Neuroplasticity and Writing

One Word of Advice

I remember watching the movie “The Graduate” when I was in high school. In the movie, Dustin Hoffman’s character was given one word of advice upon his college graduation. The word was “plastic.”

I want to give my fellow writers one word of advice. No, it’s not the word plastic. The word is “neuroplasticity.”

Neuroplasticity Defined

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. This includes changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, thinking, emotions, and, of course, head injury.

Did you know these changes in neural pathways and synapses decide, among other things, our creativity? You read that correctly, creativity.

What this means is our brain changes its functional structure based on our thoughts, environment, behavior, emotions, etc.

We Can Be More Creative

The application to writing is by changing our neural pathways and synapses, we can be more creative in our writing. That’s one reason writer’s retreats make us feel so wonderful. It’s also why people write in various locations like Starbucks, the library, or even the food court in a shopping mall. The change in scenery is the secret.

Sometimes I do something as simple as going to a different Starbucks or a walk in a different place and find myself filled with new ideas, thoughts, and creativity.

It’s amazing how changing the sights, sounds, and smells can change how we feel and think.

My going to my writing-table at Starbucks helps my productivity. I have ten Starbucks in my metropolitan area that I frequent, though the one I am at this morning is my “primary first draft writing site.”

If you find your writing in a rut, why not try a change of scenery. You’ll be amazed at its impact on your thinking and creativity.

Google “neuroplasticity and creativity” and “neuroplasticity and writing” to learn more on the subject.

Note: The photo is of the Starbucks where I normally do my morning writing.

My Writing Habit and The Coffee House

Where I Write

I’m doing my morning writing at one of my favorite Starbucks. This one is next to the Barnes and Nobles on Preston Road just south of Park in Plano, Texas. I write here most mornings.

The photo is of my writing-table. I usually sit at the same table each morning. From left to right in the picture, you see my laptop bar, my personal porcelain Starbucks coffee cup. Using the cup not only helps the environment by decreasing the number of paper cups in landfills but it saves me 10 cents a purchase.

My Writing Tools

You can see the MacBook Air I use for writing. It has a 1TB solid state hard drive as well as 16GB of RAM. It never crashes and is a high-speed computer. I have an external, wireless Bluetooth mouse that I use.

I use some writing specific software like Scrivener and Vellum.

When I Write

I’m usually at my Starbuck table between 6 to 6:30 AM. The Muse knows where to meet me. Working for years as a US Army officer and later for decades in the information technology field, I learned the power of habit.
In the Army, we had standard operations procedures. It allowed us to work faster, safer, and more efficiently — and to save lives. In the IT field, we had repeatable procedures. They did the same thing.
Writing at the same place and the same time is kind of the same thing. My brain knows it is time to put fingers to the keyboard and input words into the computer. I also usually listen to the same instrumental music. When it starts, my brain says, “Time to be creative.”
Note: I am not saying you have to follow my routine. You need to find what works for you, to develop your own habit.

Photo Source: The picture was taken by the Author

Tuesday Morning at Starbucks

My Favorite Coffee House

Coming Here to Write

Howdy yall. It is Tuesday morning, November 28, 2017. I’m sitting at my favorite table at the Starbucks at 2201 Preston Road in Plano, Texas. Located next to the Barnes and Nobles Bookstore, I’ve been coming here to write in the morning for years.

I wake up every morning just before 5:00 AM. I do the personal hygiene stuff, dress, and drive the ten miles from my cookie-cutter suburban house to my favorite coffee dispensary. I usually arrive between their opening at 6 AM and 6:30 AM. I have a cup of their blonde roast or Pike’s Place coffee most days.

Why This Coffee House?

I know what you are thinking. Why this coffee house?

The bottom line is I like it. It is small, does not have a drive-through, has excellent customer service, and doesn’t get upset if I take up my table for 3 to 5 hours.

When I started stopping at this Starbucks, my motivation was two-fold. First was the location. It is located about halfway between my home and my now retired from the day job. Second, my goal was to write for 60 to 90 minutes before continuing my trek on to the day job. You see, I am a writer.

