Writers are “moody” people. 

If you’re not a moody person, get out of the business now!


(Sort of.)

A question I get asked a lot by business types is: Why are copywriters so friggin’ weird? 

I stumbled on a quote from an interview in CREEM magazine that shed light on why we’re so friggin’ weird – and moody. 

The interview is between musician and writer, Ben Cook, and auditory neuroscientist and legendary sound engineer, Susan Rogers.  

Susan was the lead engineer for Prince from 1983-1988. She was at his side, and behind his board, during the height of his creative genius. From Purple Rain all the way through Sign ‘o the Times.

These days she’s a professor at Berklee.

Susan’s book, This Is What It Sounds Like: What the music you love says about you is my favorite book of last year. 

If you’re a music nerd like me and have always wondered why you love what you love, and why some people have such shitty taste in music (i.e., stuff other than what you like), Susan’s book is the ultimate “A-ha!” as to why that is.

So, in the interview, Ben is asking Susan why he gets out-of-his-mind ANGRY when he’s trapped inside a public place with the music he hates.

(Man, I can relate to this! Both my son and I have been known to physically cover our ears and make “naahh, naahhh” sounds to drown out bad pop music while waiting for coffee at Starbucks.)

So check this out…

Susan explains what’s happening in our brains when we hear music:

“There is a wee little structure—a nucleus in the brain— called the precuneus that acts like a gatekeeper. When you hear music that you like, it increases its connectivity with a brain network called the default network. It’s so great, it’s our inner mind. It’s where our brain goes on default, when you’re not paying attention to anything. Your brain is just in idling mode. 

Right before [your brain] gets creative, or when you’re dreaming, your default network is at work. So the precuneus increases its connections to your [default network], your inner self, your self-awareness, your self-consciousness, when it hears music you like, and especially its favorite music.”

Then she goes on to explain how the opposite happens when you hear the music you hate and makes certain people want to run from a business piping bad pop as if they’d been doused with battery acid. 

This explains SO MUCH about why creatives are weird, moody, and (ok, I’ll say it) childishly sensitive to our surroundings. 

“Normal people,” who are content to do “normal jobs,”
are living in a completely different reality. 

Where they gleefully show up to college football games, dressed head-to-toe in team colors, decades after they graduated.

Where the reward for a hard day’s work is three hours of broadcast television with cardboard characters and predictable plots. (How the f**k has NCIS been on for twenty seasons!?)  

Where the combo menu at Applebee’s is considered a good “night out.”

(These people always remind me of the pudgy, pale-skin characters in WALL-E buzzing around in their hover chairs mindlessly taking instructions from their computer screens.)

But, I digress. 

Because it was the positive reaction of our brains to the music Susan describes that really got my attention.

That “precuneus” bit, where it connects to your “inner mind.”

We’ve always known that, as creatives, we are wired differently.

That “the norm” feels mindlessly unbearable in our weird realities. 

And so, we must defend our sensitivity to toxic stimuli (i.e., shit music and mundane conversations) by ruthlessly controlling our creative environments.

But, what Susan teaches us here is that we can control our INNER environment and trigger creativity by feeding our brains the stuff that inspires our inner mind to produce art. 

So, next time it’s time to write and you’re just not feeling it, use this checklist to flip the switch:

_ Check your surroundings for stuff that’s (subconsciously or outwardly) bumming you out. Whether it’s the bad music or idiotic chatter in the coffee shop, a pile of bills in your office, or a piece of lint on the carpet (just me?)… find a way to move it or move away from it.

_ Disable anything that blips, pings, or in any way notifies you of other people’s neurotic agendas. You’re making art here, the normies and their task alerts can wait. 

_ Stimulate your inner mind by “pumping your precuneus” with something that inspires you. Play a favorite song, read a few pages of a favorite novel, recite a favorite joke… but keep it single source. No surfing YouTube for comedy, or checking in with your favorite Twitter feeds. You’ll never escape with your creative mood intact. 

_ Close your eyes and take three deep, slow breaths. I know, we’re getting a little “woo” here, just do it. 

_ Start typing. No judgment. No agenda. No expectation. You can even set a timer if you like. The point is to get into flow and trust that you’ll take it where it needs to go. 

Being a weird-ass creative is a gift. 

It’s your edge.  

Your defense against the AI takeover of mundane WALL-E cart people tasks.

Embrace it.

Protect it.

Own it.

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