Hardwired for Story: What Are the Effects of Writing on the Brain?
Any writer who has ever sat down to put pen to paper (or, more likely these days, fingers to keyboard) knows the joy and frustration that are part of a writer’s life. This can be especially true for screenwriters, who are not writing a stand-alone work, but something that will be endlessly manipulated before it (hopefully) ends up on the big screen. But, how does writing affect the brain? Are writers wired up differently than the rest of the population? Click below to check out a cool infographic and find out.
Alice Flaherty, a writer and neuroscientist, wrote The Midnight Disease, an excellent book on a condition called hypergraphia, or the uncontrollable urge to write (though many writers find themselves suffering from the opposite condition, the dreaded “writer’s block.”) And Lisa Cron’s Wired For Story examines the evolutionary basis for storytelling and how it can help modern scribes create effective narratives:
Every engaging story must…ignite the brain’s hardwired desire to learn what happens next. When writers tap into the evolutionary purpose of story and electrify our curiosity, it triggers a delicious dopamine rush that tells us to pay attention. Without it, even the most perfect prose won’t hold anyone’s interest.
This makes intuitive sense: anyone who has ever got lost in a great book or movie can attest to the “rush” that comes from seeing a well-crafted narrative play out. And seeing a bad movie or reading a poorly written story, the viewer/reader almost feels cheated. But how does writing affect the brain of the writer?
Writing can serve as a calming, meditative tool — free-writing exercises can drastically reduce your levels of stress. It should also be noted that writing can hold a powerful influence over its readers — Storytellers have the power to, “plant emotions, thoughts, and ideas into the brain of the listener.” But all of these mind-shaping tools can be completely disregarded if one chooses to insert a cliché into his or her writing. When you hear phrases like “love is blind” or “dumb blonde,” your brain skips over these ideas and simply accepts them as a collection of words. Clichés have become so familiar to us that the sensory responses they are supposed to evoke are often severely diluted.
What do you think? Does writing calm you down, or do just the opposite? What are some of your writing strategies? Do you have a daily routine that makes writing easier? Or do you wander around the house, chewing pencils and mumbling to yourself?
Link: Apple Copywriting