Writing: Harmful & Therapeutic to Your Health

writing in notebook a story

As a writer, I tend to sit a lot, which isn’t exactly healthy.  However, I do walk every now and then, and I found out that writing and walking are a natural marriage of mind and body.

But to be honest, I don’t walk enough…two or three times a week for twenty minutes per day the majority of the time.  Ideally, five days a week for twenty to thirty minutes is my unattained goal thus far.

Incidentally, along with discovering the marriage of writing and walking, I discovered some fascinating information on this topic.  Many famous writers walked a lot.  Authors such as Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and William Wordsworth.  Of course, if you think about it, walking was much more commonplace for getting around back in Dickens’ et. al’s eras.  They benefited before studies were done on what walking does for writers.

walking sneakers

Other than getting some good exercise, other positive things happen when we trek around our neighborhood or local park.  In a study done by England’s Cambridge University of more than 334,000 Europeans, it discovered a brisk walk twenty minutes a day might be sufficient to decrease a person’s risk of premature death.  In addition, walking aids in stress reduction and alleviates symptoms of depression (Bianchi).

Walking also clears the mind and actually leads to creative thinking.  A Stanford University study asked participants to do mental tasks, such as producing analogies to convey complex ideas, that are common in creativity tests.  The results showed that 81% to 100% of the participants formed creative ideas walking compared to sitting (Andrews).

Now, about writing.  I found that writing is a way to help heal from traumas and also releases emotional stress and eases anxiety.

A study by Spera, Buhrfeind, and Pennebaker shows expressive writing, which means scrawling down your feelings on paper, improves mood, well-being, and decreases stress levels.

Expressive writing can be used to write in a daily gratitude journal, a journal for recording emotionally stressful events, or through the created and written situations of characters’ lives in your novel.  For example, a study was done on engineers that had been laid off recently and were separated into three groups:

1) A control group with no writing,

2) A group assigned to write about time management, and

3) A group to expressively write about the raw feelings of losing their jobs.

Both writing groups did this twenty minutes a day for five days, in which they also elucidated the emotional difficulties of job hunting, “relationship problems, financial stressors, the immediate experience of being fired, losing their coworkers, and feeling rejected” (Grant).

The results were stunning.  Three months later, the control group with the exception of five percent, were still seeking employment.  Twenty-six percent of the expressive writing groups obtained new jobs.  These groups also reported consuming less alcohol.  Eight months later, the control group still struggled to acquire a job with less than nineteen percent finding full-time work, whereas, fifty-two percent of the expressive writing groups had new jobs (Grant).

writing

In writing her novel, author Jessica Lourey states, “Little by little, I was carving out new space for thoughts that were not about death or depression.”  She adds regarding Dr. Pennebaker’s study, “Two elements above all else increase therapeutic value of writing: creating a coherent narrative and shifting perspective…Writers call them plot and point of view” (Lourey).  Therefore, expressive writing heals.

So, writing and walking are good things, right?  Well…  Walking certainly is good for a person as noted above.  Writing is good for easing and healing emotional issues.  But sitting most of the day writing, staring at a computer screen, and not taking breaks can actually cause major health problems.

Like many office workers, serious, dedicated writers likely sit six or more hours a day.  Physically, sitting for many hours a day elevates the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and premature death.  This includes people who exercise regularly.  Dr. David Alter from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute states, “Even if you do a half an hour or an hour of exercise every day, it doesn’t give us the reassurance that sitting for the other twenty-three hours is okay.  In fact, it’s not” (CBS News).

In a study by CBS News, prolonged sitting increased the risk of cardiovascular disease by 14%.  The risk of cancer increased by 13%, and the risk of diabetes skyrocketed to 91%.  With sedentariness, the heart is not getting its exercise, and blood sugar isn’t moving well through our cells (CBS News).

Mentally, sitting in an environment with no social interaction or outside fresh air and sunlight causes depression for many writers.  A couple of famous writers who had or currently have depression are F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.K. Rowling.

A study out of Australia of close to 9,000 women in their fifties discovered those who sat seven hours a day and did not exercise were three times more likely to have depressive symptoms, than for those who sat less than four hours daily and exercised regularly.

feeling-the-effects-of-chronci-stress

Incidentally, depression drains a person’s energy, which causes less of a desire to be active (Andrews). Sitting for several hours a day also affects a person’s wellbeing because of lack of social interaction. Connecting with family and friends reduces isolation and loneliness (Mann).

