Stop The Presses and Get Your Brain’s Attention

Athletes keep their bodies strong. Pianists keep their fingers exercised. Soloists keep their voices tuned.

As writers, our brains are our tools. Our work is often a product of our imaginations. Much of what we put on paper comes from our creative minds.

So what are you doing to keep your brain strong, exercised, tuned?

In university, I majored in psychology, so many of my courses focused on the brain. One of my favourite subjects was cognition, how the brain stores information and how we retrieve memories. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could remember all those research facts we use in our books and the great ideas that hit us when we’re driving and how it felt to fall in puppy love.

How can we enrich our writing by remembering more of the things we’ve learned and experienced?

Think about all the sensory data coming into your brain at any given moment, most of which you don’t need to remember. How does the brain know what you prefer to remember and what you prefer to purge?

It’s simple, yet sometimes we don’t do it. Attention.

You must pay attention to the things you want to remember to let your brain know it’s important enough to be stored.

Focus. Repeat. Rehearse.

We must get our brain’s attention!

To save time looking up recurring facts that you’ll use in your book, take a few moments to exercise your brain and repeat the details you’d like to remember.

Use more than one sense to help you remember. See it and hear it. Even better, rhyme it if you can. Read the things you wish to remember rhythmically and out loud.

Rehearsing will move information into long term memory and build brain cells!

Associate the information with something important. For instance, in my paranormal romance, Love of Her Lives, a character loses a necklace. I could not remember what stones were in that necklace until I associated it with my birthstone—emerald. If they were emerald, I didn’t have to go back and look it up.

Is there anything else we can do to strengthen memory?

Physical exercise will keep our brains strong.

It’s a fact—the brain shrinks with age—we will lose brain cells, so it’s important to replace the ones we lose. An American Academy of Neurology study showed that adults who walked between 6-9 miles or 9-14 km (about 2 1/2 hours) per week had more grey matter in their brains. We can walk away from our shrinking brains.

We can also eat to enrich our brains. A study at the University of Oxford has shown that B vitamins slow brain atrophy in people with memory problems, especially B6, B12 and folic acid. Your best sources come from liver, fish, beef, wholegrain breads, legumes, dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, melons and citrus fruits.

Anti-oxidants reduce damage caused by oxidative stress in the brain. Eat foods rich in vitamin C, E and beta carotene. Blueberries, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, green tea, nuts, seeds, liver and citrus fruits.

Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA, a primary fatty acid found in fish oils, ensure normal brain-cell function. Eat fish at least 2-3 times per week! Other sources include flax-seed oil, walnuts, fresh basil.

To keep building brain cells, it’s a good idea to learn a new language, travel to new places or take up a hobby. So the next time you’re writing character profiles, give your protagonist skills that you can learn. Tennis anyone? If you’ve never played, why not take lessons to add authenticity to your story and pass the experience along to your character.

So to keep our brains strong and our stories rich, pay attention, be active, eat well and take piano lessons. Easy as pie. Well, blueberry pie!

Learn more about Love of Her Lives, or just come visit at: sharonclare.com

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Sharon Clare – author of Love of Her Lives available Aug. 6/12

I am thrilled to be one of Crimson Romance’s Ladies in Red and to be welcomed into this group of wonderfully warm and supportive writers. Jennifer Lawler and the enthusiastic, supportive and professional staff at Crimson make me feel like I’m in the very best hands.

Let me introduce myself—Sharon Clare—which is my pen name, a name I decided on because the domain was available for Clare. That’s it. I wish there was more meaning behind it, but every other name I’d originally wanted was taken, so Sharon Clare I became.

I’ve been married a long time and have three wonderful grown-up kids, two daughters and a son. I’ve loved every stage of their lives, especially seeing them grow into interesting, loving, happy people.

I live in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada where we especially love summer!

Other than writing I work for a personnel agency which isn’t very exciting, but I used to take a life-sized blue whale into schools when I taught science workshops.

One notable physical characteristic would be my blonde hair I suppose, a colour I have to pay for now, but I imagine I’ll always be a blonde.

My secret passion is not really a secret, but it’s fairly rare, I think. I belong to a virtual world where I have an avatar. I have no idea why it’s so much fun. I guess I didn’t get enough Barbie time as a kid. It’s a fun, creative place to play.

One thing about myself that I’d never change is what I believe is an ability to get along well with others.

For the most part, I write about where I live or at least where I’ve been. The only exception is a few chapters in my soon to be released novel Love of Her Lives that take place in Scotland. I watched travel videos and read books and spoke virtually with people in Scotland to get my facts straight—I hope.

One reason I write romance novels is because I get to put my psychology degree to use, somewhat. I love the psychology of relationships, the inner conflicts, the emotional highs and lows and the struggle to overcome self-defeating behaviours, things that create tension in relationships. As authors, we have to live with our characters, so I may as well have a hot hero in my head. There are so many sub-genres to work with and ultimately romance feels good.

Along with my whimsical paranormal novel, I’ve also written a historical novel.

One thing I took from my personal experience for my book was an experience I had during a past life regression session I did for fun. During hypnosis, I got a feel for Calum, the sexy spirit guide hero in my novel, for the way he would love a woman.

I had to cut a third of the manuscript to fit Crimson Romance’s word requirement, so the process did feel a bit like severing body parts. One night, I went to bed knowing the next day I would cut an entire chapter. I decided to do it without looking at one word, just highlight fast and delete. I think that chapter may find its way onto my website as a deleted scene.

The best part of writing is when the characters do the story telling for me. The worse part is not having enough hours in the day to write.

My next books will be based on games. The mischievous elf from Love of Her Lives will continue with his match-making. Rhapsody is based on a sensual board game a couple must play to escape the Elvin world where they are trapped. Race Date is like a dating amazing race where the heroine realizes she’s partnered with the man whose life she destroyed in high school. I also plan to write a third also based on some sort of game, perhaps virtual. Who knows what that elf will conjure up!

Thank you so much to Crimson Romance for organizing this virtual meeting place! Please come visit me at sharonclare.com and Romance and Beyond