Tag Archives: Right Brain

Right brain, left brain, no brainer.

Pre-1980’s research into the brain appeared to show that people fall into two distinct camps – left brainers and right brainers. The left brain was  supposed to be the logical, problem solving side and was claimed by people who were good at maths and unemotional, whereas the right side was for all those airy fairy, creative types.  I rather liked the idea of being right brain – I was bad at Maths and good at dreaming.  Now I had an excuse for failing my Maths “O” level.  I wasn’t stupid – I was a creative genius but apparently not.

Smugness always comes before a fall.  Recent research shows that to be good at Maths, you need to use both sides of your brain.  Then just as us so-called right-brainers consoled ourselves that we were still better at language, this too has been blown out of the water, with the identification of a large language centre in the left brain that interprets actions and the world around us

Twenty years ago, I did a study with a class of Creative Writing students on their preferred learning styles – did they learn best from seeing, hearing or doing.  The younger students had very distinct preferences for a certain style, but the older the student the more likely they were to use all of the styles, not showing a preference for any particular one.   The conclusion I drew was that the older you are, the more used you become to accessing all areas of the brain, probably through a process of trial and error.  Humans will usually find the easiest way to do anything.  There was one older student though, who was a visual learner only.  He was the best writer in the group and his novel was very visual but he found it difficult to edit.  He couldn’t see the structure of his work.

So how can we as writers access all the areas of our brains?    It depends how you write.  Do you have an outline or do you,  like Francoise Sagan with “Bonjour Tristesse”, pour it all out verbatim on the page as you go?  If you have an innate sense of structure and drama, then possibly you don’t need an outline.  For anything other than a short story, I do.   If nothing else, it stops me repeating myself!

It also helps me to have a clearer idea of the whole story, so as I write I can ‘see’ it in my head and know what bit is where and why it’s there.    It’s helpful to know about structure –  a bit more than beginning, middle and end – where one ends and the next section begins and what event marks that ending/beginning – three act structure and not only for scripts – you can use it for any story.

And most important of all character biographies – and we’re not talking about what they like to eat or what size shoes they wear, unless it’s crucial to the plot.  It’s the psychology of your characters – what drives them, what are their fears, what are their nightmares?

Here’s a short exercise to get you analysing – write a one page synopsis of something you’ve read or watched in the last couple of days or something you’re working on yourself.  Three paragraphs, okay you can have long ones, one each for beginning, middle and end.  To do it, you have to identify the key points that tell the story – and only the key points and identify when each section ends and the next one begins  and what action causes it.  Happy whole-braining!

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Characters, Constructive Criticism, Novels

Cycling pianists, flying orcas and getting out more

 

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.

 

 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/16/left-right-brain-distinction-myth

Leave a comment

Filed under Characters, Children's writing