Writers also face emotional challenges such as dealing with perpetual rejections from publishers, editors, and the like.  This also at times includes their peers. A clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Alan Manevitz, states, “A large part of a writer’s success depends on how other people think of him” (Mann).

The majority of writers work by themselves and are isolated from companionship and sunlight, and coupled with unhealthy sleeping patterns if they write into the night, are a concoction for depression (Mann).

That news alone can depress a person who enjoys writing.  But there are ways to counter these dire outcomes.  We can start by standing up for one to three minutes each half hour or so of sitting throughout the day (CBS News).

Apparently, many corporations have purchased standing desks.  Some employees have reported feeling more balanced energy-wise by working at standing desks than when they’d been sitting at desks.  Getting used to standing at their desks did take time and adjustment, but it seems to be proving helpful to their wellness (CBS News).

standing desk

I started taking one to three-minute standing breaks yesterday, and I already felt a difference, and it was a positive one.  My energy level was better, and my mind was more focused and clear.

New story ideas and character dialogue switch on while I’m walking, and walking out in the sunlight and listening to the birds and looking at nature around me boosts my mood and energy.  Spending quality time with family and friends is something I’m trying to do more.  A good balance of social connection and alone time is needed for my introverted self.

With periodic breaks and a regular walking routine, we writers can improve not only our health, but our creativity.

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Works Cited
Andrews, Linda Wasmer. “To Become a Better Writer, Be a Frequent Walker.”  Psychology Today.  28 March 2016.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201603/become-better-writer-be-frequent-walker.  Accessed 19 July 2018.
Andrews, Linda Wasmer.  “What Sitting Does to Your Psyche.”  Psychology Today.  20 March 2014.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201403/what-sitting-does-your-psyche.  Accessed 19 July 2018.
Bianchi, Nicole.  “Want to Become a Better Writer?  Go For a Walk.”  Nicholebianchi.com. 15 June 2016. https://nicolebianchi.com/better-writer-daily-walk/.  Accessed 12 July 2018.
Grant, Adam.  “The Power of the Pen:  How to Boost Happiness, Health, and Productivity.” Linkedin.com.  28 May 2013. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20130528121344-69244073-the-power-of-the-pen-can-writing-make-us-happier-healthier-and-more-productive/. Accessed 12 July 2018.
Lourey, Jessica.  “The Therapeutic Benefits of Writing a Novel:  Research suggests that writing fiction can be a powerful healing tool.”  Psychology Today.  9 June 2017.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/discover-your-truth/201706/the-therapeutic-benefits-writing-novel.  Accessed 12 July 2018.
Mann, Denise.  “Why Writers Are Prone To Depression.”  Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression/why-writers-are-prone-to-depression-6709.aspx. Accessed 19 July 2018.
“Too much sitting raises risk of death, even if you exercise.”  CBS News.  20 January 2015. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/too-much-sitting-raises-risk-of-death-even-if-you-exercise/. Accessed 19 July 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking from Writing and the Consequences

writing exhaustion pic

What if I stop writing for a while?  What if taking this hiatus is not because I have no choice but precisely because I do?

About a month ago, I’d reached writing and creativity exhaustion, so much so that even when I’d forced myself to write at least a few sentences or a paragraph, nothing but stale, dry, lifeless words settled on the page.

You see, at this time, I’d finished my current revisions and my editor had done her thing in supplying me with superb proofreading, editing, and suggestions for my characters and plot for my novel, Passage of Promise.

But at the same time, I’d entered my subsequent university course in fascinating American Art.  It was one of the required general education exploration courses available for me to choose. My courses are eight weeks long.  By mid term, the college load was like swimming in an ever deepening pool, and the massive reading assignments and associated linked reading material were pulling me under.

drowning underwater pool

Overwhelmed by keeping up with my novel’s plot additions, blog posts, essays, and colossal pages to peruse and jot down notes, it was time for me to slide one of these on the shelf.

Permanently? you ask.  I sure hope not.

When you struggle with general anxiety and menopausal symptoms that trigger it (along with blood sugar issues), your brain can only take in so many mental activities at a time.  I’d reached my limit.

When this happened, I closed up my manuscript on Word, and dread hit me as I remembered the eighteen-year hiatus from writing that was broken in September 2014…not so long ago.  Was I going to end up disconnected from my writing another eighteen years?