Give the Best Part of My Day to Writing

Over the years I was able to write a book every 9 to 12 months in this coffee house. I would give the best part of the day to my writing. Because of my regular attendance “the muse” knew when and where to find me. I started this near-daily routine when I was in my late 40s. Now in my mid-sixties and retired from the day job I return each morning to the same table.

I’ve also encountered a half-dozen store managers, over a hundred baristas, and learned there is a core group of regulars. A running club meets here every Tuesday and Friday morning. They arrive about ten minutes until 6 AM. At 6 AM sharp they start their morning run. It is a group of 12 to 15 with ages spanning from the thirties to the early seventies. They run for an hour and then have coffee and fellowship. I can call by name more than 50 regular patrons of this Starbucks. Most days you can set your clock by the time they arrive to get their daily caffeine.

Solving the Problems of the World

I write first drafts of books, blog posts, magazine articles, short stories, and poetry while ingesting my daily two cups of caffeine.

After writing I often solve the problems of the world in discussions with some of the men and women. I have built relationships with people. From time to time some of the people have called, texted, or shared spiritual needs with me. I have prayed with some of the patrons before their surgeries or when they are hurting from family relationship issues.

A Christian Worldview

I am a Christian and see things through a Christian worldview that many don’t have. I have been allowed to share my Christian testimony many of these same people.

No, I am not a perfect, in your face Bible thumper. I am far from it. Too often I am a hypocrite and fail in following God’s principles. I just get up each day, confess my sin and try again.

What Do I Write?

What do I write? I write religious nonfiction and religious science fiction. I also write historical/literary fiction under a pen name.

Most mornings after writing I either head to the Arbor Hills Nature Preserve or The Shops at Willow Bend shopping mall and walk for 45 minutes to an hour. Afternoons find me doing the business of writing with marketing, editing, etc.

 

The Coffeehouse Culture

Are you part of the coffee house culture? I confess I am.

What Is The Coffeehouse Culture?

The coffeehouse culture describes a friendly environment of associated common practices that depend upon coffee. Coffee is used as a social lubricant much as alcohol is in a bar or pub setting.

Coffeehouse culture also relates to the dispersion and choosing of coffee as a broadly consumed stimulant by society. In the late 20th and early 21st century, particularly in the Western world and urbanized cities around the globe. Espresso has become a more favored form.

Formation of Culture Around a Coffeehouse

I am a historian and religious educator by university and seminary education. With my classical liberal arts education, I developed an inquisitive mind. My curiosity had me research coffeehouses. I found the formation of the culture around coffee and coffeehouses dates back to 14th century Turkey. Coffeehouses in Western Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean were traditionally social hubs, as well as artistic and intellectual centers.

Examples of famous coffee houses include Les Deux Magots in Paris. Now a popular tourist attraction, it was once associated with the intellectuals Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. In the late 17th and 18th centuries, coffeehouses in London became favorite meeting places for artists, writers, and socialites. They were also the center for much political and commercial activity.

In the United States, the New Orleans French Market tourist destination Café du Monde which is as famous for its powdered-sugar-coated beignets as it is for its chickory-flavored coffee., according to the popular social check-in app Foursquare, is the most popular coffeehouse in the Americas.

Coffeehouses Today

Elements of today’s coffee houses, the slower paced gourmet service, tastefully decorated environments, or social outlets such as open microphone nights, have their origins in early coffee houses and continue to form part of the concept of coffee house culture.

In the United States, the term is often used to designate the everywhere presence of hundreds of espresso stands and coffee shops in the Seattle metropolitan area and the spread of franchises of businesses such as Starbucks and their clones across the United States.

Other aspects of the coffeehouse culture include the presence of free wireless Internet access for customers, many of these patrons do business in these locations for hours on a regular basis. The patrons of the coffeehouse usually do one of three things. They either are on Wi-Fi surfing the Internet with their smartphone or computer, are meeting with a business client or friends, or are reading. The location is popular for meeting someone for the first time, especially when dating is being considered.

