Why You Need a Brain Dump In Your Life
I have too many thoughts. My brain is constantly ticking over: things I have to do at home, things I have to do for the kids, things I need to do for friends and family, and things I need to do for work. Having a creative job means I never really switch off; I’m constantly ticking things over in my mind.
Sometimes, I sit down to do my work, and all of my thoughts, ideas, stresses, concerns, and ponderings — whether important or totally useless — float into the forefront of my brain. They hover there, swimming around in front of me. Like little floaters in my eyes. (There’s a nice image for you).
So what do I do with these thoughts, ideas, stresses, concerns, and ponderings?
I get them all out.
With the brain dump.
I came across this idea when I started to work on a novel for Camp NaNoWriMo a few years ago. The key to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, in case you’re wondering) is efficiency. You cannot afford to waste time during NaNoWriMo. It’s just not an option. You don’t have the luxury of sitting in front of your screen, staring off into space as your non-essential thoughts invade your narrative. It just won’t work. So the idea is you get all of those things out of your mind and onto paper, or a document.
For me, I have a document called ‘Brain Dump’. That’s it. I’m not sure if that’s a security risk, but if someone wanted to invade my computer just to steal that file, I’d kind of be okay with that. They’re not going to glean much useful information out of things like this:
I have a headache and I’m tired.
I’m worrying about X. (Insert long paragraph about why X is worrying me even though it shouldn’t)
Write article about brain dump? Also DON’T FORGET FATHER’S DAY. I’m really worried I’m not going to order the things on time for Father’s Day.
To be honest, most of my entries look like this. Tiny to-do lists that I will never refer to again in my life. Or small woes. The point is not to create a document full of beautiful, imaginative prose that you will enjoy looking at (or even be able to make sense out of). The point is the capturing of the thoughts. Safely encased in their document cage, I can move on with my life.
I tend to switch my brain dumping methods depending on my mood. Most of the time it’s lists or short sentences — about life admin stuff, small concerns, that kind of thing. Other times, it’s paragraphs of story ideas. Either way, it makes a huge difference when I sit down to do actual writing.
Not convinced? Here’s a few reasons why you need a brain dump in your life:
To reiterate the NaNoWriMo-related point I made earlier: if you need to sit down and concentrate on your work, you cannot be thinking about anything else. If your work involves total concentration, I would highly recommend a brain dump. You can reassure yourself that you’ll revisit your worries or to do-list after you’ve finished work, knowing that it’s all there waiting for you when you finish.
To put your problems in perspective.
Although I don’t often look back at my brain dump, the times that I have done have been eye-opening. The micro-frets I allow space for in my brain are sometimes completely ridiculous, and looking at them again after a few days of space makes me realise that most of them ended up resolving themselves anyway.
Very occasionally, I enjoy getting a bit more creative with my brain dump. I might attempt to write a poem (badly) or just hash out a paragraph for a potential story. You could use your brain dump as a ten-minute freewriting exercise. Doesn’t matter what you write: the point is you are loosening your writing muscles. It’s like a pre-exercise warm-up for your brain.
To identify and resolve issues.
Say the same thing keeps cropping up again and again in your brain dump. Maybe it’s an ongoing issue that you can’t control. Or maybe, there’s something in your life that you need to address once and for all.
To gain peace.
The brain dump has become more than a pre-work warm-up exercise for me: it’s taken on an important role in my life. Writing as a therapeutic tool has been recognised for decades — according to this article by Mind Body Green, the benefits are numerous. For me, the brain dump allows me totally safe space to share what I’m thinking — with no pressure of a goal or an outcome.
So what are you waiting for? Give it a go — it may increase your productivity and bring peace to your life.