Writing Process
Charlotte Rains Dixon  

Activate the Power of Your Right Brain

I've written a lot lately on the writing process, emphasizing that the entire process begins with the rough draft, also known as the time when you glump it all on the page.  (In case that image doesn't do it for you, what I'm talking about is letting it rip. Write it out, without judgment or stopping.)

But sometimes you make time to glump and nothing happens.   You get yourself a prompt and write for a few minutes and everything that comes out feels stilted and dull.  But really, is this any wonder? Look at our lives–running around doing errands, picking the kids up from school, doing work assignments, buying groceries.   These are all vital tasks and they are all tasks that require the attention of the left brain. 

Ah, the left brain.  It is the half of our mind that excels in keeping us to schedules, in making judgments, in memorizing, logic, routine, and analysis. 

And really?  Not a one of those skills goes very well with glumping.

Favorites-doodles-2483231-l So the trick is to shift yourself into the right brain, that wonderful hemisphere which is responsible for feelings of love, relaxation, the new, the fresh, the global, the free-form, the dreamy, the visionary. 

Now doesn't that sound a bit more in line with glumping?  Wouldn't it be easier to let yourself go if you were in an intuitive, heart-centered, holistic state, rather than a logical, scheduled, results-oriented one?

And yet much of the time that's exactly what we do–try to write from a left-brain state of mind.  There are plenty of times when we need the left brain.  Like when we're editing, for instance.  Or marketing.  Or trying to get ourselves to our writing group on time.   It is just that it is better to shift out of it when it comes to writing.

So, how to do that?

Last September, Whitney Ferre, a right-brain expert (who will also soon be featured in an interview on this blog) did a workshop for the Writer's Loft in Nashville and she presented a couple of ideas:

Doodle.  Its as easy as that.   I'm a doodler extraordinaire, often covering my note pad with squiggles and geometric shapes while in a lecture or class.  And its not that I'm not listening, the act of moving my hand makes it easier for me to listen.  Lately I've been experimenting with doodling for a few minutes before writing, with really good results.  Doodling is no doubt the most accessible art form, because anyone can do it and the results truly don't matter.  By the way, in all of these right-brain exercises, results don't matter.  You can crumple up the page and recycle it when you're done.  Its the process that's important.

Paint.  I love to paint, and yet rarely do it.  That's because I don't have a space set up for it, and getting all the paints out and getting ready seems to take more time than I usually want to spend.  But in sorting through some old supplies last weekend, I found a container of watercolors, the kind you'd buy for a child.  Now that I can pull out and play around with for a few minutes before working.

Draw a Mandala.  This is an activity that Whitney recommends and that is quite relaxing.  Don't get all worked up about it being perfectly symmetrical or beautiful, just draw yourself a circle and have at it.  Remember, its the process, people.

Another thing that always works for me is: 561px-Rosey_Grier

Repetitive Activity.  I'm talking about knitting, or crocheting, or stitching.  Guys, you could try this, too.  Remember Rosy Grier, pictured to the right, the gigo football player?  He was famous for his needlepoint, and c'mon, he's about as manly as they come. When I'm stuck, if I remember to step away from the computer and go pick up my knitting, odds are good that the idea I'm looking for will come so fast I barely have time to get any knitting done.  (The trick is remembering to step away from the computer, but that's another story.) Other repetitive activities are gardening or dish washing.  Or vacuuming.  I would rather knit, myself, but that's just me.  There's also:

Walking.  Which has the added benefit of being exercise.  Nothing like a brisk stroll in the fresh air to get the brain going.  Try taking a walk and then coming inside and heading directly to your writing spot.  It is amazing how clear and fresh your brain will feel. 

So, right brains rule, at least for the writing aspect of the process.  How do you shift into your?

Photo credits: The doodle is by karindalziel, via Everystockphoto, via Flickr.  Image of Rosey Grier by lukeford.net, via Wikipedia.


0 thoughts on “Activate the Power of Your Right Brain

  1. Zan Marie

    Charlotte, you are so right! I’m going to post a bit on my personal left brain driven February tomorrow. ; ) Rachael Harrie has a good post up on this very thing, too. Great minds think alike…or one track brains on the same track? Who cares? Write on!

  2. Misha

    Some good tips here.

    I generally just sit down and let my mind wander. For some reason, I have been able to flip between left and right for as long as I can remember.

