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ENTRY

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 4
July 21, 2008

(This part discusses the final topic of the six introduced in Part 1.)

Sixth, satisfaction is addictive. When we feel satisfied, the brain and visceral nervous system change from one state to another. Neurotransmitters rush between synapses, activating pleasure circuits, deactivating the centers of problem-solving and discontent. The brain is no dummy - it feels good to be satisfied and wants to experience it again. Because satisfaction is short-lived and because our needs and expectations return, our nervous system continually seeks to achieve satisfaction.

Good fiction takes advantage of this needs-satisfaction cycle. The writer builds suspense and the reader needs to know what will happen. Delayed gratification increases the intensity of the satisfaction response, like getting real hungry before a meal. The food tastes better. And the more intense the satisfaction, the more we crave it.

The needs-satisfaction cycle drives me to write, to continue writing. The cycle overrides the difficulties of writing: the long hours of intensely focused effort, the solitary nature of the task, the rejections, the criticism, the vagaries of publishing, the relatively low financial rewards. It's setting up a character with complex troubles and figuring a way to work them out in a strong story. It's holding a copy of a book fresh from the printer. It's coming up with just the right word. It's getting an email from a satisfied reader of one of my books.

The trick for me is to keep the cycle going, not get bogged down in minutia and negativity, or in the expectations of others. I've been reading and re-reading some of Albert Camus's fiction and essays. In one of the entries in his "Notebooks" he reveals his dissatisfaction with Parisian literary critics, writers, and publications such as La Nouvelle Revue Fran?aise. "Curious milieu, whose function it is to create writers, and where, however, they lose the joy of writing and creating."

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COMMENTS

Number of comments: 3
click here to add a comment

Lee Witte
Yes, that's why we never give up reading even after a bad book, or writing even after a bad critique.

Jo Reed
Camus was a weird one. Addiction to reading and writing? Kind of a stretch.

Lee Witte
The addiction reality makes sense to me.

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