This is a freelance contribution by Sally Keys. You may remember her from her guest post, Creating The Time And Space You Need To Write Your Best Work. Sally is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, she enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible.
How Creative Writing Can Boost Your Intelligence
Globally, the average IQ has increased by 20 points over the last 100 years. Many reasons are given for this and all, no doubt, play a part. The fact is that we live in a very different world to the one of 100 years ago. By examining these differences and comparing them to research into intelligence, we can determine ways to boost our own IQs. Creative writing can play a major part in this but only if you are pushing your writing standards to the limit.
What Is Different About Today?
Globalisation has led to multiculturalism becoming the norm. Diet has improved dramatically and, along with basic medication, we have all but eradicated many of the illnesses that struck us down in childhood. Film, television, and mass production of books have all played a part in increasing our exposure to new ideas. Computers for communication, leisure, and research all provide a range of inputs that simply did not exist in the past. New stimuli are known to stimulate the prefrontal cortex (an area of the brain linked to intelligence) and our increased globalization and technological development make novelty a regular occurrence (despite how counterintuitive that may sound). Diet and healthcare help our brains develop further (especially at an early age) and free us from having to fight infections or deal with malnourishment.
What Has This To Do With Writing?
There is some evidence that 5 simple steps can help to boost your intelligence. Each of these can be achieved through creative writing if you approach it properly.
The first, seeking novelty, has been mentioned already. By writing about unfamiliar topics, doing research into another country, trying new foods and so on you are pushing yourself to experience the new.
You are also achieving step 2, which is to challenge yourself. Increase your challenge (and introduce more novelty) by stepping out of your comfort zone. Write a chapter in iambic pentameter or in verse, try a different voice for narration, or find any of a million different ways to push yourself. You could challenge yourself further by taking IQ tests. By taking tests before actively pushing yourself when writing, you could experiment and take the tests again at the end to see if you’ve improved.
The next step is the one most obviously linked to writing – think creatively. The simple act of writing fiction is sufficient stimulus to cognitively challenge your brain, but if you want to boost it, you need to think outside of the box. Take your creativity to the next level by remembering to seek novelty and by challenging yourself. Whilst our novelty-rich modern world has boosted our intelligence as a species, there is something to be said for doing things the hard way. Old-fashioned methods often bring their own cognitive challenges, especially as modern methods become more familiar.
Which leads us to the fourth tip; to do things the hard way. Write your first drafts long-hand. Turn off the grammar and spell checkers when you write it up and edit manually. Do some of your research from books instead of the internet. Taking the longer, slower route brings with it new challenges that cause new stimulation.
The final tip takes us back to one of the ways in which the modern world is different to the old, but it also turns it on its head. We live in multicultural societies and interact with people from across the globe, but do we really know people as well as we used to? The concept of communities seems to have gotten lost along the way. As a writer, the final stage of your work is to share it. If you aren’t taking this step then you are missing out on the 5th tip, to network. Sharing ideas with others who have faced similar challenges and getting to know them both in person and through their work, will help you increase your intelligence – and improve your writing.
Does It Matter?
This is up to you. Not everyone is fussed about intelligence and few understand what it is. Intelligence is not about the acquisition of knowledge but about the ability to use knowledge, apply it in unfamiliar contexts and use it to generate new ideas. Intelligence is about problem solving and idea creation. These are skills that writers need in spades. If the act of writing, in the right way, can help boost intelligence, then it only seems rational to try it.