How to Rewire Your Brain and Your Writing Experiences

On Saturday, my husband and I made our annual trek up to Seamans’ Orchard. I never tire of their spectacular mountain views or their berries. 

Each year, we pick around twenty pounds of fruit then scarf down as much as we can. The rest ends up in our freezer.

Halfway through our berry picking, a family arrived. The mother and her four-year-old daughter claimed the row in front of me. The father and baby walked the row just beyond them. I love listening to the reactions children have when picking berries for the first time, so I cocked my ear in their direction. 

The little girl scampered along the blueberry bushes and called to her sister “tater” whenever she found a “blue one.” She delighted in all the “samples” she found.

Apparently, she was also a big fan of farting. Every few minutes she excitedly asked if anyone was ready to let out a stinker. 

I admired her confidence and easy joy. She reminded me that sometimes life is that simple. 

You pick a berry, eat it, and smile. 

Brené Brown says joy is the most vulnerable emotion. It requires us to completely let go.

When life gets difficult, letting go can feel dangerous. Afraid to let down our guard, we armor up, hoping to prevent future pain. But that never works. 

Wherever we go, life follows. 

Anne Lamott calls earth a forgiveness school. 

If she’s right, then painful events are our teachers. 

Some faith traditions talk about the power of spiritual discomfort and how dis-ease fuels our desires and dreams. Along the journey toward something better, we grow. In this way, pain is our ally. 

But it doesn’t have to dominate our experiences. 

I’m currently reading the memoir Swing by Ashleigh Renard. Toward the end of the book, the narrator starts writing love letters to herself. In them, she re-envisions her experiences. Last month I finished a class that included a similar practice. 

The instructor said writing new endings for our experiences is as effective as experiencing a different outcome. Both create new neural networks. In fact, the brain doesn’t know the difference between a rewrite and a new event. 

In other words, my graduate school mentor was right. We can’t change the past, but we can change the story we tell about it. 

During this month’s newsletter series, I’ve talked about the importance of recommitting to your whysharing your work for the fun of it, and giving yourself permission to share your first draft work.

Here’s my final invitation: write a love letter to yourself. 

Think back on a writing challenge you’ve faced, whether it’s a rejection, writer’s block, or a nasty thing your asshole internal editor said. Write the original version so the story no longer lives in your head. Then rewrite it so the outcome is positive. 

Here’s my rewrite of The Doozy I mentioned at the beginning of the month.

Dear Lisa, 

What an engaging read! I see how hard you’ve worked to turn this painful experience into art. Your grief is palpable, and yet it’s tempered by a healthy dose of humor. I laughed out loud when reading about some of your character’s antics. And boy do I love Klaus! 

I’d like to partner with you as we prepare this story for publication. I think it’s one of many books you’ll write across your career, which I’d like to represent. 


Agent who loves your writing 

See? It really is that simple. 

What would you like to rewrite? 

What will it take for you to try this experiment? 

After you’ve re-envisioned your experience, send me an email, and let me know how it feels.

I’d love to hear about the new neural networks you created. 

You and your writing are worth the effort.

Keep writing on! 

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