The novelty effect and writing


A writer says that when he is blocked or stuck or unmotivated to work on or finish a piece, he knows he has to come at it with fresh eyes.

One way he does that is switch to a different “word processor”—computer or phone or tablet.

I do that, too. It works.

The author thinks it is the “novelty effect” which was first discovered in the 1930s during an experiment at a factory where researchers changed the lighting levels to see if it would improve the productivity of the workers.

When they raised the lighting level, productivity went up. When they lowered the level, it also went up.

Which told them it wasn’t the lighting, it was the novelty of the changed environment.

The author says, “It almost doesn’t matter what type of change you make to your work environment — just so long as you make a change. So long as it renders your work slightly askew, you get a novelty effect.“

I agree. Our brains like novelty. It helps us focus. This is true no matter what the task, project, or goal.

If you’re stuck, change something—about the task or how you do it. Changing the place, the tools, the time of day, the order of the steps—anything different can trigger the novelty effect and help you move forward.

For writing projects, another writer has an interesting idea. He says he does all his writing “one sentence per line”.

Sentence, hit return, next sentence.

(Note, this is for his eyes only. He doesn’t publish his writing like this.)

He’s been doing it this way for 20 years and cites several benefits to writing this way.

He doesn’t specifically mention the novelty effect, but the next time I’m stuck, I’m going to try it.