So there you are chained to the laptop, terrified if you move an inch you’ll disconnect from the creativity flowing down from the great lump of inspiration in your right brain. That’s where your next chapter or scene is safely stored ready to download itself to your fingers and you keep telling yourself you’ll lose the muse if you move.
Sounds like you need to relax but you can’t spare the time; got to keep typing – yet it’s not working and the muse isn’t co-operating.
But writing’s organic – it grows and changes with everything that’s happened to you in the seconds when you’re not facing the screen, you know – like nipping out for a pint of milk or the paper or walking the cat round the block! The necessary stuff just to keep life ticking, but not think too deeply about ‘cos you’re a right brain person and you can’t handle any of this left brain stuff while you’re creating. Right?
Wrong – all these years we’ve been categorising ourselves. At school, I didn’t mind not being in the top stream with all those clever girls who could do Physics and Maths while I was doing Biology and Art, because you had to have a left brain to do them and I wanted to write and draw and you needed a right brain for them. Simplistic – just waiting to be disproved, like all the myths we believe in. That’s what science is for, what all those kids in the top stream were doing.
If you scan the brain when it’s dealing with creative tasks, it’s not just the right brain that’s employed but areas on both sides of the corpus callosum, which possibly explains why the greatest scientist in history said “Imagination is more important than knowledge” and Einstein’s not exactly famous for great Art, so was he recognising that imagination used many more parts of the brain than we’ve come to believe?
If you go back even further than Einstein, you realise that people didn’t separate science from art in the way in which education and society has done since the Industrial Revolution. Michael Faraday who discovered electricity did so by observing and imagining and isn’t that what writers do? Leonardo da Vinci, known mostly for the Mona Lisa, was a serial experimenter in just about any field possible. His inventions, which were mostly impossible to produce in his time, exist today or were quietly subsumed in the Industrial Revolution. This was a man who used just about every possible part of his brain.
Okay so this must seem all really left field, so time to go back to the first paragraph and why you need to get out and see what’s going on elsewhere. Nuggets of information acquired out there in the real world have a habit of suddenly popping into your head when you’re stuck for an idea. Take the writer, Diana Wynne Jones who wrote Howl’s Moving Castle. She might never have come up with that idea if she hadn’t gone to a school to talk about writing. A young boy asked her if she could write about a castle that moved. I wonder how long it took her to come up with the whole story. And if she hadn’t got away from her laptop, would she have got that idea on her own? Studio Ghibli were very pleased she did when they made it into an animation in 2005.
And my cycling pianists and flying orcas – yes I did actually see them when my husband prised me from my laptop. The cycling pianist came round a corner at the Fleetwood Transport Festival and nearly knocked me over. His piano was attached to a bicycle and he was wearing a top hat. It was a very strange thing to see a man sitting side saddle on a bicycle and playing a piano at the same time. Now there’s an imagination to applaud. And the flying orca – a bit of a cheat – it was a twenty foot inflatable kite at the St. Anne’s Kite Festival but the image against a clear blue sky above a Northern beach keeps teasing me. Borrow either of them if you like because what you might do with them will be completely different to what I will, because we’ll all be using different parts of our brain with different experiences.