Study Reveals the One Thing You Should Do to Become a Better Writer
by Marianne Stenger
Posted: November 12, 2015
As a writer you’re constantly improving your craft whether you realise it or not, and every time you write something new, be it a blog post, short story or chapter, you’re learning and evolving.
In fact, a recent brain imaging study conducted by scientists from the University of Greifswald and the University of Hildesheim in Germany found that writing can actually change the way your brain works, and frequent practise can make the whole writing process from brainstorming to sentence construction as automatic as riding a bicycle.
Frequent writing changes the way your brain works
To study how practice affects the brain when it comes to creative writing, the researchers used an fMRI scanner to produce images of both inexperienced and seasoned writers’ brains as they wrote a story.
Participants were first asked to copy some text, which gave the researchers a baseline reading of their brain activity while writing. After this they were asked to read a few lines of an existing story and then come up with their own ending. Each writer was first given a minute for brainstorming, followed by another two minutes for writing.
During the brainstorming process, the inexperienced writers activated their visual centres, whereas seasoned writers showed more activity in their brain’s speech regions.
Why? The researchers suspect that for inexperienced writers, creative writing is sort of like taking notes while watching a film unfold in their head. Experienced writers, on the other hand, are actually narrating their story with an inner voice.
Another notable difference that emerged during the writing process was that in experienced writers, the caudate nucleus, which plays an important role in skills that come with practice such as playing piano or dribbling a basket ball, lit up. This wasn’t the case with the novice writers.
The more you practice, the easier it will become
The most important take away from this research is that in order to write well, you have to be willing to write a lot. When you first start writing, it will cost you a lot of time and conscious effort to put together a coherent story and stick with it until the end, but the more you do it, the more naturally it will come to you.
Eventually, writing will become automatic, and you’ll be able to balance multiple tasks at once without really thinking about what you’re doing. And when you’re less focused on the technical side of things, your writing will also be more creative.
As with any other skill, though, this won’t happen overnight, so be prepared to put in the hours and practice your craft diligently.