Sunday, August 22, 2010

Botox Harmful to Writers

It's simply not true that Botox will make non-writer brains explode.  At least not that I've heard about.  But we're not here to talk about non-writers, are we?

Directly after reading Wendy's post last week (about yet another birthday passing), where she mentioned Botox as one of the things some people consider when they feel down about the aging process, I came across an intriguing writeup in Science News for a study of the effects that Botox treatments have on our emotions.

You may think of Botox as relaxing muscles in your face as a way to do away with frown lines. That doesn't sound so terrible. In truth, a Botox treatment paralyzes selected facial muscles. In a first-time treatment, these muscles are disabled for three to four months. While we say we're attacking "frown lines," what we really attacking are the muscles used to show negative emotions.

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Bear with me a little longer.

It turns out that the face doesn't just mirror our emotions, transmitting them to anyone with a view. Nope. Our brains sense our facial response to the initial emotion, and use the facial expression to reinforce the original emotion. It's not a one-way street where our brains makes our facial expressions -- our faces change our brains too. If our faces don't respond to an emotion, the emotion doesn't fully form, and flickers out like a candle in a bad draft.

Botox not only freezes our face; it freezes our emotional selves as well, at least when it comes to the negative emotions.

So (I told you -- here comes the writing part). As a writer are you willing to give up your ability to feel (and put on the page) the following; anger, aggravation, irritation, agitation, annoyance, grouchiness, grumpiness, crosspatch (I had to look this one up!), exasperation, frustration, rage, outrage, fury, wrath, hostility, ferocity, bitterness, hate, scorn, spite, vengefulness, dislike, resentment, disgust, revulsion, contempt, loathing, envy, jealousy, torment, sadness, suffering, agony, hurt, anguish, depression, despair, hopelessness, gloom, glumness, sadness, unhappiness, grief, sorrow, woe, misery, melancholy, disappointment, dismay, displeasure, shame, guilt, regret, remorse, neglect, alienation, isolation, loneliness, rejection, homesickness, defeat, dejection, insecurity, embarrassment, humiliation, insult, pity, sympathy, fear, horror, alarm, shock, fright, terror, panic, hysteria, mortification, nervousness, anxiety, tenseness, uneasiness, apprehension, worry, distress, and dread?

[Don't worry; I didn't come up with that list all by my lonesome. I copied it from wikipedia.]

It seems to me that you'd be in trouble without being able to fully utilize any of those emotions as you write. No jealous lovers, no hostile strangers, no contemptuous waiters, no terrors in dark alleys, no frustration at goals denied, no conflict.  (The Science News article talks about how this could negatively impact your real life, but we're talking about important stuff here.)

Have you ever frowned when your MC would? Have you ever gotten choked-up when something terribly sad happened to them? Have you ever been mortified by finding an awful grammar mistake after you sent out a writing sample? Of course you have -- because your face still works.


  1. Woe to the crosspatch blog writer (or more likely shame on the hurt wikipedia editor) as they suffer the displeasure of the terrified shock and revulsion to discover that horror is twice glumly listed in the list of aggravated emotions and the anxiety and rage of having to double check the tormented list an uncountable number of frustrated times to avoid the humiliation of finding another double or the insult of a triple repeat within the dreaded list that we now feel insecruities about and reject its validity to the mortification of the tense writer whose hysteria causes dejection as his homesickness for the simple life before this outrage causes bitterness and depair within his disappointed soul.

  2. Very interesting, my dear. Not only will I keep my frown lines, but also my smile lines because I wouldn't trade those in for anything. When things are down, you always know how to brighten them up again. :-)

  3. Thanks for the mention, John!
    Don't think I'd ever agree to Botox. Being a nurse, I'm very cautious about any type of medical treatment. When I write, I most certainly become emotionally involved in a scene. After a particularly dramatic one, I often need to take a break. I don't think I could write good emotion if I couldn't experience it. (Especially when I read my words out loud and act them out!)