16.13: Day Brain vs. Night Brain

Your Hosts: Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard

Patterns in the way we’re speaking may betray which ‘brain’ we’re using; often bound by what’s familiar, sometimes loosed for free-er choosing.

Writing like the day-brain’s thinking
Singing while the night-brain’s winking
All the cadence going funky
(golden-mantled howler monkey)

Credits: This episode was recorded by Marshall Carr, and mastered by Alex Jackson. XKCD #1412, by Randall Munroe, was referenced during this episode. As was the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.


Night Brain exercise: take a piece of prose that is giving you trouble. Put yourself in a dark, quiet place. Listen to a recording of a poem (“Moon Fishing” may serve nicely.) Write automatically, unselfconsciously, for 5 minutes: think about it like singing on the page.

The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders

4 thoughts on “16.13: Day Brain vs. Night Brain”

  1. I was hoping you’d give us your thoughts on

    How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford, in which the Enterprise crew and the Klingons visit a planet where the inhabitants often break into song, just like a Hollywood musical. It should be a movie. People who read it loved it or hated it. I loved it.



    I also remembered varied reactions to TV musicals. People like musical theater such as the live performances of A Christmas Story and others.
    The TV series Glee and the musical episode of Buffy had fans.

    But people didn’t like Cop Rock, a cop show in which the police, or the suspects, could break into song at any time. I don’t know why that show flopped.

  2. This week, Amal continued to explore the wonderful world of poetry, looking at the different parts of the brain that are engaged in singing/speaking or poetry/prose. Mary Robinette, Dan, Amal, and Howard talk about the times when the night brain takes over the writing, when we are in the zone and words flow. Lots of ideas, available for your reading pleasure now in the transcript in the archives.

  3. This distinction really opens my eyes to why I have a hard time abandoning pansting and love nanowrimo. When I have an outline, I feel very much like I am writing from my day brain, which I find u pleasant. But nanowrimo’s approach of writing without stopping and without thinking in word sprints (as it plays out for me) opens my writing experience to sometjing that just arises from a very unconscious noght brain kind of place. I just realized that this experience of night brain writing is why I write. That is the part I like. Structure and plot and editing are necessary chores, with their own pleasures, but it is the night brain writing I love. (And I also write in my sleep late at night on my sofa. It is more intelligible than when I dictate to my phone, which is a low bar)

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