Brain Hacks for Better Writing

Writers’ block is real, and it really sucks. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of time ticking away as you stare pointlessly at a screen, unable to make blank space bloom into words, or words grow into better words.

But do you really have to wait on some magic moment of inspiration, or can you fool your brain out of writers’ block? Try these neurological tricks to break out of your writers’ block and become productive once more.


Brains must be well nourished

Desk lollies and coffee don’t count as good brain nourishment. A proper meal and a good swig of water will go a long way towards refreshing a tired brain. Fatty acids are particularly important, as they can increase your brain’s production of neurotransmitters. So try a meal of salmon, avocado, or nuts to really get the gears going.

Find your brain’s musical groove

Music can be great for promoting concentration and blocking out distracting noise (particularly if you share an office). There are a number of studies on which type of music is best for brain function; but the general principles are that it should be free of lyrics, and you shouldn’t especially like or dislike the music you listen to while you work. 

Flex your physical muscles to flex your mental muscle

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. But it goes further than that. Recent research on mice shows that exercise can actually stimulate the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, improving cognitive function.

Rest to perform at your best

When you’re on a deadline, it can be tempting to pull an all-nighter; but sleep is crucial to mental function. Sleep-deprived neurons become energy depleted, and can slow down or malfunction. It’s better (and more sustainable) to have a productive days’ writing after a good nights’ sleep than a poor day-and-nights’ worth of writing.

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink and leads the Researcher Education and Development team at Auckland University of Technology. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. These days she works with researchers at all levels to improve their research skills, and the most obscure of her own research skills is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

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