Tag Archives: Creativity

From the Chef ♣ July 2015

July is upon us and we hope you are enjoying your summer.

This month we will be focussing our thoughts on the trials and tribulations of self. No where will the work you do count more than the work you put into you, and we want to inspire your best self. Keep checking in all month long for new posts about balance, creativity, and other things like the power of perception. Most of the posts this month will have to do with helping you improve and become open to the power of possibility.

Cheers,

Michelle Rene.

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Writing the Unlikable Character and Why You Should

Nope. Not this reader.

I love unlikable characters. It’s fair to say that if there’s a no-good, dirty, rotten scoundrel in the lead, I am 100 percent on board. But it seems incongruous, doesn’t it, that a character who is wholly unappealing—repulsive, even—should be something readers might seek out. And one step further, it seems counterintuitive to recommend that you write characters that readers will rightfully dislike. And here, I think, is where unlikable and uninteresting are confused.

Be they bad apples or good eggs, a character needs to exhibit enough agency to earn a reader’s attention—regardless of whether that attention is positive or negative. And herein lies the key: You can make your protagonist as low-down and dirty or as mindful and generous as you please, but she has to be the engineer of her own conflict to earn readers’ interest. A character—good or bad—must be an active participant in her own story. And if you want a character with a built-in conflict machine, you should go low-down and dirty.

Some characters are difficult to connect to simply because they do little to engage a reader. A character who lets the world act upon her and doesn’t influence a change in her situation could be unlikable or lovable, but either way she’s uninteresting. She’s too passive to warrant concern. You can’t care about this character, and as a result you can’t care about her story. You’ll lay the book aside and tell your reader-friends that the character is unlikable. But a more accurate sentiment might be that the character isn’t interesting or compelling—all things that even a good-girl character needs to be if she wants readers to care about her enough to finish the story.

But the opposite—a character who sets himself up for conflict and consequences through the dastardliness of his doing—is surely unlikable, yes, but also magnetic. You want to watch him ruin his life. He repulses you in the same way a car accident is simultaneously disturbing and hard to look away from. This character is a train wreck, and it is glorious to behold. Every time he does something unwholesome, immoral, felonious or just, like, super-rude, he creates a conflict. The anticipation and delivery of that consequence is deeply satisfying for a reader, and by their very nature, not-nice characters create these conflicts almost constantly.  In the words of Oscar Wilde, “The suspense is terrible; I hope it will last.”


charactersOne of the most important steps to writing a book is crafting characters that pull readers into the story. From concept and naming to choosing point of view and writing convincing dialogue, it takes skill to write characters that come to life on the page. Creating Characters collects the best instruction on how to write a novel with compelling and significant characters. The featured essays and articles compiled by Writer’s Digest editors will help you make the right choices when building characters for your stories.


Think about this: You have an idea for a novel. You’ve been working on it for quite a while now, but something isn’t clicking. Your protagonist is a woman who’s down on her luck. She is now in a bind and needs some help. She’s lost everything: her boyfriend, her house, her job. Even her cat disappeared. Man, what a mess.

In Scenario A, your protagonist asks her parents for money, but they can’t give her that. So Instead, they let her stay in their home until she can get back on her feet. Maybe she doesn’t love living with her mother. Maybe she never finds a job. Maybe she’s camping out in the basement for so long that her parents leave and tell her to keep the house. Win-win, and your character is still a nice girl. That was easy, right? Yep, and honestly, pretty boring.

In Scenario B, no one can (or will) help her out. Your protagonist is living in her car and yet no one is there to lend a hand. Why not?, you’re asking. Good question. If she’s a good person and her circumstances truly are outside of her control, then surely someone can give this nice lady a hand. But lets pretend she’s not a nice lady. Maybe she kicks puppies on her lunch break. Cheats on her taxes. Kidnaps kids for ransom. Kills her boss in a fit of rage and frames her coworker (the nice guy, of course). What if we find out, for example, that her house and boyfriend and even her cat are gone because she’s a manipulative sociopath who tied the guy to the bed and then burned the place down so he couldn’t leave her? That is much more interesting than a girl who needs to sofa-surf at Mom’s until that next job interview.

