Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mental Fat

Well how things change. After deliberately avoiding rant sites over the last few weeks and concentrating on science I’m finding my attitude changing. I read a copy of the Daily Mail this morning and just flipped through it: Cameron and Milliband getting shouty, bored, move on, more politics, yawn, stuff about religion, you lost me there, don’t give a shit (never did), vague interest in some articles, losing it halfway through. Sod it, I’ll twitter some nonsense, write a blog post and then concentrate on what I was working on yesterday: the motivations of Penny Royal, Earth Central and a weird character called Tuppence.

We know that if you exercise your body in a particular way it gets stronger in that way: if you run a lot you get better at running, if you lift weights a lot you get better at weight lifting. But the same applies to the mind: it has muscles that can be exercised. Concentrate on doing crosswords and you get better at it as you learn the convolutions of the cryptic puzzle-maker’s thought processes. Concentrate on Sudoku and you exercise the number and pattern recognition parts of your brain. Read a lot and you get better at reading – your vocabulary increases and you can digest larger concepts. 

These are all fairly obvious, but there are other muscles operating (or perhaps a better description might be neural routes or programs – I’m simplifying here). Where do you get your ideas from? I am asked – as all writers are. Well, I’ve been bench-pressing with my imagination so it’s getting stronger. How is it you can write so much every day? Because I’ve been doing it a lot, guys. Ever worn a hole through the space-bar of a keyboard? I have.

And then we come to the not so great aspect of the mind. It can get as lazy and as stuck in damaging routines as the body. By perpetually following those routines they become hard-wired and dominant. They’re mental fat, they’re the result of the mental equivalent of sitting on the sofa eating biscuits and watching TV when you know you really need to swap out the chocolates for raw carrots and go for a run. They can be addictive and just like physical sloth they can be more difficult to defeat as you get older. In the end, trying to think differently can be one of the most difficult things to do, perhaps, on each individual occasion, more difficult than foregoing that Mars bar and making yourself do twenty sit-ups. 

8 comments:

Kirby Uber said...

man i need to apply that last bit.

daniel ware said...

well i do hope this newfound positivity doesn't affect your writing in any way: i like the cynical, opinionated neal asher!

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

approaching 50 i stand up and fidget when i read. take every moving job that comes at me too. keep it busy man!

it probably wouldn't hurt to read a M. Hughes or Vance book once a month to keep the sloppier snappy come back lines popping out of my mouth.

Neal Asher said...

I try to apply it, Kirby. My downfall is related to hula-hoops and pork scratchings.

Well, Dan, the new science I'm reading is already penetrating my writing. I'm starting to move away from the abracadabra of nanotech and thinking more about what, related to present science, would be used in certain circumstances. For example, to paralyse someone, a 'prion cascade'. I also seem to be recovering my sense of humour.

'Use it or lose it' sums up this last post, Vaude. There's also a touch of 'getting back to my roots'.

Chrish said...

Interesting developments here, soon we will find you meditating
;-)

Neal Asher said...

If you see me in orange robes down by Revans, Chris, then avoid me - you'll know I've gone mad.

vaudeviewgalor raandisisraisins said...

prion is such an underrated tool. nothing can kill it, it's a protein, and keeps on going and going!

why not some major self building lacquered prion structures? deep fried priobots? very disappointed that it ends up in meat eaters and not in the ceiling "by winter" insulation. fascinating little thing.

Graeme Finch said...

Agreed.