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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.

Laugh Your Way through Writer’s Block

A dog's version of The Shining

A dog’s version of The Shining

There’s nothing funny about feeling blocked or recognizing that you’re spending more time resisting than writing. But the solution might be a laughing matter.

Humor Increases Creativity

Recent research shows that “mirthful laughter” triggers your brain to release gamma waves, which are the brain’s highest electrical frequency.

Gamma waves are required to achieve an aha! insight and seem to be a result of several areas of the brain working together.

Researchers Mark Beeman of Northwestern University and Jon Kounios of Drexel University used fMRI and EEG simultaneously to observe the brains of test subjects struggling to solve a word puzzle.

Get it? Thank your anterior superior temporal gyrus

Get it? Thank your anterior superior temporal gyrus.

When the subjects reported that the answer came as a flash of insight, the researchers consistently saw a spike of gamma waves thirty milliseconds before the subjects became aware of the answer.

Beeman and Kounois discovered that the anterior superior temporal gyrus (in the right hemisphere just about your ear) becomes active just before a flash of insight. Notably, other studies have shown that this area of the brain is also involved with interpreting metaphors and “getting” a joke.

Laughter may not always cause immediate insight, but it is reasonable to assume that people who regularly exercise their anterior superior temporal gyrus with humor are less likely to experience resistance.

And since laughter dissipates the stress that causes a limbic system takeover, seeing the funny side of a stressful situation can keep your creative cortex driving the bus and your butt in your writing chair.

This dog is a serious literary eater.

This dog is a serious literary eater.

Maybe watching cat and dog videos on social media isn’t such a waste of time after all. Five or ten minutes of laughing could make it easier to solve that writing problem. To be safe, you might want to set a timer to remind you to return to your writing after you have your “funny fix.”

Do you notice a relationship between your creativity and humor? What’s your favorite source of humor?

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4 Comments on “Laugh Your Way through Writer’s Block”

  1. Pietro Alotto May 21, 2023 at 2:28 pm #

    This was loveely to read


  2. Joel D Canfield June 11, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    A witty line can turn into a country song in a heartbeat. Smart humor is indispensable in my creative process. I have much respect for a good joke writer.

    I’m most likely to turn to a movie with dry wit for a humor fix.


    • rosannebane June 13, 2016 at 9:58 am #

      Thanks Joel. Nothing seems funny today – after Orlando and other news.


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