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Flourish: An Electronic Newsletter for Scholarly Writers January-February 2008

vol. 4, no. 1

By now you have made and accomplished all your new year’s writing resolutions and have no need to hear from me. No? You’ve forgotten what your resolutions were? Well, maybe it is time to refresh. Writing daily? Sending an essay out? Finishing that chapter? Whatever your goal is, try to break it down into manageable writing tasks. If you haven't been writing, how about doing that right now?

On the Benefits of Connection

Talking makes you smarter. This is the conclusion of two psychologists who conducted some interesting experiments. First, they studied how often individuals talked on the phone or in person with friends, family, and neighbors. They found that the higher the individual’s level of social interaction, the better that person's cognitive functioning. Second, they studied how students did on a quiz after ten minutes of three activities: a discussion of social issues, performing a reading comprehension exercise and a crossword puzzle, or watching Seinfeld. They found that having the discussion was just as effective as doing the intellectual exercises in boosting memory and intellectual performance. (Apparently, watching television did not help. Although I would like to know which Seinfeld episode it was!)

The authors concluded that “social interaction directly affects memory and mental performance in a positive way.” So, when you run into that chatterbox in the hallway, don’t get annoyed. They are helping you stay sharp!

The study is also an important reminder for students writing dissertations. You need to be focused, it's true, but too much social isolation may have a negative effect not only on your mood, but also on your intellectual capacities. Engaging in dissertation support groups may be the best way of accomplishing this social interaction, since it is a form of working as well. If you can't do that, maybe you should be calling your parents more often!

Oscar Ybarra, Eugene Burnstein, Piotr Winkielman, Matthew C. Keller, Melvin Manis, Emily Chan, and Joel Rodriguez. “Mental Exercising Through Simple Socializing: Social Interaction Promotes General Cognitive Functioning.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 34 (February 2008): 248-259.

Quote Unquote

Flourish reader Lars Erik Larson provides the following great writing quotes:

“Only writers in movies wait for inspiration. Real writers work on schedules, different ones for different writers, but always structured. Ask any writer you know.” -Ed McBain

“I find that what I write when I force myself is generally as good as what I write when I’m feeling inspired.” -Tom Wolfe

Notes from the Editor

I’m sorry the newsletter didn’t show up last month, but I was on a boat in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, gazing at howler monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and other amazing forms of wildlife. I couldn't send the newsletter because I wasn’t anywhere near a computer, much less an internet connection or cell phone. How relaxing! I was with a group of friends and wonderful tour guides, Francesca and Modesto. If you want to see more, check out their website. Their tour is well worth it!