and…) will be one that never saw MS/Windows, even if it raises my cost some.

        February 16, 2018
      • That said, I still do have some issues time to time. The cussing is, however, a bit less frequent.

        February 16, 2018
      • Developing a habit of [Ctrl]+[S] while writing can help. So can the habit of working from a file copy, because sometimes you can save after a glitch and not before. If you run into a corrupted Word file, LibreOffice can sometimes recover it. That’s how I started using it.

        February 16, 2018
  7. I go through my “unused material” file and see what’s there. or I blog. that gives me words on screen. Or I read for school *sigh* which often gets the muse to kick me in the shin.

    February 16, 2018
  8. Oh, watch some movies.

    “I can do better than that!” “W.T.F! How stupid is that guy!” “Oh really? You call that a good ending?” can get me pounding the keyboard, just to show _someone_ how it ought to have happened.

    February 16, 2018
    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

      “If I were the Bad Guy, those “heroes” would be dead.” 😈

      February 16, 2018
      • Worse: “Those ‘heroes’ should have been dead–killed by actual good guys who recognized they’re psychotic a-holes.”

        February 16, 2018
        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

          Good Point.

          February 16, 2018
        • thephantom182 #

          Oh, so much of that going around lately.

          February 16, 2018
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      Someone else’s bad story can remind you that your own work isn’t as bad as you think.

      February 16, 2018
  9. I had four years of improv in college and that does a lot for “work with what you have.” (Not to mention helping with last-minute papers.) I have been known to go to my husband for ridiculous ideas (which is how I ended up with crystal aardvarks as a wedding present in my comic.)

    February 16, 2018
  10. A bad time here for the last few months, with more bad news today. Today’s news isn’t as bad as it could have been, but it’s not good, either. I’m dead tired. What writing I’ve done are posts, and some essays in pencil in a notebook. The latter is strictly entertainment, to take my mind off things.

    February 16, 2018
  11. mrsizer #

    I want to read the book that goes with the Lost and Found cover. Nice job.

    February 16, 2018
    • Yeah, a whole city lost on a very unusual way.

      February 16, 2018
  12. Yes! to the imaginary place. That’s where all the magic happens for me. 😀

    February 16, 2018
  13. Confutus #

    I had pretty much decided that I was no good at fiction, but I could still hang around with the Kool Kids. Then I was browsing here at MGC one day. Someone said, “You can’t use this kind of character in that kind of story”, and my muse spoke up and said “Oh, yeah? It goes like this…”

    February 20, 2018
    • It’s contagious. Didn’t know I had muse until I started hanging around with a pack of writers.

      February 20, 2018

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: