November 30, 2010

Your Brain on Laptops

Just when I think the world has succumbed to shortness of expression, shortness of time, shortness of breath, and shortness of movie scenes, I am spun around in my little worrisome mind and stumble upon a piece of evidence to the contrary:

An article on a cafe in Brooklyn where the majority of customers write on their laptops - all day!

"Gone were the newspapers and the strollers. Laptops had colonized every flat surface. No one uttered a word; people just stared into screens, expressionless. "

I loved the lighthearted writing style, and yet the message came through that these screen hounds were gurgling over with creativity, or at worst, reading FB messages while avoiding finishing an article. But that is all part of being a writer! My hope for humanity is restored.

Since my last post I've met with 3 current adult clients - and I am touched by how much they open up about their history of anxiety and shame around writing. I can relate, although not with writing. I have shame when it comes to hand-eye coordination. I can hardly throw a ball to a dog, but I can do a mean downward dog in yoga.

So that shame regarding ball sports is what I bring to mind when I meet with my adult clients. I also refrain and reframe my own tendency to get effusive about writing with them, not assuming that they share it.

I have one woman who is "treptified" of writing because she fears a huge red pen will descend upon her press releases and online newsletters that she writes for her job. So the pen I use is purple. We go sentence-by-sentence in her practice pieces, and I haul out Grammar Girl for humor and clarity. She often asks "Why didn't I learn all this in school?" I have a long answer to that, but the short one is that good writing instruction means a fantastic writing mentor, and some one-on-one time, and not all teachers have that gift.

So she buckles down and fires up her brain. We joke about going back to 7th grade English.... All those comma rules! I have narrowed the 16 or so of them down to a highly simplified list:
  • Introductory Words
  • Interrupting Words
  • A Sentence that could be 2
  • Series or Lists
  • Clear Thinking
Since my website is called Reading Writing Thinking, I often read geeky stuff about the brain and attention. Only in the last decade have we really looked at brain health. We took it for granted, just like we took our lungs for granted while smoking in the 50's.
In order to LEARN, we have to have alert and flexible brains.
My favorite layperson-friendly brain expert is Daniel Amen, because his passion bleeds through when he speaks and he has concrete advice.
He is the PBS guy who happens to have one of his four clinics right here in the Seattle area.
I haven't yet coughed up the $4000 to get a thorough brain scan work-up.

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