Brain overload

 I recently turned in the first draft of my third novel, A Killing in C Sharp. During the last two weeks of writing, I cut myself off from nearly all distractions in order to get the manuscript finished. Cut off, as in, no social media, no podcasts, no blogging, no streaming, no email, no pleasure reading, no dining out. I even skipped Sunday church services. I went to my day job then I came home and wrote. That’s it. I retreated deep inside my mental well and stayed there until I hit send on the email to my editors with my manuscript attached. When I returned from my self-imposed psychic exile to the land of the living all of the things I’d neglected hit me full in the face. Sensory overload. My head hurt, I felt lost, adrift. Everything demanded my attention at once and I didn’t know where to begin. Email, Facebook, Instagram, laundry, grocery shopping, yard maintenance? What to do? As if I needed more to cope with, story ideas bombarded me while I dealt with the practical aspects of catching up with my life. Normally, story ideas stream through my head constantly, like a background podcast. I give each one a little attention in turn–jot down a few notes, scribble a reminder–then move on to the next thing. But to get my manuscript finished I forced thoughts of all stories except the one I was writing out of my head. They’d nibble at the edge of consciousness but I’d shove them away. They paid me back by bumrushing me. They amped up their demands for notice and flooded my brain. I couldn’t choose which to pay attention to first. The story about the cop who investigates the murder of his ex’s new husband? The one about the guy framed for murdering his girlfriend’s twin sister? How about the princess who foils an assassination attempt on the uncle who cheated her out of her inheritance? Or one of the dozen others jammed in my brain? After several days of struggling to make sense of the stimuli flooding my brain, and getting nothing done as a result, I conceded that my brain needed a rest. Some time off. I turned to Facebook. Mistake. There aren’t enough heartwarming stories about furry animals or geeky articles about sci-fi cult favorites in the universe to counteract the toxicity of the current political climate. Two days of FB and I felt worse than I had on my most sleep-deprived writing day. I spent some time on Instagram as pictures of food and flowers are pretty low key but the food had a negative impact on my waistline and wallet. Finally, I turned to technology-free walks downtown–I live in a lovely town, I needed the exercise, and nothing beats a walk for clearing the head–setting cheerful flowers out in the garden, and re-bingeing on some mystery favorites via my streaming services. Rewatching shows let’s me focus on plotting, pacing, and character development instead of just being entertained.  How do you deal with sensory overload?

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