Row to Hoe

Brain imaging is a fairly new science. Whenever I even say the word “science” I feel a little like a fraud, because I don’t know the complete periodic table. And I hated dissection. I am also bad at math, but that’s another post.

I’ve been reading a lot about brain mapping because I know there’s something useful there. Understanding this science has helped me, literally, change the way I think. And it can help people who suffer from writer’s block, too.

Changing a behavior, it turns out, is not easy, but it is absolutely doable. I did it with exercise, which is the thing I am most resistant to in the world, and it only took two weeks of determined effort, a pink highlighter, and a calendar. Plus my sneakers. If you’re trying to break through writer’s block, you don’t need the sneakers.

What you will be doing is changing your brain programming from “can’t write” to “write with ease.” It’s NOT easy those first two weeks, which is about how long it takes to make a solid start on turning a new behavior into a habit. Not easy, but armed with knowledge about brain mapping and how to use a visual aid, totally possible.

New imagining technology now tells us that the brain, any brain, no matter how old, tired, or stubborn, can form new neural pathways fairly quickly. It just takes a little bit of work, a little row to hoe, and before you know it you have a garden. Or a manuscript. There’s a bonus, too. Forming new neural pathways as we age keeps our brains active and engaged, improved memory, and may even stop dementia-type plaques from forming.

Knowing that I’m doing something positive for my brain after all the abuse I heaped on it in the 70s made me that much more determined to build some new road up there. But, at first, I needed a visual record that I could look at every day, just a quick glance, that would show me in solid terms that I was indeed working my plan. I was not an easy exerciser yet, but I was laying the foundation. I was doing the hard work that would bring me to the other side of my block.

My visual was a simple calendar. I only used the calendar for this one purpose–I boxed exercise days with a pink highlighter (I love the color pink) and jotted down how much and what type of exercise I did inside the box.

Just seeing those pink boxes motivated me. If there weren’t enough boxes, I knew I needed to log another day (or two) of exercise that week. Despite being back to work and having a bunch of other stuff going on, I was able to organize my schedule to fit in my target number of exercise days that first week.

And after the first week, just seeing those boxes filled me with positive vibes and an “I can do this” attitude. I made my target the second week, too. And the third. Even on vacation!

If I can change my lazy brain, anybody can. Just focus on what you want to achieve, set your goals, and remind yourself that your brain is ready and willing and actually even giddy about getting started on making those new neural pathways.

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