Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized

Why You Need a Writers Retreat: The Dopamine of Anticipation

Recently I was gifted the use of an empty condo in the Colorado mountains for the weekend, a glorious three days with just myself and my writing. I’d been looking forward to my own mini writers retreat for weeks!

I bet everyone here can relate: Having a retreat or vacation (of any length!) to look forward to gives you an instant dopamine hit–the body knows something is coming and it’s already happy, already excited.

Ah dopamine. It’s that chemical that makes us feel good. It’s released when we fall in love, ride a roller coaster, win a prize for that story we wrote, and it’s also the culprit in all sorts of addictions, from chocolate to sex to the constant “ping” of our text messages. When dopamine is released we get the message that “this feels good” and we keep coming back for more.

But here’s something interesting: Researchers have found that it’s the anticipation of pleasure, rather than the pleasure itself, that gets those feel-good chemicals in our brains going. Meaning we are already feeling good BEFORE we even get the reward.

According to a 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life, vacationers already “started experiencing a significant boost in happiness during the planning stages of the trip because they were looking forward to the good times ahead.”

Which means looking forward to pleasurable things is as good for your overall happiness and well-being as the actual experience of them. You are already getting that “hit” of pleasure every time you think about the exciting thing that’s coming.

Stanford biologist and neurologist Robert Sapolsky says from his studies with monkeys that “dopamine is not about pleasure, it’s about the anticipation of pleasure. It’s about the pursuit of happiness rather than the happiness itself.”

Want to geek out on the science a bit? Check out the 5-min clip fromRobert Sapolsky’s lecture on the Science of Pleasure below:

So what’s the takeaway here? The bottom line is that the anticipation of an upcoming vacation or artistic retreat is already releasing sweet, sweet dopamine into your system. Every time we think about it, talk about it, every time we look at pictures, every time we do research and tell others about it.

So…are you excited yet?
~Nancy

P.S. Join us on an upcoming retreat!

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized

Review of Debut Chapbook “Glimmerglass Girl” by Holly Lyn Walrath

 

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A graduate of the University of Denver’s Creative Writing program, Holly Lyn Walrath is returning to Colorado this August to join Kathy and I for our Rendezvous in the Rockies Retreat. And the retreat will serendipitously coincide with the release of her debut chapbook of illustrated poems, Glimmerglass Girl, from Finishing Line Press.

Bold yet delicate, sharp, intricate, and woven with fragile strength, there are many things to like in Glimmerglass Girl. The first a reader might notice is the interplay of words and images, something many writers attempt but not always with such success. Glimmerglass Girl uses classic and vintage fairy tale images to give the book an aura of innocence and nostalgia; I’m reminded of my early copies of Alice in Wonderland or my treasured illustrated Grimm’s Fairytales.

But this is not a children’s book, and the reader quickly understands that innocence and nostalgia is working to contrast darker, more serious subjects. Placed against this whimsical background we get a modern treatise on womanhood and femininity, the fragile image of woman distorted behind the glass. This idea of reflections–the ways that women are both seen and unseen by ourselves and others–is demonstrated skillfully in one of the opening poems:

Self Portrait through an iPhone

At first glance is surprise—is this what I look like to him—eyes down-shot—drifting left to right—the act of self-interrogation— and yet what redeems me to you—female recompenses mean nothing—the twinge of hair burned red by the sun—the lips on which fine lines of aging make deeper, harder—the smoothness of cheeks still pink with sylphen shock—in the background hangs a version of you—a younger interpretation—so little changes since the act of self-love—blackening her eyes—bruising her lips like throwing an apple at a wall—these things seem natural—but I still don’t recognize you like I should—I still don’t know how to love you like myself

Says Walrath about Glimmerglass Girl, “I wanted to shine light on the darker parts of my own personal history as a woman, while acknowledging that society expects us to be as delicate as a butterfly….Butterflies are actually incredibly strong creatures in the natural world. I think women are the capable of great acts of strength so I wanted to highlight that irony.”

And she does. This dichotomy of delicate and strong, girl and woman, power and power distorted comes through beautifully in this debut chapbook of illustrated poems.

Pre-order from Finishing Line Press now.

Read an interview between Kathy Fish and Holly Lyn Walrath here.

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