Confirmation: Amines Are Like Drugs :P

Had to go out for dinner on Sat night to a wood-fired pizza restaurant. Dinner was delicious, as expected – and the food reactions were awful, as expected. *sigh*. It didn’t help that I made the mistake of eating a GIANT BOWL of rocket salad before realising that oops, yeah, rocket =/= lettuce and while lettuce is pretty fine for me in moderate amounts, rocket is on the DEATH DIE DO NOT EAT list >.< Urgh.

So, two extremely sleepless nights (less than 4 hours each, I think) on Sat and Sun, and then Monday evening I was just hyper as anything, feeling like I’d been drugged 😛

Interestingly, amines seem to amplify the function of my critical brain while diminishing my creative brain; I definitely can’t write while reacting to them. Sat down to try and it was all like, This sucks, This is stupid, That word is horrible, I hate this book, etc. I really just *couldn’t* get into the character’s voice, and this is a character who’s usually dead easy for me to voice. Super mega frustration.

And also interesting, part of the anxiety was amplified. Not the fear-of-the-dark, that’s separate to regular anxiety and seems to be triggered partly by a huge amount of salicylates, and partly by sustained low mood (i.e. feeling flat, tired, or otherwise negative for several days in a row – something that can be triggered by lack of sleep, which is triggered by amines, so the amines can be partly responsible for the fear-of-dark, but not directly, and certainly not after only one meal, even though it was a GIANT amine-heavy dose), but the regular, plain-old variety that’s the precursor to depression: feeling like I suck, second-guessing everything I do and especially say, and running old conversations/highly-negative moments on repeat obsessively.

It wasn’t *bad* this week, only just enough to notice it was happening, so I’m totes fine, but it IS definitely interesting. Because a lot of that kind of thinking is fear-of-judgement based, which is uber-critical brain, right?

ALSO interesting was that I powered through my marking at hitherto-unheard of speeds: I marked an entire class set in a couple of hours on Sat night + Sunday, and then another entire class set just on Monday alone – AND I didn’t even stay up late to do so, I finished it all by 8 o’clock.

You guys. That was weird. 

I am NOT a fast marker. It’s usually laborious and slow and tedious, and getting through two sets in essentially two days? I have NEVER done that before.

And guess what marking involves? Yep. Uber critical-brain oriented.

So it seems like amines basically affect me like a stimulant for my critical brain. For marking, that can be a great thing. For shutting up the critical brain and letting me sleep, write, or not be anxious? Not so great.

And now I want to go to a bunch of research about possible links between depression/anxiety and critical-brain activity.

Related but random other observations:

  • Writers are more neurotic as a group than other creatives. Why? What specifically is it about writing that makes our mental health vulnerable?
  • My critical brain seems to throw tantrums when it thinks I’m ignoring it. If I’ve done a lot of creative work and regular work but no hard-thinking work lately, I’m a LOT more susceptible to anxiety/self-doubt.
  • Could this type of anxiety be critical-brain overload, such as I seem to be getting when eating amines? Could writers combat critical-brain tantrums (anxiety, self-doubt) by letting the critical brain out to play, exercising it by doing, say, some soduko or something hard and thinky??

Where’s a good researcher? I need to pay someone to investigate this for me.

So anyway, to give this some semblance of a conclusion… Amines: Not For Amy! Unless I want to stay up really, really late and get some marking done 😛

Dealing With The Blues

Extract from a random conversation with Liana Brooks on learning to live with negative emotions – sharing because…?? I don’t know? Someone else might find it useful? My brain is a weird place and I feel you deserve full disclosure of that? Something. 😀


this is different

it’s not bottling

i know bottling

i come from a long hereditary line of bottling

this is just… acknowledging that the feelings are there but that that doesn’t mean they have to be in charge, right

yes, okay, i’m feeling blue

it’s kind of a light summery aqua, not a navy, so it’s easier

but it’s like


there is blue

this does not actually change anything

yay blue

hi blue

blue is fine

blue is not in charge

red is not in charge

purple is not in charge

blue is not in charge not because it’s blue, but because it’s a feeling, and feelings don’t get to be in charge

they get to help


they get to advise

but they only get to be in charge when I decide they are in charge

and right now, nope, not in charge


yes, i see you blue

you are there, and you are blue

and you can go and sit in your little blue corner and be blue, and that is fine

but while you do that, i’m just going to be over here being competent

and you can join me when you’re done, m’kay?