This concern prompted me to look up information on authors/writers taking breaks.  I found a couple of articles that gave me a great sense of relief.

What I learned is breaks are not only acceptable, but necessary to regenerate your creative juices and thought processes.  And we writers make the choice on how long that break will be.  It could be a day, a week, a month, or months.

I know this is alarming and sounds close to anathema considering how often we hear and read in the writing world the mantra stressing writing at least something daily.

But please keep reading.

Via a Writer’s Edit article, it says, “If you are at the point where you are forcing a story, take this as a sign to take a break from it.”  This gave me a chance to exhale.

cartoon girl sitting in hammock

(credit:  GetDrawings.com)

The author of that article also stressed not losing the joy of writing.  Well, I’d forgotten the joy of writing.  It had become the equivalent of cramming for final exams since it was juxtaposed with my college course load.

However, another reassuring perspective came from The Writing Cooperative’s author, Ryan J. Pelton’s article on this subject, stating, “You are not weak, uncommitted, and not a true writer if you take breaks.  You will not forget how to write.”  I could sit back calmly with this tidbit.

These breaks can be used for relaxing and cleaning out your brain, for continued reading for pleasure, and an upcoming chance for new, fresh characters and storylines to surface that can be noted for later.

My plan at this time is to pick up on my novel and other writing projects after I graduate from my university at the end of October.  Then I will be free to pursue my writing without college assignment pressures.  This is my tentative schedule, and each of us makes our own.

So, if you’re feeling burnt out, or you have nothing left, take a much needed break that is as long as you choose, and look forward to sparkling, vivid tales in the very near future.

 

~*~*~*~

 

Works Cited
Writer’s Edit.  “Why Taking Writing Breaks Is Important.” writersedit.com.  https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/taking-writing-breaks-important/
Pelton, Ryan J.  “Put Down the Pen and Step Away (rest for writers).”  The Writing Cooperative.  https://writingcooperative.com/put-down-the-pen-and-step-away-rest-for-writers-44a98971db4b

 

Who, Me?

liebster award for blogging.png

A couple of days ago, I was notified by a sweet fellow blogger, Julieanne A Girl and Her God, that she’d nominated me for the 2018 Liebster Award.  I am so touched that she thought of me when thinking of so many extraordinary bloggers out there.  Incidentally, a little tidbit on what little I knew about this award until now.  I saw this award mentioned on a few bloggers’ sites in the past couple of years and thought how wonderful for them!  They are true talents in blogging.  I was new to blogging at that time and didn’t really know how to navigate and run a blog, but over time, I learned, and I still have much more to learn.

I feel blessed to have met via Word Press so many fabulous, fascinating bloggers, and Julieanne, a Christian woman, wife, and mother, is definitely a standout with her encouraging and uplifting posts about faithfulness, steadfastness, and courage.  There is a lot of wisdom in her writings that I believe can be helpful to many people who may need a dose of spiritual medicine.  I know I need it daily.

The official rules and backstory of the Liebster Award can be found here: The Global Aussie.

liebster award 2

Included in the rules are those nominated and participating in this blogger chain-like event must answer questions given to them by the blogger who nominated them, and in return, they must nominate bloggers and create questions for them as well.  So, on to the questions given to me by Julieanne:

  1. What are three things found in your kitchen or office “junk drawer” that tell your story?  Well, presently, I don’t have a junk drawer in those rooms, but my nightstand drawer would be a good substitute.  It’s filled with various random items.  The ones that tell my story are:  A) my journal, which has been filled out sporadically with no set schedule, and this reflects my personality, especially in the past five or so years–pensive, anxious, and struggling with the menopausal/peri-menopausal life.  B) Orthodox Christian Study Bible. I look to this for prayers and reading Scriptural verses, which I should really more often.  It represents my Christian faith and beliefs and my daily walk toward full union with Christ.  C) Bookmarks.  You can never have too many when your nightstand surface is stacked with in-progress and to-be-read books in my genre and spiritual books of interest.  They are paramount to my being a writer, and the ability to create and write my own stories.
  2. What is one recipe you know by heart?  My meatloaf recipe that was handed down to me by my mother, and to her from the Lipton Soup folks on the back of one of their boxes of dry soup mixes. 😀
  3.  If you had the chance to relive one moment, with the hopes of changing the outcome, would you do it?  No, because what’s done is done, and the past is part of our good and bad experiences by which we learn and grow, cultivating us into who we are and will become through our continued journey on earth.
  4. What organization would you want to donate a life-changing amount of money to?  This is a tough question, Julieanne, because there are so many!  But I’ll give it a shot.  I’d donate to the Children’s Hospital of Seattle where my son had three brain surgeries for resection of a portion of his brain tumor discovered at age thirteen months.  My husband and I will never forget the doctors and the nurses there, and in conjunction with that, the Ronald McDonald House where we stayed two months our first visit and five months the second for our son’s surgery and radiation treatment.
  5. What is a piece of advice you received as a child from a parent/grandparent/mentor that you have already passed on to someone else?  My father always taught me to be honest and do the right thing.  This shows integrity and honor, for which my dad had in abundance.  I passed this along to my sons, and we’re all doing our best to practice this.  Glory to God!
  6. What celebrity would you like to read and comment on your blog?  I don’t follow celebrities, but there are people I consider true stellar figures in our society.  I would really like Abbot Tryphon to read my posts because his daily morning podcasts and posts on Facebook are a huge blessing to me and my family.
  7. What is the meaning of life in ten words or less?  “God became man so that man can become like God.” – St. Athanasius

The incredible bloggers I’m nominating for the 2018 Liebster Award are:

N and C Video Game Reviews

AB Guy

Irregular Ideation

Their blogs are very informative, unique, and interesting!

Here are my questions for these nominees if they wish to participate:

  1. What place on this earth gives you the most comfort and peace?
  2. What is a food’s texture that bothers you enough that you avoid eating it?
  3. What are three songs that remind you of your childhood?
  4. Plane or train?
  5. Coffee or tea?  Your favorite brand?
  6. Do you have a phobia?  If so, what is it?
  7. What is a foreign language you’d like to learn?
  8. Do you store anything under your bed? If so, what?

The Blogosphere is pulsating with the energies, creativity, and dynamic talents of many, many bloggers.  Discover them!

 

 

 

The Importance of Your Creative Work Space

desk and windows

I’m sharing a post by fellow blogger, Nicholas Rossis, who shared a guest post about your work space and how it can help and improve your creative writing.  Until today, I’d been sitting on my bed writing, and well, that wasn’t really the best place to be a creative writer.  So, these tips helped me to change that, and I’m now sitting in my living room/library at my desk, and I already feel better having the space to type and write and  the fortunate treat of being able to look out the picture window that I believe will help to inspire me to create many imaginative characters, settings, and stories (God willing!).

I hope this shared post is beneficial to your writing.

This is a guest post by Jade Anderson is an experienced In-house Editor at Upskilled. With a background in online marketing, Jade runs some successful websites of her own. Her passion for the education industry and content is displayed through the quality of work she offers.

6 Tips for Making a Workspace Conducive to Writing

No matter what type of content you’re writing, whether it’s fiction, investigative journalism, feature pieces or academic articles, the environment that you write in has a big impact on how well you put that piece together. Writing takes skill, for sure, but where you write can affect how you write because if there are distractions in your workplace, your writing is likely to reflect that. As a writer, your workspace should be inspiring and comfortable in equal measure. It should be somewhere you can focus and reflect. Here are five tips for creating the perfect writing workspace.

2. Make Sure You Have Privacy

One criterion for success when it comes to writing is consistency. Often, this means writing something every day. But it also means trying to work in the space every time you write. In order to find a space where you are going to be able to be productive most days, you need to consider the level of privacy you will have. Choose a space where you’re able to be alone with your projects and your thoughts without being distracted by background noise or other people. This can simply mean working in a room in your house that has a door or finding an area where there is little to no foot traffic. Having a private, dedicated area that is yours allows you to have a distraction-free workspace.

3. Consider Your Desk And Chair

How comfortable your desk and chair are, are important factors that affect how productive you are. If you feel cramped or uncomfortable, you’re far more likely to get distracted and want to stop working. Chances are, you’ll be sitting and typing for long stretches of time, so you need a space that is ergonomic. Make sure that your desk and chair are at the right height so you don’t have to strain or hunch to work on your computer. You need a chair that will support your back and encourage good posture. As for your desk, it must provide enough space for everything you need.

