Interview with Michael C. Patterson

Who are your favorite authors?
I greatly admire working scientists who are also good writers. My passionate interest in the brain was stimulated by Steven Pinker's encyclopedic book, How The Mind Works. Antonio Damasio is an important leader in the field of neuroscience and is a wonderful writer. Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson are brilliant scientists whose writing is profoundly philosophical. Nobel Prize winner, Eric Kandell, writes beautifully on the brain, art, culture and history. I just enjoyed reading Anjan Chatterjee's new book on neuroaesthetics. I will read anything written by V.S. Ramachandran, Michael Gazzaniga and David Linden. Jared Diamond's book "The Third Chimpanzee" got me hooked on primate studies and I just loved his great book "Guns, Germs and Steel." I admire the writing of Jonah Lehrer. I would have to say that Matt Ridley is the science writer I most admire and wish to emulate. William James has been described as a scientist who writes like a poet. He is a delight to read.

In the realm of fiction, my favorite is probably Garbriel Garcia Marquez.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I do my best work in the morning and wake up eager to start writing. I use the discipline of writing to structure my learning and to challenge my own thinking. I can't imagine more compelling and fascinating subjects to explore than brain function and human behavior. Anticipating the first cup of coffee also helps.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I read. I ponder. I ride my bicycle, stretch, do strength exercises. I listen to music, play my guitar and dabble with drawing. I spend time with my family, particularly two young grandchildren. I cook. I floss. I sleep.
What is your writing process?
I generally review research on the topic I plan to address then engage in free writing, just to get ideas down on paper. I read through these initial drafts and pull out interesting ideas that I use to building an outline. I try, with spotty success, to follow the outline to produce second and third drafts of chapters or sub-chapters. I find it useful to set aside these early drafts before re-reading to give my initial infatuation with the work time to subside. I try to be objective when re-reading the drafts so that I can recognize and dispose of the junk. I want my ideas make sense and to accurately reflect the science I am describing. Once I'm happy with the content and the structure of the writing I turn my attention individual sentences in an effort to improve their style and elegance. My colleague Roger Anunsen reads everything I write and provides me with invaluable feedback and suggestions.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read both non-fiction and fiction for pleasure. To be honest, the non-fiction reading serves a double function. I enjoy it and it is useful for my work. so, on the non-fiction side, I am currently reading the book POSITIVITY by positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson and just finished THE SCIENCE OF HAPPINESS by Stefan Klein. On tap are THE HOW OF HAPPINESS by Soja Lyubomirsky, BORN TO BE GOOD by Dacher Keltner and THE POWER OF MINDFUL LEARNING by Ellen J. Langer.

