As writers, our brains are our tools. Our work is often a product of our imaginations. Much of what we put on paper comes from our creative minds.
So what are you doing to keep your brain strong, exercised, tuned?
In university, I majored in psychology, so many of my courses focused on the brain. One of my favourite subjects was cognition, how the brain stores information and how we retrieve memories. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could remember all those research facts we use in our books and the great ideas that hit us when we’re driving and how it felt to fall in puppy love.
How can we enrich our writing by remembering more of the things we’ve learned and experienced?
Think about all the sensory data coming into your brain at any given moment, most of which you don’t need to remember. How does the brain know what you prefer to remember and what you prefer to purge?
It’s simple, yet sometimes we don’t do it. Attention.
You must pay attention to the things you want to remember to let your brain know it’s important enough to be stored.
Focus. Repeat. Rehearse.
We must get our brain’s attention!
To save time looking up recurring facts that you’ll use in your book, take a few moments to exercise your brain and repeat the details you’d like to remember.
Use more than one sense to help you remember. See it and hear it. Even better, rhyme it if you can. Read the things you wish to remember rhythmically and out loud.
Rehearsing will move information into long term memory and build brain cells!
Associate the information with something important. For instance, in my paranormal romance, Love of Her Lives, a character loses a necklace. I could not remember what stones were in that necklace until I associated it with my birthstone—emerald. If they were emerald, I didn’t have to go back and look it up.
Is there anything else we can do to strengthen memory?
Physical exercise will keep our brains strong.
It’s a fact—the brain shrinks with age—we will lose brain cells, so it’s important to replace the ones we lose. An American Academy of Neurology study showed that adults who walked between 6-9 miles or 9-14 km (about 2 1/2 hours) per week had more grey matter in their brains. We can walk away from our shrinking brains.
We can also eat to enrich our brains. A study at the University of Oxford has shown that B vitamins slow brain atrophy in people with memory problems, especially B6, B12 and folic acid. Your best sources come from liver, fish, beef, wholegrain breads, legumes, dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, melons and citrus fruits.
Anti-oxidants reduce damage caused by oxidative stress in the brain. Eat foods rich in vitamin C, E and beta carotene. Blueberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, green tea, nuts, seeds, liver and citrus fruits.
Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA, a primary fatty acid found in fish oils, ensure normal brain-cell function. Eat fish at least 2-3 times per week! Other sources include flax-seed oil, walnuts, fresh basil.
To keep building brain cells, it’s a good idea to learn a new language, travel to new places or take up a hobby. So the next time you’re writing character profiles, give your protagonist skills that you can learn. Tennis anyone? If you’ve never played, why not take lessons to add authenticity to your story and pass the experience along to your character.
So to keep our brains strong and our stories rich, pay attention, be active, eat well and take piano lessons. Easy as pie. Well, blueberry pie!
Learn more about Love of Her Lives, or just come visit at: sharonclare.com