You know about the Blue Car Syndrome, right? It says that when you buy a blue car, you suddenly start seeing blue cars everywhere. It doesn't mean that there are actually more blue cars than before, it just means that you're more aware of them.
About a month ago, I read something about The Lizard Brain. It suggested that humans have this part of our psyche that is so risk-averse, so focused on survival, it will actively work to prevent you from doing something you think is risky - even something you really want to do, like starting a business or writing a novel or doing something creative.
Since I read that, I've seen lots of authors and bloggers talking about The Lizard Brain, and I've become keenly aware of my own Lizard Brain as I work on the keynote for PAX East. It really needs to be done in about 21 days (at least 5 of which are going to be unavailable to me because I'm working on Big Bang Theory) and it isn't nearly as close to completion as I want. As you can imagine, panic and deadline pressure are rising like mental floodwaters, and that's not the most productive mental state for writing an interesting and entertaining speech. Well, played, Lizard Brain. I see what you did there.
The bad part of this is that I keep getting stalled and frustrated while I attempt to find the spine upon which I need to attach and connect the various parts of my keynote address. The good part of this is that my brain keeps blocking me from writing the keynote by coughing up some of the most interesting short story ideas I've had in months. In an effort to take the good with the bad and walk away with a net positive (awesome keynote and some cool short stories), I've been working on the keynote during the day, and then unwinding by working on the shorts. Working on the shorts has become my daily reward, in other words; it's really good motivation.
This is where I'd quote a little bit of the short I've been working on, but I've learned that doing that before it's finished, even if it's only a dozen words, completely aborts the writing process. I like this story too much to even risk not finishing it, so in place of a quote, I'll draw an ASCII dong: 8=====D
This is where I wrap this up with a concluding paragraph that hopefully elevates this post from mildly-interesting reading to something useful: When you're working on something that terrifies the Lizard Brain into action, don't panic! Acknowledge what it's trying to do, accept that it's part of the hardware, and write a software patch to work around it. It doesn't have to be a bug; it can be a feature.
Edited to add: I couldn't recall all the places I read about The Lizard Brain, but in the comments here, Nathaniel S. reminded me:
Seth Godin has just released a book entitled Linchpin that explores ways to both soothe and overcome the lizard brain. There's a fantastic interview/conversation between him and Merlin Mann on the subject over at 43 Folders. It's a tad long, but very worth it.
It also includes a video of Godin talking about the lizard brain and "the resistance" and how innovative and creative people can break through it to get stuff done, or "ship" as he puts it.
I'm not surprised at all that this came to me via Seth Godin, because I read his blog every day. His book Purple Cow is the foundation of my marketing and business philosophy, and Merlin Mann's ... well, everything, is inspiring to me. To be clear: I wasn't making an effort to not credit Seth; I just forgot where my recent Lizard Brain thoughts originated.