For relaxation and fun I read novels. I am in the middle of STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel a compelling and sensitive look at a post-apocalyptic world after a devestating flu pandemic. In the wings is another Terry Pratchett book, because I find his stories and writing so quirky and entertaining.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle that I use from time to time.
Describe your desk
My desk is a vintage, hard wood piece, with four drawers on either side. The front pieces of each drawer are bevelled, which gives the desk a unique look. I like keeping the desk neat and tidy. My MacBook Pro is positioned in the center. I have a coffee warmer and a constant cup of coffee in the left hand corner. I have place a few small rocks collected during walks on the beach around the warmer. On the other corner are two treasured sculptures, both small, but stunning in their own way. One is a Japanese carving of a craggy mountainside. Three monks are seated at the base and mysterious looking tree snakes its way up the side. The other statue us a small bronze horse. I looks incredibly solid and timeless, which I find comforting. There is also a black guitar pick that got place down between these two sculptures. It seemed to belong there so I haven't moved it. My iPhone sits on the right front corner and I pull notebooks and texts onto the desk as needed. I don't think of myself as a neat-freak, but I find it easier to concentrate on my writing when the clutter is held to a minimum.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing late in life. I had to write a lot of business memos and reports during my working years, which is probably where I honed whatever early skills I had in non-fiction writing. While working for PBS in Washington DC, I decided to return to school to get a Masters Degree from Georgetown University. The first class I took was a writing course. I figured I was going to be writing a lot of papers, so I had better acquire some formal skills. Fortunately the teacher was terrific. I joined a writer's group that evolved from the class. The experience in the class and the writer's group probably gave me the confidence to try my hand at writing more than memos, reports and term papers.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Between the years of 2004 and 2009 I developed and ran the Staying Sharp brain health program for AARP. The goal of the Staying Sharp program was to provide AARP members with the best available advice on how to protect their brains as they aged - how to prevent dementia. We worked with over a hundred top neuroscientists from the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives who recounted the latest developments in brain research. It became very clear to me that cognitive decline and dementia are highly influenced by our behaviors and by what we do and how we think. Certain behaviors put our brains at risk, others protect the brain and make it more resilient. Real progress against dementia can be made, not by trying to cure it once it has taken hold, but by preventing dementia from occurring in the first place. In 2009, Roger Anunsen and I started MINDRAMP Consulting to develop educational programs that taught people what to do to prevent cognitive decline and dementia. The BETTER BRAINS BY DESIGN series of books takes this work in two important new directions. First, it goes beyond education to be more prescriptive. It not only teaches people what they should do, it outlines a practical process through which people can develop action plans to change behaviors and mental attitudes in ways that will protect their brains. Second, we have expanded beyond brain health to address overall wellbeing, which includes the pursuit of happiness, meaning and purpose. If our ultimate goal is a good life, a long life worth living, then just having a healthy brain is not enough. We also need to figure out how to use our healthy brains to cultivate happiness, to find meaning and purpose in life. We need to find ways to make our social relationships more loving and fulfilling. The BETTER BRAINS by DESIGN series of books is the result of my personal exploration of these challenges - how can I keep my brain healthy and how can I use my healthy brain to enhance positive emotions and to flourish. The approach that I developed can work for me and for anyone else who is willing to put in the time and energy.
Published 2015-11-17.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Better Brains By Design: The Quest for Qualongevity
Price: $45.00 USD. Words: 81,730. Language: English. Published: August 17, 2016. Categories: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Family health
Brain health is simply in concept, difficult in execution. Minimize risks, maximize challenge and growth! Simple! Two daunting obstacles to this simple strategy remain: knowing exactly what to do and doing it! Better Brains by Design provides a roadmap to brain health that helps you overcome both obstacles and gets you started on the process of building a stronger, healthier, more creative mind.
Cognitive Activity Design: Designing Creative Activities and Art-Based Projects That Promote Brain Health and Flourishing
Price: $45.00 USD. Words: 50,070. Language: English. Published: March 24, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Aging well, Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Life Sciences / Neuroscience
Learn to design and implement activities for older adults that promote cognitive wellness - the combined benefits of brain health and “flourishing. Learn how to integrate evidence-based research from neuroscience, cognitive aging and positive psychology. Make every activity an opportunity to strengthen brains and enhance the capacity to feel fulfillment and joy.
Strong Brains, Sharp Minds: The Definitive Guide to the MINDRAMP Method For Brain Health & Mental Development
Price: $45.00 USD. Words: 102,020. Language: English. Published: December 19, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Health, wellbeing, & medicine » Family health
Live long and live well! Strong Brains, Sharp Minds unlocks the mysteries of “Qualongevity” (longevity with quality-of-life) by synthesizing, organizing and explaining a wealth of current science on brain health and creative aging. Strong Brains, Sharp Minds is a definitive guide and source for current information and theory on behavioral approaches to preventing and slowing cognitive decline.
Family Food Favorites
Price: Free! Words: 15,510. Language: English. Published: December 23, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits » American / General
(5.00)
Recipes we made when the kids were young and some new ones that we like now.
Managing the Creative Process: Tools for Individuals & Organizations
Series: MINDRAMP Creativity & The Arts, Book 2. Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 17,790. Language: English. Published: November 1, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Psychology » Creative ability, Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Cognitive Science
The creative process is a complex, multi-faceted activity. Building on the work of creativity scholars, MINDRAMP describes seven major stages of the creative process and how to use them to improve creative performance.
How Creativity Works: The Dynamic Interplay of Novelty and Routine
Series: MINDRAMP Creativity & The Arts, Book 1. Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 13,140. Language: English. Published: October 27, 2012. Categories: Nonfiction » Self-improvement » Creativity, Nonfiction » Science and Nature » Cognitive Science
In How Creativity Works we take a fresh look at creativity and argue that creative thinking requires the brain to generate new ideas and to reconcile them with stable habits and routines. Creativity is a dynamic interplay between stability and change.