The character from Scenario A may well be the sweetest, kindest woman who ever existed in print. In fact, I’d put money on it. Poor girl just had a bad week. But the protagonist from Scenario B is going to be infamous, and even if we hate her (and we will, that murderous wretch), we’ll still think about her after the book is back on the shelf. (Both Senarios were made up on the fly as I typed this; if they resemble actual works of fiction, my apologies. If not, those ideas are free to use.)

Let’s look at some fictional characters who are generally considered unlikable.

Rabbit Angstrom, the protagonist of John Updike’s Rabbit, Run and its sequels, is a (slightly) less sadistic character who manages to ruin the lives of every woman he meets. And as often as he isn’t doing the hard work of being gainfully employed or staying faithful to his wife, Rabbit is no slouch when it comes to creating an avalanche of consequences for himself. He’s an aimless, unkind, jealous cheat, and watching him scramble to avoid the falling walls of his life is as entertaining as a story gets.

Lolita‘s Humbert Humbert is a monster by every definition, a “detestable, abominable, criminal fraud” according to his wife (and Dolores’ mother), and a “vain and cruel wretch” in Nabokov’s own words. The reader understands that he’s both human and inhumane, and because he chooses to give in to his baser instincts, he earns both the consequences of such and the dislike of readers.

Frank and April Wheeler, the lead characters in Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road are unbearable, conniving snobs. Their shortcomings and pettiness and self-righteousness and backstabbing create every major plot point in the story. Yates’ debut novel remains among my favorite because I’d never want to know them, but it’s not very difficult to imagine the Wheelers living next door, driving each other insane.

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl features two of the most despicable characters to ever grace the page. I stayed awake reading through the night to find out who I was supposed to be rooting for, and in the end I hated Nick and Amy Dunne equally and fully and I loved every word of it. Unlikable? Absolutely. Uninteresting? Not for a second. The novel could accurately be retitled Two Cats, One Bag.

The compelling unlikable character exists in every medium. Books, film, TV, plays, you name it. Add Joffrey Lannister (Game of Thrones), Javert (Les Miserables), Yvonne “Vee” Parker (Orange Is the New Black), Alonso Harris (Denzel Washington’s character in Training Day), Ignatius J. Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces), the Narrator in Fight Club (or more broadly, possibly every character in every Palahniuk novel), Holden Caulfield, Jack Torrance … there’s no end to this list.

But in every case, the unlikable character who earns our attention is generating problems that require resolution—problems that carry the plot forward in a logical, organic way. The unlikable character is a one-man plot-building machine, and I wholeheartedly encourage you all to try it at least once.


Source: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/writing-the-unlikable-character-and-why-you-should


Tips from the World’s Most Famous Authors

Words of Wisdom: 101 Tips from the World’s Most Famous Authors


If you’ve ever wanted to sit down with your favorite writer and ask advice, then you should take a look at these tips from some of the most famous authors in the world. These valuable bits of information provide guidance on strengthening your writing skills, becoming a better fiction writer or poet, learning to tap into your creativity, advice on education and school, and even a few suggestions on success and living a meaningful life.

General Writing Tips

Improve any type of writing you do with these solid tips from successful writers themselves.

  1. Ernest Hemingway. Use short sentences and short first paragraphs. These rules were two of four given to Hemingway in his early days as a reporter–and words he lived by.
  2. Mark Twain. Substitute “damn” every time you want to use the word “very.” Twain’s thought was that your editor would delete the “damn,” and leave the writing as it should be. The short version: eliminate using the word “very.”
  3. Oscar Wilde. Be unpredictable. Wilde suggested that “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
  4. Anton Chekhov. Show, don’t tell. This advice comes out of most every writing class taught. Chekhov said it most clearly when he said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
  5. EB White. Just write. The author of Charlotte’s Web, one of the most beloved of children’s books, said that “I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
  6. Samuel Johnson. Keep your writing interesting. “The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.”
  7. Ray Bradbury. Learn to take criticism well and discount empty praise, or as Bradbury put it, “to accept rejection and reject acceptance.”
  8. Toni Morrison. Remember that writing is always about communication. “Everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it.”
  9. George Orwell. Orwell offered twelve solid tips on creating strong writing, including an active voice rather than a passive one and eliminating longer words when shorter ones will work just as well.
  10. F. Scott Fitzgerald. “Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.”
  11. Anais Nin. “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”
  12. Truman Capote. Editing is as important as the writing. “I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
  13. Maurice Sendak. Keep revising. “I never spent less than two years on the text of one of my picture books, even though each of them is approximately 380 words long. Only when the text is finished … do I begin the pictures.”

Tips for Beginning Writers

  1. Stephen King. “Read a lot and write a lot.” Reading and understanding different styles is integral to finding your own style.
  2. Margaret Mahy. Be persistent. This popular New Zealand author suggests that being persistent will pay off when facing adversity while writing or trying to get your writing published.
  3. John Grisham. Keep your day job. Grisham suggests finding your career outside of writing. Experience life, suffering, and love to be able to write effectively.
  4. John Steinbeck. “I’ve always tried out material on my dogs first.” Make sure that above all, you are happy with your work…and see if the dogs stay awake.
  5. Flannery O’Connor. Sometimes you need to stir the emotions to be heard. “I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.”
  6. Isaac Asimov. Use humor effectively.” Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments.”
  7. Lillian Hellman. Trust your instincts. “If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves.”
  8. Doris Lessing. “I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.”
  9. Jessamyn West. “Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely necessary.”
  10. William Faulkner. “A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.”
  11. Margaret Atwood. Don’t be afraid of failure. “A ratio of failures is built into the process of writing. The wastebasket has evolved for a reason.”
  12. Richard Bach. Never stop trying. “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
  13. Isabel Allende. Follow your passion, despite the obstacles. “I couldn’t write a novel sitting in a car but I could write short stories. The advantage to this is because with a short story you write fragments. In a couple of weeks you have a story and then you do some more. If you really want to do something you do it in the most awkward circumstances, of course.”

Fiction Tips

These tips are specifically for writing fiction, but many are good tips for writing in general.

  1. Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut offers eight rules of writing a short story, including tips such as “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water” and “Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.”
  2. Roald Dahl. From one of the most magical of storytellers: “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
  3. Louis L’Amour. “A plot is nothing but a normal human situation that keeps arising again and again….normal human emotions–envy, ambition, rivalry, love, hate, greed, and so on.”
  4. John Irving. Know the story. Irving suggests knowing the basic outline of the entire story before you begin writing the first paragraph.
  5. Jack Kerouac. Although Kerouac set down 30 tips, the gist of most of them is to know yourself and write for yourself with abandonment.
  6. Scott Turow. Drawing from his experience as a trial lawyer, Turow discovered that what makes attorneys successful is what would make him successful as a writer: Tell a good story.
  7. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Write about what you know. “If a man writes a book, let him set down only what he knows. I have guesses enough of my own.”
  8. Leo Tolstoy. “Drama, instead of telling us the whole of a man’s life, must place him in such a situation, tie such a knot, that when it is untied, the whole man is visible.”
  9. Katherine Anne Porter. “If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last line, my last paragraph, my last page first.
  10. Robert Louis Stevenson. “The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean.”
  11. W. Somerset Maugham. Make your own rules. “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”
  12. Vladimir Nabokov. The careful construction of details can make all the difference in your writing. “Caress the detail, the divine detail.”
  13. EL Doctorow. “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Poetry

Poets can find many helpful tips from writers who have come before them here.

