Tag Archives: Don Maruska

The 2014 Central Coast Writers’ Conference and My Brain


By: Tina Davidson

What’s scarier? That the average human attention span is 8 seconds? Or that the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds?

(I want to know what gives goldfish the edge to hang on for that extra second and was it Gill’s good looks or his attention span that got him the part as Bob’s pet goldfish in the movie, “What About Bob?”)

With attention span on the decline due to the distractions caused by shiny electronic gadgets, it is a wonder I sat and listened to a recent FOUR HOUR talk given by Brian Schwartz. Thankfully, there was a break, so I didn’t actually sit the entire four hours and the material was engaging so my brain didn’t feel like exploding. While Brian was talking, I felt like I was back in the good old days– when I attended Cal Poly and took notes with a pen and notebook that couldn’t be powered on or off.

(Brain Tip: Handwriting is actually better for your brain than typing– watch the video linked on the further reading section of my post Can Writing and Success Help Your Brain?).

Schwartz’s presentation, “12 Steps to Becoming an Amazon Bestselling Author,” was one of the several workshops at the 2014 Central Coast Writers’ Conference, which took place at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo on September 19 & 20.

About four years ago, I was pretty excited about self-publishing, so my mom lent me her copy of Dan Poynter’s manual on self-publishing. This topic still interests me so my brain soaked up all the new information that Schwartz presented on the subject. Schwartz is an expert when it comes to publishing and helping authors market their Kindle books.  He’s a great resource and I recommend you listen to one of his talks, sign up for his email tutorials, and purchase his ebook software if you have self-publishing aspirations.

What are you afraid of?

Maybe you’ve always wanted to write something or attend a writers’ conference but fear stopped you from pursuing your dream. It is common to let fear prevent one from taking action. Both Brian Schwartz and the closing speaker, Don Maruska, touched on the issue of fear. Maruska’s presentation really caught my attention because he touched on neuroscience and how we lose our best thinking to fear.

As a Master Certified Coach, Maruska helps people figure out how to get their best brain working for them so they can achieve their goals.

One simple way Maruska helped the conference attendees get their best brains working was to have them perform an exercise meant to start pumping oxygen into their brains.

Something as simple as standing up and touching your right elbow to your left knee and then switching elbows and knees will suffice. This exercise crosses the midline in your brain (meaning you get the right and left side of your brain working) and this helps you to focus better and use your cerebral cortex, thinking brain, instead of your amaygdala, the flight or fight part of your brain. These helpful exercise tips apply to anyone who needs to keep their mind sharp or pay attention longer than a goldfish.

How can you just sit there?

So, perhaps you’ve pushed your writing fears aside but now you have writer’s block. Might I suggest a walk?

Deborah Netburn, journalist for the Los Angeles Times, covered a study that showed how walking, as opposed to sitting, boosts creativity.  She quoted Marily Oppezzo, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University and the lead author of the study:

“Our study shows everybody’s creativity improved when they were walking compared to themselves when they were sitting,” she said. “It’s so cool that you can just go out, take a walk, and make your creativity better.”

So, whether you have writer’s block or need a creative boost, walking can help.

One of the conference attendees asked Anne Perry, author and key-note speaker at the conference, how she dealt with writer’s block.  Apparently, she doesn’t have it because she writes around 42 page outlines for each of her books and recommends this approach to others.

No one asked Anne Perry if she walks regularly. I’m curious.

What inspires you? 

Now that you’ve walked, written your outline, and your muse is talking to you again, perhaps you need a little more inspiration?

Jeannett Hanscome’s class was just the inspiration I needed to get back on track with my writing.

Hanscome, an author, writer, and teacher, encouraged me with her insight on writing to inspire. She co-authored the book, “Running with Roselle,” based on the experiences of a blind man, Michael Hingson, and his guide dog, Roselle, who escaped together from the world trade center on September 11th. The story alone is inspiring and also the fact that Hanscome collaborated with Hingson.  Hanscome by definition is considered legally blind although she wouldn’t agree with that label.

Now what?

I hope you plan to be the hero in your own talent story as Maruska encouraged.

Will I see you at next year’s writing conference in San Luis Obispo?

I’ve already signed up at the early early bird rate. You can find information to sign up here. My brain always loves a bargain and is eager to learn more.

Sources & Writing Resources


Netburn, Deborah. “Researchers concluded cognitive benefits of walking were specific to creative thought.” Los Angeles Times April 26, 2014.

A special thanks to the following 2014 Central Coast Writers’ Conference presenters whose workshops I attended:

Brian Schwartz -12 Steps to Becoming an Amazon Bestselling Author

Jeanette Hanscome – Write to Inspire

Anne Perry – Plotting to Enhance Your Backstory

Mara Purl – World Building for a Series

Greg Pincus –  Don’t Tell- Write a Scene

Don Maruska – Take Charge: Become the Hero of Your Talent Story


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