Latest Articles

Brain Food for Writers


If your brain is working overtime because of a hectic writing schedule and your creativity is starting to wear thin, consider what you’re eating and drinking. What you ingest has a remarkable influence on creativity, stress handling, and overall brain function. Here are a dozen things to consider when you’re trying to get your mental muse in gear.

1: Water

Starting off with what to drink, we’ll begin with something that makes up around 80% of your brain. Making sure you’re hydrated can boost mental flexibility by 14% and it’s the least expensive on this list! Writers can get caught up in their own action scenes and ignore their body subtly asking for a glass of water or some other drink with a high amount of H2O in there.

2: Green Tea

Besides a little jolt of caffeine, green tea has an amino acid called theanine that can reduce creativity crashing. You may be surprised that a giant mug of coffee or black tea isn’t on this list. Caffeine itself is a diuretic, meaning it instructs your brain to get rid of more water. The theanine in green tea is the benefit that makes it worthwhile despite the caffeine. Of course, you could always go with decaffeinated coffee or tea if you so desired. The problem you’re trying to overcome is not sleepiness, it’s your creativity muse going into a short-term coma.

3: Alcohol

That should make you feel a little better. There’s a reason why so many writers drank alcohol, and it wasn’t always due to talking to their editor. Alcohol reduces executive thinking, relaxes the body, and is known to increase creative thinking. In moderation, it may help some folks. In excess, you may discover you’ve written a novel in a new, previously undiscovered alien language and forgot to remember the decryption key.

4: Fish, especially Salmon

The amino acids and Omega-3 oils help to increase the size of the hippocampus. What’s that, you ask? It’s the portion of your brain where you store things like memories and experiences. Think of it like a hard drive. Creativity uses your entire brain. If you have more memories (aka “data”), you can extrapolate and make logical thoughts off of those experiences. Think of it this way—someone who was living in 1822 would never ask “I wonder what would happen if my cell phone became sentient.” Cell phones were outside of their experience and memories. It’s a valid thought today, with almost everyone toting a smartphone in their pocket.

Back to the food! Fish is brain food, so it makes a good meal and can build the gray matter. Try not to get fried fish though, as that can decrease the good stuff and add empty calories. Tasty, tasty empty calories.

5: Egg Yolks

Egg yolks contain choline, a nutrient that is crucial to creating some neurotransmitters that boost memory and brain speed. Yolks also have a good dose of Omega-3 oils. Just watch your cholesterol levels and don’t overdo it.

6: Popcorn

FedEx dropped off a new popcorn popper on my doorstep a day ago. I wore out my old one and I avoid the microwaved variety. Popcorn is a good snack unless you soak it in the tasty but not healthy stuff like heavy salt, butter, oils, or ranch. My favorite topping for popcorn is dipping it in yellow mustard (sounds weird, but is surprisingly delicious and addicting.) Whole grains help regulate glucose, and the additional B6 and B12 vitamins boost concentration.

7: Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds make a great snack because they contain zinc, an essential mineral that boosts memory and critical thinking. For some folks, they can also act as an anti-depressant and boost your mood. Next Halloween, save those pumpkin seeds and make your own snacks.

8: Berries

Berries are excellent sources of goodies for your writer’s brain, plus they’re tasty and healthy for you. Some of them, like the tiny blueberry, have lots of antioxidants. Berries have nutrients to help maintain communication between brain cells and to promote survival and growth of new neurons.

9: Seaweed

Seaweed-based snacks (or even a meal of sushi) contains tyrosine, a nutrient that promotes abstract thinking. If you happen to have any friends living in Japan, ask what seaweed-based snacks they like and see if you can find them here locally or online.

10: Avocados

Avocados or dips like guacamole enhances blood flow and oxygen to the brain, so feel free to order up a delicious bowl to share with your writing buddies.

11: Walnuts

Since walnuts look like miniature brains already, you shouldn’t be surprised to see them here. They contain lots of neuroprotective compounds like melatonin, antioxidants, and those familiar Omega-3 oils. Studies show they increase cognitive performance and inferential reasoning skills.

12: Dark Chocolate

I saved my favorite for last. Dark chocolates contain flavanols, a nutrient that increases blood flow to brain by dilating vessels. There’s also a little jolt of caffeine and the mineral magnesium which releases serotonin and endorphins.

Next time you go shopping, pick up a few snacks from the list and use them as Defense Against the Dark Writer’s Block potions. Most of them are healthy enough and they might be the nudge you needed to finish that last scene for your novel.

Now, shouldn’t you be writing?

How about you? What’s your suggestion for food and drink that can help writers keep at their craft for longer periods? What about readers? Are there any special treats you recommend for the readers in the audience? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

Guy Anthony De Marco

Guy Anthony De Marco, MFA, is an Italian-American speculative fiction author; a Graphic Novel Bram Stoker® and Scribe Award finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; a poet; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer; a disabled US Navy veteran, and a coffee addict. One of these is false. A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, IAMTW, ITW, RWA-PRO, WWA, SFPA, ASCAP, MWG, SWG, HWA, IBPA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia.

%d bloggers like this: