The Science of Writing

I came upon this article from Real Simple Magazine the other day, where Jonah Lehrer writes about the science of thinking. He mentions indecision, which leads to panic, which I relate to well:

  • I can’t decide what I want to cook for dinner (because, really, I don’t want to cook dinner). Then, the kids ask the dreaded question: what’s for dinner? I panic.
  • I fall into half an hour of quiet time. For twenty minutes, I consider the pros and cons of doing this, that, or the other. Then, I realize I have ten minutes left to start and finish whatever I decide. I panic.
  • I want to insert a third bullet here, because I think three is better than two. But, I can’t decide which anecdote fits best. Oh, boy.

With interest, I read Mr. Lehrer’s 10 tips to streamline my thinking and rid me of constant doubt. At one point, he suggests I “consider alternative points of view.” So I did.

I re-read his article through my writer’s eye and honed in on a few correlations between the science of thinking and the science of writing:

He says, “Tap your emotions.”
My writer’s mind translates, Don’t just regurgitate them into a journal, channel that resentment or frustration or elation into a good story.

He warns, “Don’t think under pressure.”
My writer’s eye twitches. Pound out and publish that blog post too quickly, and you’ll spend the rest of the night in bed staring at the ceiling, in a panic.

He suggests, “Be skeptical of your memories.”
My writer’s mind preaches, If working on a “he said, she said” memoir, start wearing a wire. Even if your brain falters, your digital recording won’t.

He encourages, “Go ahead and daydream.”
My writer’s brain fantasizes, Write like you’re getting paid for it.

He advises, “Think about thinking.”
My writer’s head nods, Write about writing.

Then, my writer’s eye squints, And get back to rewriting that novel, missy.


2 responses to “The Science of Writing

  1. Hey, at least you had decisive responses to his suggestions!

    Should I comment further, or not? Leave it short and snappy, or keep writing and possibly manage to be insightful? And what’s up with this anxiety rising up in my chest? (What, indecision –> panic? Clearly I know nothing about that! Oh no, nothing at all!)

  2. and there’s always –write like your life depended on it–now that does wonders for your insomia–

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