Writerly Wednesday: Learning and Exercising Your Brain–The Right Brain Left Brain Post

Over the weekend I realized something odd – yet important – about my writing process: When I’m writing (and re-writing) – or basically creating from ‘scratch’ – I tend to do so in my bedroom.  When I’m editing – be it my work or someone else’s – or plotting (which I am now proud to say that I do!) I tend to do so in the computer room.  Odd, huh?

Now here’s the kicker as to why for each of those locations:

Writing & Re-Writing

When we’re relaxed, our mind can open up a bit easier, allowing us to explore new territory within our creativity.  When I’m in the bedroom relaxing on the bed, I tend to not only have my earbuds in as I write, but I also have a movie or TV show playing off to the side.  With music, I can write/create to both music with lyrics and movie scores.  With movies, it can’t just be any movie or show, it has to be particular ones that I can look to when I feel a bit caught and need a few second break before continuing. And these would be movies such as Underworld, Harry Potter, Shutter, Black Swan, Lord of the Rings, Friends with Money, Serendipity (I have a bit of a crush on John Cusak – and Kate Beckinsale, for that matter *smile*), and Pride and Prejudice (the latest re-make with Kiera Knightley).  My go-to TV shows are The L Word, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood, and ER (Ah, Noah Wiley…I’m gonna have to watch that tonight).

Editing & Plotting

When getting down to business – the business of major editing and plotting – the environment doesn’t have to be as relaxed.  Why?  Because we’ve already done all of the creating, it’s all right there in front of you, it just has to be cut, slashed, bled, and re-arranged (to name a few).  So when I’m in that mode, I tend to work from the computer room with my laptop plugged into a dual monitor for easy research and plenty of room to open as many tabs and windows as I need to get the job done.  I also like this better because when I sit at a desk and begin this work, it feels a bit more like work (though it’s not) so my brain somehow clicks into the mode of ‘it’s time to get busy and make this shine.’ I still wear my earbuds and listen to a fabulous soundtrack, but the kicker is that it can’t be music with lyrics – it can only be movie scores.  An extra voice in my head while trying to be analytical just doesn’t work for me, so I turn to either the X-Men: First Class, Inception, Transformers Movies, Pride and Prejudice, Twilight Movies, Harry Potter or the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks (and I’m continually looking for more, by the way). 

So What’s the Point?

There are two points to today’s post:

  1. Learn how your brain works – which side is more dominant, the left or the right? Once you know, you can work on bringing the dominant side up to par to match the other.
  2. Learn how to feed the side of your brain when you’re not working. 

How Do I Know Which Side is Dominant?

I’ll make this easy for you: Click on this link and take the Right Brain Left Brain Test.

You don’t have to sign up for anything.  It’s 20 questions that gauge your brain usage and you get some pretty cool results back like this:

Pic’s not that great, but these are my results 🙂

Once you know what side of your brain is more dominant, you begin to feed and strengthen the other side.  As you can see, I’m a bit more analytical than I tend to think I am, so I need to continue to work on my creative side a bit more – and I’m totally excited to get started!

Feed Your Right Brain

The right side of your brain is popularly known as being the best at creativity.  Expressing emotions, writing, music (composing or playing), reading, visual imaging and intuition are only a few items the right brain is great at. 

By listening to music and having a movie playing while I’m writing, I’m feeding my brain at the moment of creativity, but at the same time, I try to feed that side of the brain by doing other activities outside of my writing time.

So How Do I Feed It?

  • Try new things such as: 
    • Learn to play music (or singing in the shower works)
    • Sketch or do a bit of arts and crafts.
      • Local craft stores tend to have workshops on the weekend.
      • Or you can start on that scrapbook you’ve been meaning to get to lately
  • Get out and see some art!
    • Support a local art gallery by paying them a visit once a month.
  • Go see a movie (or rent one). 
    • This particular part of your brain loves to start churning on new ideas when you watch a movie and begin to wonder ‘if’ something happened differently in the plot.
  • Be active! This allows your brain some downtime to actually think about what it is you want to do in that story…plus it gives you a chance to take care of your body and spend some time with your family by either:
    • Getting out with the kids and playing some sports, or
    • Getting outside for a walk/run at least twice a week (or the treadmill/elliptical if you prefer).

Feed Your Left Brain

The left side of your brain is the more analytical, logical part of your thinking cap.  It tends to be the side that assists you with language, brainstorming/critical thinking, crunching numbers, and deciding whether or not that new plot you thought of will actually work.

By sitting down at the desk to click my left brain into ‘work’ mode, I’m feeding that analytical side of my brain that loves to make notes, research, and force the story to bleed a little.  I also feed this part of my brain when I’m not writing (and when I’m not already doing that at the day job).

So How Do I Feed It?

  • Word and number puzzles are a great start!
    • Word Search, Crossword, Sudoku, etc., all of these games are great ways to exercise this side of the brain.  I personally have a Nintendo DS that I play logical, brain exercising games on.
  • Read!
    • This should be a no-brainer since in order to be a writer, you have to be a reader first and foremost. 
    • Whether it’s that new book you couldn’t wait to get your hands on, a newspaper or a magazine, exercise this side of your brain by reading (and surprising, the right side of your brain might join in from time to time as your imagination begins to peak).
  • Learn a new skill!
    • Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to speak French, German or Spanish. Learning a new language is like doing yoga – after you’ve practiced it for a while, your muscles become used to be stretched and contorted, so they tend to crave being stretched even further.
    • Another idea is learning how to cross-stitch or knit.  Believe it or not, there’s some math involved in those crafty little skills and you’ll be able to invite the other side of your brain to have in on the fun every now and then.
    • Purchase a new writing program and become an expert on it.  Mastering a new and possibly difficult program via the tutorial videos is similar to learning a new language since you have to remember where all the cool features are – and how to use them. 

What about you?  When you’re in writing mode, what types of quirky things do you like to surround yourself with?  When you’re in editing mode, what are your must-haves or absolutely-can’t-haves? Are you left brained or right brained?  What are some activities that you already do to strengthen the less dominant side of your brain? 

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Copyright 2018 by Melinda S. Collins