Why write every day?

One of the first things that new writers are told to do is to write every day. There are a lot of really good posts that explain why this advice is true. I agree but I want to do a different spin on it and approach it from the perspective of human physiology and neuroscience. The human body has three levels at which it can perform a task – the very specific but completely autonomous level which includes functions such as breathing and keeping your heart beating, the specific but semi-autonomous level which includes walking and driving your car, and the very general but completely non-autonomous level which includes anything that involves thinking and paying attention. When you do something new, you often start out doing it at this last level, by paying attention to the each step and slowly but surely working your way through the task. As you get more proficient at this new task, you start to push more and more of the steps down to the semi-autonomous level which does two things – it speeds everything up because you do less thinking and you get to do more than one thing at once. A perfect example of this kind of transfer is driving. When you first learn how to drive a car, you have to pay close attention to every single detail. But, just a few months later you can drive and listen to the radio or carry on a conversation without any problems. The only way to get from this slow top-level to the faster mid-level is experience or practice. That’s why it is important to write every day, so that you can stop thinking about all the peripheral stuff and make writing nearly automatic. Besides, if you can push the mundane aspects of writing to the lower levels, it frees up the conscious part of the brain to do more creative stuff.

And no, there is no way I can think of to move a skill from the mid-level to the fully-autonomous low-level. At least, not in normal humans. Savants are a whole other category. Savants can often multiple really large numbers without thinking (the answer just pops into their head) or tell what day of the week from any date past or future, and they can do these things because somehow their brains are hardwired to do it, just like breathing. So it is possible there is a savant out there somewhere who can’t help but compulsively write books just by sitting down in front of a computer. But, if you can take the time to read this blog, I’m pretty sure you are not one of them. 🙂

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2 responses »

  1. Peter – You make an elegant argument here for writing every day. It becomes an ingrained part of one’s life, and as you say, the act becomes more and more natural the more one does it.

    Reply

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