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I’ve always found the physicality of thought really interesting — that my ideas and memories take a physical, electrical form in my head. When I’m mentally exhausted, my head actually hurts, like an overused muscle. And when I’ve done too much complex thinking in a short time, it feels like my head is physically constipated.

That was Monday for me. I was going balls out* for the last week of this 50% benchmark, and when I got to the last chapter for that deadline — Chapter 17, “Being an Atheist in a Religious World” — I was just completely spent. Constipated. I got the chapter written, but it didn’t pop, at all. I could see that through the fog, but couldn’t see how to fix it. At all.

I turned it in, knowing there’s another round for author revisions later, then took two days off. And here’s the thing: no matter how fried and exhausted I am, that’s what it takes to fix me. Not a month, not a week — two days. I’ve seen this over and over. Whenever I hit a wall after a huge project and think I’ll need two weeks to recover, I’m back in two days.

Yesterday I looked at Chapter 17 again and my brain instantly saw what it needed. I rewrote it in an afternoon. And it pops.

Maybe it’s the standard time required for a neural dump. Anybody else have that two-day thing going?

*Origin of the phrase “going balls out.” You thought it meant what?!

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.