The Psychology of Writing and the Cognitive Science of the Perfect Daily Routine
How to sculpt an environment that optimizes creative flow and summons relevant knowledge from your long-term memory through the right retrieval cues.
- Creative rituals are actions and thoughts that an author practices before writing sessions.
- Rituals can help an author enter the ideal state of flow in writing, when one is in the zone, at one with the moment and the words.
- The cognitive psychologist, Ronald T. Kellogg, explored The Psychology of Writing in his 1994 book, examining the writing rituals that can reduce anxiety and increase creativity, preparing an author for writing.
- Cognitive cueing refers to the internal and external preparation for mental activity such as writing, and the cues become mental fixtures, permanent triggers for brain activity.
Language provided our first real portal into the human mind through Noam Chomsky's linguistic work in the late 1950s and beyond, writing becoming a valuable resource for glimpsing the workings of the brain.
BrainPickings is a wonderful website where Maria Papova explores thinking and learning. She reviews books, new and old, in search of mental feasts for her readers. I love the site, especially when she explores reading, writing, and creativity.
Writing rituals, or cognitive cueing, prepares an individual's mind for activity and creativity. Rituals, cues, and symbols are the things you do right before you write.
The brain encodes the practices and environment that precedes the creative activity, and the rituals are preserved in neural patterns, automatically triggering the mind to enter the creative flow.
Flow is when you are so intensely in the creative moment, that the words come with ease and you cannot be distracted by anything. You cannot help but write.
So, flow in writing is more easily achieved each time the rituals are practiced, further encoding the brain with permanent triggers. The customary environment, timing, and physical context of writing becomes a part of the rituals that induce flow, the environment triggering specific types of mental activity.
Beyond creativity and writing, rituals are important for triggering mental action throughout the day: waking up, preparing for the day, getting ready for sleep.
Rituals, symbols, times, and other cues help the brain enter the zone where knowledge and creativity can be retrieved from long term memory, for access in the present.
Priming your creative pump before you draw water leads to increased innovation and productivity.
I have a specific time, place, and position for writing sessions, and I avoid carelessly wandering into challenging mental activity. I need all the help I can get from cues like preparing my desk, clearing my computer desktop of unwanted open programs, and making sure my water is handy.
I eat a bit of sugar (fruit or candy because my brain likes it) and drink water. I even go to the restroom before I start so that my body will not become an intrusion. I get my tunes playing.
What are your rituals? Do you have things that you do before you write that you weren't even aware of previously?
If you need some rituals, I right about them in depth here. You can also Google "writing rituals" for new ideas.
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