Right vs. Left Brain: What Do You Think, Writers?

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

For the last few months, I have not been a happy writer. At least, not in that “joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart” way. But I have been a busy writer and so I didn’t notice. Until the start of February, and as we say in the story-writing business…AND THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED. 

What happened was, I started writing the second book in my cozy mystery series. Suddenly, a smile replaced the scowl when I sat down at my laptop. My fingers flew across the keys and my thoughts laughed out loud! And in the midst of all this writing elation, somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, a memory came to me. Coincidentally, a memory having to do with the brain. 

I recalled an article I’d written for WOW! Women-on-Writing: “Making Time for Right and Left Brain Writing.” In January, 2009, I was a very busy writer, sending out both fiction and non-fiction pieces and just beginning to delve into children’s writing. 

The gist of the article had to do with the theory about dominant brain hemispheres, right or left, and how as writers we can accommodate the logical, practical, analytical side vs. the creative, imaginative side. The bottom line is that, as writers, we’re going to need a modicum of mastery in many different skill sets from both the right and left sides of our brain to succeed. 

BUT—and here’s why my brain remembered this article as I was writing away these last few weeks—all work (left) and no play (right) makes Cathy an unhappy writer! I’d been spending all my time on the business end of my writing: managing the book cover, figuring out the formatting program, researching marketing. In the midst of dealing with all those details, my brain cried, “Enough!” I chucked the grind and sat down on February 1st to a new document titled: Ladies of SPI, Book II

I didn’t look at my notes or check an outline, all of which I’d worked on in the summer. I had a rough—very rough idea—of what this second book was about, but I needed to just write. I needed to let my brain take off into uncharted territory. In a word, I needed to have some fun

And oh my, y’all, it felt good to write a story! Birds sang, unicorns frolicked outside my office window! Balance had been restored in my writing world and in the last couple of days, I’ve actually taken my own advice from thirteen years ago: I’ve been making time for right and left brain writing stuff. 

Now, honestly, I’m not sure that the right vs. left brain dominance theory is legitimate. I don’t have time for researching all the updates on the subject. However, I did take a few tests, just like I did before, to see what results I’d get. 

I found a link to the spinning girl mentioned in the article (the link there is outdated) and at first, she spun clockwise; she started spinning counterclockwise within fifteen seconds. What? So I took another non-spinning visual test, and it came out slightly more left brain. In an answer-the-questions test, I came out right brain, though again, very slight differences. 

Much like all those years ago, I’m still a writer mostly in the middle: detailed-oriented with organizational skills as well as creative and artistic. And not only am I okay with that outcome but I’m also pretty sure there’s something of value there. To wit, as long as I can remember to make my whole brain happy, I’ll keep the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my (writing) heart! 

P.S. How about you, writer? If you tried the test(s), let me know how you fared, and what you think about right vs. left brain when it comes to writing!


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

We definitely need to remember to play. I just took the right vs left brain test at Psych Test. I scored a 54 with 1 being far left and 100 being far right. So pretty much in the center.

Capable of handling the business but not beyond getting out and playing with the words. Good luck with your new cozy!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks, Sue! Right now, I'm just writing...I hope the revisions will take care of those pesky plot details I'm leaving out. Hahahaha!

And yes, I would have guessed you'd land in the middle. As prolific as you are, you have to write, write, write, but also be organized!

Renee Roberson said...

I'm so glad you've been able to immerse yourself in the joy of writing again, Cathy! I feel like I am much the same way. I took the test and I'm 41 percent left-brained and 59 percent right. Right now I"m struggling because I need to do a massive revision on my last NaNoWriMo project but can't bring myself to start. Now I know why. I always have such a joy in creating something in a first draft and then get grumpy when I have to be practical and revise and reshape things. I also hate project management with a passion--I can do it, but it does NOT bring me joy and puts me in a bad mood almost every single time. For now I have printed out the first 50 pages of my most recent draft and am going to tell myself I CAN find joy in revisions, LOL!

Angela Mackintosh said...

Oh boy, well this was interesting. In the visual test, I was right brained all the way. In the question test, I scored 71% right brained and 29% left brained.

That makes sense! Even when I work on left-brained tasks like planning, organizing, marketing, business, and even math and accounting, I approach it right-brained, as a creative activity. Editing and revision is an art form and perhaps more creative than the initial brain dump. In marketing, I'm creating visuals and concepts, so that's fun to me. In business, I focus on planning new features, and accounting reminds me of painting, in that I'm able to relax and listen to music, and sort of check out while something else takes over. So I don't believe that right-brained people can't do left-brained tasks and vice versa. I think we just approach things differently. :)

I remember your article and love it, Cath! I drew that illustration. :)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Wasn't it Anne Lamott who told that story about getting started "bird by bird"? Well, yeah, that's the name of her writing book. Hahahahha! The point is, Renee, I have never like the revision process (but I know plenty of writers who do!) and I don't know if finding joy in that is possible. But sometimes, I incentivize the chores I don't want to do by telling myself that when I'm done, I get to write! Yay!

And yep, Ang, I loved writing that article--it was so interesting!--but I always remember it by that wonderful illustration you drew! And what an interesting score on your tests...you've worked out a way to do the tiresome bits of work with a creative approach. Your brain's amazing!

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