On writing and neuroscience. How the brain impacts your writing with Livia Blackburne.
Livia Blackburne is a neuroscience graduate student at MIT, conducting research on the neural correlates of reading. She also writes fantasy stories for young adults and blogs at ‘A Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing‘.
In this podcast, you will learn:
- How Livia has blended neuroscience with writing in her own career. Cognitive neuroscience is at the intersection of psychology and the study of the brain.
- On the left brain/right brain separation and whether this is a myth. Being able to see inside people’s brains with scans is interesting when you can also read their words and see the detail of their thoughts.
- How science writing and fiction writing help each other e.g. clean prose. How Livia blends these kinds of writing.
- On writing methods. For non fiction, progressive outline approach where you just keep adding things vs fiction writing which is more like making a movie in your head and then writing it down.
- Brainstorming methods for writing novels. On writing scenes and how effective that is. Fiction tips also help to liven up scientific or business writing.
- Some interesting studies in neuroscience that can help writers.
- How the brain processes metaphor. The brain understands abstract through concrete e.g. physical warmth transforms into emotional warmth. How can we use this in our writing, incorporating it in terms of showing, not telling.
- On creativity – the deliberate and spontaneous pathways. The former is for achieving goals and directed activities and the latter about unstructured brain time, when ideas can come out of the blue. When relaxing, free associations can help the spontaneous state. Understanding what kind of brain state is the best can help you achieve more. Read the article on Problogger.
- We discuss ways to get into the creative state – here’s my article on alcohol and writing.
- Going to conferences and learning new things can help improve your writing. Consuming and producing can help you learn.
- How science embraces criticism. How this can help us as writers dealing with criticism. Failure is par for the course and most of science is about being proved wrong so distancing yourself is a good way to approach it. If you have a chance to change things after the criticism, then it is all good. Writing is an art, not a science. Not everyone is going to like your work but there is a lot of space in creativity for everyone’s ideas.
- We discuss ‘The Hunger Games‘ and YA crossover and why the series is so good. Improving our own characters after learning from how Suzanne Collins does it. Both of our novels will come out in 2011.