  1. Robert Frost. Poetry offers many levels for readers. Capitalize on all you can. “A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom.”
  2. Salman Rushdie. “A poet`s work is to name the unnamable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.”
  3. WH Auden. Anticipate and recognize ideas. “All works of art are commissioned in the sense that no artist can create one by a simple act of will but must wait until what he believes to be a good idea for a work comes to him.”
  4. TS Eliot. Seek life experience. “Any poet, if he is to survive beyond his 25th year, must alter; he must seek new literary influences; he will have different emotions to express.”
  5. Henry David Thoreau. Understand the power of each word. “A written word is the choicest of relics. It is something at once more intimate with us and more universal than any other work of art.”
  6. Paul Valery. Keep revising. “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”
  7. Percy Bysshe Shelley. Think about the obvious in new ways. “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”
  8. Plato. Don’t just rely on the beauty of the words: make a statement. “Poetry comes nearer to vital truth than history.”
  9. Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Remember the importance of each word used in each poem. “I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order; –poetry = the best words in the best order.”
  10. Robert Graves. Write poetry because you want to, not because you expect to earn a living. “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either.”

Tips for Creativity

Whether you are facing writer’s block, just want to add a little more pizzazz to your work, use these tips to find more creativity.

  1. Annie Dillard. “Writing sentences is difficult whatever their subject. It is no less difficult to write sentences in a recipe than sentences in Moby Dick. So you might as well write Moby Dick.” No matter what, write.
  2. William Wordsworth. Write with passion. Wordsworth advocated, “Fill your paper with with the breathings of your heart.”
  3. Alice Walker. Walker recommends meditation for writing, as well as life. She credits meditation for helping her write her books.
  4. James Patterson. “I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.”
  5. John Cheever. Looking inwards and learning from yourself provides great material for writing. “The need to write comes from the need to make sense of one’s life and discover one’s usefulness.”
  6. Agatha Christie. Let your mind go while keeping your hands busy. “The best time for planning a book is when you’re doing the dishes.”
  7. Francis Bacon. Always carry something to write on. “A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket and write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought are commonly the most valuable and should be secured, they seldom return.”
  8. Jack London. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” Sometimes you need to actively seek your sources of inspiration.
  9. Maya Angelou. Follow your instincts and do what you feel you must. “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.
  10. Virginia Woolf. “Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” Sometimes you have to recognize what you have and make the best of it.
  11. Charles Dickens. Play with your ideas, talk with them, and coax them into a fully-formed creation. “An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”

School and Education

Find out what famous writers have to say about school and getting an education.

  1. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Recognize what students can give to teachers as well as what teachers can impart. “Of course you will insist on modesty in the children, and respect to their teachers, but if the boy stops you in your speech, cries out that you are wrong and sets you right, hug him!”
  2. Barbara Kingsolver. “Libraries are the one American institution you shouldn’t rip off.”
  3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Use education to build character. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically… Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education.”
  4. Robert M Hutchins. Keep in mind what school provides for the long run. “The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.”
  5. Norman Cousins. “The purpose of education is to enable us to develop to the fullest that which is inside us.”
  6. Nelson Mandela. Use your knowledge to make a difference. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  7. John Dewey. “Education is a social process; education is growth; education is not a preparation for life but is life itself.
  8. BF Skinner. Appreciate knowledge and the rest will come. “We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.”
  9. Aristippus. Use your education to cultivate what you already have. “Native ability without education is like a tree without fruit.”
  10. Robert Frost. Learn to separate emotion from knowledge. “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.”
  11. Charlotte Bronte. Embrace the opportunity to see beyond your known world. “Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

Lifelong Learning

  1. Aristotle. Learn to analyze what you are being told. “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
  2. Robert Frost. Don’t ever stop learning. “Education is hanging around until you’ve caught on.”
  3. Albert Einstein. Don’t ever stop questioning. “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”
  4. WB Yeats. Discover what lights your fire. “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.”
  5. CS Lewis. Learn by doing. “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”
  6. Friedrich Nietzche. Learn the basics first. “He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance, one cannot fly into flying.”
  7. Socrates. Learning is ultimately your own responsibility. “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”
  8. Aldous Huxley. Don’t become complacent. “A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.”
  9. Willa Cather. Embrace every opportunity to learn. “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”
  10. Confucius. Education should be much more than memorizing facts. “Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.”

