About a month ago, one of my crit partners (who’s also an artist) brought up the subject of left-brain versus right-brain functions. Left-brained people tend to approach things in a logical, linear way, have good language skills, and are often good at solving problems. Right-brained people are more comfortable using their intuition, often think in non-linear ways, understand spatial relationships, and are good at things like music.
Unfortunately for a left-brained guy like me, right-brainers are also good at writing.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been a left-brained kind of guy. It’s one reason I became a chemist. Being left-brained helps me with linear concepts like story structure (which makes perfect sense to me) and applying the rules of grammar.
I don’t mean to suggest I never use my right brain. I’ve always had an active imagination, which is why I have all these stories running around in my head. And my best ideas come to me while I’m in the shower, or driving along the highway, or listening to ambient music—all times when the right-brain tends to dominate.
The trouble is, when I sit down to write, my left-brain rudely steps in and takes over. (Probably because words and language are a very left-brain function) So instead of imagining the scene holistically as a right-brainer might do, I often describe every movement or action in the scene as if I’m writing out a recipe. My descriptions are bullet lists of attributes. My words are, to put it bluntly, flat and utilitarian. For me, the process of transferring what I see in my head down onto paper is the single hardest part of writing.
The trick is learning how to keep my right brain more active when I write. I’ve already learned I can’t listen to anything other than ambient music when writing, because as soon as I begin to process the words in songs, my left brain takes over and knocks me out of that altered, creative state of mind necessary for writing. Perhaps I’ll try that old writer’s trick of writing in long-hand, another right-brain centered activity. Fortunately, the Internet is chock full of tricks and exercises for exercising and stimulating the right brain.
It’s said geniuses are people who use both parts of their brain at the same time. I don’t need to be a genius, but when I sit down to write, I need the two halves of my brain to coexist peacefully.
Then all I’d have left to do is figure out this darn telling versus showing stuff….