From the Archives: Are You in Your Right Brain?

To celebrate the one year anniversary of my blog, I’m publishing select posts throughout the year under the title “From the Archives” for those who may have missed them the first time around.

Here is the original post of Are You In Your Right Brain?

right-brain-left-brain-thinking-225x300I wanted to thank Kristen Lamb for the thought-provoking post How Being Tired Can Make You a Better Writer. I’m a new blogger and just started following her so I haven’t had a chance to read her other posts but based on this one, I’m certain they will be equally brilliant. She has also written two best sellers about social media: We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Since I’m a newbie I definitely have to check them out!

Now back to Kristen’s post. I especially enjoyed the discussion on the Conscious Mind vs. the Subconscious Mind. It reminded me of a college art class many years ago where we were learning how to draw using the right side of the brain.

As I recall the key was to focus on the negative space, the shapes surrounding the object you were drawing and not the object itself. The moment this shift in focus occurs, you are using your right brain and drawing seems to come naturally.

The right side of the brain processes information intuitively while the left brain processes it logically. People who are left-brain dominant are detail oriented and are generally good with numbers. Right-brain dominant people are good at visualizing and thus are more creative.

Sounds like the Conscious Mind vs. the Subconscious Mind in Kristen’s post doesn’t it? The left brain is the Conscious Mind, the side that wants to analyze everything and focus on the details. The right brain is the Subconscious Mind that doesn’t fret over the details. Who cares? Let’s just have fun, explore, and create.

I think we experience this when we write. Writer’s block feels a lot like our inability to shift from left brain thinking to right brain thinking.

Left Brain: “Wait, hold that thought. There’s a misspelled word.”

Right Brain: “You’re kidding me. Can we just forget about that for now? I’ve got something really good here.”

LB: “We can’t just leave it like that!”

RB: “Oh yes we can. Now move out-of-the-way before I lose this brilliant idea.”

LB: “Hold on. There…fixed it. Oh wait-”

RB: “What now? Will you please stop distracting me? I need to get this idea down before it’s gone!”

LB: “But, but-”

RB: “Not listening. La-la-la.”

LB: “Stop! There’s a dangling participle!”

RB: “Oh for heaven’s sake!”

LB: “Okay, we’re good to go. Now, what was your brilliant idea?”

RB: “I forgot.” {Sigh}

It’s frustrating, right? But when you do make the shift, when right brain (subconscious mind) finally tells left brain (conscious mind) to take a nap, well, that’s when the fun begins. I’m sure you can recall times when the words just flowed and when you finally stopped you couldn’t believe how much time had passed. It didn’t feel like hours, did it? That’s when you were in your right brain. Now if we could just make the switch on command that would be awesome. Imagine the novels we could complete!

I wonder if we could use the technique that I learned in art years ago to train our brain to shift focus?

Okay, I just googled it and here is what I found:

Follow the directions. If you really want to get the benefit of the exercise, don’t cheat. I did it and can actually recall the moment the two sides of the brain were warring with each other and when the switch occurred. Did you feel it? Let me know!

I also found this on that same web page and thought it was interesting enough to post here (with my edits in parentheses).

“However, by learning to access the right brain, you can learn ways to trick the left brain into leaving you alone quietly to get on with your drawing (writing) with your right brain – the side of the brain that really does know how to draw (write).”

I know I have right brain tendencies because I have always loved drawing, painting, and creating, but I do have a strong analytical side as well. I’m good with numbers. Hell, I made a career out of it. I wonder if I have a dominant side.

I just found a quiz for that:

The quiz is designed for painters but writers are creative people too so just substitute “writing” for “painting” and answer it from a writer’s perspective. So how did you do? Are you dominant on one side? Let me know.

It turns out that my right brain is “quite dominant.” So this is why I was so miserable in my former career. I haven’t been in my “right” brain for years!


5 thoughts on “From the Archives: Are You in Your Right Brain?”

  1. It’s odd that I’m reasonably logical, but not good with numbers at all. I’m actually phobic about them! Also, silly little things like twisting the bread wrapper ties to the right (the way my husband does) are a challenge! The right side of my brain is the busier side for sure. This was was a fun post to read and educational, too.

    1. Interesting. I’ve never really paid attention to how “twisties” were turned. It’s probably because I’m able to use both hands to do lots of different things. There are a some things where I’m limited to one hand, though (e.g., I write left handed) so I’m not ambidextrous. While I’m creative, love to write (obviously), draw, paint, etc., I have a logical side too. I’ve always been good with math and numbers and made a career out of it, but I gravitated toward the creative side (creating financial models) as much as possible.

  2. This reminds me of a book I read ages ago: Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande. One of the things she suggests is to get up earlier than normal and first thing, before speaking to anyone or doing anything (even having coffee), sit down and write when you’re basically still fuzzy and half asleep. This way your conscious / left brain is too asleep to be in control and your subconscious / right brain is free to roam.

    I tried waking up at 6am and write from the bat but I can’t do it for more than a couple of days. A bit too rigorous for me! I’m going to try the drawing thing and the test and see how I go. I’d be interesting to feel what the switch is like. I’ll do it tomorrow though, it’s late here! 🙂

    1. I recall reading that bit of advice somewhere too, but I haven’t read the book you referenced. I’d have to get up at 4 am to make that work in my house…too much going on in the mornings. 🙂

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