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Struggling to write?

25th November 2020 |

How many of you remember the poem November by Thomas Hood? I remember a short version I had to learn by heart in school but recently came across this version and thought how appropriate some of the lines are in our second, although less restrictive, lockdown.


        No sun—no moon!
        No morn—no noon—
No dawn—
        No sky—no earthly view—
        No distance looking blue—
No road—no street—no “t’other side the way”—
        No end to any Row—
        No indications where the Crescents go—
        No top to any steeple—
No recognitions of familiar people—
        No courtesies for showing ’em—
        No knowing ’em!
No traveling at all—no locomotion,
No inkling of the way—no notion—
        “No go”—by land or ocean—
        No mail—no post—
        No news from any foreign coast—
No park—no ring—no afternoon gentility—
        No company—no nobility—
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
   No comfortable feel in any member—
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

For some people November has always been NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month); a time to challenge the creative mind to commit to writing every day for thirty days and end with 50000 words of a novel. That means writing 1,667 words-69 per hour or 1.2 per minute. I suppose that doesn’t take into consideration time for sleeping so I’d prefer the daily count. I’ve completed it once but I like to start a new year in January with a writing project but as long as you write, does it matter when and where?

What concerns me more is the number of writers I’ve come across who are in the 39% who say they are writing less in lockdown. Various reasons are given; less free time as child care, elder care, working from home have encroached onto precious down time. I think there is something more going on here and its linked to our brain.

Our brain is made up of three parts which is why it’s referred to as the Triune Brain and consists of three interlinked and quite different segments:


  • the lizard brain
  • the mammal brain
  • the human brain


The lizard brain evolved from life forms of about 500 million years ago, when only reptiles roamed the world. It governs some of the most fundamental functions such as breathing, eating, sleeping, waking up, crying, looking out for and responding to danger, and basic survival.

The mammal brain (sometimes called the limbic system) is unique to mammals. It’s existed on the planet for approx. 400 million years. This part of the brain is the centre of emotion and learning. It developed very early in mammals to regulate the motivations and emotions that we now associate with feeding, reproduction, and attachment behaviours.

The human brain is the youngest part of the brain (approx. 70 million years old). It’s also known as the neocortex and it’s the one that differentiates us from other animals. It’s in charge of planning, anticipating, perceiving time and context, making sense of emotions and giving us the ability to make conscious choices.


So far so good. The unfortunate thing is that our poor human brain is easily overloaded and at times of stress and strain such as experiencing a pandemic for the first time in living memory, it cannot cope with new demands. So, if you are taxing it with creative demands, it might just decide not to respond.


So the next time you find you are not as productive as you might want to be, relax. You are just being human after all and will be able to understand your characters better as a result.



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