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. 

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