4. Declutter

It is hard to work amongst clutter. Physical clutter can cause mental clutter, leaving us feeling distracted and unfocused. Getting rid of unnecessary mess and creating a clutter-free space is one of the key steps in creating an environment conducive to writing. While decluttering can take some time and hard work, it pays off. Set aside a day to declutter the space you wish to work in and decide what items you will throw out, what you’ll donate, and what you’ll keep. If you have furniture, files or belongings that you want to keep but don’t necessarily need right now, consider putting these things into storage. Using community storage is an affordable and convenient option should you find yourself in this situation.

5. Make It Yours

Your workspace is a space for you. You want it to reflect your personality and to be a place where you feel comfortable and at home. While you shouldn’t fill it with personal belongings that may be distracting or cause clutter, you should put some effort into personalizing the area. This can be with artwork, photos or other decorative features that you feel express your personality. As a writer, you may wish to personalize your space by filling it with your favorite books or quotes from your favorite authors!

6. Go For Natural Light

Regardless of your industry, natural light has been proven to impact productivity. The sun boosts your mood, gives you energy, and can stimulate creativity. For these reasons, natural light is particularly important for writers. If you’re working from home, it might be difficult to find a room with natural light to work in. However, even if you can work in front of a window or in a room with a skylight, this is better than nothing. Adequate light is important no matter what time of the day. If you’re working into the evenings, ensure that you have artificial lighting so you can read and write without straining your eyes.

7. Have What You Need On Hand

In order to work productively in your workspace, you should have everything you need to work on hand and ready to go. In the digital age, this might mean having all your tech accessories, chargers, and screens neatly arranged by your desk so they are easily accessible at all times. For writers, having two screens can be particularly useful. This allows you to have multiple windows open if you are researching and writing at the same time. If you still like the traditional pen-to-paper method when you’re figuring out your ideas, ensure you have plenty of supplies at hand in your desk drawers or on your desk.

 

 

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Steadying Your Creative Flame

candle flame

 

What’s all this effort for?

When you look at what you wrote and it’s a bore.

You’ve lost the creative spark

That drew you out of the dark.

You’d created so many tales

That you believed kept you on the scrawling rails.

But that was three years ago,

When your passion was again aglow.

Now the embers of your exhausted endeavor,

Are giving off the last flick of light ever.

Confusion, fear, and sadness cloud your head,

At the thought that your life passion is dead.

What was it all for?

To come to a place you abhor?

No.

Rather, you realize the time has come,

To take a needed respite

For your mind to be relit

In the days and weeks ahead,

Because you refuse to believe your craft is dead.

 

Attending a Writers Conference

workshop pic

On Saturday, May 19, I attended a writers conference in my town.  I am a member of a writers’ organization called Pennwriters because it is an organization for writers in the state of Pennsylvania.  This was my first ever time attending a writers conference, and it was well worth the money and time!  The program was a three-day event, but I only attended Saturday’s sessions from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., which included a delicious breakfast buffet and just as delicious lunch.  There were many workshops to go to and choose from.  In the time period I was there, I went to four of them:

  1. Story Shrink: Writing the Synopsis
  2. First Pages
  3. Agent/Editor Panel
  4. You, Too, Can Write Killer Plots

I’m going to share with you a few of the tips I got from the speakers, agents, and editors that I think will be helpful to my fellow writers.

Writing the Synopsis:

  • Write in present tense.
  • The main character(s) should be introduced in the synopsis in all caps.
  • Embed transformation into the synopsis.
  • Use emotion words.
  • Center synopsis around the main character, not on supporting characters.

First Pages — A few Do & Don’ts in the first page of your novel:

Do:

  • Have a strong, consistent voice.
  • Be true to your story.
  • Start in the middle of a scene.
  • Build your world by showing what life is like from the point of view of your main character.
  • Hit the emotion right away.
  • Know your reader/audience/editor/publisher wants to be entertained.
  • Trust yourself and your voice.
  • Use teasers and hints of what’s to come in your story.

Don’t:

  • Mislead your reader on what your story is going to be about through the pieces you reveal in that first page.
  • Be provocative just to be provocative.
  • Forget the context of your story.
  • Overwhelm your reader.  Don’t give away the whole plot and story, just leave bread crumbs of the things to come.
  • Tell, but Show.

Agent/Editor Panel

Five reasons you need an agent:

  1. Contacts.
  2. Contracts.
  3. Money–directed on how to get money from editor.
  4. Guidance.
  5. Subrights.

A few warnings:

  • Don’t write about fads or trends.  By the time your book is published, it will likely be out of fashion/passé.

