Today is the twenty-second day of NaNoWriMo. My current wordcount is 33,855. Still a little behind.
I have a post for you today about keeping your creative juices flowing. Since this is the end of the third week of NaNoWriMo, if you have been participating, you may be feeling them start to ebb. How do you keep your brain from shriveling up when you're asking it to marathon out a major project?
1) Actual food. Your brain (and all the cells in your body for that matter) run off of glucose, which is a carbohydrate. While the fastest way to get that energy to your cells is to eat simple carbs (foods high in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or fructose alone), that is where you get a sugar high and then the subsequent crash. You can eat complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, starches, or vegetables, for energy that will last you longer. That being said, I went out and spent $30 on junk food earlier this week. We didn't have any snacks in my house and I felt bad just sitting in front of the computer alternately typing and eating chocolate chips out of the bag. I had gone through a bag and a half in the first two weeks of November. And that was limiting myself.
For the love of God, do not go and eat a bunch of protein bars or drink a protein shake to get energy. Protein's primary dietary function is to maintain and rebuild tissue in your body, not give you energy. While it can be broken down to give you energy, this is only done if your body doesn't have other carbs to work with. Any protein your body consumes has to be broken down into a usable form, which produces nitrogen waste. Your kidneys take care of this, but if you have an excess dietary protein over long periods of time, you will really hurt your brain. Also, just like the carbs and fat you consume, any protein your body can't use will be converted to fat. It will only build muscle if you are working out your muscles enough to need all that protein. /rant
I feel like most of you are waiting for me to say something about caffeine. I try to limit my caffeine, especially energy drinks. Definitely don't drink those if you have a heart condition. Otherwise, moderation is the best policy.
So, do what works for you, and what you know your body can handle.
2) Sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to a drop in cognitive function, performance of tasks, driving, etc. etc. However, some people can handle sleep deprivation better than others.
Again, know how your body works best, and give it as much sleep as it needs.
3) Media consumption. "But, aren't we supposed to be writing? Don't we have 50,000 words to get down?" Well, you're reading this blog, aren't you? That counts as what I'm talking about. See, there is only so much creativity we can pull from within ourselves until we feel empty or like we are repeating ourselves. At least, that's how I work. When we look at someone else's art, be it a musical, sculpture, movie, installation, concert, podcast, vine, article, episode, novel, or any of the other myriad methods of expression, we appreciate not only the effort they put in to producing that art, but also the creativity behind the idea. We look at their treatment of the subject, and we react. That creates a conversation, even if it is only in our heads. And PRESTO, we are inspired.
You don't have to look at something made by the hands and minds of humans to be inspired, by the way. The great outdoors is full of inspiration. While it may not be "media," it certainly makes me reflective and introspective, something all art tries to achieve on some level. Didn't Michaelangelo go camping for a few days when he hit a mental wall painting the Sistine Chapel? Or was that only in the Charlton Heston version?
Back on topic, you do need to be writing, or working on your project, or whatever. So you can't sit in front of Netflix for eighteen hours at a time and call it inspiration. Be an adult: recognize how much work you have to complete in a certain amount of time, and schedule work time and break time accordingly.
4) Physical Activity. Yep. Physical activity improves cognitive function. You don't have to go pump iron or even run a mile every day to get a brain jolt, walking three times a week improves your brain power. Physical activity, particularly aerobic exercise, also decreases your chance of developing Alzheimer's if you are in the older population. You don't have to make a big time commitment, but even a small change can help you help out your brain.
5) Work. I'm kind of adapting this so it can be applicable to anyone working on a long-term project, be it NaNo, or anything else. So, if you are writing, read #5 as WRITE. If you are drawing, read #5 as DRAW. I think you catch my point. While we need to take care of our brains so they can finish the task at hand (to mind?), we can't finish the task if we don't do the work. Like I talked about that a few weeks ago, I come up with some of my best ideas for writing while sitting down at the keyboard and writing.
One common theme you will notice running throughout this post: ambivalence. These are not rules. These are suggestions. "More like guidelines, anyway." I know what helps me do my best, you know what helps you do your best. Sometimes, we just need a little nudge to remind us.