This Is My Brain While Writing

on March 19, 2012 in Misc

The weekend came and went way too fast. I mean seriously – where the hell did it go?

I swear I was gonna go out and do some fun Layla action things, but that didn’t happen. Life and necessities and duties interfered, especially on Sunday when the wind kicked up (60 mph) and blew dust in my face the one hour I did get outside.   Oh fun.  hen my sister called about planning for our Mom’s upcoming birthday and we had to make arrangements, like, RIGHT NOW.

Some of this lost time phenom was my own fault. I thought I’d spend a short while polishing a manuscript. Hours later I get up from my desk and realized the afternoon was almost over. Does that ever happen with you? You sit down to write and lose yourself in your own story, and before you know it you’re late for everything else in your life.

It’s certainly a danger for me.  Sometimes what’s going on in my head fiction-wise is so distracting it’s almost a dull shock to come back to reality. Story-telling can be so exciting, who wants reality?

And now, at last, there’s even scientific proof that fiction can be very real to the brain.  On Sunday (ironically, considering how I ended up spending the day) an article in the New York Times talks about how scientists can measure when you’re reading fiction because of how your brain reacts to it.  Seriously, the piece is called “Your Brain on Fiction.”

It seems that when a person reads a metaphor that involves texture, the sensory cortex responsible for perceiving texture through touch becomes active.  Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” and “He had leathery hands” arouses the sensory cortex.  On the other hand, phrases like “The singer had a pleasing voice” and “He had strong hands” does squat.

Take the effects of “John grasped the object” and “Pablo kicked the ball.”  The brain scan (fMRI) reveals activity in the motor cortex that coordinates the body’s movements.  Not only that, the activity is in one part of the motor cortex when the movement described was arm-related and in another when the movement involved the leg.

How cool is that?  The right words in a story – vivid, tactile, physical – can make our brains react as if our bodies were experiencing the reality described by those words.

As a writer, I suddenly feel  more powerful.  This also helps to explain why some novels affects us far more than others.  Not only are we reacting to them on an emotional and mental level, but our bodies are physically participating in the action.

Now if only I could get my body back out in the real world and do some real stuff.  Next weekend, I swear…

6 Responses to “This Is My Brain While Writing”

  1. That is fascinating! I’m going to keep that in mind while writing.

  2. This may explain why I find the reading of written pornography to be far more stimulating than seeing pictures.

  3. Helena says:

    Michael — And this kinda follows up as a postscript to my earlier post, doesn’t it?

  4. Helena says:

    Alex – Since you write so much action/science fiction, I bet you’re doing this tactile writing already. I’ll know more when I read CassaStar and then CassaFire, which are sitting on my shrinking TO READ pile (sorry! I WANT to get to them sooner!).

  5. Old Kitty says:

    Awww happy birthday to your mum!!! Hope you all had a great time preparing for it!

    Oh the brain thing is FASCINATING!!! I’d like to think my little grey cells respond in such a way to the richness of language! yay! Take care

  6. Helena says:

    Old Kitty – Our brain and bodies and hearts responding to words and stories — romantic, isn’t it?