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Brain on Fire

Study unlocks clues to writers’ “brain-won’t-shut-up” syndrome

Friday’s Science Daily reported a study indicating people with ADHD respond differently when dealing with rewards.

I think this explains a certain type of writer’s insanity. Witness a typical morning-cum-afternoon.

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Photo by Natasha Connell on Unsplash

Brain: Hey, personality. You need to read more about what’s going on in the world, they’re freaking impeaching The President. And finish that book about the boy in the plane crash. I don’t care if you think all literature is going to Hell. You better get groceries, soon, too, especially vegetables. Beets or something good.

Personality: Is that my stomach making that noise or is it in my head?

Brain: Forget your gut. Write something, slacker, but turn off Grammarly cause it is making you stupid.
(Writer disconnects her computer microphone, slapping her ears.)
Brain: Now that’s really useful considering we share a head.
(Glassy-eyed writer disconnects computer camera as well.)
Personality: Too freaking weird.
Brain: And can you stop right-click-searching everything through Google? That IS making you stupid. You know that’s why Goodreads keeps telling you to read The Hunger Games. You are getting stupider each day.
Personality: I am writing now and since I am the writer, I think you meant to say: “More stupid.”
Brain: I think/thank/thunk you forgot a comma just now, but I won’t tell you where. Shut up and hit the gym today. We both know you don’t work out as hard when you work out at home. And you’ve been stuck at that keyboard indoors, writing for days now.
Personality: Well, that is what I do, brain. Earn money for us. We need to eat.
Brain: Well how come you can’t afford to get your freaking hair trimmed? It looks like yellow sawdust.
Personality: I told you, I’m a writer and money is tight this month. No one pays over the holidays, you know that. And I’m not hitting the gym as much cause it is snowing and I need new boots. The soles have holes in them.
Brain: Lame. You do not need new winter boots, use epoxy to repair them and stop destroying the planet.
Personality: I’m writing a piece on consumerism and the waning environment. Or trying to. I’m turning up my iPod now.
Brain: Sure, use more power. That battery will run out soon and you’ll have to listen to me. While we are talking about music, I think you should listen to more Billie Eilish, your playlist is dated — to be kind.
Personality: You know I love Frank Turner.
Brain: Sure, tell yourself that. But I see now you’re reading your newsfeed. Stop hoping Pelosi takes over after the Big Orange is gone and they find something good on Pence. Never gonna happen in this world. Or any alternative universe. You couldn’t go there, even if it existed, anyway. Shall I show you the link to the study?
Personality: I’m going to eat something.
Brain: Well, you forgot to eat again, you’ve been tied to that desk for so long. No more java. And then you bitch about a lack of sleep. Four hours a night for two weeks is pathetic.
Personality: You’re mean. I wrote just last week that experts say don’t nap or you won’t get back on your sleep cycle. I will sleep later.

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Brain: It doesn’t help that you’ve stayed up half the night watching movie nominees. Who cares why the Academy Award nominations suck so much this year? Or how come, beyond Carrie Fisher, they won’t de-agify older women in films since they’re doing it to men all the time. Fisher was dead, for Gawd’s sake.
Personality: You sound like a sexist male brain. Please, leave me alone. I have to sleep tonight. I have to contact Microsoft tech support tomorrow morning and stay on hold, awake, for at least two hours.
Brain: No wonder. They won’t respond to emails anymore. Don’t know why you send them. And your emails are so verbose, you sound like an old fart. No young tech geek will read all that. They text. They Instachat. They What’sAppy people.
Personality: That’s it! You are making me old before my time, so shut-the-fuck-up, I can’t concentrate.
Brain: Hey, you talking to me? It’s the law of the jungle here. You, personality. Me, brains. No contest.
Personality: Brains are supposed to help their owners work, not disrupt it, you know. What, nothing to say to that? Good.
Brain: You don’t fool me. No, Sherlock, I ken you secretly want to binge-watch a British detective show with great female leads very soon.
Personality: Ken? Really? Sure, Sam Heughan is hot. But I finished Outlander. And I can watch Scott & Bailey when I’m finished if you will shut up! You know, you’re nothing without me. Just a bunch of over-caffeinated neurons drowning in dopamine.
Brain: Be nice, or I’ll start thinking about smoking again.
Personality: As if.
Brain: As if I can’t make you consider vaping. I know you have been.
Personality: Okay. Enough, Jaqueline Torrance. Since I’m the writer I can give myself an ax. You want us to go headless? You are driving me off my rocker anyway. Get thee to a hedge maze.
Brain: Hey, Avalina! Go to the door.
(Writer gets up and listens at her apartment door. An ax chops through it. A disembodied brain peeks through.)
Personality: No. No. No way!
Brain: Hello, there. Here’s Jackie!

I’ve been a poet since I was five. Then after university, I worked at the Toronto Star as a journalist, editor, and public editor. Happier now, I write poetry.

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