The next time you have to write an especially unpleasant essay, you can find comfort in the fact that it is not only good for your academic record, but is a kind of brain training as well.
And we don’t mean general accumulation of knowledge and suchlike but quite direct improvement of inner workings of your brain that happen when you engage in any kind of verbal activity, reading and writing in particular.
When you deal with written word, a lot of fascinating things happen in your brain: some of them are simply interesting, others are mysterious, and some are downright creepy.
For example, have you ever written something down to remember it later? It is scientifically proven that it actually works, although not necessarily in the way you may suppose. Instead of seeing the written note serving as a trigger for remembering the very act of writing something down may help you remember something later without ever looking at the note you’ve made.
Writing activates the part of your brain that is called reticular activating system (RAS) that is responsible for processing information and filtering through it in order to concentrate more attention on the issue at hand. By writing something down you single out the fact, or image, or idea, and bring it to attention of RAS, thus improving the odds of ingraining it in your memory or, vice versa, getting the necessary information out of your memory banks. Thus, improving your academic writing skills you train your memory as well.
However, writing is not limited to stimulating your memory – it actually allows you to directly influence the reader. Studies show that when a person reads or listens to a story, it doesn’t just result in highlighting the areas of his brain responsible for reading and perceiving spoken. When he reads or hears about particular experiences (e.g., walking or running), it results in areas of brain responsible for them (e.g., motor cortex) lighting up – as if he were experiencing the events of the story himself.
This is exactly the reason why stories are more powerful and memorable than bare facts, and why both writers and public speakers tend to use stories and/or vivid imagery. It is done to produce – quite literally – specific feelings and emotions in readers and listeners. That is why a powerful writer or orator sometimes is capable to influence people to such a great extent – they are capable of invoking specific experiences in the brains of those who read or listen to them.
It is also a reason why it is better to avoid clichés in your writing. Once these combinations of words were powerful, they triggered specific images and experiences in the brains of readers and listeners – but after excessive use they turned into empty words, and we perceive them accordingly as devoid of any imagery or emotion.
When all is said and done, human is, first and foremost, a linguistic creature. Our major difference from the rest of the animal kingdom is that we are capable of speech and, therefore, of conscious thought – and it is essay writing that allows us to work with words and develop our proficiencies with them on the deepest level.