I just realized that maybe I’m more right-brained than I thought.
First, a bit of background. I am right-handed, but my high school English teacher once asked me if I’d been forced to use my right hand rather than my left. Apparently, she used to give us exercises where the right-handers tended to choose one side, and the left-handers the other. Except that I nearly always sided with the lefties. But the only thing I remember about that is that I used to be very proud of being nearly ambidextrous.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and I joined the Navy and spent nine months in a grueling training program that was very logical. By the time I finished, I had a hard time thinking creatively at all. Then in college, I took a (self-administered) test that showed I was nearly equally balanced between right and left brain.
Now, years later, I’ve been trying to write and feeling frustrated because I just can’t seem to put things together quite right. I’ve been trying to get in touch with the right side of my brain, and feeling like it just wasn’t working. Then I realized something. When I try to do the worksheets and the lessons in my writing course and put things together, I want to put it off…by playing. I want to play the Sims, where I can create characters with their wardrobes and their houses. (I get bored when it’s time for them to go to work, or have kids.) I want to read a novel or watch a movie or check Facebook to see if anyone posted anything interesting in the last two hours. And that’s when it struck me that maybe it’s my left-brain, my “Me” (as Holly puts it) that keeps going on vacation without me.
I have tons of ideas…for characters, for plots, for interesting little tidbits to put in my stories. I get them all the time, from the tiniest, most mundane things. What I struggle with the most is putting things together in a logical way. It’s much harder for me to figure out which scenes need to go where to create the story arc, and whether I have the right types and amount of conflict in the right places. And aren’t these the logical parts of writing, rather than the creative parts?
I love outlines; I am drawn to detailed outlines. And then I follow them carefully as I write. Unlike my brother, I can’t hold all that structure inside my head and then get it out when I need it. I need it to be written down, concrete, where I can’t ignore it. I’m starting to think that fits in with the right-brained thing, too. I NEED that structure, but I have to work to get it. It’s like putting up a fence around the yard, so the kids know they can do almost anything within that area.
Yes, I like fences. They keep people in their proper places. And I like rules. I like knowing what I can and cannot do, because that frees me up to do anything else that falls within those guidelines. I always thought of that as being a left-brained preference, but maybe it’s not. Maybe that’s my right brain wanting to know the rules so it doesn’t have to worry about figuring out what’s right and wrong each time.
What do you think? Does the right brain care about rules? Does it always want absolute freedom, as many of my creative friends suggest? And whether it’s the right brain that won’t come out and play with the left brain, or the left brain that doesn’t want to work with the right brain, how do I get the two to cooperate?