“One writes to make a home for oneself, on paper, in time, in others’ minds.”
“I love walking into a bookstore. It’s like all my friends are sitting on the shelves,
waving their pages at me.”
Brain power: As writers, we expend a lot of mental energy capturing our thoughts and rooting them to the page in words. But we’re not the only ones whose synapses are firing — the same is true for readers: In fact, their brains are literally changed through the very act of reading. According to research conducted at Emory University and published in the journal Brain Connectivity, our brains are physically affected by the written word.
This fascinating fact cropped up in a wonderful new craft guide I’m poring over called Writing with Quiet Hands by Paula Munier. As Paula puts it, “Compelling stories heighten connectivity in the reader’s left temporal cortex — a part of the brain related to language and sensory motor skills — and trigger neurological changes that can endure, much as muscle memory does.”
When we write an exciting, engaging read, we’re actually exerting a powerful influence over our readers’ brains. And when we create a sympathetic hero or heroine — one our readers root for and admire — our readers’ empathy is ignited; their brains trick them into believing that they are sharing our character’s experience, “not just figuratively, but biologically as well.”
What’s more, these changes aren’t fleeting. Emory University researchers found that they could still be detected five days after the subjects finished reading; as a result, they believe that powerful stories can have a long-lasting effect on readers’ brains.
Amazing! Fantastic, isn’t it, to think that black ink on a white page can virtually leap into a reader’s brain and influence its inner workings? What more evidence do we need? Brain science is just confirming what we all learned as kids: Words have power. Let’s use them wisely and well as we all write on!