Our brains are amazing thinking, dreaming, imagining, and producing machines, reliant upon their masters to program, nurture, guide, and direct them. Thus, what you do—or don’t do—to stimulate, guide, and fire up your writing brain has everything to do with whether you will maximize your own writing genius. Luckily, summer is upon us and reading is one of the best ways to stimulate and inspire a writer’s brain – which means that reading books similar to what you want to write is an absolutely ingenious way to spend your summer days. Here are six reasons why:
- Reading uploads information to your brain about the kinds of stories that really appeal to you, how to write the kinds of characters, scenes, and plotlines you love to read, what you think you can do, and what would be a stretch.
- Reading provides ideas: Each work you read not only offers ideas, it clearly communicates to your brain the sort of material you want to produce, which will help your brain process input and find patterns that can be very helpful when writing.
- Reading bolsters originality: Identifying how others have handled subject matters can infuse your work with originality—especially if you take time to think harder and alert your brain as to how you can tell a unique story.
- Reading helps your brain create a template: If you’re writing in a particular genre, it is an excellent idea to read a number of works so you can get a natural feel for how to introduce the essential elements—and how to stand out from the pack. It helps your brain observe the multiple elements involved: words, language, rhythm, narrative, dialogue, setting, scenes, pacing, and so on. You are feeding your brain data that it needs to figure out what you’re attempting to do (to recognize and replicate specific patterns) and maximize neuronal resources.
- Reading stimulates brain connectivity: Reading creates “heightened connectivity,” similar to muscle memory, in the left temporal cortex, the area of the brain associated with receptivity to language. These significant increases in connectivity were centered on hubs in the left angular/supramarginal gyri and right posterior temporal gyri that correspond to regions previously associated with perspective taking and story comprehension. Which means that your brain is actively engaged in processing what it’s reading, and this effect lasts after you stop reading.
- Reading creates embodied semantics that last five days: Greater activity in the somatosensory cortex, the area responsible for the sense of touch and embodiment, suggests that your brain has a potential mechanism for “embodied semantics”—that is, the reader putting himself (figuratively) in the story, a sensation that persisted for five days after reading a novel. That’s a great return on reading a novel, particularly when you observe the techniques the writer used to engage the brain
It also helps to read books that are the opposite of what you want to write, which we’ll discuss in the next blog posting. Meanwhile, line up those novels, memoirs, plays, or whatever gets your brain humming and read, read, read.
Happy Reading . . . and Writing!