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Cuneus and lingual gyrus (source: Wikipedia)

Writing, building real neural networks can help with productivity

As you may know, in April 2019 I took the opportunity to attend a writing retreat for academics and facilitator’s course run by Prof. Rowena Murray in Scotland. Since then, despite coming back on a total high and full of ambition, I’ve been trying to convince myself to get out of my comfort zone and put it in practice here in France. It’s an incomparable system for anyone in need of a space and structure to facilitate their writing.

One of the things preventing me from doing enough of my own writing is that I still have so much reading to do... I don’t believe I’m alone in applying this (easy) procrastination tactic. However, sometimes in your reading you come across something and you know you just HAVE to write about it, because it annoys you enough, or it chimes so well with your own experience, or corroborates your own findings, or for some other reason (but in my case it’s usually personal).

This is exactly what happened to me the other day, and not alone did the text spur me to write this very text, it almost succeeded in pushing me out the door to do something about setting up writing retreats. Unfortunately, due to the current restrictions of movement in France this is not going to happen anytime soon, but watch this space!

So, what was the text about? It was an article in The New Yorker about predictive text (you can read it yourselves here: [Did I mention that I’m getting through a lot of my reading backlog?]

The author included a citation related to studies of the writing process itself, and what neuroscientists make of it based on imaging studies (the original article is at: /pubmed/24910072). The authors of this study looked at experienced and inexperienced writers of creative texts, and found that different brain regions are activated in these two populations during the writing process. Apparently the same brain region is highly active in experienced writers, musicians, and elite athletes when performing their specific skill – you could call it the “practise makes perfect” region (the “right cuneus” is shorter, but has a more restricted target audience).

This strikes a resounding chord, not least because when I went on the writing retreat I had the impression that my fluency and self-expression had increased just through the simple fact of sitting down to write regularly over a total of 10 hours. I suspect it’s not just a question of practise either, confidence plays a role – I went on the retreat doubting my capacity to produce a coherent text, doubting that I could stick the pace, but I consistently produced 1000 words of text per hour.

And guess what? I’ve read over them now (several months later), and it’s not that bad!

As one of my fellow retreaters said “Retreating is Engaging”. Since lots of you are stuck working from home, now is an ideal time to try a virtual writing retreat, it could open your eyes to a whole new world of productivity. If you’re interested in finding out more, please do get in touch.

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