Guest Post: Exercise Your Brain to Improve Your Writing

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Veteran Write Naked Contributor Carol Alexander returns with another helpful post. Carol’s previous post helped us learn ways of repurposing our work to earn more money. In the post below, Carol shares super simple steps we can take to stimulate creativity in our brains. I tried each one of these over the past week and I’m really happy with the level of energy and work I’m producing with my short stories!

left brain right brain illustration

5 Ways to Exercise Your Right Brain and Improve Your Writing
By Carol J. Alexander

As we know from high school anatomy, our brains consist of two hemispheres. The left side controls speech and analytical processes. The right side controls more of our imaginative, creative, and artistic activities. Some folks are left or right brain dominant. Others are more balanced. What some don’t realize, though, is that the right side of the brain controls and is stimulated by the left side of the body and the left side of the brain controls and is stimulated by the right side of the body. Consequently, we can improve the function of either side of our brains with various physical exercises.

Why is this important for writers? Because it seems that whenever we schedule uninterrupted time to work on our craft, our right brain becomes sluggish and our creativity takes the fastest train out of Dodge. Or, when we need to research for an important assignment like this one, analyzing or comparing statistics and scientific studies, the same thing happens.

So, no matter the task at hand, whether you are researching the best methods to kill off your villain, or describing his appearance, try the following exercises (on the correct side, of course.)

  1. Breathe through one nostril at a time. According to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Yoga, practicing deep breathing through one nostril stimulates the opposite hemisphere of the brain. So, to stimulate your right brain, take deep breaths through your left nostril. If your left nostril is blocked, try using a natural decongestant.
  2. Clench a ball in your opposite hand. According to this study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, squeezing a ball in your left hand prior to embarking on a creative assignment will result in an increase in creative thought.
  3. Cover one eye. In their book Eye Yoga: How You See is How You Think, Dr. Jane Rigney Battenberg and Martha Rigney discuss eye patching. They suggest that by covering your right eye and looking through your left, you process with the right side of your brain, and the opposite is also true. So, to improve your creativity, they suggest covering your right eye for about 20 minutes. To improve your logical thinking, cover your left eye for the same length of time.
  4. Paint or color something. Another study which discusses the relationship that our eyes have with our thinking found that the color red “is the most effective at enhancing our attention to detail, while blue is best at boosting our ability to think creatively.” So, if you still struggle to describe that villain in detail, try coloring or painting with the color blue before sitting down to write.
  5. Just move. No matter what your cognitive task, exercise is your friend. This study published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found “that acute exercise may affect both, divergent and convergent thinking.” Not an athlete? A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology reports that “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity….”

While I don’t suggest that you do as my teenager did when I read this to him—walk in place while squeezing a stress ball in your left hand and closing your right nostril with your right hand, and staring at a blue sheet of paper with your left eye with your right eye closed—all at the same time. I suggest you try one thing at a time to see how your creativity improves. Who knows, these exercises just might fire the synapses that turn your creative drought into an artesian well of ideas.

carol alexanderSince 2007, Carol J. Alexander’s writing has appeared in over 70 national, regional and local publications. Currently, she is the home department writer for The Roanoker, the Hearth and Home writer for Acreage Life, the content manager of a niche food blog, and the managing editor of Shenandoah Living. Carol also offers other writing, editing and copywriting services, as classes and coaching for new freelancers.