    The only thing is that the longer I am using one hemisphere, the longer it takes for me to switch.


  3. Charlotte Dixon

    Zan Marie, I’ll check out your blog tomorrow and Rachael’s today. Thanks for the heads up and for stopping by. Great minds indeed!

    Misha, you make a good point, that the longer you stay on one side of the brain the harder it is to switch over. You’re lucky that you move back and forth so easily.

  4. N. R. Williams

    Those are all excellent methods. I practice a few of them, but no knitting for me. Maybe cross-stitch, but then it has been years since I did that.

  5. Charlotte Dixon

    N.R., Well, maybe its time to pick up that old cross-stitch again! Or whatever works for you!

  6. Jeanne Kraus

    I use music. There is a company that makes CDs that are wonderful for using both sides of the brain. I have about 6 or 7 of their CDs and they are wonderful for focus and attention and creativity. I have used them in classrooms with kids also and they seem to work well in the background during reading. Hemisync is the company I use and I find that the minute I am listening to that music, on goes my creativity. The key is music with no words for me, if I have words, I sing along. Which is great fun. But not good for concentrating.

  7. Ann

    I never thought of it, but I do knit and it is amazing how ideas come fast and furious when I am cooking. When I am writing I must have classical music playing too. Everything just seems to flow better when the music is plyaing gently in the background.

  8. Giulietta the Muse

    Hi Charlotte,

    Helpful ways to reconnect with the right sides of our brains. I’m a big walker myself and often bring a notebook. All sorts of creative ideas waltz into my brain when I’m taking a stroll. Also in the shower and other times I feel relaxed as well as 3 am, when I’ve been transmitted the perfect ending to an essay. I’m guessing a relaxed brain is a creative one! Thx, Giulietta

  9. Charlotte Dixon

    Jeanne, music is a great addition to the list! I used to have some instrumental CDs from movie soundtracks which were great to write to, because they had such high and low points. But, like you, music with lyrics just distracts me.

    Ann, glad to meet another knitter. For some reason, cooking is not as good for me, probably because I am not very relaxed while I’m doing it. I think I resist it. But I bet it works great for a lot of other people as well.

    Giulietta, the shower! Yes, the shower for some reason is often a place for brilliant ideas.

    I just love all these suggestions, guys!

  10. Trisha

    I’ve found it interesting participating in the Chrysalis Experiment this year – we have a prompt each week and I’m usually pretty inspired. But a few times I’ve written a few hundred words, sometimes up to 600, and then I go, “Hang on, this is boring!” and so I set it aside and start fresh. 🙂

  11. Maryse

    I agree, music is wonderful. and distracting. So I use it to recharge and reconnect with my muse.
    Has anyone read the book, ‘Fear of Writing’ by Milli Thornton. I just ordered it. It’s about putting the FUN back into writing. Perfect for me. 🙂
    Cooking works great for me too.

  12. Charlotte Dixon

    Trisha, I’ve had that experience with prompts, too. Not sure what its about, but you’re probably smart just to start it over.

    Maryse, hi! I just learned of Milli and her book yesterday, when she did a guest post on Patrick’s blog, http://artistsroad.wordpress.com. I’m going to order her book, I’m always interested in new writing books.

  13. Leigh Moore

    wow! These are fantastic tips. I love them… and doodling! Who knew?

    I find that exercise or taking a relaxing shower works for me. The shower is seriously the best, though. Just relaxing… but what’s a Mandala? Must google that… :o) <3

  14. Regina

    I didn’t realize how shut off my right side of my brain was until I read this post. What a great post. Thank you. I am going to work on motivating that right side now!

  15. Charlotte Dixon

    Leigh, I know, you gotta love it that doodling is actually useful.

    Regina, thank you! I hope you get that right brain motivated!

  16. Susanna

    Hi – fellow crusader here to say hi and follow. What a great post. I never thought about it this way, but I think you’re on to something! I’m going to get out my knitting 🙂

  17. Julie Musil

    Love the “glumping” term. Yep, that’s about what it is. For me, stepping away and exercising is the best way to move past a tough spot. When I return from a walk, I always have fresh ideas.

  18. Charlotte Dixon

    I love the term, too, Julie. I’ve been using it for years, just because it is so descriptive of the process.

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