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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Breathe! Or No More Writing for You!

hold_your_breath001_xlargeHave you ever delayed or interrupted your writing to check email?

If so, chances are you have also postponed giving your writing your full or even partial attention until you get “caught up.”

Well, don’t hold your breath!


Stop holding your breath.

You need to breathe! Now!

Screen Apnea

Most people temporarily hold their breath or breathe shallowly when they’re in front on any screen, but it’s even more likely that you’re not giving yourself the oxygen you need when you’re reading and responding to email.

Linda Stone, writer and consultant, coined the terms “email apnea” and “screen apnea” to describe this tendency in a 2008 Huffington Post article. In the “Awakening to Conscious Computing” chapter of Manage Your Day-to-Day, Stone describes physiological impacts of screen apnea. It’s not pretty. (BTW are you holding your breath right now? Don’t do that.)

Apnea-induced Resistance

Because chronic shallow breathing triggers the stress response, it will impair your creativity. You’re more likely to experience limbic system takeovers that generate resistance (explained in Chapter 2 of AWB). Screen apnea will deprive your brain of the oxygen it needs to function at its best.

Stone points out that we are more impulsive and more likely to over-consume when we’re in fight-or-flight. Screen apnea is a downward spiral — we deprive ourselves of oxygen when we spend time at the screen, which makes us more likely to stay at the screen, breathing shallowly and occasionally not at all.

I’m still digging into the research and will post more about the effects of screen apnea on creativity and potential solutions when I’ve learned more. Until then, you might want to read this…

As I recall from my Red Cross first aid training, reestablishing breathing is primary. So take a deep breath now.

Repeat as necessary.

It’s always necessary.

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2 Comments on “Breathe! Or No More Writing for You!”

  1. Joel D Canfield November 1, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    Screen apnea. I knew it. I just knew it.

    There is nothing significant about the fact that I’m reading this instead of working on my book.


    • rosannebane November 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

      Not at all!
      Let’s both take a deep breath and go do something we love. Deal?


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