Reading, Riding, and a Healthy Imagination

Don’t you love a good novel, a good story? It pulls you out of your current reality, transports you to a different one, and if the writer is particularly skilled, leaving the book feels jarring, even disorienting.

When you read a novel, it changes your brain chemistry. Five days after you finish, your brain is still different. The heightened connectivity found in the left temporal cortex would be expected, since that’s our language center, but the amazing bit is how the rest of the brain is effected. Recent studies show that the brain cannot tell the difference between real and imagined activity. That’s what makes entertainment powerful. And this reality / imaginary blur been part of the Video Game controversy for years.

Here’s what isn’t as expected: “Increased connectivity was also found in the central sulcus of the brain, which is located at the boundary between the motor and the sensory centers. The neurons in this area are not only activated when the body is active, but also when you think about being active. For example, thinking about running produces very similar changes in this region to those which occur when actually running.” Brian Dodson, a writer with says.

How long the effects last beyond the initial five days is still unknown, because the study stopped at that point.

“You live several lives while reading.” ~ William Styron, in Dodson’ article.

How interesting!

This ties into something athletes, like equestrians, use to perfect their skill. Using Sport Imagery to improve performance is a common practice. Jim Taylor, an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and writer with Psychology Today, wrote “… there is no more powerful mental tool than mental imagery and it can have a huge impact on your sports performance.”

Cowgirl on Horseback

It boils down to perspective, control, using your senses, and speed. Imagine yourself in realistic situations, giving performances that are as specific as you can imagine. Integrate all five senses. Imagine yourself at the nearest goal, when you can imagine that clearly, move up a difficulty level until you can imagine that clearly and repeat.

Pat Parelli says, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

I have to believe this technique works for any endeavour, including writing, and proves why we find ourselves immersed when the story is woven with all senses, with clear images, with a sense of timing and rhythm, and with the right perspective.

This also shows why a fall off a horse can be paralysing. Our mind likes to replay mistakes, find corrections, but if all we do is relive the moment, we get nowhere.

Brian Dodson’s article:
Jim Taylor’s article:

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