Tired, overused themes and character traits:

  • Middle school petty relationships between girls. Let’s have some real, strong bonds between middle school girls.
  • Women characters who are prostitutes or very close to that.
  • Dystopian themes.

Writing Killer Plots:

  • Superb plots reveal characters and who they are to the readers.
  • When plot and character are interwoven, this is the best type of story/book.
  • Plot is cause and effect.
  • A series of choices make up the plots.
  • The antagonist actually is the one that drives the plot.

So, in plotting your story, you’ve got to have a story and the right characters for the story in mind.  The plots are the incidents and twists that happen to the protagonist throughout the story.  The plots have to fit the characters you’ve created for the story.

All of the workshops were helpful to me, especially the first, second, and fourth ones.  I needed help on writing an synopsis, how to spice up and get my reader’s attention on the first page, and even the first few sentences on that first page.  I also needed help in plotting.  This one always seems to be a struggle for me.

I look forward to attending more writers conferences in the subsequent years.  If there are ones around you, I’d highly recommend you go. 🙂

I hope these little tips aid you in your writing journey as I know they will for me.

 

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How Creative Writing Can Boost Your Intelligence (Guest Blog Post)

This is a reblog of my fellow blogger, Nicholas C. Rossis’ guest blog post.  I thought it was important to share.  Credit goes to Nicholas and guest blogger Sally Keys.

 

This is a guest post by Sally Keys. You may remember her from her guest post, Creating The Time And Space You Need To Write Your Best Work. Sally is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, she enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.

How Creative Writing Can Boost Your Intelligence

Globally, the average IQ has increased by 20 points over the last 100 years. Many reasons are given for this and all, no doubt, play a part. The fact is that we live in a very different world to the one of 100 years ago. By examining these differences and comparing them to research into intelligence, we can determine ways to boost our own IQs. Creative writing can play a major part in this but only if you are pushing your writing standards to the limit.

What Is Different About Today?

Globalisation has led to multiculturalism becoming the norm. Diethas improved dramatically and, along with basic medication, we have all but eradicated many of the illnesses that struck us down in childhood. Film, television, and mass production of books have all played a part in increasing our exposure to new ideas. Computers for communication, leisure, and research all provide a range of inputs that simply did not exist in the past. New stimuli are known to stimulate the prefrontal cortex (an area of the brain linked to intelligence) and our increased globalization and technological development make novelty a regular occurrence (despite how counterintuitive that may sound). Diet and healthcare help our brains develop further (especially at an early age) and free us from having to fight infections or deal with malnourishment.

What Has This To Do With Writing?

There is some evidence that 5 simple steps can help to boost your intelligence. Each of these can be achieved through creative writing if you approach it properly.

The first, seeking novelty, has been mentioned already. By writing about unfamiliar topics, doing research into another country, trying new foods and so on you are pushing yourself to experience the new.

You are also achieving step 2, which is to challenge yourself. Increase your challenge (and introduce more novelty) by stepping out of your comfort zone. Write a chapter in iambic pentameter or in verse, try a different voice for narration, or find any of a million different ways to push yourself. You could challenge yourself further by taking IQ tests. By taking tests before actively pushing yourself when writing, you could experiment and take the tests again at the end to see if you’ve improved.

The next step is the one most obviously linked to writing – think creatively. The simple act of writing fiction is sufficient stimulus to cognitively challenge your brain, but if you want to boost it, you need to think outside of the box. Take your creativity to the next level by remembering to seek novelty and by challenging yourself. Whilst our novelty-rich modern world has boosted our intelligence as a species, there is something to be said for doing things the hard way. Old-fashioned methods often bring their own cognitive challenges, especially as modern methods become more familiar.

Which leads us to the fourth tip; to do things the hard way. Write your first drafts long-hand. Turn off the grammar and spell checkers when you write it up and edit manually. Do some of your research from books instead of the internet. Taking the longer, slower route brings with it new challenges that cause new stimulation.

The final tip takes us back to one of the ways in which the modern world is different to the old, but it also turns it on its head. We live in multicultural societies and interact with people from across the globe, but do we really know people as well as we used to? The concept of communities seems to have gotten lost along the way. As a writer, the final stage of your work is to share it. If you aren’t taking this step, then you are missing out on the 5th tip, to network. Sharing ideas with others who have faced similar challenges and getting to know them both in person and through their work, will help you increase your intelligence – and improve your writing.