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Memory Gaps: How Writing Improves Mental Alertness

By 02/05/2012writing

Today’s guest post on Daily (w)rite is by Krisca Te who works with Open Colleges, Australia’s leading provider of TAFE courses equivalent and counselling courses. When not working, you can find her actively participating in local dog show events – in support of her husband.

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Memory and Writing

Memory and Writing

Wrap Your Mind Around This

Psychologists, language experts, and other professions and disciplines that deal with such stuff, have confirmed that writing stuff down increases the chances of being able to recall information. Dustin Wax,blogging on the lifehack.org site summed up the process: You write things down so that the memory of the thing is such that later you probably won’t have to bother with what you wrote down. So, you could end up composing pages of notes, most of which you’ll probably never need again. But, the note taking hasn’t been in vain.

The Deaf Ear

Even very attentive listeners will usually not do as well on recall as a person who takes notes. A listener is just listening, after all. When listeners take the information and write it down, they are involving the brain in a whole different set of processes than just listening. Our brains have different parts that deal with information in different ways, depending on how the information is received and what is done with it after receipt. When hearing information alone, the brain stores it alone as having been heard. It gets filed in the short-term memory brain section along with a lot of other sounds.

The Word Processing Brain

When you take those sounds and act on them, the information is going through another set of processes. One must physically move to react to those sounds, one must think about how to record the information, calling on outlining and spelling skills, and the very mechanical act of writing. Plus, when you are finished writing you have also made for yourself a visual memory. So, you end up with a sound memory, reinforced by a visual memory, and all dealt with through the mechanics of processing the words and writing them. The act of writing involves more of the brain than just listening.

Writing as a Resource Beyond Recall

Fortifying memory is not the only way in which writing can wring some usefulness out of your brain. A blog on ehow.com avers that research has proved that writing can actually diminish the release of corticosteroids in response to stress; these inhibit the ability to think clearly. Writing in itself can boost overall cognitive capacity and the greater retention of memories. Even expressive writing is helpful in diminishing stress and increasing coping abilities. Perhaps our E. Hemingways or our Y. Mishimas weren’t writing so much to share their brilliance, but as a way to physically and mentally cope with stress in their lives.


Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

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7 Comments

  • Augusta says:

    Hello there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and personally recommend to my friends. I’m sure they’ll be benefited from this website.

  • ‘Even expressive writing is helpful in diminishing stress and increasing coping abilities.’
    That suddenly gives an explanation why, after a particular stressful day, I go straight for the keyboard or notebook-and-pen to work on my novel, or I go and write a piece for a memoir projct I’m doing. It’s putting words together on a page that helps to dissolve the fury I am feeling.
    Perhaps, following from that, we should encourage children to partake in diary-writing?

  • I believe that’s true. I know writing helps me.

  • posted on my Facebook page!

  • This makes perfect sense…writing anything down from a to-do list…to notes…to a verse of poetry…is such a great exercise for the mind…I get such satisfaction out of composing the little poems I am posting with my images…which is different from most of the writing I’ve done in the past…scanning my mind for that perfect word is great therapy somehow…:)

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