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, via Wikipedia.