Success

  1. Isak Dinesen. “When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.”
  2. Margaret Atwood. Speak your mind and stand up for what you believe. “A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.”
  3. Malcolm S. Forbes. “Failure is success if we learn from it.”
  4. Helen Keller. Find the joy in small accomplishments. “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
  5. Dr. Seuss. Be responsible for your own success. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
  6. Kahlil Gibran. Stay the course, even when it feels like you aren’t making progress. “One may not reach the dawn save by the path of the night.”
  7. Ralph Waldo Emerson. Believe in yourself. “Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
  8. Paul Coelho. “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”
  9. Tennessee Williams. Let success happen in its own time. “Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it… Success is shy – it won’t come out while you’re watching.”

On Living

These last few tips all include good, solid advice on living life to your best potential.

  1. Alexander Pope. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Pope is the author of one of the most famous quotes on allowing yourself to make a mistake with his famous, “To err is human, to forgive divine.”
  2. Benjamin Franklin. “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”
  3. JK Rowling. “If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
  4. Barbara Kingsolver. “The truth needs so little rehearsal.”
  5. Maya Angelou. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
  6. Umberto Eco. Sometimes things are just as they seem. “But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.”
  7. John Ruskin. “There is no wealth but life.”
  8. George Bernard Shaw. Appreciate the good and the bad–it is all a part of life. “Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.”
  9. Arthur Miller. “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”
  10. Charles M. Schulz. “Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.”
  11. John Burroughs. Realize what is important to you. “I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think, all the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read, and all the friends I want to see.”

Source: http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/5OWxRC/:Mz+M2wi2:qRoT5N2p/www.onlinecollege.org/2009/11/17/words-of-wisdom-101-tips-from-the-worlds-most-famous-authors/

Feed The Muse – Never Never Land

Fast Asleep

Shut Eye Boosts Your Creative Capabilities


Sleep

Too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan. A lack of sleep is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging.

Sleep is connected to successful weight management. Your health is affected by your sleep, a lack of sleep puts added stress on your body and effects your cardiovascular system. Sleeplessness also affects reaction time and decision making. A lack of sleep can contribute to depression. A good night’s sleep can help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep.


A good nights sleep is an invitation to your muse.

In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, your brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which may result in more creativity as well. Get a good night’s sleep before getting out the easel and paintbrushes or the pen and paper. Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen the emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur the creative process.

What Will Help You Improve Your Sleeping Habits?

  • Stop drinking caffeine after 2pm.
  • Avoid a big, heavy meal right before bed.
  • Even though a nightcap may help you relax and fall asleep faster, it’ll make the second half of your sleep cycle restless and unsatisfying. Have your drink at dinnertime (6pm) so it wears off before bed.
  • Doing anything that raises your body temperature too close to bedtime may actually hinder you from falling asleep.
  • Stretching with yoga before bed can calm down your mind, steady your breath, and reduce muscle tension without increasing your heart rate.
  • Bright light too close to bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep. Low lighting signals the biological clock that it’s time to wind down, while bright light signal the brain to remain alert. Try low wattage lightbulbs.
  • Typing in bed can wind you up, so when you do unplug, it will be harder to fall asleep. Disconnect an hour before bed, turn your smartphone off, and put any gadgets on an out-of-reach dresser or in another room so you won’t be able to grab it if you get the late-night urge.
  • The bedroom should be for sleep and sex only, anything else is clutter and has the ability to signal your brain and body that it needs to be alert. Make your bedroom your sanctuary for love and rest.

