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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.

Is Your Writing Brain Waiting to Exhale?

carbon_dioxide_toxicityImagine trying to run a race when your lungs can only inhale. Carbon dioxide would build up in your body. First, you’d feel drowsy, then your heart rate and blood pressure would spike.

As carbon dioxide increased, you’d become confused, dizzy, short of breath. Eventually, your vision would fail, you’d lose consciousness and your muscles would tremble uncontrollably until you died.

Minute by minute, we alternate inhaling with exhaling to keep our bodies clear of toxins like carbon dioxide.

But your brain can’t “exhale” while you’re awake.

According to neuroscientist Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center,

“We have a cleaning system that almost stops when we are awake and starts when we sleep. It’s almost like opening and closing a faucet – it’s that dramatic.” (Brain in the News, November/December 2013, Dana Organization)

Nedergaard and her colleagues discovered that sleep causes brain cells to contract, allowing cerebral spinal fluid to flush through the increased spaces between those cells. This flushing removes toxic by-products the brain produces while it’s awake and aware.

The next time you suspect your writing might be blocked or just slowing down and getting stale, consider how well you’ve been sleeping (more about writers’ need for sleep). The words may not be flowing onto the page because the cerebral spinal fluid hasn’t been flowing through your sleeping brain.

Do your own research: get a good night’s sleep, let your brain exhale a sigh of relief, then observe how fresh and energized your writing is the next morning.

How is your writing influenced by sleep?

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2 Comments on “Is Your Writing Brain Waiting to Exhale?”

  1. http://bity.co.za/pregnant_2944692 March 6, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    Thanks a lot for providing us such important information!


  2. Joel D Canfield January 28, 2014 at 10:58 am #

    I love knowing the physiology behind what we all know is good thinking anyway. “Sleep flushes my brain!”


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