Neuroscience of Creative Writing

The left brain a land of analytic thinking, math problems, and logic. Meanwhile, the right brain has a paintbrush in hand, snaps at poetry readings, and sings acapella.

Yet, the idea there is a left and right brain is, in fact, a myth. Instead, the brain is a collection of multiple parts that together work to help you function. One of the most iconic ‘right’ brain strengths, writing, is actually most strongly associated with a part of your brain the uppermost center of your brain, the frontal lobe. The frontal lobe handles language and goal setting, both important to writing. Additionally, this area handles emotional language, meaning how we interpret gestures and phrases. So, the reason experienced writers make you feel more emotional is that they have a deeper understanding of how to evoke feelings from others through words. This finding suggests that having an education that supports the humanities do, in fact, make you a stronger writer dispelling the belief creative writing is a natural born ability.

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Figure 1: the frontal lobe location

The differences between experienced and novice writers not only extends itself to the frontal lobe but also the left caudate nucleus. The left caudate nucleus manages learning and cognitive activities. A study from Emory University found that experienced writers turned to the left caudate nucleus more often when compared to novice writers. Novice writers more often utilized visual areas of their brain to generate writing ideas. This finding suggests that experienced writers treat the act of writing as a learned ability like riding a bike or swimming. On the other hand, novice writers were forced to be more imaginative and visualize their ideas.

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Figure 2: Caudate nucleus location in the Basal Ganglia. Small yet mighty!

Additionally, highly trained writers show higher levels of activation in the emotional areas of their brain while writing. What this means is that experienced writer’s associate words with emotion more often. So, an experienced writer reading a book will feel a deeper sense of connection with the words and characters than an individual with little writing experience.

In conclusion, science proofs that writing is amazing for brain health. Sadly, in society, the humanities are not as respected as science or math. Reading and writing make individuals smarter, more empathic, and creative which are why it is critical if not imperative to our society. 



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