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.
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.)