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Satisfy your writer’s curiosity and change your brain

“You never graduate from learning. There is always more to discover.”

This sentence, in an e-mail update from author Jeff Goins, made me think about how much I love to learn, especially about writing.

One of the reasons I love learning is that it feeds my curiosity. Every time I learn something new from a book or a writing workshop or conversation with my writer’s group, I feel a charge. After periods of intense learning and mental stimulation, I even feel like my brain has changed, as if I’ve expanded my thinking.

Turns out, there’s science behind this.

In a post at Psychology Today, neuropsychologist Ian H. Robertson hypothesizes that education and stimulation repeatedly trigger a chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. The brain releases this chemical when you face a challenge, figure out something new, or are surprised by something — all things that happen during the learning process.

So how does this help writers?

Robertson says that in moderate doses, noradrenaline, “also acts as a sort of fertilizer, helping the brain make new physical connections between cells and even stimulating new brain cells to grow. What’s more, it also ‘rescues’ other crucial cells for other key chemical messengers in the brain, such as dopamine and acetylcholine, which are critical for attention, thinking and memory.”

And who doesn’t want a brain that works more creatively?

In his article, Robertson writes about how stimulating it was for him to experience a visit to New York City, with its novelty, sights, and sounds. Wherever you live, consider how you can add novelty, challenge, and discovery to your life to stimulate your writer’s mind. These are several favorite ways I feed my brain:

  • Travel somewhere new.
  • Visit museums and art galleries and drink in the visual feast.
  • Attend a writer’s workshop.
  • Read literature and craft books.
  • Pursue artistic endeavors such as playing an instrument, painting, and drawing.
  • Study languages.

Have you felt your brain change as a result of learning?

Learn more about Robertson and read his full article at Psychology Today.

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