Surprising Health Benefits Of Sleep

Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting creativity and mood or banishing under-eye circles. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more.

“Sleep used to be kind of ignored, like parking our car in a garage and picking it up in the morning,” says David Rapoport, M.D., director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program.

Not anymore. Here are some health benefits researchers have discovered about a good night’s sleep.

Improve Memory

Your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. During sleep you can strengthen memories or “practice” skills learned while you were awake (it’s a process called consolidation).

“If you are trying to learn something, whether it’s physical or mental, you learn it to a certain point with practice,” says Dr. Rapoport, who is an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But something happens while you sleep that makes you learn it better.”

In other words if you’re trying to learn something new — whether it’s Spanish or a new tennis swing — you’ll perform better after sleeping.

Live Longer

Too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan — although it’s not clear if it’s a cause or effect. (Illnesses may affect sleep patterns too.) In a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours or more than six and a half hours of sleep per night. Sleep also affects quality of life.

“Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep,” says Raymonde Jean, M.D., director of sleep medicine and associate director of critical care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. “If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear.”

Curb Inflammation

Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. Research indicates that people who get less sleep — six or fewer hours a night — have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more. A 2010 study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got six or fewer hours of sleep a night. People who have sleep apnea or insomnia can have an improvement in blood pressure and inflammation with treatment of the sleep disorders, Dr. Rapoport says.

Be A Winner

If you’re an athlete, there may be one simple way to improve your performance: sleep. A Stanford University study found that college football players who tried to sleep at least 10 hours a night for seven to eight weeks improved their average sprint time and had less daytime fatigue and more stamina. The results of this study reflect previous findings seen in tennis players and swimmers.

Improve Your Grades

Children between the ages of 10 and 16 who have sleep disordered breathing, which includes snoring, sleep apnea, and other types of interrupted breathing during sleep, are more likely to have problems with attention and learning, according to a 2010 study in the journal Sleep. This could lead to “significant functional impairment at school,” the study authors wrote.

In another study, college students who didn’t get enough sleep had worse grades than those who did.

“If you’re trying to meet a deadline, you’re willing to sacrifice sleep,” Dr. Rapoport says, “but it’s severe and reoccurring sleep deprivation that clearly impairs learning.”

Sharpen Attention

A lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in kids, Dr. Rapoport says.

“Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do,” he adds. “Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive.”

A 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics found that children ages seven and eight who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive.

“We diagnose and measure sleep by measuring electrical changes in the brain,” Dr. Rapoport says. “So not surprisingly how we sleep affects the brain.”

Have A Healthy Weight

If you are thinking about going on a diet, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat — 56 percent of their weight loss — than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. (They shed similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep.)

Dieters in the study also felt more hungry when they got less sleep.

“Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain,” Dr. Rapoport says. “When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite.”

Lower Stress

When it comes to our health stress and sleep are nearly one and the same — and both can affect cardiovascular health.

“Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress, and with that people can have better control of their blood pressure,” Dr. Jean says. “It’s also believed that sleep effects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease.”

Avoid Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2009 that being tired accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes due to the driver’s performance — even more than alcohol!

“Sleepiness is grossly underrated as a problem by most people, but the cost to society is enormous,” Dr. Rapoport says. “Sleeplessness affects reaction time and decision making.”

Insufficient sleep for just one night can be as detrimental to your driving ability as having an alcoholic drink.

Steer Clear Of Depression

Sleeping well means more to our overall well-being than simply avoiding irritability.

“A lack of sleep can contribute to depression,” Dr. Jean says. “A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep.”

If you think the long hours put in during the week are the cause of your anxiety or impatience, Dr. Rapoport warns that sleep cannot necessarily be made up during the weekend.

“If you sleep more on the weekends, you simply aren’t sleeping enough in the week,” he says. “It’s all about finding a balance.