Blame game: roosters, virus and my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

It’s the Year of the Rooster – I was born under the Chinese sign of the Rooster.  Always thought it to be a curse I was born under a sign that wasn’t fertile enough to lay an egg or two.


According to my friend Sharon Bonin-Pratt (whose last post inspired this post) People born under the sign of the Rooster are hardworking, funny, trustworthy and talented.

I’m not hardworking, at times am funny, almost always trustworthy, and have latent talents that get laid but never hatched.

This Rooster year started off with a cold virus that delights roaming the cozy recesses of my sinus passages.   It’s day 11 (but who’s counting).  I’ve been a total slug – no energy, no resolve which gives me a perfect excuse for not making New Years’ resolutions.

(The truth be told, I never make resolutions for the New Year – learned long ago that when I inevitably fail to keep a resolution it leads to feeling badly.)  

What energy I have has been directed toward resolving to be more creative this year. 

In preparation I’ve been obsessively reading everything I can find on how to break my creative block and stop procrastinating.

Most everything I read about procrastination indicates that we procrastinate when we don’t want to do something that is not enjoyable.   Being a master procrastinator I also procrastinate with things that bring me enjoyment.

For inspiration, I read blogs of people who write, read or draw daily – all things which bring me enjoyment.  I feel badly I’m not like them  which leads me to read articles on procrastination and meeting goals (I know how to set them, just not meet them).

Finally the article below has liberated me! I know what to blame:

My dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is lazy . . . not me.


Creative block here’s neuroscience how to fix it.

by Elizabeth Shockman

“What is it exactly that helps us be creative? What fuels us when we get into an especially productive work flow? What makes the hours disappear when our brains focus on a task?”

“What, in other words, is happening in our brains when we’re being creative?”

“Cognitive neuroscientist Heather Berlin at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai says we know a little bit about what’s going on. Berlin studies the neuroscience of imagination, creativity and improvisation. And for those people who might be facing writer’s block? “There’s really no prescribed medication,” Berlin says. “There is no real magic pill.”’

Instead, she says, creativity depends on which part of the brain you might be using.

“When [people] are improvising, there tends to be a pattern of activation where they have decreased activation in a part of the brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” Berlin says. “And that part of the brain has to do with your sense of self, your sort of inner critic, making sure that your behavior conforms to social norms.”

“Translation? When you’re at your most creative, “basically you lose your sense of self,” Berlin says. “You kind of release your inhibition. The second you become too self-aware that comes back online and you lose that flow state.”’

“In addition to losing inhibitions, people who are in a creative state have increased activation in a part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex, which has to do with the internal generation of ideas. In other words, the ideas are coming from within.”

“Some people, when they’re in the flow state … a lot of people say ‘It feels like it’s flowing through me. It’s coming from someplace else,’ you know, ‘It’s coming so naturally I don’t even have to think about it,’” Berlin says. “It’s called liberation without attention. You can only keep a certain number of variables in mind when you’re thinking about something consciously. But if you let it go, you actually can come to a greater understanding because the unconscious can do much more complex processing.”

“For those suffering from creative block, Berlin has some practical advice:”

“You have to take in all the information and then go for a walk,” Berlin says. “Go out, do something else. Because those people who sit there and just obsess over thinking about it too much, using your prefrontal cortex you’re actually limiting yourself. So letting it go can actually help you get over, let’s say a writer’s block or a creative block.”

I’d go for a walk but I have a cold.  Maybe some other time . . .



12 comments on “Blame game: roosters, virus and my dorsolateral prefrontal cortex

  1. For what it’s worth, I think you are very creative & funny too. Taking a walk is always a ‘fix’ to continue procrastinating. I know it is always waiting for me when I return. Right now I’m procrastinating about some paper work needing attention. I have put it on my daily ‘to do’ list & just move it from day to day list. I would much rather read, crochet or knit, & watch tv. My latest expression to everyone & myself “I don’t have to if I don’t feel like it for I deserve at 75”. I will have to change the expression next month & even more justified to do what I want & feel like. I’ve been in therapy you know. 😁👍👏🏻

    Sent from my iPhone Linda



    • Linda,
      It’s worth a lot coming from you! I like your latest expression. Next month it could be “You can’t make me!!!! . . . at 76”. Therapy is good but I personally don’t trust therapists – they are very tricky . . .


  2. That’s a fascinating article – and explains why I often get creative ideas while I’m out for a walk or standing in the shower – I lose my sense of self and climb into an alternate skin that has better ideas than the real me. By the words you posted here, that skin looks like a shark with gigantic fins. Yeah, that’s me – Shari the Shark.


    • Peggy,
      Tags are a pain in the typewriter. I used to do a lot more but they bore me (as you know I bore easily) and the only use I’ve found is that when I want to find an old post I use them for my own search! Ironically, the tag that gets the most hits, over several years, from other people’s searches is Christine LaGarde, Nude!!!!


  3. Judy, you are the most creative person I know. I’m blown away by your art. I can’t even draw a stick figure. A virus may slow you down, but it’s only temporary.


    • Chuck,
      Thank you for such wonderful compliments! (actually Shari Pratt is probably the most creative person you know if you saw her artwork).
      And you are right the virus is only acute but alas, my procrastination has been chronic!

      P.S. You just think you can’t draw – everyone can draw, it just takes practice.


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