So, About Those Priorities

Trying so, so hard to make this wonderful quote from the inestimable Maggie Stiefvater my mantra this year. I’ve noted before that getting enough sleep is the key to managing my stress levels, anxiety, and also healthy eating. Some days I’m better at it than others. When we have company, I SUCK at it, because although I do actually passionately adore sleeping (because DREEEEEAMS, y’all, DREEEEEEEEEAMS!!!), people are also INCREDIBLY SHINY and VERY, VERY STICKY, just like this lounge I’m presently sitting on which is super sticky because I should get up and go to bed but it seems like someone has superglued me here oh wait that’s just the remnants of the kids’ breakfast okay never mind move along nothing to see here. O:)

SLEEP. I should get some, you should get some, and we all should be happy and sleep together.

Uh, um, or not. I mean, like we should all sleep at the same time. Or, like, in times appropriate to our particular time zone. Or, look, you know what? Just go to bed already, okay? I don’t care what time it is, just go… sleep.

Sleep is important. You should probably get some.


I’m Never Allowed To Make Mistakes (Also, A Free Short Story)

Darkness & Good button with red text on a white background, with shadowed, dark grey leaves in the background. The leaves have red ribs and stems. Link goes to I was trying to think of a story for the Darkness & Good blog the other day, because it’s my turn to post this week, and me and short story ideas are kind of hit and miss sometimes (AH HA HA ALL THE TIME HA HA SOMETIMES HA), and first of all, I ACTUALLY THOUGHT OF A STORY RIGHT WHEN I NEEDED ONE AMEN HALLELUJAH, and second of all, in doing so I had a bit of a revelation about myself. The story starts with the protagonist making a stupid mistake that they really should have known better than to make, and it puts their life in danger. Usually in my stories what happens next is sudden, inescapable DEATH.

But this time, I realised that that’s how the story would usually go, and it made me realise something else: I’m really not good at giving myself permission to make mistakes. Like, really not good. I’m better than I used to be, and I know enough now to recognise when I’m beating myself up over something I shouldn’t be and to take steps to stop that, but yeah. I still have this subconscious expectation that I really should be superwoman. Making mistakes when I didn’t know what was going on or what was happening? Yeah, okay, that sucks, but it happens. Making mistakes when I really should have known better? That is pretty much unforgiveable.

Except, it shouldn’t be. I’m human. I’m not *actually* any better than anyone else, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to retrain damaging perfectionist tendencies. I’m learning where the boundaries are between ‘good enough’ and ‘killing myself with perfect’, and I’m getting better at realising innately what my mum taught me while I was first married and studying at uni: I only have 100% of myself to give, and the more things I spread that between, the less I have to devote to each thing. I can’t expect to achieve 100% in fifty-million things, because that’s fifty-million-hundred percent, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

But. My fiction, apparently, still keeps telling me otherwise. I still keep writing stories where stupid mistakes cost people their lives, out of this perverse and totally subconscious belief that I’m not allowed to make stupid mistakes, that I’m better than that, that doing so is a failing on my part.

So this time, I let the protagonist win. This time, she got hit by a mistake, and came back up swinging, learned from her mistake and triumphed in the end. Because let’s face it, that’s what I do in life. You make a mistake, and you’re allowed to beat yourself for a minute or two, but then you have to figure out what you did wrong, what you’re going to fix the situation, and how to avoid making the same mistake again. Sometimes that actually means remembering to not over-commit yourself, or making sure you protect your sleep so you’re not walking about like the zombified dead–shockingly enough, sleep deprivation is not conducive to avoiding mistakes!!!!!!

