Can Brain Entrainment Improve Your Writing?

A well-known author/blogger/writing instructor, whose name I won’t mention here, says in a recent Udemy instructional video that one of the best new tools for writers she’s discovered is brain entrainment.

Specifically, she says that she’s had creative breakthroughs and much better focus listening to brain entrainment sound patterns while she’s working. She notes that other writers have told her they’ve also had similar positive experiences.

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So what is brain entrainment?

It’s a technology which uses pulses of sound or light to stimulate your brain ‘waves’ into a ‘following’ pattern matching the frequency of the pulse. There are many entrainment frequencies which are said to be correlated with a number of desirable mind states including creativity, focus, anxiety reduction, meditative states, relaxation and so on.

The idea is that you can attain the mind state you want on demand with no effort whatsoever other than listening.

Amazingly, although this sounds like pseudoscience, there is a slim body of research demonstrating supportive evidence that entrainment appears helpful for certain conditions. But there isn’t an overwhelming amount of research although the technology has been around for a long time. When you do a Google search, nothing much comes up except for posts from the companies selling the product. That’s a red flag in my opinion.

See: for an quick overview of the research.

Given the relative paucity of well designed corroborative studies, I’m still left with the question of whether it actually has a substantial impact on creativity. My creativity in particular.

I’m a skeptic. I tend to believe that for many people who have tried this and rave about it, there’s been a substantial placebo effect producing the perception that creativity has improved.

Skeptic or not, I’ve been experimenting with it for several weeks while mind mapping, note taking, and doing 'pre-writing' with pen and paper. I’m not using it while actually writing scenes because I usually use dictation software with a headset.

I’m using the Brain Wave app found on the Apple App Store. It allows you to pick the brainwave state you’re looking for and combines the appropriate pulse frequencies with ambient sounds that are more pleasant to listen to than the entrainment frequencies by themselves.

So, with several weeks of actual experimentation under my belt, have I experienced a significant increase in creativity when listening to the app?

Not that I can tell, but there’s no objective measure to compare it against. It seems to be relaxing and that might have a side effect of calming the inner critic enough to allow for creative thoughts to arise. But I haven’t found any kind of dramatic breakthrough. Not even a noticeable placebo effect.

Nevertheless, I’m not going to give up on it quite yet since it’s only been a few weeks, it's relaxing and has the side benefit of covering up distracting outside noise in a neutral way that listening to music doesn't.

Bottom line: in my case, it hasn’t lead to creative nirvana. But the technology has been deemed safe to use and does create a relaxed state.