There’s an interesting article at the Writer’s Digest site about left vs. right brain activity that I would strongly urge you to read.
Rather than sapping my creative juices, my afternoons at the canvas actually increased the energy and vividness of subsequent writing sessions. I began to investigate if there was something going on in my brain that would account for this cross-pollination and if this was something that other writers could use to invigorate their creative powers.
That sounds a lot like the principles behind Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. If you’re not familiar with the book, I’d suggest you do – there are a lot of interesting and useful ideas in there geared towards finding creativity and joy in one’s life.
Her concept of the artist’s date is one of them – basically, once a week, take an hour or two by yourself to do something that feeds your soul. It could be visiting an art gallery or museum, taking a bubblebath by candlelight, painting really bad watercolours, taking a walk along a beach, and so on.
And then there are her morning pages. Write three pages every morning of, well, whatever dumps out of your brain. The idea being – as I interpret it – that it helps to sort out the odds and ends in the brain and dumps the junk that’s getting in in the way. At the end, you have greater access to creativity and mental clarity. Which reminds me that I need to continue doing this again…
The secret for the creative writer isn’t to lean inordinately on one hemisphere or the other, but to manipulate the lively conversation going on between the hemispheres, through the corpus callosum.
I could get on board with this. One hemisphere for logic, the other for creativity. But good writing requires both, in my mind. Logic to keep the plot and characters consistent, creativity to make it interesting.
Think of it another way. The greatest discoveries in science, which, it could be argued, is all logic, requires a great deal of creativity to jump from A to B to E to Z, which is how the great scientists seem to work from what I’ve read and learned over the years.
In her 1983 book, Writing the Natural Way, Dr. Gabriele Rico brought Sperry’s findings to the field of creative writing through the practice of clustering. The writer develops an idea by writing a nucleus word, circling it, then quickly writing associated words around it, circling them and drawing lines that connect back to the nucleus. The neat mental trick that this resultant spider web performs is to take words generally under the purview of the left brain and turn them into a piece of visual art, which taps into the pattern-seeking abilities of the right brain. And that is where innovation comes from.
That sounds a lot like mind mapping, a more modern approach to brain storming, both of which I’ve found immensely useful. However it works, in my experience, mind mapping helps me bring order out of chaos, and yes, I do enjoy my little Borg references.
The hemispheres begin to specialize at age five, when most children have mastered speech. The corpus callosum achieves full function between the ages of nine and 12, and the left brain takes over with a vengeance. Suddenly that kid who used to draw purple grass and blue suns turns into a literal-minded peer conformist. The pattern is reinforced by an educational system with a decided left-brain bias (the best creative minds tend to score a rather pedestrian 120 to 130 on the IQ test), and a lot of people just get stuck there.
Which all makes complete sense.
But now, for us creative types, how to regain that creativity and stop being a left-brain conformist? Ah, yes, that’s the challenge. More so for some of us than others, of course.
In my prior life, I was an accountant. Can’t get more left-brain than that. But then I gradually switched to writing, and in the eight or ten years since I started switching over, it’s been a challenge for me to find that lost creative side. This article provides some interesting clues and insights, and I can take a few lessons from it.
Like, maybe it’s time I got some fingerpaints… Okay, not fingerpaints necessarily, but why not fingerpaints? Or oil or acrylic or watercolour paints, or drawing, or some other form of art, with no requirements that it actually be good, to improve my fiction writing.
What did you learn from this article?
- How do I become more prolific?
- To plot or not to plot, that is the question.
- NaNoWriMo 2005
- Revisions to earlier claims.
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