If you’re interested, you can read my short story over on the Darkness & Good blog right here. But either way, leave a comment and let me know: Do you get frustrated when you make mistakes too? How do you cope with residual perfectionism, if so?

Why We Must Have Fun (Repost)

Okay, again with another inaccurate time reference in the opening due to this being a repost, but you get when I mean 😉

Two Fridays ago, I made a promise to you that I would be back this week to contradict myself. Well, ta da!, here I am B-) In said post, I discussed the concept of your legacy – your body of work – and the importance of ensuring that everything in your legacy isworthy of being there. I threw around a few ways to tell if the book you’re writing is the book for you, and talked about the importance of having an aim, and streamlining all your work towards that.

Today, I’m going to talk about the opposite: the importance of having fun. But before I do that, I wanted to address something that Merc said in the comments of that original post. Having a legacy, having a body of work, and being aware that any book you write could be a reader’s first introduction to you, does not mean that you must be restricted to one genre. It just means that, like any other aspect of your writing career, the concept must be duplicated. When you try to build a career across multiple genres, what you’re actually doing is building multiple careers. I tried to track down some articles on this topic that I’ve read written by both prominent authors and by agents, but alack, they all elude me at this moment. So you’ll just have to trust me.

You can create a legacy across multiple genres. But what you’re doing is creating a family of legacies, held together by their relationship to you – not a single, unified body of work.

Now, fun.

If the entire point of writing is to create your body of work, and if, as I suggested last time, any work you do that won’t directly contribute to said body of work is a waste of time, then why am I now suggesting that it’s necessary to do so?

Because sometimes, wasting time is necessary.

Writing is both a creative and a rational process: the first draft is usually where the right brain (the creative brain, a la your muse) has the most say, and the final edit belongs to your left brain (inner editor, anyone?). Creating a working relationship between both halves of your brain is vital if you want to survive the writing process (and another reason why I adore the Think Sideways course, with its strong emphasis on creating this connection), and a working relationship has to be about give and take, and compromise.

In the first draft, you have to teach your left brain to compromise. The words will be rough, the ideas half-formed, and plot holes will abound to a greater or lesser extent. This irritates your left brain to no end, and can escalate to the death-grip of perfectionism that results in Isuckitis – that terrible feeling you get when you just ‘know’ that you can’t write, that everything you write is terrible, and so on, and so forth. This process is, sadly, pretty much part and parcel with writing: the book you’re writing can be the best book in the world, and you know what? Inevitably, you will still hate it. At some point. For some reason. You will.

It even happens to the pros, and it’s for that reason that the gist of Neil Gaiman’s pep talk for NaNoWriMo in 2007 is forever etched upon my heart. Even the pros melt down. Even the pros hate their work. It’s okay. It’s normal. You’ll get through it.

Which is precisely why play is important: if Isuckitis is brought on by drifting too far into your left brain and allowing perfectionism to take charge, then it must be cured by restoring the balance between your brain halves. Which means you need to do some serious right-brain work.

Just so you know, those two words – ‘right-brain’ and ‘work’ – don’t actually go together. Your left brain works. Your right brain plays.

So what is play?

Play is letting your non-verbal, creative, irrational, impulsive right brain take control for a while. It’s sitting down and creating something for the sheer joy of creating, without deadlines or requirements or self-styled impositions that it Must Be Good. Play is having fun. It’s letting the muse out of the bag and letting stretch its legs, writing purely and simply Because You Can.

So play is important, because it rebalances you – and it connects your brain halves back together. For those few non-writers who read this blog, let me assure you that this concept applies equally to anything you do in life. I firmly believe that humans are supposed to be both-brained; that is, we’re designed to have a balance of both parts of ourselves: some rationality, some forethought and planning, and some impulse, creativity, and carefreeness.

Our society places a lot of emphasis on the left brain. But it’s our job as writers to utilise both, and perhaps even remind people that balance is a good thing after all. So go. Play for a while, and reconnect with yourself.