Our Pages

Monday, May 5, 2014

Writing the Left Brain...or Is That the Right Brain?

Many readers seem surprised to know that most authors have day jobs, aka "the evil day job" or the "dreaded day job." This is due to the fact that most of us make, on average, about three cents per hour on our writing and have this irrational need to have a roof over our heads and dogfood in the food bowls.

My own particular day job involves writing. Yes, writing and editing. So from 7:45 a.m. until 5:30 p.m., give or take a half hour, I write and I edit. Then I go home and from 7:30 p.m. until midnight, I write and I edit. (Well, okay, I blog too but that's writing.)

Lately, because I've had a lot of really tight book deadlines, I've found myself craving a different creative outlet, one that does not involve words. So I draw, paint, do bizarre mixed-media creations that only a mother could love, and generally make a mess. Last week at lunch, I looked down and thought I was bleeding, only to realize the pads of my fingers were coated with a fine sheen of Ranger Distressed Paint in Barn Red. 

Note to self: Scrub hands immediately after painting.

So I got to wondering why the visual creativity was helping to keep me balanced when my word-brain was in danger of short-circuiting, so I did some procrastinating, er, I mean research, on the left brain-right brain functions. My theory was that if writing is a left-brain activity, then visual arts must be a right-brain activity.

Turns out I was wrong. Hard to imagine, but true.

Novelists, it seems, need both sides of the brain. The left side of the brain is the organizer. It likes to plot out stories and figure out where chapter breaks occur. It keeps up with character names and traits and whether or not you've used the word "dude" too many times in a manuscript. (Some would argue once is too many.)


Left to its own devices, the left-brain would write really well-constructed, boring stories. Because all the passion and emotion and wonky plot twists come from the right brain. The right brain is the creative one, the free thinker, the intuitive one. (Hm...I'm tempted to make a political analogy but will restrain myself, as per the orders of my left brain.)

So, how does this relate to my art versus writing activity? I think my writing has been under such deadline pressure that it's a constant push-push-push without the time to kick back and daydream and such. By sitting down with a marker or paintbrush, I force my left brain to shut down, forget the daily word count I haven't reached, and let my right brain out for a little exercise. 

According to the split-brain theory, all of us tend to favor one side of the brain over the other. Both are needed, and neither is inherently good or bad. Without the left brain, our creative halves would sit in a field of lillies daydreaming and never get anything done. Without the right brain, we'd be workaholic drones with no passion.

I think I have some of both, although the right brain is probably dominant. If I stay in left-brain mode too long, it will rear its eccentric little right-brained head and find an outlet. It will make me sit down and draw a picture.

What kind of brain do you have? Or do you subscribe to the right brain-left brain theory at all? Leave a comment for a $5 Amazon or Book Depo credit to indulge your own preferred side of the brain. Winners will be announced on my author blog on Sunday. (And yes, I do seem to like to do marker paintings of dogs.)

14 comments:

  1. I kind of like the right brained / left brain explanation. I thought one was Suzanne and the other Susannah, LOL. Guess one of mine makes me sit down and draw Zentangles. I enjoy your art work. Thanks for sharing with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Roger! I think Zentangles is a perfect blend of left and right brain work. It takes patience and discipline to not get sloppy (like me), but also creativity in how to put the tangles together.

      Delete
  2. According to some tests I took, I'm one of those persons who use both sides equally. And I think you should try a pig picture sometime ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An art assignment--I love it. I will do a pig just for you :-)

      Delete
  3. I think most people probably use both halves of their brain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think so too, Sandy, although there are probably dominant sides, like being right- or left-handed. Few people are naturally ambidextrous.

      Delete
  4. I agree most people will use both sides of their brains, but since my day is mostly problem focused, I like crafting as an outlet as well. (But only if it doesn't cut into my reading time!) I really like your mixed media items. They are very appealing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Liz! They're messy, but I that's just who I am--LOL.

      Delete
  5. i love the painting with the black dog, really cute ( all excellent though but that's my favourite)
    i guess i use both side perhaps the right one is a little more dominant but not by much and i really loved your explabnation, thank you for taking the time to share with us despite the busy schedule

    ReplyDelete
  6. I like your two brain theory. I am . . . well whichever side is reading dominant. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Love your dog paintings! Thanks for sharing your explanation of left brain-right brain. I think my left brain is a little more dominant.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think my problem saving part of the brain is dormant and the imaginative part overcompensates..:)

    ReplyDelete