Some countries, like Australia, have a strong existing cafe style coffee culture. The strong cafe style coffee culture explains the poor performance of Starbucks there.

Yes, I am part of the coffeehouse culture? Are you?

I would love you to leave in the comments section the name of and info about your favorite coffeehouse.

Source: Some material adapted from Wikipedia

Photo: Starbucks,  1356 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, California, USA

 

Back to Writing

my starbucks - Edited

Back to Writing

Today is Sunday, August 13, 2017. I am enjoying a Sunday morning tall iced coffee with vanilla and cream at my favorite coffee house as I resume morning writing after a four-day break due to a cardiac catheterization.

Cardiac Catheterization

Amazing how you can’t type or use a computer when they access your heart through the artery/vein in your right wrist. They run a little tub up through the wrist, arm, through the shoulder and down to the heart. Then they run a second long thin tube called a catheter through the first straw like tube. In my case, it was inserted into an artery/vein in my wrist threaded through my blood vessels to my heart.  My test included a coronary angiogram, which checks the coronary arteries, though they are not part of every cardiac catheterization. The purpose of the cardiac catheterization was to check blood flow in the coronary arteries. It looked for blockages. This is pretty cool stuff.

Stretch Run

I’m writing for an hour this morning before going to church and Bible fellowship class. I return to the day job tomorrow morning.

I am on the stretch run with my retirement from the day job just two weeks from this Thursday. Then I transition to writing full-time. I’ll be writing about the transition in the days ahead. Why not join me in my adventure?

Photo source: Original photo taken by Jimmie Aaron Kepler

Estes Park, Colorado

Today’s coffee-house photos are of the Starbucks in Estes Park, Colorado. It has two entrances. One is off the main highway that goes through town. The other is off the Big Thompson River and the river walk. It is one of my favorite Starbucks location. I’ve had coffee there at least a dozen times. I visit each time I attend the writer’s conference in Estes Park. They have great WiFi with tremendous bandwidth.

estes-park-co


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a military brat. In his youth, he worked in a grocery store, warehouse, sold soft drinks at a major league baseball stadium, and as a folk-rock band as a rhythm guitar player. He has enough college degrees to cover a wall and even served his country in the US Army. Working in IT has paid the bills the last two decades. He’s been freelancing since Ronald Reagan was president. He’s even won an award for short story writing. Google his name. You’ll find his work and can buy a few novels with his name on the book’s spine. He lives with his cat and cancer-battling wife in north Texas.

Black Eye Cap Hill, Denver, Colorado

denver-black-eye-coffee-shop-01Black Eye Cap Hill is one of my favorite shops in Denver and the USA. You take one part of just plain cool add inviting and then a seriousness about coffee, and you have the Black Eye Cap Hill. It is unique.

The furnishings, character, and atmosphere were enough to make me glad I was there. It has a dreamlike air about it. I could imagine it used as a movie set or backdrop. It just felt cool to pull up to a table, take out my laptop, and write. It has the feel of a world-class coffee shop that changes into a gorgeous bar at night.

A strange twist about the coffee house is the bathrooms have audio books playing in them. In a weird kind of way, that’s rather cool.

The coffee was great. If your hungry or just need a snack The Black Eye offers a delight menu that is moderately priced.

The next time I’m in Denver, I’ll be back. The coffee was great, the service above average, and the atmosphere world-class.


Jimmie Aaron Kepler is a novelist, poet, book reviewer, award-winning short story writer, and coffee house aficionado. His work has appeared in over twenty venues, including Bewildering Stories, Beyond Imagination, The Dead Mule School for Southern Literature, Poetry & Prose Magazine, and vox poetica. When not writing each morning at his favorite coffee house, he supports his literary habit working as an IT application support engineer. He is a former Captain in the US Army. Kepler’s Military History Book Reviews was named a 100 best blogs for history buffs.