KNOW HOW YOU WORK
In tackling process, we should know how we write. We’re Into-the-Misters (as discussed yesterday) or Outliners, or maybe some combination thereof. I like to think that ITTMs are more right-brained, and Outliners are more comfortable in their left brains. Everyone uses both sides; apparently neural charges are bouncing back and forth between the two halves constantly, but most everyone favors one side or the other. The majority of the human population is left-brain dominant. But artists and writers may have a higher proportion of right brain dominant among them.
Here are some gross generalizations:
The left brain works in a linear fashion, methodically, logically, and deals in terms of past and future. It’s detail oriented, insists that facts rule, and is the seat of math and science, order, pattern, and perception. It forms strategies (like outlines or complicated recipes) and is reality based. The left brain would take a collage of this moment, pick out the details and then compare them to a similar collage from the past and project patterns and similarities to the future. The left brain thinks in words and language. It is also the seat of the concept of “I AM,” – as separate from others.
The right brain is all about this present moment. It works in pictures and visual images. Information comes in via sensory data, for example, smells and movement of the body. It is all about emotion and feeling. The right brain would have a big visual collage image of what this moment looks, smells and feels like. It’s concerned with the Big Picture, flights of imagination, symbols and images.
There’s a quick test at this link: http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/st
If you are left brain dominant, you will see the figure turning counter-clockwise. Right brain dominant folks see her spinning clockwise. Try seeing her spinning the other way. Why is this important? Realizing which part of your brain dominates your thinking is at least interesting, and in my case, helps explain a lot of flights of imagination and failed outlines.
Dr Jill Taylor, a Harvard neuro-anatomist had a stroke almost a decade ago in her left temporal lobe. Because of her neurological training she was able to observe and understand exactly what was happening to her as her left brain shut down and her right took over.
Check out the video above from TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) of Dr. Taylor telling her story. It's 18 fascinating minutes.
So, right and left brain dominance has nothing and everything to do with writing. As artists we need to better utilize both sides of our brains, but especially our right brains to create.
Julia Cameron says in The Artist’s Way, “The artist brain is the sensory brain: sight and sound, smell and taste, touch. These are the elements of magic, and magic is the elemental stuff of art.”
If you operate out of your right brain, and you are stuck, maybe it’s because the left brain is in the way. And even if you are left-brain dominant, and outline your grocery lists, I bet you could stand to get more unfettered access to your right brain. Especially since…
The left brain is the seat of criticism and perfectionism.
In Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. Besides,” she adds, “perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in
On the other hand, even though I’d like direct, unfettered access to my right brain, it obviously needs to be balanced or processed with the left. Too much right brain and I would digress until I just wandered off. I do have a story to write after all.
Except when we can’t. Tomorrow, the meaning of resistance!