Chasing dopamine

(This post is sorta kinda the continuation to Perfectly Adequate. )

I hate writing. I love having written. – Dorothy Parker

This was one of the quotes which made an instant connection  – and not just because I realised the agony that is the writing process. It keeps nagging you with a blank page (much like how this post has been, for the past month). You fantasize about all the beauty and the poetry of the finished post but never set pen to paper. Because when there are so many more easier, accessible, and pleasurable things by your side, why hold out for gratification which comes from finishing this post?

Wait. It seems like I’m describing procrastination. I was. While we’re at it, check out this intensely hilarious post on Why Procrastinators Procrastinate

If we’re talking about writing processes now, can I just let it out and say – “I hate designing. I love having designed.”? Well, not really. Atleast not in the way it reads as in the first glance.

As much as we would grow to love the act of creating something, the fact is that it’s a cultivated trait. Our brains – our chemical hungry, dopamine junkie brains can’t really tell the difference between composing Mozart or hogging at McDonalds, it needs its fix right NOW.

Have you ever felt the rush in your brain when you are expecting something pleasurable? Good junk food, sugar candy, movie, a new toy? That’s dopamine – the drug of anticipation. Simply put, our brains have evolved this “reward circuit” which looks for stuff which keeps us alive and happy. It’s just evolution. So when our brain finds something it likes, (McDonalds, I’m looking very strongly in your direction) there is an incentive to continue seeking it out. This dopamine rush is what makes us seek it again and again.

So what when it comes to writing, or design, or creation? Your brain be like –

“Meh…I’d totally skip that agony filled activity which is blank staring, doodling, drooling and much hair ripping. Ooh..! Let’s play this totally pointless game of putting a bird through pipes because I like the ‘ka-ching’ sound it makes. Gives me such a huge sense of accomplishment. And then coffee. And chocolate. And YouTube. Who would want to write?

How do we take these higher order thinking design problems and force it into our monkey brains? How do we make it an activity as pleasurable as drinking coffee?

Now that is a million dollar question.

While we’re on the subject of creativity, watch this beautiful TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love.

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